Mess With My Cannabis And You Mess With My Trauma

In his book, In The Realm of Hungry Ghosts, Dr. Gabor Maté, the world-renowned addiction specialist, discusses the prevalence of addiction across society, referencing a Bible quote to illustrate how susceptible us humans are to addictive behaviors: “We all have idols of the heart.”

Dr. Maté has worked with countless addicts over a decades-long career in some of the roughest neighborhoods in Vancouver, Canada. He’s in recovery. He knows addiction.

He writes convincingly on a trend amongst addicts, identifying trauma as a common denominator, which impairs childhood brain development, leading to life-long dopamine imbalances. The result is addiction and mental health conditions such as attention deficit and compulsion disorders.

Dr. Maté is intentionally unclear on the definition of trauma, pointing out that what is traumatic will be specific to each individual. In one case, it may be physical abuse, in another, it may be verbal. But the outcome is the same, dopamine imbalances that affect life-long decision-making.

“What we call personality is often a jumble of genuine traits and adopted coping styles that do not reflect our true self at all but the loss of it,” writes Dr. Maté.

WHAT IS ADDICTION?

Dr. Anna Lembke has also worked with addicts over a long career, and in her new book, Dopamine Nation, she demonstrates how dopamine deficits are the driving force behind addictive behaviors. She defines addiction as a “narrowing of the things that bring pleasure.”

In this interview with Joe Rogan, she describes how she’s noticed these days “everyone is addicted to something.” She blames the conflict between our over-stimulated environment and what she refers to as the monotony of “cubicle life.” She’s not surprised so many people want to self-medicate at the end of each day.

Rogan suggests that part of the problem is people don’t have enough “friction” in their lives, and Dr. Lembke agrees. In her practice, she sees people addicted to everything from pills, cocaine and porn to video games, weed, sex, and work. She says, people rotate their vices, Monday booze, Tuesday coke, Wednesday grass, etc., and tell themselves they’re not addicted to anything.

The problem is we’re all living in a “dopamine deficit,” she says, which she equates to a state of clinical depression. This begins a vicious circle. In order to reset the dopamine threshold and restore balance or homeostasis, the brain will crave more of the substance or behaviour to eliminate the pain of the dopamine deficit.

WHAT IS DOPAMINE?

Interestingly, Dr. Lembke says, the same brain mechanisms that drive the kind of focus needed for success also drive addictive behavior – in effect, Naomi Osaka is addicted to tennis. She identifies “tenacity” as the character trait addicts have in common and explains how this works by defining dopamine as the modulator of the brain’s pleasure/pain centre.

This is an over-simplification of the process but illustrates it well: think of the pleasure/pain axis as a seesaw and when there’s a pleasure influx, the pain side shoots up. And in order to get it back down to level, it’s necessary to load onto the pain side, usually twice the amount of pain to restore balance. But people don’t do that.

Instead, they seek out more pleasure to offset the pain not realizing the more they shoot for pleasure, the higher the dopamine deficit. Dr. Lembke explains that once a person has been addicted to one substance or behaviour and those neural pathways are set in place, the result is a heightened vulnerability to addiction in general.

Rogan’s hack for this is to set himself weekly endurance challenges in his workouts, effectively piling onto the pain side of the seesaw, causing a spike in pleasure. This type of physical exertion is something Dr. Lembke advocates for in her treatment plans. In her experience, the path to successful management of addiction is voluntary “self-binding protocols” i.e. putting restrictions in place.

CANNABIS AND ADDICTION

Unlike Dr. Maté, Dr. Lembke is not interested in the why of the situation; she’s looking for ways to manage the condition. But she’s noticed other traits that are unique to the addicted community, in particular, how much they want to talk about both their addiction and later, their recovery.

She says that addicts are wired for big highs and big lows, an overall more intense life experience. They’re deeper, and need the kind of relationships and intimacy that comes from exposing self, warts and all. Russell Brand, arguably, one of the most famous recovering addicts in the world, is a good example of this. For a long time, cannabis was his drug of choice.

In this episode of his Youtube podcast, he discusses the rise in global labour shortages due to large numbers of people testing positive for cannabis post-Covid. The response from the corporate world is to end drug testing. Brand doesn’t see this move as progress, but rather a sign that so many people are so miserable at work they need to be high to get through the day.

How does the likes of Rogan fit into this frame? Is he an addict? According to Dr. Lembke’s definition, that depends on how many things are the sources of pleasure in his life. Rogan clearly has a busy life, so it’s unlikely he has tons of time to sit for hours, playing video games and getting blazed. When he does, he enjoys it more.

This is true for many cannabis users who use weed to enhance rather than create pleasurable experiences. Rogan is candid about his marijuana use, saying he smokes three to four times a week, usually when he writes. This is an example of a self-binding protocol in action. But what happens when restraint isn’t possible.

I know cannabis users who have used weed for years but are not users of any other substance. If anything, they’ve used cannabis to eliminate more damaging vices and live healthier lives. I also know users who spark up when they wake up and sidestep their lives to be stoned all day, every day.

CANNABIS AND TRAUMA

There are some of us who have the power to adhere to self-binding protocols, and some of us who spit on them. I hover somewhere in the middle, and so can speak from both sides of the fence. Like Rogan, I use cannabis primarily to write and never get stoned before certain activities like working out or professional meetings. I do, however, write every day.

I know writers who praise the focus they can achieve with cannabis, and have heard coders, bankers and doctors praise it for the same reason. However, in recent years, I’ve noticed a key shift in my use. In 2019, I had a breakdown due to hormonal imbalances and malnutrition (long story, another post), forcing me to embark on a journey of healing and confront past trauma.

This changed my relationship to cannabis, the most significant difference being I now prefer to write when I’m not stoned, as I find the process easier, more fluid. It’s only on those days when I’m agitated that I find myself reaching for an old balm. However, a caveat, if I’m writing fiction, and really stuck, the one thing I know will unglue me and get the ideas flowing is a joint.

I can only talk from my experience but to date, there’s no room to talk about my experience because if there’s one word you’ll never hear the emerging canna-industry use it’s “addiction.” Yet, in a 2021 report by New Frontiers Data on trends amongst contemporary cannabis users, 67% cite relaxation is their primary reason for use. Relaxation is the primary reason for use across all demographics.

Isn’t relaxation another word for pleasure? To bring cannabis use into the mainstream and not talk about addiction is only telling half the story. But as Dr. Lembke pointed out, addicts love to share their story, and as we move towards a world of legal weed, there’s no question it’s a story that needs to be told and a story that cannabis users are dying to tell.

If you’re a cannabis brand that wants to connect to the community through untold stories, get in touch today and let’s talk about a campaign that works for you and your customers, click here.

Going Back to Black While Waiting for Legal Weed

It took me a long time to start buying “legal” weed. I live in Spain and was introduced to the concept in 2017 through the country’s cannabis social club (CSC) model – for a history of the model, click here. I’ll never forget the first time I walked into a CSC in Barcelona.

The darkened entrance in the middle of a non-descript terrace on a side street was not what I expected. But once I stepped inside, the air pressure shifted – like being sucked into a time capsule.

The painted brick walls and exposed ventilation system on the ceiling; the pool table in the corner and hip hop on the sound system; the guys in caps spread out on long leather couches, smoking, chatting, chilling. The beer bottles and dirty ashtrays on low coffee tables. The sweet smell of weed.

It reminded me of that garage my brother used to jam in back in the 90s. The difference was the weed, stored in shiny, labeled jars, and beautifully displayed in a glass counter. At first, it was a dream.

NEW TO LEGAL WEED

As a long-time hash-smoker, I was keen to buy “legal” hash for the first time. I was also overwhelmed by the choice of bud, unfamiliar with the strain names, and had no way to discern one from the other.

