Run Forrest, Run!

I lost a lot of my enthusiasm for running after reading this article (be warned, it’s a little contentious and not very PC) and my cardiovascular fitness took a nosedive as a result. I got interested in high intensity interval training (HIIT) and developed a love for kettle bells instead. When I did occasionally go for a run my limbs felt heavy, and I took my laboured breathing and tight chest as an indication that I’d lost condition, and I didn’t like it.

For a while (and before reading this article), when I was living in Nelson, instead of jogging four or five kilometres at a steady pace like I used to do, I would do a series of sprints along Tahunanui Beach or up the Maitai. I’d jog for a while to warm up, then sprint as fast as I could for as long as I could, then when I couldn’t go any further I’d slow to a walk until I felt completely recovered then I’d sprint again. Each successive sprint got a little slower and a little shorter but man it was fun! I mean how often do adults really get the opportunity to do an all-out sprint in everyday life? I’d say pretty much never, unless you make it happen.

Now that it’s winter and I have a gym membership I’ve been doing a little running challenge. The premise is pretty basic: to run two kilometres as quickly as possible. It came to me one evening when I was on the treadmill doing some dreaded steady-state cardio (the article I linked to at the start of this post states that excessive amounts of steady-state cardio can lead to fat gain and hypothyroidism, especially in women, and especially when caloric restriction is also happening). It was all feeling rather pointless as I had no particular goal or aim in mind in terms of speed or distance. So I thought why not challenge myself to see how quickly I can run two kilometres.

Below are the 10 runs I did over the last couple of months, with my final run time being three minutes and 21 seconds quicker than my initial run time.

Date Run time Distance travelled first Time of day Notes
14/05/2014 13:25 Evening No strategy
16/05/2014 12:22 Morning Fasted except coffee
21/05/2014 11:33 Morning Fasted except coffee
31/05/2014 11:13 Morning Yoghurt and chlorella beforehand
06/06/2014 11:03 Morning Fasted except coffee
10/06/2014 10:39 300 m Evening Brussels sprouts and bacon for lunch, used Gymboss for first time
18/06/2014 10:30 400 m Mid-morning Porridge for breakfast
26/06/2014 10:26 300 m Mid-morning Coffee and banana only
04/07/2014 10:21 500 m Mid-morning Porridge for breakfast
08/07/2014 10:04 500 m Afternoon Steak and veggies for lunch

 

For the first five runs I just used the timer on the treadmill, which meant I started out walking for a few seconds as I got the treadmill up to speed. After a while I realised that I was losing too much time by doing that so I started using the stopwatch on my Gymboss, which allowed me to get up to a decent speed before I began. I also rowed for one kilometre on the rowing machine set at the highest resistance as a warm up each time – this took about five minutes. Initially I thought factors such as time of day, food eaten beforehand, and running strategy – such as when to try and run the fastest – might influence my run time, but in hindsight I think that my determination to improve on my previous time was by far and away more powerful a tool than nutrition or time of day. There were times when I wasn’t felling particularly energised beforehand and I would think to myself “I don’t think I’m gonna make it any quicker this time” but my mental fortitude seemed to make up for what my legs were lacking on the day.

I could keep going with this challenge and maybe continue to shave off a few more seconds each time, but I’m pretty happy with my final time of 10 minutes and four seconds, and I’m also getting a bit bored with running.

If you read Kiefer’s article and are worried that running will make you fat, please don’t be. However, I do agree with him that excessive running coupled with under-eating will probably ruin your metabolism, make you feel awful, and force your body into starvation mode where it will hold onto fat in an effort to stay alive. My advice would be get off the treadmill and run outdoors, in nature, up hills and along beaches, and do it because you love it, not for punishment. And eat sensibly too.

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My mysterious spewing disease

It is 2006 and I’m in Thailand with my on-again-off-again boyfriend who’s training and fighting Muay Thai out of a gym in Chiang Mai. Our relationship is pretty unstable but I’m too much of a wuss to address it head-on; I’m too scared of losing him. I’m doing a little bit of Muay Thai myself, but mostly I’m there to be with him. I’m buying food from the street vendors every day, and every now and then I eat something dodgy and get sick for a few days – it’s pretty normal for that to happen over there. Sometime during the three and a half months I was there I picked up a bug of some sort, probably through something I ate, that was to haunt me for the next four years.

