I haven’t been here, or writing very much recently and it sent me into a fresh spiral of self-flagellation, something I’m working on remedying. There’s little that is useful about these spirals - they tend, also, to make you even more unproductive, magnifying the guilt, and the spiral itself until it’s turned tornado of guilt and shame and should’s and fuck’s and goddamnit’s.
Writing is just one cog in this complex machination of shame and lapsed discipline. I found myself, for the first time since this year began, in one of those forty degree heat-induced patches of complete and utter lethargy that slow-dripped into every minute of my days. Didn’t want to move, didn’t want to write, and done with the day by sort of... 2pm at best (and at 11am at worst). Done, also, with people and patience and not-snapping at people. Booked and cancelled workout after workout, rolled out my yoga mat only to stare balefully at it and then roll it back up again (sighing all the while at the wasted effort), swapped salads and fresh food for Zomato order after Zomato order (plus try finding decent salad leaves when it’s this sort of sweltering outside), and reintroduced so much grain-gluten-dairy to my diet that I reintroduced, also, unholy afternoon slumps, shitty moods, and a general sense of ah, fuck this.
They gather momentum, these moods, and it can be hard to slow their roll once they’ve really picked up pace. As with most things, it really starts in the kitchen. It is important to rest, so if you’re taking time out from working out to just chill the fuck out, do it with merry abandon and enjoy every minute of it. There is, however, a particular balance that’s important to strike between delightful indulgence and a binge, and it’s that fine line between control and going with the flow that I can really struggle with.
There is some planning and control that is inherent to ensuring that you’re eating well, and that the ones you love are eating well. Conversely there is a horrible neuroticism and rigidity that can settle around this; I feel very fortunate that my fundamental knowledge about nutrition and food is better than most due in part to the way I grew up and in part to my own interest in constantly furthering my knowledge in this area. Still, even for somebody who focuses on nutrition as I do, I’m a bit YOLO on the weekends. This is not a bad thing, when it’s weekends, or the odd day eating shit, but less great when YOLO turns into a month-long affair and you start to feel it in your moods and in the way you’re responding to people, and to yourself.
I’m told that the way to navigate that line between enjoyable indulgence and insane binge is bringing into place some sort of clean slate policy that essentially says: ‘I’m going to eat things that aren’t necessarily wonderful for me on occasion, but the fact that I’ve got good daily practices in place means that this doesn’t derail me in the way it might once have.’ Have fun with it, and then loop back to your usual thing.
What’s important to realise is that what you eat every day is directly and intimately connected to how you feel every day. Although modern medicine has yet to catch up with this, more and more studies now quantify what many have felt for ages: that what you ingest affects more than just your weight. Your gut microbiome is constantly communicating with your endocrine and nervous systems, which means that your food is more than just fuel for energy, it is also fuel for your cognitive, emotional, and hormonal systems. Autoimmune diseases, allergies, eczema, Alzheimer’s, autism, depression, ADHD, and anxiety… they all manifest differently, their symptoms differ widely, but the root cause of them all is the same: inflammation that has its genesis in the gut, and an imbalance of your microbiome and your immune system.
I...get anxious, and I get eczema. They’re the first two things to appear and to red flag when I’m treating myself poorly. My skin gets crotchety and hot and cross and honestly, I do too (sorry, people around me). All that emerging research is confirming that inflammation in the body is ruled largely by gut bacteria (or lack thereof). Your mood, your skin, your joints, your diabetes... are all mediated by your gut, the cornerstone of basically everything you don’t want to happen. One course of antibiotics will change your microbiome for the rest of your life. I’ve been on, and this is no joke, at least sixty or seventy. At least.
BABY STEPS BACK
Step one is to stop the self-flagellating. Helps nothing, makes you feel like shit. Step two is to make something simple, nourishing, and cooked to warm-hug you back to someplace that feels good. Things like batons of carrot and cucumber eaten with hummus or a hung yoghurt dip are easy-peasy and fun to take to work and to eat in lieu of other less-nourishing crispy shit (I’m looking daggers at you, Masala Munch). Soup is lovely. I know it’s sort of muggy and hot here, but you don’t have to drink it boiling-hot (you’ll actually taste more of the flavours when it’s only gently warmed) and it is just so easy to make and carry that it seems a shame to save it for the cold months.
This coconut milk and broccoli soup is what I’m making this week.
YOU WILL NEED |
3 large heads of broc
1 can of coconut milk (full-fat please)
6 cloves of garlic, smashed
2 onions, chopped
2 potatoes (sweet potato would also do if you like a little sweetness, but then use a little less coconut milk)
2 teaspoons pink or sea salt
4 cups water
1 teaspoon of apple cider vinegar
1 tablespoon of coconut or olive oil
Sauté your garlic and onions in oil until softened. Add in coconut milk and water and bring to a boil. Once boiling, add in the other ingredients and bring to a simmer for ten minutes. Place in a blender to puree. Dish up and drizzle a bit of olive oil on top along with freshly-grated pepper.