“This one’s a sativa. This one’s indica,” said the budtender (in Spanish, us being in Barcelona) pointing a fat buds, and holding up jars for me to smell. He might as well have been talking Mongolian.

“Nice,” I said, taking a sniff of a potent Diesel. “What hash you got?” I asked, except I used the word, “chocolate,” the street term I’d used for years, a clumsy bid on my part to demonstrate I knew “cannabis.”

CSC Hash 2017

Unimpressed, the budtender slapped some hash on the counter. His attitude was disconcerting, but determined not to leave empty-handed, I made a small purchase and smoked it like it was a new experience though it wasn’t.

Over the next few months, I visited more clubs, wrote about them for a cannabis webzine, and befriended club owners. I spoke with cultivators, learned the strain names and found my preferences. I picked up grow tips, and learned how to grow.

I went to Spannabis, meeting with seed banks, soil experts, extraction engineers, activists, industrial hemp growers and craft cultivators. I learned the new language of cannabis: endocannabinoid, terpenes, trichomes, full spectrum, concentrate, extract, and so on.

They were so different from my old words: spliff, pipe, solid, smoke. Even the word “cannabis” was new. I was no longer a “stoner.” Now, I was a “cannabis user.”

GONE TO POT

In 2018, I visited Canada just a few months before cannabis was legalized there. My friend promised me a lively weed scene, and I was looking forward to testing my newfound knowledge in a local dispensary.

Again, what I found was not what I expected. The weed scene was in the grips of a slow and ugly death. The cottage industry that had created the market was on its way out. Cannabis was being sanitized.

My first dispensary experience was as challenging as my first visit to a Spanish CSC. After a long search on a hot day, I found one on a side street with the by-now familiar non-descript entrance and not so familiar bulletproof door.

A moody employee sat behind a shabby reception desk, directing me to an interior steel door. On the other side of this door were a dark hallway and a second employee behind Perspex glass who asked to see my passport.

My credentials checked I was ushered into a small shop with Mason jars of weed on rows of white shelves. Despite my new knowledge, again, I was overwhelmed by the choice and looked to the budtender for guidance.

She was young with shaved hair, tattoos and a Fuck-You attitude. When none of the jars she offered me appealed, she reluctantly pulled some more.

I wanted to feel at home, banter with her, and check out as many products as possible. Instead, I felt like a divorcee scanning diamonds in Tiffany’s, sad and a little bitter. I wasn’t alone in this feeling. “Who the fuck wants to smoke government weed?” was a line I heard often there.

Old-School Toronto Stoner 2018

During my time in Canada, I bought weed from a corner dealer recommended to me by my friend. I spent $10 in the dispensary. I happily handed $200 to the corner dealer, a character called Sid with a boxy body and missing teeth.

BACK TO BLACK

Back in Spain, it wasn’t until a CSC opened in my local town that I got properly acquainted with the model and started buying “legal” weed on a regular basis. It took me a while to adjust to the set up and the prices but soon, I was happy to pay extra for the superior quality and safe exchange.

Then, the pandemic hit. My local club got shut down, and when they reopened, they struggled to stay in business for as long as possible. They finally closed last December.

At first, I broke Lockdown rules by traveling to an out-of-state club in order to continue buying “legal” weed. But then something else happened.

I noticed the quality of weed had changed. It wasn’t the sun-grown I was used to. It was stronger, had a different taste. I tried a bunch of different strains but in the end, I gave up. That stuff gave me a headache.

By early summer, as travel restrictions eased, I went back to the street, back to my familiar black hash. At first, the options were dismal but after a bit of searching, I found an old-school dealer with some mellow pollen. Boom. I was home.

This guy deals out of a garage on a back street, and is typically naked from the waist up, his chest covered in prison tats. He always assures me he’s got the best stuff but that’s not why I buy from him. I buy from him because he has the product I like at a price I can afford. He has a stream of regular customers.

Even though cannabis has been legal in Canada for three years now, the region’s black market remains strong. According to reports, legal weed is being binned and burned by the ton-load across the nation. For now, Canadian Big C companies have their talons in all major markers.

In the U.S., lines are being drawn between the greenhouse, craft and black markets. While dispensaries sell to the “canna-curious,” hemp-based products like Urb Rocks are breaking old norms by selling online nationally. Amazon is pushing to overturn the federal ban.

Luxembourg, Germany, and Italy are now considering legalising recreational cannabis. Will the same patterns emerge in Europe? So far, there’s a craze for “marijuana lite” in Italy, France and Switzerland. In Spain, the future existence of the CSCs is under threat, as gangs have infiltrated the running of the clubs.

While there’s no question the emerging industry is full of innovative talent and still in very early days, it’s also true that to date, legal loopholes define the market, not customer expectations.

As a result, I often find myself wondering what it would take to stop over-complicating things and just go back to basics? Then I remind myself this is what progress looks like: slow and bumpy. So, I skin up, back to black, my old reliable street hash while I wait for real change and a brand that breaks all the rules.

Natasha Kerry Smith is a cannabis copywriter with 30 years experience in the world of cannabis. For more stories like this one, as well as insights into stoner buying habits and product preferences, sign up for her newsletter, Conscious Consumption, coming soon! Subscribe here:

The Alternatives to the Joint Are Not a Hit

Rolling a joint is a sacred ritual that’s an integral part of my cannabis use. Like most stoners, I have my preferred way to roll, and without the right materials, it’s unlikely the joint will be fully satisfying. The rolling paper must be rectangular, approximately four inches in length and one inch in height. If I don’t have long papers, I stick small skins together to make the required size – I call rolling papers “skins.” They have to be thin paper too, almost transparent, because I don’t want to taste them as I’m smoking. My current favourite brand is RAW.

About ten years ago, I switched to loose tobacco so that’s what I use to roll, preferring the bushier leaves at the top of the pouch, as they have a smoother taste. I smoke hash, and given the choice will choose an oily Kush as opposed to the drier pollens that have become popular in recent years. Rule of thumb: if it’s necessary to burn the hash before crumbling it, it’s bad hash. It’ll get you stoned, but it’s still bad hash. The more the hash sticks to your fingertips, the better its quality. Hash in its purest form is resin so it should be oily and sticky, that’s when you know it’s dank as fuck.

The roach is really important, as a bad filter can destroy the best of smokes. When I first started smoking, we used to rip the inside flap from a box of cigarettes, roll it into a spiral and use it as a roach. Postcards and club flyers also work well but they have to be right paper weight for optimal results. About five years ago, some bright spark had the idea to produce pre-cut roaches, and that’s what I use now. Again, I use RAW, and like their subtle woody taste. All of these items can be found in my stash drawer at all times, as all of them serve a pivotal role in my smoking life. In other words, without them, I can’t get stoned.

Or I can get stoned, but it’s not the same high, doesn’t satisfy my cravings, leaves me wanting more. This is one of the key features that differentiates so-called recreational cannabis users from users of other substances slash drugs: we’re really fussy about our chosen mode of consumption. Junkies will take heroin in any form available, shooting up fentanyl if that’s all they can get. Cokeheads will snort any powder when they’re clucking. Likewise, speed freaks and pill heads will crush up anything that looks pharmaceutical. The cannabis user is far more selective, and must have the preferred strain, and right paraphernalia to fully enjoy the experience.

The more entrenched your preferred mode of consumption is, the more it becomes an extension of your personality. Making a change to it feels as disruptive as being asked to change your personality. This is what I’ve discovered in recent months as I struggle to quit smoking tobacco. I quit tobacco two times in the past, and on those occasions I didn’t struggle so much with my cannabis use because I simply gave it up too. This time I’m trying to find a way to replace my joints with an alternative mode of cannabis consumption, but it’s not working. If anything, it’s making the process of quitting tobacco more frustrating. Here are some of the alternatives I’ve tried, and their rating in terms of cost, convenience, and satisfaction/high.