I remember the first time it happened; it was while I was still over there. I had a crook tummy and was throwing up over and over again, despite there being nothing to bring up other than bright yellow gastric juices. I don’t remember there being any pain during that first episode – the pain came later. The next time was almost a year later. This episode, and all the ones that followed, started with pain in my upper abdomen which intensified over a period of several hours and radiated out over my entire abdomen, making it feel rigid and tight and burn like ice.

Eventually the pain was severe enough that I would spew because of it. Spewing would temporarily relieve the pain, for a minute or two anyway, and then the pain would build up again until it made me spew again. Each episode, from the onset of pain through to the pain and spewing subsiding lasted for six to eight hours. For some reason, each episode almost always began in the evening, which meant that the spewing was happening in the middle of the night. While every single person in the whole wide world was surely peacefully asleep I was dragging myself from bed to toilet and back again, sweating one minute with my head down the toilet, and shivering uncontrollably the next. All I wanted was to be asleep. I knew when I was through the worst of it because I would doze off for a second between a spew and the pain coming back. Eventually I’d be able to sleep and the next day I’d be pain free and on the road to recovery, not knowing how many weeks or months would pass before the next encounter.

I saw doctors, had blood and faeces tests and ultrasounds done, I described my situation to anyone who I thought could help me. But the tests didn’t reveal anything, and the reaction I got from most doctors was “well that’s very interesting but I have no idea what it is or how to help you”. I had acupuncture and drank foul-tasting Chinese medicine, I had neurolink sessions; I tried everything I could think of. In my desperation to try and make sense of what was happening to me I even considered that maybe I was creating my sickness myself and that it was a manifestation of my negative thoughts, or something crazy like that.

At first I just endured the pain and allowed the process to run its course, but this got old after about 10 episodes. So I started presenting myself at the hospital’s emergency department so a doctor could actually see me in the throes of an episode rather than me trying to describe it after the fact. Aaaah the morphine. I can’t even begin to describe how good it felt to have my pain taken away. All of a sudden I felt human again, freed from my private prison of pain.

I take my hat off to people that live with chronic pain. Nobody can feel anybody else’s pain, and nobody really wants to hear you go on about how bad your pain is. I’ll never know if my ten-out-of-ten pain was more or less painful than the next person’s, I’m just glad it’s over.

My trips to the emergency department always ended the same way: the morphine took the pain away, the blood tests revealed nothing, so, pain-free and no longer spewing I was sent on my merry way, none the wiser as to what the hell was wrong with me. Somewhere along the way I was prescribed codeine, probably to keep me out of ED so they could focus on real emergencies. This turned out to be a big problem though. The codeine was powerful enough to alleviate the pain for a few hours, which meant I wasn’t throwing up. But the throwing up was an important part of the bug’s cycle, as I found out later, and by interfering with that I was drawing out six to eight hours of pain and spewing into about four days of temporary pain suppression and reliance on pain killers and their side effects – anyone who’s taken codeine will know how it binds you up.

Everything was coming to a head in 2010. The episodes were increasing in frequency, nothing I was doing was helping, and I was feeling increasingly frustrated and worried. Each time the now-familiar pain would set in I would feel crushed inside from knowing what the next few hours and days would entail. I was beaten down both physically and emotionally – as someone who has always been fit and healthy it was devastating for me and left me feeling very vulnerable and fragile.

Mum was also really worried about me, and seeing as conventional medicine had failed me big time, suggested I go and see and old flame of hers who happened to be a medium. Now this is where my story might start to challenge your belief systems a bit, but it happened to me, despite being dubious about it myself, so I know that it’s true.

So I went to visit this fellow, whom I had not seen or spoken to or had any contact with for at least 20 years. He immediately informed me that I had a tropical parasite living in my digestive system. It was something uncommon in the Western world and wouldn’t have shown up in a faeces test, which only tests for a few common parasites. It was also very small, about the size of a match head, so an ultrasound wouldn’t have picked it up either. He said that for most of the bug’s life cycle it happily lived in my intestines without causing any discomfort to me, its host. But about every six weeks or so it needed to reproduce, and during its reproductive phase it moved from my intestines into my stomach and (somehow) caused pain so that it could be vomited up and spread into the world.

To this day, I don’t know if this is true, and if it is true, what this parasite is called. It doesn’t matter. What does matter is the fact that the advice he gave me worked and now I am free. It was pretty simple really, he said to take colloidal silver, and if that didn’t work to take ascorbic acid – dry and undiluted – when an episode was happening, as this would come in direct contact with the bug while it was in my stomach and scorch the mother fucker to smithereens (my words not his).