Mint Leaves

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Lots of people are eager to recommend dried mint, eucalyptus or raspberry leaves as a substitute to tobacco. Let it be known that they are a very poor substitute, and also possibly just as bad for you as tobacco. First of all, any smoke going into your lungs is a bad thing so don’t bother fooling yourself that some kinds of smoke are better than others. Preliminary studies suggest that smoking cannabis does not harm the lungs in the same way tobacco does but further studies are needed. It’s also difficult to roll with mint leaves, making it a challenging task for anyone who doesn’t have dexterous fingers. The mint has a harsh taste that cuts the back of your throat and makes inhaling uncomfortable. There is nothing pleasurable about this experience, meaning you end up stoned but also grumpy.

  • Cost: Low
  • Convenience: High
  • Satisfaction: Low

MJ Brownies

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My brownies are so good that once I eat one, I tend to eat two or three. Yes, I clearly have self-control issues – I’m working on it – but when two addictions come together, in this case chocolate and cannabis, resistance is absolutely fucking futile. I’m exaggerating. It’s possible for me to make a batch, put them in the fridge and eat as need be, but I’ll probably eat a bit more than I should, and before I know it I’m off in another planet. Certain factors will also increase the potency of an edible high. If you eat edibles with a meal, or exercise afterwards, the high will be stronger. In short, anything that boosts your metabolism will boost the high.

Eating cannabis is far more potent than smoking it, which means it’s more important to get the dose correct. I have a high tolerance to THC, but there have been one or two days where even I have exceeded my limits, finding myself suddenly red-eyed at the gym, or floating on a walk with the dog. However, by eating cannabis, I have come to fully appreciate its healing powers, and fully understand that it’s a drug. In the last two years, I’ve corrected my gut issues with edibles, and also use them to soothe muscle ache after a workout. They’ve eliminated my belly bloating, regulated my appetite, and my sleep, and improved my skin health. But if you’re going to eat cannabis, you have to know how to dose correctly if you want to function normally during the day.

  • Cost: High
  • Convenience: Low
  • Satisfaction: Too High

Cannabis Oil

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I was sure this was going to be the option that would work best for me. I was wrong. It was a disaster. First of all, this is currently the most expensive way to consume cannabis because you’re smoking pure resin, which is costly to produce. The extraction process is lengthy, involves expensive extraction equipment, and different processes produce different qualities of oil. Rick Simpson Oil, which Rick started making in the early 2000s, is the most famous kind of resin, and is made with butane, producing a thick oil, 100% THC, with the consistency of treacle, and a smoked earth taste. With the growth of the cannabis industry, there are new extraction options including BHO as well as cleaner options such as CO2 and ethanol. Each process produces a different oil, resin or rosin.

Because we’re still in a very grey market, getting access to oil with consistent quality is practically impossible. I have a contact, and was sure what I was getting was good but not so. The oil came in the form of a cartridge, which was attached to a vape battery. The first morning I pressed the button five times as is the norm with vapes but nothing happened. I kept pressing the button, leaving it for a moment, and trying again, sure it was fully charged, and no clue what was wrong. Finally, I managed to get one hit from it, and it was nice. But it wouldn’t work again. I returned to my guy who graciously provided me with a replacement. This time the device worked but the oil didn’t. I smoked it for two days, and it had no effect on me. 0.5ml of oil is approximately €55, and if it works, the high is smooth, clean and long lasting. The chances of it not working are high due to the inability to check the source of the oil. Legal markets are tackling these kinds of problems but prices and quality still vary widely. This Canadian store charges $45 for 1ml.

  • Cost: High
  • Convenience: Low
  • Satisfaction: Low

CBD Oil

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There’s an urban myth that CBD oil can be used to quit nicotine. This is bullshit. Yes, it’s possible to vape CBD oil as an alternative way of smoking but it’s only going to be satisfying if you’re not doing it as a substitute for nicotine. Smoking CBD oil will not make you feel particularly calm, nor will it stop your cravings. As of yet, the only thing we know for sure about CBD is that it’s effective on kids with epilepsy. Any other claims are based on animal tests, hearsay or wishful thinking. That said, there are millions of people using CBD to treat all sorts of ailments from anxiety to diabetes, and seeing great results. If you’re just looking for a way to just consume CBD, a vape oil is both inexpensive and effective.

  • Cost: Low
  • Convenience: High
  • Satisfaction: Low

Smoking Flower

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In the same way that a beer guzzler has little in common with a wine connoisseur, those who smoke herb are not the same as hashheads. This has a lot to do with market forces but has evolved into cultural differences over time. Traditionally, weed was exported from Mexico to the States, meaning most North Americans prefer green, and tend not to smoke it with tobacco. In Europe, Moroccan hash dominated for decades, and became the norm. So, it’s fair to say North Americans prefer green but a growing number of Europeans are smoking bud these days, too, meaning now the differences are subtler. In Europe, smokers of bud tend to be growers, or have some special plant knowledge or connection to the industry. A selection of bud and oil users are ex-tobacco smokers looking for a healthier option. For many daily users, hash is preferred because it’s the cheapest way to smoke.

I grew up smoking hash, and it’s only in recent years that I’ve developed a relationship with the plant by learning how to grow it. When I smoke my own flower, I’m not thinking about cost because the only direct cost is the seed, which is €2 to €5 depending on the seed. Maintaining a daily habit when you’re not a grower is expensive, as bud costs approximately €5 to €10 per gram. The average cannabis users consumes two grams per day, adding up to a potential €20 per day of flower. Because hash can be crumbled onto tobacco it lasts much longer, meaning €20 of hash, 3 to 5 grams depending on the generosity of your dealer, can last days, if not a whole week. The real reason we smoke hash mixed with tobacco in joints is because it’s affordable. Taste and the high are important but affordability comes first.

  • Cost: High
  • Convenience: High
  • Satisfaction: Medium

Why We Smoke Joints

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The harsh truth is we smoke joints with tobacco because it’s the cheapest way to consume cannabis, and they satisfy two cravings, giving you an extra bang for your buck. Most of us started smoking as teenagers, or in college, meaning these habits were formed when we had no money. Unlike other addictions, such as gambling, cocaine, or even alcohol, maintaining a daily hash habit is relatively inexpensive if you’re also a tobacco smoker. Most of us have jobs that make the habit affordable, and know at least one or two reliable dealers. For those of us who know where to get it, it can be easier than buying alcohol, and usually a more pleasant experience due to the friendly relationship between buyer and seller. I made the decision to start exploring new ways to consume cannabis because I wanted a substitute to tobacco. Turns out, there isn’t one, and searching for an alternative is a fool’s gold.

  • Cost: Low
  • Convenience: High
  • Satisfaction: High

WHAT’S YOUR EXPERIENCE?

What brands are part of your smoking routine? What’s your experience of using alternatives to the traditional tobacco joint? What alternative is your favourite, and why? Let me know in the comments below.

Should You Quit Tobacco with Cannabis?

On Monday morning, I give into temptation, buy tobacco, and leave the shop feeling lower than pond scum. This is going to be harder than I thought. I need a force bigger than me to keep me on track. On Monday night, I make a decision: I choose health.

I wake up on Tuesday morning feeling the weight of my decision. Can I do this? How will I do this? Why am I doing this? The questions come thick and fast, and I do my best to ignore them while I roll a joint. I haven’t smoked a cigarette in nine days. To compensate, I’m smoking joints in the morning. Progress?