So I took the colloidal silver dutifully each day, and it stirred things up a bit but it wasn’t powerful enough on its own. One evening an episode was coming on, and as I waited with grim resolve for the first spew, instead of the pain increasing to spew-point it started to recede and then went away entirely. I was ecstatic! I wasn’t completely clear yet but something was changing. During the next episode, I decided to give the ascorbic acid a go. It burnt like fire, but it was easily tolerable in comparison to the pain I was used to.

The last episode happened in September 2010. I felt the pain coming on and I just sat with it, no interference with codeine or morphine. Immediately after each spew I swallowed about half a teaspoon of ascorbic acid. I visualised the bug in my tummy being killed by the ascorbic acid and I guess that’s what happened. I’ve been completely clear for four years and counting; not a murmur or a hint of the shit times that plagued me for four long years.

The day I visited the medium’s house he told me that his guides had been particularly active that morning, informing them of my condition, amongst other things. One even stopped by while I was there, causing his eyes to narrow to thin slits and flutter about as he sat in his armchair. He proceeded to tell me some things about me, personal things, while he was in this altered state. He told me that I have a heart like a marshmallow and that it gets hurt more easily than most, which is true. He told me that I’m like a fox terrier: once I get impassioned about something I can’t let it go, which is also true. Then he said that he could see me at a crossroads; I’d been walking along a path with someone for a long time, we’d come to a junction and the person I’d been with had turned and started walking in a different direction. I knew that I couldn’t follow this person on the path they’d chosen, but I didn’t know which path to take myself so I was left standing alone at this junction, unable to move at all, in any direction. This, of course, summed things up perfectly. The person was my ex, the path was the path we’d taken together, and the crossroads symbolised him moving on and me being left behind, unable to let go or move on.

In time I did let go and move on. And I’m eternally grateful that the information came to me to allow me to heal myself, regardless of its source.

These words don’t make sense

In this post I’m going to talk about three phrases that are a little bit silly. They are ‘to lose weight’, ‘to be fat’, and ‘to be skinny’. Let’s start with losing weight.

Now, it’s true, I do see a fair few people around me that could benefit from shedding a few kilos, and most people seem to be happy when they see the number on the scales go down. But it’s not like “Oh my God, I’ve put my weight down somewhere and I can’t find it!” Technically, you don’t ‘lose’ anything, you burn off some of your body fat as a result of eating less junk food, moving more, eating healthier food, stopping comfort eating, lifting weights, balancing out your hormones, or any other of a host of reasons. Usually, you make a diet or lifestyle change for the better, you shed some excess body fat, and you feel better for it. But that doesn’t necessarily mean that you’ve lost weight. Muscle is a lot denser than fat, so one kilogram of muscle takes up a lot less space than one kilogram of fat.

Say you cut some sugary junk food out of your diet which will stop you gaining more fat, and then you do some resistance training which will stimulate your body to grow muscle, as well as mobilising some of your fat stores and using them as energy, but the number on the scale goes up. You look different: you have less wobbly bits and more firm bits, you feel different – you’re noticeably stronger and everyday chores are so much easier, you feel better because you have more energy and you love the way your body looks and feels. Your silhouette is more shapely and you’re actually occupying less space, yet you haven’t lost any weight – you’ve actually gained some because you have more muscle now than you did before. Wonderful muscle that looks lovely and makes you feel strong and capable and needs to be fuelled with food even when it’s not working which means that you can eat more good food without worrying about it turning into fat. But you haven’t lost weight. Can you see how ridiculous this is? If you’re still not convinced, read this article and take a good look at the pictures.

Now, let’s move on to ‘being fat’. Technically, this doesn’t even make sense. It’s not like being an astronaut, or being an introvert, or being awake or being asleep. Nobody can be fat. We’re all human beings with a greater or lesser amount of fat on our bodies, but we’re people first – our percentages of adipose tissue should be way down the list of what makes each of us unique. And we all have some fat on us; whether it’s subcutaneous fat that lies between our muscle and our skin or visceral fat that sits around our organs, we all have it, and we can’t control where our bodies put it.

What we can control, however, is how much or how little of it we have. Now, I think it’s important to mention here that you can have a generous amount of fat on your body and still be healthy; if you eat well, move your body, feel good and are able to do all the things you want to do then what does it matter? Who am I to say that there’s anything wrong with that? There’s not. But if you’ve got a generous amount of fat on your body because you live on junk food and spend most of your day sitting, and you don’t feel good and can’t do half the things you’d like to be able to do… Well that’s a problem. And if you fit into that category it’s up to you to change. Your health is your own responsibility and it’s never too late make a change for the better. And if you’re raising children it’s absolutely your responsibility to teach them about good food.