Even though I’m still smoking tobacco, I’m in the throws of withdrawal, my mind scrambling for all the reasons I need to hang on to nicotine, all the reasons my life will be hellish without it. For now, I’m succumbing to its potent pull. I’ve tried smoking with mint leaves, and/or bud but neither are satisfying. My new plan is to use cannabis oil to ease the cravings of nicotine. I have no idea if it’ll work.

Change Has A Price

The key to change is small steps. Capitalize on what you’ve already got, what you can already do. To maintain momentum, it’s crucial to note small successes along the way, however small. Know that you can always do better tomorrow, and that every mistake is teaching you the path. You can’t know what you want until you know what you don’t want. Then, there are trade-offs.

In my case, I use cannabis to work, and have done for years. It enables me to sit still for hours to complete research and edit thousands of words. When I don’t work I go a bit nuts, the words backing up in me, like a pile-up on the highway in a heat-wave. And when I’m not stoned, my writing process is more hit and run, sitting at my laptop for brief moments to bash out a paragraph, and then dashing off again.

But maybe I can change my style of work, take advantage of my hit and run process by using it to work in shorter time-blocks? Change is a process. Experimenting is essential. Knowing this doesn’t make the process easier. I’m worried that not being able to work will drive me so nuts it’s not worth trying.

But, by Tuesday, I’m sick of smoking tobacco, and sickened by my lack of control. I’m also overwhelmed by the thought of stopping. Every joint tastes like failure, but the change feels too big, and I hate my weakness. I feel more dejected than I did a week ago when I started.

On Tuesday night, a ray of hope shows up. I visit my friend, and he has some cannabis oil. My plan is to smoke it instead of joints with tobacco because its taste, and high is similar to what I’m used to. It’s expensive but I buy it anyway. Change has a price.

Change Means Accepting Failure

On Wednesday morning, I force myself into the gym first thing, and hold out to midday before smoking a joint. I still feel crappy but I set myself some tasks, get them done, and end up having a good day. That one change, waiting till later in the day to smoke, made a big difference. That’s a small win.

On Thursday morning, I wake up late, run some errands, and notice how tired I look when I catch my reflection in a shop window. I sit at my laptop for a full hour before smoking a joint. This, too, is progress. It shows that I can sit and write without smoking. My belief that I can’t write without smoking is my biggest limiting factor.

I begin to notice the other limiting factors. I woke late because I worked late, and then ate bread for breakfast. Because of working late, I’m tired, making it harder to control cravings. An hour after I smoke, the gout in my toe aches, and then my calves begin to swell, a sign of dehydration.

I know it’s the combination of these bad habits that are contributing to my overall poor health. I know they’re all also connected to smoking tobacco. I know all these things but that doesn’t mean I can click my fingers and bam! I’m a new person, all bad habits gone. No matter the change, failure is inevitable.

On Friday morning, I wake up exhausted by my ongoing failure. The first thing I think of is smoking. Then I remember I can’t, and feel even more exhausted. I force myself out of bed, take the dog out, and eat breakfast. With food in my stomach, my mood improves. The urge to smoke goes. I sit down to write and the battle begins: to smoke or not to smoke. The question is driving me mad.

Cannabis is Too Precious To Waste

Even though I got the cannabis oil to manage my nicotine cravings, by the end of the week I realise that I don’t want to waste it. When cannabis is consumed on its own, the high is completely different, cleaner, longer-lasting, more peaceful. I don’t want to contaminate the oil by including it in my nicotine withdrawal process.

By the end of the week I remember what I know to be true: to quit smoking means to stop smoking everything until the nicotine withdrawal is over. That process takes one to two weeks, and it’s what I’m trying to avoid by smoking hash with mint leaves, and buying cannabis oil to smoke pure. The truth is while I’m still addicted to nicotine it’s in charge of my smoking habit, not me. That’s not what I want. Failure is teaching me.

On Saturday night, I sit on my doorstep, smoking a joint, and remember how much I love to do this. It’s a strange summer night, the sky cloudy, and spats of rain splashing my skin. Low pressure. A siren sound in the distance – I have the sense it’s carrying my old life with it. I want all these changes to be real now. That’s not how it works. But I’m in deep, have come too far. There’s no turning back.

Maybe it’s possible for others to use cannabis as a balm while quitting tobacco, but for me, the two habits are so deeply intwined, trying to stop one but not the other is too confusing. Plus, it’s nicotine not cannabis than I’m addicted to, and I don’t want to use cannabis like an addict. I want to enjoy it on my own terms. There’s only one thing left to do. Cold Turkey. Ouch. This is going to hurt.

 

 

 

Can You Quit Tobacco with Cannabis?

I started on a Monday morning, or rather I stopped: nicotine. I picked the 15th as an auspicious date, my birth date, the date I quit drinking alcohol five years ago, and the day of a full moon this year. All good signs. I stayed up late smoking joints till I felt sick and could no longer stomach the taste. I OD’d in preparation for the drought.

My motivation was a dream. A few weeks ago I’d dreamt that a snake coming out of my nose confronted me in bed, leering at me with menacing eyes, and threatening to kill me. In shock, I fell out of bed and tried to push the snake away but the snake was in me, killing me. I couldn’t breathe. I woke up knowing I would die of emphysema if I didn’t quit smoking tobacco.

When I got up on Monday morning, I went straight to the kitchen and smothered some bread in cannabutter, wolfing it down, not even giving myself the chance to get straight. By ten a.m. I was in the gym, and wasted, finding it difficult to concentrate or even make eye contact with fellow gym-goers. This was the start of my week. From here, things went from bad to great, and then seriously downhill.

They say quitting nicotine is as hard as kicking heroine. I’ve never done smack but can tell you that quitting tobacco is a bitch. The cravings, restlessness, edginess, dogged sense that something is missing. All of it is a fucking nightmare. But there are lots of upsides, and as the week progresses, I begin to remember them. I go into them in more detail below.

How to Not Quit Tobacco Using Cannabis

Monday was messy. After the gym, I spent the day munching on infused brownies, and was mostly floating, if not full on tripping all day. I realized quickly it would not be possible to spend every day this zoned out. I got no work done that day, too busy eating, and by nighttime, I was so frustrated, I smoked two joints with tobacco.

The next day, I went in search of alternative options, and on the advice of a friend, bought some dried mint and eucalyptus leaves. The first joint I smoked with this mix was disgusting. I persevered, but found that the taste of the leaves overpowered the taste of hash, making it a harsh smoke. Also, too many hot rocks. Mixed with flower, it wasn’t so bad, but I smoke hash. On Tuesday night, I smoked one joint with tobacco.

By Wednesday, I was already feeling way more clear-headed because of smoking less tobacco, but still wasn’t able to sit down to work. Determined to find a way to consume cannabis that matched my taste and high expectations, I visited another friend who had a vape pen with oil. I tried some. Lovely. Perfect.

I managed not to smoke any tobacco that day, and had one of the best night’s sleeps I’d had in months. However, by Thursday night, stress got the better of me, and I ended up buying tobacco to get the fix I wanted. It was a beautiful smoke, and after three days of being on edge, I was finally able to get some work done.

On Friday I made the decision to get a hook up for some oil, as it was my favourite toke of the week. However, getting the hook up would take time. Typical. I got some CBD vape oil instead, and some nice golden lemon hash. I’m continuing to smoke tobacco till I get the oil but I’m smoking less than half of what I was previously. That’s progress.

In the gym, I’ve learned that changing habits is a process, and going slow is a better way to ensure long-term results. That attitude is what has allowed me to improve my physical health over the last five years. Quitting tobacco is the final hurdle. There’s no question it’s going to be the hardest jump. That means putting the right support in place before making the leap.

The mistake I made was not having the right alternative in place before making the switch. I hoped I’d be able to smoke mint leaves but it didn’t work. My cannabis preference is hashish, meaning switching to flower is not a viable option for now. Plus, for me, there are benefits to smoking, and breaking the habit will mean addressing them, too.

The Highs and Lows of Smoking Cannabis with Tobacco

It’s ridiculous that after twenty-five years of smoking cannabis I should still get so excited about getting stoned, but I do. Every time I feel that luscious smoke cradle my mind, my spirit soars. But there’s a price. There always is. The price is addiction to nicotine. Over the years, I’ve learned to balance the trade-offs.

I have mild ADD, and use hash to help me sit still long enough to write. I can sit at the laptop all day, as long as there’s a joint, rolled with tobacco, in the ashtray. It may sit untouched for hours, but while it’s there, I can concentrate. Take it away, and my writing process switches to a more breaking and entering style, slipping into my chair for ten minutes of furious activity, grabbing words where and while I can before my mind wanders to some other urgent task, and I’m gone.

Tobacco also helps me manage my food obsessions and tendency to overeat, a habit that started before I became a smoker. Like most women, I’ve using smoking to control my weight over the years, and on the last two occasions I quit, gained more than 10kgs. In the last two years, I’ve lost more than 12kgs through diet and exercise, and I’m super slow to give up that progress.

The worst thing I do when I smoke joints with tobacco is stay up late. I stay up for one of two reasons, either to write, or to have a little party for myself. Inspired, and in a stoned bubble, I write into the morning, on a roll, in the flow, unaware of time passing. Or I watch TV, eat, get stoned, hang out. Have fun. All. By. Myself.

However, the next morning I wake up grumpy, sometimes with an inflamed stomach, and in pain, due to my IBS. This is the famous hash hangover; I call it a fugover. Plus, I’m in a bad mood all day, tired, and inert. I’m only interested in working out, and my next joint. This pattern of staying up too late is the one that does the most damage, as it messes with my mood, immune system, hormones and muscle recovery.

Reasons to Quit Tobacco

That pattern is the first thing that changes when I cut tobacco out of my life. Like most smokers, I believed smoking tobacco relaxed me, and was a sleep aid. This is not true. During week one, when I didn’t smoke tobacco for a few days, I was in bed early, and woke up feeling refreshed for the first time in months. This was my experience when I quit tobacco in the past, too.

The mind-racing I experience before bed is nicotine’s last loud scream before the abstinence of sleep. Without it, I’m too tired to think in the evening, and can’t wait to hit the pillow. Good sleep is the basis for good health, and until I fix the problem of going to bed at a reasonable hour, all other efforts are compromised.

I’m hoping my nutrition knowledge will help me avoid weight gain this time when I quit smoking but good sleep is essential for weight regulation. Not only does it keep hunger hormones under control, it gives the body time to repair damage, fight infection, and metabolise food. Without it, weight gain is guaranteed.

I know I’m going to eat more as soon as I quit tobacco but with the right training program I can turn those excess calories into muscle. That’s my goal. In recent months, I’ve lost muscle mass due to illness, have been trying to up my daily calories, and failing. Sometimes, it’s just as hard to gain weight as it is to lose it.

To gain muscle, we have to eat more. That’s the law of physiology, and there’s no getting round it. Once tobacco goes, my overeating habit will kick back in. This means I’ll suffer with a bloated stomach and sluggish bowels for a period of time. I’m not looking forward to this, but also know that it won’t last. This will be my body adjusting its set point.

To counteract the imbalance, I’m going to include more cardio in my workouts, and focus on eating whole foods, along with those sweets I won’t be able to resist. However, once I start eating more, my body is going to fill out, and my hair and skin are going to shine. Combined with training, my lean muscle will grow, and my physique will tone up. There are only benefits to quitting tobacco.

Next week, I may take myself off into the forest for three days to wait out the withdrawal in nature. Big changes demand drastic action. Watch this space.

 

#quittobaccowithcannabis #naturalhighs

 

 

 

 

 

 

Satisfy Your Sweet Tooth with Ginger Cannabis Cookies

Looking for a cookie recipe that uses organic low carb ingredients, can be easily modified to suit your tastes, and goes great with cannabutter? Look no further my freaky friends, this is the recipe you’ve been waiting for! It took me ages to find and perfect this baby, so I know it won’t let you down.

When cannabutter is your key ingredient, the goal is to find a recipe that is butter-based, and then tweak it depending on how strong you want your cookies to be. Because I know how good these biscuits taste, and how likely I am to eat four in a row, the butter I make is not so strong, making it easy to microdose.

This recipe uses almond flour, making it a great source of protein that won’t spike your blood sugar the way a processed cookie will. Note: It’s always good to mix your carb or sugary food with some protein, as this aids digestion by balancing out the insulin response. Because almond and butter are heavy foods, these cookies are quite filling.

This makes them a good choice as a healthy breakfast, or as a boost snack later in the day. You can mix up the spices that you add to the basic recipe to create a whole repertoire of flavours. These cookies are freezable, so you can store your different flavours and switch them up during the week.

Down to business: here’s the recipe for Ginger Cannabis Cookies

Ginger Cannabis Cookies

Ingredients:

  • 2 cups of Almond Flour
  • ¼ to ½ cup of Cannabutter
  • ¾ cup of unrefined Sugar
  • 1 large free range Egg
  • 1 tsp. of Vanilla Extract
  • 2 tsp. of ground Ginger
  • ¼ tsp. of groung Nutmeg
  • ¼ tsp. of ground Cloves
  • ½ tsp. of Cinnamon

Instructions:

In a large bowl, mix all the dry ingredients together. Mix the egg and butter in a cup, and add into the dry mix until you get a stiff and crumbly texture. Use a spoon to measure out cookies, and spoon them out onto a lined baking tray. Bake in a pre-heated oven at 200° for 12 minutes until golden brown.

Interact:

Share your creations on social media, and let me know what flavours you come up with!!

 

#gingercannabiscookies #cannabutter

 

 

 

A Health Boost with Cannabis Hemp Heart Brownies

I cook according to the KISS principle (that’s: keep it simple, stupid) as I came to cooking fairly late in life, and have a tiny kitchen that’s not designed for elaborate food preparation. My small countertop accommodates simple tasks like joint rolling and blending a handful of ingredients in one bowl. I ignore recipes that demand multiple kitchen utensils, as I don’t have the time or the space for them.

Instead, I focus on using organic ingredients, and try to stay away from any foods that are likely to cause inflammation of the gut such as sugar, wheat, milk, honey, cream or cheese. This may sound restrictive at first, but you’d be amazed what you can come up with when you’re forced to use alternative ingredients. Watch this space! I have lots of recipes, and will be sharing them in coming months.

This is a super easy recipe for Cannabis Hemp Heart Brownies, combining cannabis and cocoa, two of the most nutrient-dense foods on the planet. Warning: these brownies taste divine and are too easy to eat, so if you’re worried about eating too much, know in advance that these are hard to resist. Dose your butter accordingly. Note that I use almond flour in this recipe, because it’s low carb, and nut flours such as almond or hazelnut really work well with, and enhance the flavour of cannabutter.

Let’s get down to business: the recipe.

Canna Hemp Heart Brownies

Ingredients:

  • 140grams of Cannabutter
  • 3/4 cup of Unrefined sugar
  • 80grams of Cocoa
  • 2 large Eggs (Free Range)
  • 150grams of Almond Flour
  • 80grams of Hemp Hearts
  • Pinch of Sea Salt
  • ½ tsp. of baking powder
  • 1 tsp. of Vanilla Essence (optional)
  • 1 tsp. of Ground Coffee (optional)
  • 40grams of crushed Walnut (optional)
  • Sea Salt to garnish

Instructions:

Mix all the dry ingredients, almond flour, sugar, cocoa, baking powder, sea salt and hemp hearts, in a bowl, and blend them together. Add in the cannabutter (make sure to melt it first) and blend it in, too.