Okay, on to ‘being skinny’. If someone says you’re healthy you probably have a good level of health, if someone says you’re wealthy you probably have a lot of money or other valuable assets, if someone says you’re skinny you probably have a lot of… skin? Is it because you’re just skin and bones? Even the Oxford Dictionary defines skinny as being “unattractively thin”, yet for so many women being skinny is their number one goal in life.

When I talk about goals with my clients I ask them what they’d like to be able to see or feel or do that tells them that their goal has been achieved, and more often than not feeling better or doing more is a more meaningful affirmation than simply seeing a change.

So yes, you can have a slim body but it doesn’t necessarily mean that you’ll be healthy, or happy. You could even have a slim body with a generous amount of fat on top and a stingy amount of muscle underneath. Or you could stop worrying about whether you’re too fat or too skinny and just be yourself.

For me, I want to feel good and healthy and strong and have all the energy I need each day to be able to do the things I want to do. And so I eat accordingly, so that I have the energy to do these things. And I move my body in a way that makes me feel alive and strong without exhausting me. And it’s a work in progress. And it probably always will be.

Let’s talk about the thigh gap

I have a confession to make. On a good day, I have a thigh gap. By definition, this is when there’s a gap between one’s thighs when they’re standing up straight with their feet together. Sometimes my thigh gap is there in the morning but gone by afternoon, only to return again the next day. And guess what? The world doesn’t stop turning when my thigh gap disappears. I don’t feel like I’ve suddenly failed at life, nor do I feel like I’m a better person when I have one and a worse person when I don’t. Essentially I’m still the same person, thigh gap or no.

It makes me sad that something as trivial as the girth of a woman’s thighs is the focus of so much attention, when more important qualities aren’t given much attention at all; qualities such as honesty, kindness, humility, compassion, and empathy. Who cares about that? Apparently, as long as you’ve got a thigh gap you don’t need to worry about being a good person.

You may have seen Target’s butchered images recently, where the poor girl had her labia and half her vagina removed to enhance an already-existent thigh gap, as well as having other parts of her hacked away or stretched out. You may have also seen       this short clip, which shows how Photoshop can transform a healthy looking woman into some kind of a human Barbie doll. There’s even a website and accompanying book instructing you how to eliminate that “chub rub” once and for all. I don’t know about you, but I would never want to “lose bulky overdeveloped muscles” in pursuit of a thigh gap.

These are the messages that girls and women are bombarded with every day, from all directions, it’s hardly any wonder we suffer from physique anxiety as much as we do. It’s a tricky issue; on the one hand, I know how good it feels to truly be comfortable with the size and shape of my body, and how much confidence this can bring, yet, on the other hand, striving to look like something that is literally impossible (like a heavily Photoshopped image) will only bring heartache and disappointment.

The only person you should ever compare yourself to is you. You will always and only ever be you, so to try to be somebody else is a waste of time. And your version of being comfortable in your own skin is probably going to be different from the next person’s – it’s an individual thing – the size and shape where you feel most comfortable in nobody’s business but your own.

Have you ever seen a woman walking through a crowded room, head held high, shoulders back, confident and completely happy with who she is? She is beautiful, regardless of her hair colour, skin colour, age, height, or the girth of her thighs. Does she have a thigh gap? Who bloody cares! She certainly doesn’t. Compare that with another woman walking across the same room, shoulders stooped, gaze cast down at her feet, tugging at her clothes self-consciously. It’s easy to see that this woman doesn’t love herself. Technically, she may be a beautiful woman, but she doesn’t see it or believe it, and that makes it very hard for other people to do so.

I think it’s about time the media started focusing more on the meaningful stuff, like why it’s important to be beautiful on the inside, and less on the superficial crap, like thigh gaps. Because, let’s face it, sooner or later we’re all going to lose our looks, and if there’s nothing else to us what will we be left with?

 

Gotta have goals

I don’t want to bumble along from year to year, going with the flow, not really moving in any particular direction, just drifting. I feel like I frittered away a good chunk of my 20s doing just that. Now, finally, I can see a clear path in front of me, and the distance between where I am now and where I want to be is still pretty big, but I can see the steps I need to take to get me there.

To that end, I’ve come up with a series of goals for the year that I’ve emblazoned around the edges of my wall planner for 2014. The wall planner allows me to see the whole year on one page, next to which is the calendar which shows each month, next to that is a whiteboard which I draw up each week, and next to that is my diary for the day-to-day stuff; how’s that for organisation? Seeing as we’re already into the second quarter of the year it’s about time I wrote about this. Below are my ten goals for the year, in the approximate order that they came to me.

DSC04124

Do nutrition coaching course

In the (otherwise awesome) personal training course that I did in 2012 we spent all of half a day talking about nutrition. Since then I’ve completed a short diet and nutrition course by correspondence, but it still wasn’t enough. I have a brain that loves to learn, and I feel it starts to stagnate if I don’t throw new stuff at it on a regular basis.

In the pursuit of health, I believe that the way one eats is a more powerful tool than the way one exercises, and that exercise alone often isn’t enough – the nutrition has to be there as well. I also think that the way that I eat is generally excellent, but that doesn’t give me free license to push my eating habits on others. I want to back myself with science, not “Mum and Dad taught me to eat this way so it must be right”, even though they are both very switched on when it comes to nutrition, for which I am eternally grateful.

So, I’ve enrolled with Precision Nutrition, a Canadian company, to do a nutrition coaching course which is split between the science of nutrition and the art of coaching. My textbook has arrived and I’m keen to get stuck in and do some learning.

Find somewhere to live in Mot

I can tick this one off already as I’ve just moved from the wop wops of Mārahau, where I’ve been for the last year or so, to the big smoke of Motueka (population 7500). All my work is in Motueka, so it makes no sense to have to drive for half an hour to get to it, especially when I often have an hour here and an hour there with down time in between; I was starting to feel like a bit of a hobo.

Increase client base

I’m not putting much energy into this right now, as I’m waiting for a few things to happen first. But once I’m ready to take action I’m confident I’ll get the results I want.

Get a brain job – NO MORE HOSPO!

I could write an entire post on why working in hospitality sucks, but it would be an angry rant filled with bad language, which is not really my thing. Anyone who’s worked in hospitality knows how bad the conditions can be and how demeaning it is, and for someone who has loads of great skills (me) it’s particularly demoralising to not be realising my potential.

Over summer, where I fell into the hospo trap yet again, I reached my limit – I thought I’d already reached it several times, but this time I really reached it – I knew that if I didn’t leave I would break something, or someone, or internally combust. So I left. And as a result it freed up my time to pursue more meaningful work, work that inspires me rather than kills me a little bit more inside each day I do it. I’m currently in the process of securing a contract to do some research and writing for someone who’s writing a book, now that is exciting!

Save money for a house

With all the other things that are going on this year, this goal isn’t a high priority. However, I have finally joined Kiwisaver, so in a way I have started saving by doing that.

Take Christmas and New Year’s off

Over last year’s holiday period I ended up working a lot and only had about two days off in 14, which left me feeling pretty hard done by and like everyone else was having fun except me. I was stoked that my clients wanted to train right through but it occurred to me that I might need to take a break from them. This year I won’t be working in hospitality so it’ll be easier to take a decent break, from everything.

Learn about trigger points

I’m really excited about this goal. I’ve had a few massages from a friend who works with trigger points and have been amazed with the results. The basic premise is that pain is often referred from other muscles, so the place where you feel pain is not necessarily the source of the problem; you need to work backwards to find the muscle that is tight, and release the tension there. I’ve experienced this three times so far: my elbow joint hurt because a forearm muscle was tight, the inside of my knee hurt because a muscle in my inner thigh was tight, and my inner ankle hurt because my calf muscle was tight.

I’m going to write another post soon about these as I think they’re really fascinating, but for now, suffice it to say I’ve bought the trigger point manual and I intend to read it from cover to cover and to learn as much as I can about trigger points because let’s face it, being in pain sucks, and you’ll never alleviate your pain if you’re missing the point, literally.

Make knees less saggy

Yeah, yeah I can hear you all laughing, this is a very shallow and vain goal, but it’s my goal and it’s important to me, nonetheless. I don’t know if it’s from the thousands of knees I’ve thrown with my Muay Thai practice, or if it’s just another sign of aging, along with the grey hairs that I endlessly pull out with tweezers but refuse to cover with dye, but my knees are saggy and I don’t like it. My skin, in general, seems to be eternally dry, so maybe if I make a concerted effort to rehydrate it my knees will hike themselves back up too.

Ditch shampoo

There’s enough pollution all around me that I can’t control, like radiation form cell phones and Wi-Fi, without me consciously putting chemicals on my head. I want to minimise the junk in and around me, but I also want to look good too – what a calamity! On a good hair day (these occurs rarely) my hair forms loose, frizz-free ringlets that look pretty cool. On a bad hair day (these occur frequently) my hair is an unruly mess – greasy at the top, dry at the bottom, and a tangle of frizz in between.