Then add the eggs, and continue to blend until you have a gooey mix. It’s important to make sure the mix is runny enough to pour into your tray. If it’s too stiff, add some almond milk, and stir in till you have a softer consistency.

Pour the mix onto a baking tray lined with baking paper. I cooked mine in a shallow tray, 20 x 30cm. It doesn’t matter what size your baking tray is, but if it’s a deep tray, the brownies will take a bit longer to cook.

Preheat the oven at 220° and cook the brownies for 20 to 25 minutes depending on how deep your tray is.

You’ll know when your Canna Hemp Heart Brownies are ready because your kitchen will fill up with the luscious smell of roasted cannabutter and cocoa. While still hot, sprinkle the brownies with sea salt, and leave to cool.

This recipe is really easy to play with, so if for example, you’re a big fan of ginger, add some in there. If you like berries, throw a handful in the mix, and blend. You can eat them hot with ice cream, or leave them cool, and eat with a cup of coffee. Expect to taste dark luscious decadence.

Interact:

Share your Canna Hemp Heart Brownies with the world! Make sure to post pics of your creations in the comments below.

 

#OGcannabisbrownies #cannabutter

 

How To Get In Shape When You’re Living with IBS

Most people believe that food is the biggest challenge to getting in shape when you’ve got a digestive issue like IBS. While there’s no question food plays a major role, it won’t be the deciding factor in your overall success. So what is? It all comes down to habit. Until you establish a daily routine that’s easy to stick to, your progress will be slow or non-existent. I know because that’s how it was for me for years.

In the last two years, I’ve seen huge improvements in my energy levels and body composition due to a combination of factors including weight training, keto, cannabis, and fasting. While weight training and cannabis reduce inflammation, keto helped me lose weight and eliminate the bloating that had caused me discomfort for years. Fasting was the final piece of the puzzle, as it enabled me to switch up my relationship with food, understand my hunger signals, and stop the overeating behaviour that was ultimately the biggest trigger for my IBS.

There’s a lot of info in that paragraph because in reality it took time to research and understand the value of each strategy, and then it took time to make it a part of my day-to-day life. It took about three years to learn how to train the right way, and about the same time to learn the value of whole food. It took me a year to work up to keto, and when I finally did it, I stayed on it too long, which hijacked my hormones, meaning my period stopped, and my anxiety went through the roof leading to a panic attack.

In short, with any fitness plan, expect setbacks along the way, and see each one as a learning curve, an opportunity to switch up what you’re doing to get better results. This is part of the process and helps you find the “right balance” for YOUR body. What’s right for me is not going to be right for you, but if, like me, you can’t eat certain foods, please know this makes getting in shape ten times more difficult. So, go easy on yourself, and rather than thinking about the results, think about what you need to do to feel good. Focus on the feeling, and the rest will follow. Here are some tips to get you on track.

REVIEW YOUR WHYS

Change is a trade-off because nine times out of ten, if you want to gain something, you’re going to have to give something up to get it. On top, the thing you have to give up is typically something you know is bad for you but goddamn it, you love it. How do you give up something you love, even when you know it’s bad for you? There’s only one way: you have to value something else more.

I quit smoking four years ago because I was so worried about gum disease. Any time I thought of smoking, the first next thought was my gums, and that mattered more. If you don’t have something that matters more, you’re never going to stick to your new behaviour so don’t even bother trying. Honestly, don’t even try. Not worth the torture.

But here’s something you can do: you can be very clear about what you’re willing or not willing to do. Change happens on a continuum, so start small. If your ultimate goal is to lose weight, ask yourself why? Try the Five Whys Exercise: for every answer, ask why five times. This exercise leads you to the real reason behind your desire. If this is the first time you’re doing this exercise, I guarantee you the answers will surprise you.

CHECK YOUR GUILT

You may think your behaviour is automatic, or a response to whatever situation you’re in today but when it comes to overeating, eating times, going to the gym, going for a walk, food shopping, mediation, watching TV, or basically anything you do, the groundwork is laid weeks, months and years in advance. Example: I used to save all my sweets over the forty days of Lent, hiding it under my bed, and eat the whole lot in one go on Easter Sunday. Is it any wonder I became an over-eater in later life?

Whether you’re willing to admit it or not, every one of your behaviours is a choice, meaning it’s not fixed, and within your control. In fact, it’s the only thing within your control. If you know that you’d like to work out every day, and don’t do it, and constantly feel guilty, ask yourself why? It could be that you’re addicted to feeling guilty, which gives you an excuse to comfort yourself with sugar donuts or ice cream or beer or whatever your guilty pleasure is.

Here’s the thing: guilt plays an essential role in the human psyche, keeping you in check, protecting you, and preventing you from making all manner of stupid decisions. But if it gets out of balance, you can get in trouble quickly. It can overtake your life to the point that you feel guilty doing anything nice for yourself, or are stuck in a cycle of doing bad things and feeling bad afterwards. Either one is shit. You don’t want to be there. How do you break it? Read on.

IDENTIFY LIMITING FACTORS

We all have stories we tell ourselves, and most of them are lies. In this video, the Bodybuilding Yogi reviews the stories people tell themselves about what they can and can’t do, creating false limitations that serve as excuses, and prevent them from pushing harder to achieve their goals. Which means it all comes down to how far you’re willing to push yourself or how much pain you’re willing to endure. He says we have two options: the pain of discipline, or the pain of regret. You get to choose which pain you want.

Some of us have tangible limitations like physical injuries or digestive issues, but again, there are ways to get around these – if you really want. I kid you not when I tell you that I spent most of my thirties in bed, sick. I got up late, ate in the afternoon, and went back to bed. It was my normal for so long, I forgot that it wasn’t normal. Luckily for me, I had a bunch of tangible limiting factors, and once I started recognising and eliminating them, things got easier. The first thing I had to quit was alcohol, as it was poisoning my body. After six months, I had enough energy to join a gym. Today, I go to the gym six days a week. It took three years to build this habit.

I still have a bunch of limiting factors: I can’t take supplements. I smoke. I have IBS, meaning there’s a long list of food I can’t eat. My budget won’t allow me to buy the full range of organic foods I’d like. I can’t afford a personal trainer. I can’t remember the last time I had a massage. Sleep is a big issue for me, as is meditation, or anything that requires me to sit still. Lifting weights is my meditation. Just like change is a trade-off, every choice has its opposite. Find your limitation. Then find its opposite. I’m promise you that’s your happy place.

FOOD JOURNALS

Most of us don’t realise how much food we eat during the day, and this is how those extra calories creep in. A food journal is a great way to keep track of what you’re eating and identify any problem areas such as processed foods, excess sugars, or fizzy drinks. You can be as creative as you want with this, and include information such as calories, fat, protein, carbs and/or sugar. How long you do it is up to you but if you commit to a month, you will learn a lot about your eating habits, both good and bad.

Step it up and create a How Food Feels Journal, an idea I got from the people over at Precision Nutrition, which is particularly beneficial to people with digestive issues. In this journal, you’ll need 3 columns for Time of Eating; Description of Meal; and How it Feels. Do you feel energised lethargic, bloated, gassy, or have brain fog? Are you exhausted? Do you have to lie down? Do you have pain? A journal like this makes it easy to see what foods do and don’t work for you, and enables you to create a working meal plan.