I’m getting married in just under two years and I want to absolutely have a very good hair day on my wedding day, and I want it to be a lot longer than it is now, so about now is the time frame I need to be working at to make sure this happens. Shampoo is shit. It strips all the natural oils out of your hair so that your scalp goes into overdrive creating more, which you then strip off with more shampoo, which you then send down the drain and, eventually, out to sea. Recently I’ve experimented with a rosemary and honey mixture but it was a lot of work and the result was less than ideal. For now, I’m using this product, which works very well, but unfortunately has a long list of dubious ingredients.

Type Mum’s book

This is more of a to-do than a goal, but I am keen to get it done this winter. Mum doesn’t own a cell phone or a computer or even have an email address, so I’m her main link with technology. Her ‘book’ is a thick wad of handwritten pages held together in a ring binder, decorated with arrows and stars and crossed out sentences. It’s the story of her life, from her arrival by boat from London at the age of three, growing up in the 50s and 60s in various parts of New Zealand, deaths, births, living in grass huts in the Hokianga… I’m not born yet so I’m yet to see what she writes about me. Her writing is descriptive and often flowery, and the way she lived is so different from the way people live these days. It’ll make a great read, and we hope to publish it eventually.

How to move house without losing yourself

I’ve just moved house for the tenth time in the last two-and-a-quarter years. Anyone would think I was running away from something. I’m not. I’m running towards a better place, each and every time; that’s what I tell myself anyway.

The last place I felt really settled was the house in Dunedin where I lived for three years. I’d returned from a stint overseas and all I wanted was a kitchen and a garden and to stop living out of a backpack. I loved that house, I fantasised about buying it and doing it up and living there forever.

I replaced the missing panes of glass in the glasshouse and grew tomatoes and cucumbers and basil and chillies in there. Outside I grew beetroot and red onions and peas and carrots and coriander. When I first started contemplating leaving Dunedin for Auckland it was the coriander patch that yanked the most firmly on my heart strings: the few plants I’d initially bought had multiplied into a miniature forest that burst through the soil of its own accord early each spring, proving that it had survived yet another gruelling Dunedin winter.

Interestingly, the spring that I left Dunedin the coriander never came up.

I remember lying in my bed looking around at all my possessions and wondering what the hell I would do with them all. The bed itself, a dresser, sets of drawers, couches, tables and chairs, a TV, none of it was worth shipping to Auckland so it all had to go. The memories that had been created within the parameters of that house and garden also had to be dismantled and stored away in little boxes in the recesses of my mind.

My friend and flatmate, Kate, and I had had some great times in that place; we were the hostesses with the mostess: we’d invite friends around for barbeques and everyone would always know that they could expect a mean spread to be laid on. Other times we’d get the fire blazing and play endless hours of cards or scrabble or poker, or do 1000 piece jigsaw puzzles, or watch episode after episode of Outrageous Fortune or Dexter.

The trick to moving house without your life completely coming apart at the seams is to pack up the stuff you use least first. Pictures can come off walls, books into boxes, linen and towels and other-season clothes can all be packed away. Leave out the things you use every day until the very last minute – you’ll need them again soon and you don’t want to be rummaging around in the bottom of a box searching for that elusive hairbrush/toothbrush/most comfortable pair of undies.

You’d think that with all this packing and moving and unpacking I’d have whittled down my possessions by now but I haven’t. I still have my jigsaw puzzle collection that I cart around with me – some of them I’ve had since I was little and they’re filled with memories of doing puzzles with Dad. I have Rupert the Bear books that Dad also used to read to me and I want to one day read to the children in my life. I have records and CDs and framed pictures and textbooks and clothes and exercise equipment and pots and pans and cups and bowls and teaspoons… And a great collection of cardboard boxes that I’ve learned to not throw away.

If I didn’t have all these material possessions I would still be me, but these things help me redefine myself whenever I move house. My coffee cup and frying pan and chopping board help me to feel at home in a new place. My memories and experiences and all the things that make me me are embedded in the nooks and crannies and creases of all these objects that I refuse to stop bringing with me.

I never moved house as a kid. I was born in the house where my mum still lives now and my roots run deep there. I think if I hadn’t had this foundation in life I would be finding all the moving around I’ve been doing over the last couple of years really hard. But moving around and trying different options has helped me to know who I am and where I come from, and, little by little, I’m figuring out where I want to be and what my purpose is. It’s kind of a process of elimination – each living arrangement that doesn’t work gives me a clearer idea of what my ideal is, I take the snippets that did work with me and I leave the rest behind.

One day (soon, I hope) I’ll be putting down a new coriander patch, and making much more permanent gestures too, like planting trees and arranging vegetable gardens and unrolling and framing that beautiful print I bought in Thailand 16 years ago. I might even get around to framing all my degrees and diplomas and certificates too and finally allowing myself to acknowledge how far I’ve come and what I’ve achieved, even if it has been in a very higgledy-piggledy, roundabout kind of way.

Back to the Drawing Board

My candida has come back. Mother fucker. Like an unwelcome house guest it’s snuck back in to take up residence in my body, unexpected and uninvited. That said, I have had a sneaking suspicion for the last month or so that something’s not quite right with my health. First I got thrush for no apparent reason, despite not having had it for years. I’ve also been finding that whenever I eat sugar I get terribly bloated and gassy. In the last week or so I’ve had achy muscles and joints, but I put that down to recovering from walking 100 kilometres with a heavy pack. I should have bounced back quicker than I have though, and I feel like there’s a missing link between the quality of the food that I put in and the quality of the energy that I get back.

So I did the spit test and it was an epic fail: my saliva quickly gravitated towards the bottom of the glass of water, forming a putrid powdery layer. The last time I did the spit test was about four months ago and the result was pretty good; a little bit sank but most of it was still floating on the top after a good half hour or so – an ideal result would have all of it floating on the top after half an hour (this is done first thing in the morning before eating or drinking anything).

First came indignation, frustration and disappointment, then came resignation. At least this time I’m better equipped and I know exactly what I have to do. Last time, the thought of life with no sugar was almost incomprehensible. In some morbid kind of way I’m almost pleased: sugar has been creeping sneakily into my life, and I, thinking that I can handle it, have allowed it. This always happens with me – I make a rule and initially I’m very strict with it and I get the result that I want. Over time, I relax the rule a bit and it seems to be okay, so I relax it some more. Then, all of a sudden, the rule has become so relaxed that it barely exists, and I find myself where I am now – unwell and, as a result, needing to rewrite my own rules so that I can get well again.

I’m actually quite optimistic about this, up until recently I have been feeling really good, so I think with a concerted effort I can knock this candida palaver on the head without too much of a drama. This is the candida elimination diet that I follow:

BASIC RULES

  • Avoid ALL junk food and anything containing white sugar, white flour, yeast and soft drinks.
  • Include as much nutritious food as you like from a wide variety of sources.
  • Avoid ALL sugars, chocolate, honey, molasses and maple syrup.
  • Avoid ALL fruits and fruit juices.
  • Try not to eat the same foods every day.
  • Feature low-carbohydrate vegetables, seafood, lean meats and eggs in your diet. You can include one serving of high-carbohydrate vegetables OR a single portion of whole grain at each meal.

 FOODS YOU CAN EAT FREELY:

  • Vegetables: Most of these vegetables contain lots of fibre and are relatively low in carbohydrates. They can be fresh or frozen and you can eat them raw or cooked: asparagus, string beans, Brussels sprouts, cabbage, carrots, capsicums, cauliflower, celery, cucumber, eggplant, garlic, lettuce, onions, parsley, radishes, spinach, tomatoes.
  • Meat & Eggs: Chicken, turkey, beef, lean cuts, veal, lamb, wild game, shrimp, crab, lobster, tuna, other seafood, salmon, mackerel, cod, sardines, eggs, other fresh or frozen fish that is not breaded.
  • Beverages: Water and non-sweetened herb teas.

 FOODS YOU CAN EAT CAUTIOUSLY:

  •  High Carbohydrate Vegetables: Sweet corn, peas, pumpkin, beans, potatoes (baked only – not any other way!), kumara.
  • Whole Grains: Barley, corn, millet, oats, rice, wheat.
  • Breads, Biscuits & Muffins: All breads, biscuits and muffins should be made with baking powder or baking soda, NOT yeast.
  • Dairy: Acidophilus yoghurt (plain, unsweetened), butter.