SET REAL GOALS

Now, I want to scare the shit out of you a little bit because I want you to understand that this is not easy. Please know that the built bodies of those women you admire so much are the result of SERIOUS WORK. Typically, a female body builder will have a personal trainer, a nutritionist, and spend up to four hours a day in training. This level of effort is not necessary for the average woman, but just to give you a clear idea of the work involved, the following is an example of the regime followed by a female athlete with around 10% body fat, again, courtesy of Precision Nutrition.

A female athlete with less than 10% body fat will:

  • Eat slowly and until satisfied at 99% of meals
  • Follow a carb cycling meal plan
  • Have a carefully prepared meal plan to meet body goals
  • Measure food specifically
  • Include exact amount of protein, veg, and fat needed at each meal
  • Eat no processed foods
  • Exercise twice daily for up to 75 minutes
  • For up to 7 of those workouts, she’ll be working flat out, sweating
  • Sleep at least 9 hours a night
  • Have a daily de-stress routine
  • No alcohol
  • No eating in restaurants
  • Dessert once every 3 months

How many of us can commit to that kind of regime? Believe me, if you can, you’re an outlier, not the norm. Athletes do this because it’s their job, but the average woman will have a job already, on top of other commitments, meaning it’s simply not possible to spend so many hours in the gym, and another few hours meal prepping. As a start point, it’s much easier to think about how much time you do have available in the day, and think about how you want to spend it. Remember, choosing activities that make you happy, as well as nutrient-dense whole food is the most beneficial thing you can do for your body.

START POINT

OK, so what do you do if you want to get in shape and have IBS?

  1. Start with food journal, and get fully acquainted with your eating habits and food choices.
  2. Determine your goals, and make them realistic. Remember, Rome wasn’t built in a day.
  3. Determine your preferred mode of exercise, and commit to a weekly schedule.
  4. Review your protein intake, and if possible, consider increasing it. If you’re not sure how to do this, eat more eggs. If you don’t eat eggs, add chia seed protein or hemp protein to your meals.
  5. Review your fat intake, and consider healthy fat sources such as walnuts, avocado, salmon, butter, and almond butter.
  6. Cut down on processed foods, and cut out all take-out food. Yes, all of it.
  7. Make sure you’re drinking at least 1.5 litres of water per day infused with electrolytes to balance hydration.
  8. Make sure you’re sleeping for at least 7 hours per night, ideally more.
  9. Eat within a 12-hour window for a period of two weeks.
  10. Find a way to de-stress and commit to daily practice.

This is a general guide, but I promise you that if you start here, you’ll be on the right track within three to six months. If you’d like a more detailed plan tailored to your body goals, or would like to discover ways to develop a better relationship with food, get in touch today for a FREE CONSULTATION. Email: thehealthyhashhead@gmail.com

#guthealth #bodygoals #getinshapewithIBS

 

 

 

Can You Get In Shape When You Have IBS?

Every few years, a new fad diet or workout appears on the market, promising to be the answers to your perfect body prayers. But if you have irritable bowel syndrome (IBS) or any digestive issue, these diets are typically off-limits because you fall into a special category of diet needs, and don’t have the flexibility to play around with or restrict food groups. It’s likely that you’re already on a restricted diet, and can’t bear the thought of having to cut out more food. Typically, the last thing you want to do is start trying new recipes, as you know from experience the results can be disastrous.

However, unless you keep eating, and eat the right balance of food for your body, what happens is a vicious circle of weight loss, weight gain and weird body results, meaning lumps and bumps in the all the wrong places. We’ve spent so many years obsessed with low fat everything and a zillion ways to lose weight, it’s no surprise that you think the first step to body transformation is stop eating or eat less. That’s certainly what I thought when I started weight training five years ago. Since then, I’ve learned that if you want to get in shape, you have to eat.

But I have IBS, meaning I can’t follow most of the diet plans suggested on body building sites, nor can I take any supplements; even vitamins play havoc with my intestines. My stomach is too sensitive for probiotics, so they’re out, too, and don’t get me started on minerals. In short, my body does not like any energy source other than food, and it’s very specific about which types of foods it wants. I eat a high fat low carb diet, and avoid FODMAPs, not because it’s popular but because this diet matches my body shape, and doesn’t aggravate my IBS.

The key thing to understand is that you cannot make changes to your body unless you know your body, and know it well. That means knowing everything from how much sleep it needs, which foods energize it, which drain it, what activities make it happy, and what or who needs to be avoided at all costs to minimize stress. If you’re struggling with food choices, or are unhappy in your job, relationship, skin, chances are there’s a disconnect between you and your body, and until you reconnect, you’re going to have problems. What can you do to help make that reconnection? Here are some suggestions that can set you on the path to getting in shape.

DETERMINE YOUR IDEAL DIET

For people with IBS, this usually means starting with the FODMAP diet, a list of foods high in carbohydrates that are known to be inflammatory. Like most diets, the diet is controversial, with some people dismissing it, and others swearing by it. I swear by it, and recommend it as your start point if you’ve got IBS, or any digestive condition linked to inflammation of the intestines. If nothing else, the diet will get you into the habit of cutting out foods, and playing around with recipes, which is the same thing you have to do if you want to get in shape.

Warning: this process takes time. It took me almost fifteen years to find a diet that I can eat that doesn’t aggravate my anxious tummy, and it’s really only in the last year and a half that I’ve nailed it to the point where inflammation and bloating are no longer an issue. IBS is not a condition that’s curable so I still get flare-ups, but know how to manage them, which sometimes means eating, and other times means fasting. It turns out that my ideal diet includes fasting, or intentionally not eating for 12/14/16/18 or 24 hours. It’s possible to do longer fasts but I find short fasts enough to manage my symptoms.

The great thing about setting a body goal is that it shakes up the conversation between you and your body, but you have to set realistic goals for your body and fitness level. If you’re 15kgs overweight, and have spent the last five years sitting at a desk with minimal exercise (that was me) this is going to be a difficult conversation. And yes, you can lose weight by diet alone, but if your goal is to get in shape, you have to exercise. There’s a silver lining: the best way to change the conversation with your body is exercise.

And don’t think that your phantom ideal diet is all carrots and boiled fish. I started eating dark chocolate about three years ago when I learned that cocoa has anti-inflammatory benefits. These days, I eat it almost every day, and regard it as a vital source of carbs and healthy fats. Finding your ideal diet does not mean cutting out all the things you like, but it may mean shaking up your food choices so that you’re choosing items that fuel instead of fatigue you. It may also mean thinking about when you eat. Your ideal diet is a wide mix of foods, as many whole foods sources as possible, and includes lots of treats so that you never feel like you’re missing out, or are tormented by cravings.

GET REAL ABOUT YOUR DIET

Once you figure out what you can eat, then you have to factor in your body goals. If you’re going to eat McDonald’s once a week, you’re doing yourself an injustice by causing a setback in your progress. That doesn’t mean you can never eat McDonald’s; in fact, I’d recommend that you do treat yourself to fast food or take-out once in a while because that’s real, and if you’re battling with yourself every day to avoid it, you’re stressing your body and again, impeding your progress. Eat the damn thing if you want it, but eat it consciously.

Take note of every bite. Feel it reach your stomach. Gauge its reception down there. Are there gurgles? Is there gas? Do you feel satiated? Do you want more? If you want more, have it. I’m a big believer in going over the limit because you reach a point where you make yourself sick. Try it. Go to your favourite take-out place and spend a ridiculous amount of money on everything your like; eat it all in one go. You will feel gross. I promise you the temptation to eat there again will be significantly reduced for a long time. We all have our own psychological tricks to manage food; go find yours.