 FOODS YOU MUST AVOID:

  • Sugar & Sugar Containing Foods: Sugar, and other simple carbohydrates including sucrose, high-fructose corn syrup, fructose, maltose, lactose, glucose, mannitol, sorbitol, galactose. Also avoid honey, treacle, molasses, maple syrup, agave syrup, etc.
  • Packaged & Processed Foods: Canned, bottled, boxed and other processed, packaged foods usually contain refined sugar and other hidden ingredients.
  • Breads, Pastries & Other Raised Bakery Goods
  • Milk & Cheeses, especially mouldy cheeses.
  • Alcoholic Beverages: Wine, beer, whiskey, brandy, gin, rum, vodka and other fermented liquors and beverages such as cider and ginger beer.
  • Condiments, Sauces & Vinegar-Containing Foods: Mustard, marmite, tomato sauce (and all variants), Worcestershire sauce, MSG, chili, shrimp and soy sauces, pickles, and anything else pickled, tamari, vinegar (except apple cider vinegar), and anything containing vinegar for example mayonnaise, salad dressings (especially fat-free ones, as they are high in carbohydrates). Freshly squeezed lemon juice mixed with spirulina powder and flax oil can be substituted.
  • Malt Products
  • Processed & Smoked Meats
  • Mushrooms & Other Edible Fungi
  • Melons, especially watermelon, rockmelon & honeydew
  • Coffee & Tea, Fruit Juice & Soft Drinks
  • Dried & Candied Fruits
  • Leftover food (has the potential to grow mould)

 As you can see, there’s a bit more to getting candida under control than simply not eating sugar. Luckily for me, my diet largely fits into the ‘eat freely’ and ‘eat cautiously’ sections anyway. Interestingly, nuts and seeds are not mentioned anywhere in the elimination diet, but I’d hedge a bet that they are all fine, except for peanuts, which grow below the ground so they may contain mould or fungus, and should therefore be avoided.

I do pretty much all my cooking from scratch so I know exactly what’s in it and what isn’t. The only things I’m unwilling to forgo entirely are coffee and fruit. I generally only have one coffee a day, first thing in the morning, and I don’t feel the need to cut this out at this point in time, I’ve battled with the idea of giving up coffee – the last time I tried I lasted for 17 days but I was miserable without it. At least now I’m only having one a day rather than the four or five I was often having back then.

I’m of two minds about fruit: on the one hand it contains fructose, which is sugar, and therefore will feed candida. On the other hand, it also contains fibre, vitamins, mineral, antioxidants and phytonutrients, all of which promote health. In terms of the concentrations of sugar, eating whole, fresh, raw fruit is nowhere near the same as eating candy bars or drinking soft drinks.

It depends on the fruit too; apples and pears have the most sugar, and I almost never eat these anyway. At the moment, the only fruits I’m intending to eat are strawberries and papayas, and I think this will be okay. Oh and lemons and grapefruit – technically these are citrus fruits but they contain barely any sugar and have loads of benefits, such as being highly alkalising, aiding digestion, and being high in Vitamin C and prebiotic bacteria (this is what probiotic bacteria eats). I actually eat lemons like they’re oranges: I cut one into segments and eat the flesh and the pith – it’s delicious!

As well as eating all the right things and none of the wrong things, I’ll also be barricading my system with these goodies:

  • Apple cider vinegar: This is some kind of cure-all wonder tonic, and I could easily dedicate an entire blog post to it. But for now, it’s great for alkalising, aiding digestion, cleansing the blood, and protecting against arthritis. Yes, apple cider vinegar is made from apples, which contain sugar, but the fermentation process converts the sugar into beneficial enzymes and amino acids. Anyone who’s tried it knows it is not sweet! I use Bragg‘s because its organic, contains the ‘mother’ and tastes good.
  • Probiotics: My ratio of good to bad gut bacteria is obviously skewed the wrong way at the moment; otherwise my candida would be back where it belongs, on the periphery, not ruling the show. Loading up with good bacteria will help set things straight; I like to use Reuteri, as I experience a tangible improvement when I use it.
  • Horopito: Mum just put me onto this one. Horopito is a native New Zealand shrub that’s been used in traditional Māori medicine for ages. It has natural anti-fungal properties, and yeasts are merely single-celled funguses. The product is called Kolorex.
  •  Sauerkraut: For whatever reason, cabbage appears to be superior in terms of its concentrations of prebiotic and probiotic bacteria. Fermenting it increases the concentrations even more. You should be able to find sauerkraut on your supermarket shelf (ideally you’d choose an organic one that’s been made without wine), or you can make it yourself.
  •  Chlorophyll: Chlorophyll is the pigment from plants that makes them green. It soothes the lining of the intestines and helps with nutrient uptake. I use this one.

 With this arsenal of awesomeness my spit will be floating in no time!