Remember, cutting stuff out completely with willpower alone is a fool’s gold. Find substitutes or incorporate treats into your week so that you’re not feeling deprived. But get real about the treats. If you eat a packet of biscuits or Doritos and feel awful afterwards, have a conversation with yourself about why you’re eating them, and what’s so attractive about the cycle of stuffing and berating yourself? Why are you punishing yourself? Think about your choices. Think about what you’d eat if you had better options. Watch some food shows, research recipes. Start experimenting within the category of foods you like.

FYI I make hamburgers flavoured with nutmeg and cinnamon, and add tahini or peanut butter powder to smoothies. Don’t be afraid to break rules. Follow your taste buds.

FOOD PREPARATION

The secret ingredient in every athlete’s fitness schedule is food preparation. By preparing food in advance, and having the right meals in the right portions to hand, the athlete can easily stick to a set diet no matter how restricted. Turns out, this is also a great way to manage IBS or any digestive issue. The first step of food preparation is food shopping, which sounds easy, and it is as long as you know what you’re buying. It took me ages to learn the right things to buy, and it was part of the discovery process that led to me determining my ideal diet. In total, this experimentation stage lasted about two years, so be patient.

Likewise, it will take time to get into the habit of learning to prepare your meals in advance, and making sure that each meal has a balanced mix of macros to suit your body. Getting in shape is science, a process of manipulating the chemical make-up of your body by playing with its energy source and expenditure. You have to put the right energy in, and you have to expend the energy in the right way. This is not to put you off, but to explain that the process takes dedication, and if you have a digestive issue, the challenge is tenfold. What I’m saying here is take your time, and learn to fall in love with food. That may sound counterproductive but once you’re buying whole foods and preparing 80% of your meals from scratch, you’re on the right track.

DETERMINE YOUR BODY SHAPE

There are three categories of body shape:

Ectomorph: Lean and long, and finds it difficult to build muscle

Endomorph: Big with a tendency to store body fat

Mesomorph: Muscular and well built

Depending on your body type, you’ll find it harder to lose or gain weight, and may benefit from thinking about your macros, aka proteins, carbs and fat, intake. For example, ectomorphs burn energy quickly, and can eat a lot of carbs without worrying about weight gain. On the other hand, they have a hard time gaining muscle so they made need to up their protein intake, and lower fat intake. If you’re an endomorph like me, you have a greater propensity for energy storage, meaning it’s better to reduce carb intake, and increase fat and protein intake.

According to the folks over a Precision Nutrition, eating for your body type should look something like this:

Ectomorph Woman

  • 1 palm of protein dense food at each meal
  • 1 fist of veg at each meal
  • 2 handfuls of carb dense foods at each meal
  • 0.5 thumb of fat dense food at each meal

Endomorph Woman

  • 1 palm of protein dense foods at each meal
  • 1 fist of veg at each meal
  • 0.5 handful of carb dense food at each meal
  • 2 thumbs of fat denes foods at each meal

Mesomorph Woman

  • 1 palm of protein dense food at each meal
  • 1 fist of veg at each meal
  • 1 handful of carb dense food at each meal
  • 1 thumb of fat dense food at each meal

MENTAL HEALTH

Stress will make you fat, period. On top, a 2017 study confirmed the high incidence of anxiety and depression amongst people with IBS. As someone who has been dealing with both IBS and depression for decades, I can attest to this, and would always urge anyone in need of help to seek out a therapist or some form of help. But here’s a tip I use to manage my depression: weight-training. What most people don’t know is that exercise is the best anti-anxiety and anti-depressant drug there is. The trick is to find something fun, an activity you’ll want to do again and again or even, every day. I lift weights five or six days a week, and can never wait to go back. Stay away from things that make you unhappy. Exercise does not have to be a form of punishment. Go for a walk. Go dancing. Move your body. Get out of breath. Sweat. It’ll do wonders for your mental health.

SLEEP

How much sleep are you getting? What time do you go to bed? Would it surprise you to know that if you want to lose weight and get in shape, you need to sleep for up to nine hours every night. Sleep is essential not just for good muscle recovery but also for a calm nervous system, enabling you to fully digest food, and giving the body time to distribute nutrients where needed. Remember, this is science. On top, when you don’t get enough sleep, you stimulate the hunger hormone, ghrelin, which is why you find yourself reaching for donuts or biscuits on those days when you’re tired. If you’re serious about getting in shape, get serious about your sleep.

HAVE FUN

Go one step further: make a list of things that you like, really give this list some thought, take your time, mull over it, give it a week. At the end of the week, look at your list and calculate how much time you’re giving to the things you’ve listed. If you’re not giving time to the activities and people that fire your soul, what can you do to change that? If you don’t know what you like, try something new, and make a promise to try something new every month. This task is a killer. No matter how often I promise myself to use the boxing bag at the gym, I will not do it. My boxing gloves are sitting by my door to make it easy for me to grab them, and I still don’t do it. Making new habits is HARD. That’s why you feel so good when you stick to it. Let yourself feel good. Stick to something. Start small. Little steps. Surprise yourself.

 

Go Nuts with Hemp Heart & Berry Smoothies

Hemp hearts are the seeds of the hemp plant, part of the Cannabis sativa family. They’re incredibly nutritious as well as rich in healthy fats, protein and a variety of minerals.

Technically, hemp hearts are a nut, and that’s why they have a nutty flavour. They add a creamy texture to any meal making them an ideal smoothie ingredient. I put them on everything – meat, veg, stewed apple, brownies – but especially love them in smoothies!

They contain 30% fat, and have a uniquely healthy balance of omega-3 and -6. As well as containing 25% protein, significantly more than counterparts like chia or flax seeds, they contain lots of minerals including phosphorous, potassium, sodium, magnesium, iron and sulfur.

Hemp hearts have been used in Chinese herbal medicine for more than 3,000 years but with the contemporary rise in lifestyle conditions, these little seeds are making a comeback as a stepping stone to healthier eating.

What’s in hemp hearts?

Here are just some of the nutrients found in hemp hearts:

Arginine

Arginine is an amino acid, which produces nitric oxide in the body, a gas molecule that lowers blood pressure. In a study of more than 13,000 people, increasing the level of arginine in the diet led to a reduction in C-reactive protein, one of the markers for heart disease.

Gamma-linolenic Acid (GLA)

Gamma-linolenic acid is an important omega-6 fatty acid that boosts the immune system and regulates inflammation, and is used in many alternative medicine remedies to treat everything from eczema and depression to menopause and arthritis.

Vitamin E

Vitamin E is an antioxidant that’s essential for proper organ function by slowing down their aging process. It’s used in the treatment of heart conditions or any condition related to clogged arteries. It also boosts the immune system, protects, skin, hair, and eyes.

Riboflavin

Riboflavin, or Vitamin B2, is a vitamin that breaks down macronutrients to produce energy. Like all of the B vitamins it’s water-soluble, and is used by every cell in the body, maintaining healthy cells and boosting the immune system. A lack of riboflavin foods in the diet can lead to all sorts of problems including anemia, fatigue and a slow metabolism.

Hemp Heart Smoothies are the best

Hemp hearts are so versatile, it’s possible to add them to virtually any meal, but like I said, I love them in smoothies. They go with pretty much any ingredients or mix of fruit and veg, so I urge you to experiment, but if you want to start with a tried and tested recipe, here you go!

Hemp Heart Berry Smoothie

Ingredients:

  • Glass of Almond milk
  • Handful of Frozen berries – whatever your preference
  • Handful of Spinach
  • 1 tbsp. of Peanut Butter Powder
  • 1 tbsp. of Hemp Hearts
  • 1 tbsp. of Sesame Seeds
  • I tbsp. of Maple Syrup (optional)

Instructions:

  • Put ingredients in a blender, and blend.
  • Pour into a glass, and enjoy.