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 canna-butter? 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 canna-butter 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 micro-dose.

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.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

5 Ways to Use Mindful Eating to Treat IBS

Would you believe that research shows it’s more important to care about what you eat than what you’re actually eating? In fact, when you care about what you eat, you tend to eat better, anyway.

But what if you’re eating “right,” or right for you, working out three times a week, avoiding processed foods as much as possible, and you’re still gaining weight, feel bloated or gassy most of the time, and spend way more time in the bathroom than is humanly fair?

What if no matter what you eat, nothing feels right, and you’re sick of feeling tired, grumpy, and having a constant pain in your belly?

If this sounds familiar to you, chances are you’re one of millions who suffer with Irritable Bowel Syndrome, more commonly known as IBS.

This condition is frustrating for sufferers because doctors have such a hard time diagnosing and treating it. They tend to dole out pills that are intended to solve one problem with awful side effects; I spoke to one guy on a Facebook forum, and he hadn’t had a bowel movement in a month due to medication given to him by his GP. A month!

Doctors want to help but they’re just looking in the wrong places, and the system is not set up to accommodate a change in approach, not yet anyway. In the meantime, they suggest lifestyle changes to patients, but people don’t often know what that looks like, or how to maintain it. Plus, it’s hard to sustain change if you’re not seeing results, hating how you look in Lycra, or generally feeling like a beached whale.

Big lifestyle changes like joining a gym or quitting tobacco demand a real commitment whereas deciding to eat mindfully is easy by comparison. Rather than asking you to dump foods you like, it asks that you think about ingredients only, where food comes from, and how it’s prepared. On top, there’s some real science behind why it works.

The following are five ways to use mindful eating to treat IBS to improve your overall wellbeing as well as the quality of food in your fridge.

1. THINK ABOUT WHEN YOU EAT

Hunger is an important signal that tells your brain to get up, move around, and get some food. This is not something to take for granted. Staying put where it’s safe and warm is the natural instinct of every human on the planet. Problem is, that’s a sure road to nowhere, or death. To survive, we must get up, move around, brave the elements, find food, prepare and eat it.

However, your GI tract is a bit of a control freak, and likes to know in advance when food is coming so it can get ready. Even when we see or think about food, it triggers the body to prepare for digestion.

In preparation for digestion, the mouth begins to salivate, and the stomach releases enzymes, along with many other chemical reactions unknown to you. This means that the constant presence of food can send the workaholic digestive system into overdrive.

Today, those of us living in western cultures surrounded by street delis, fast food outlets, and billboard sized ads for everything from hamburgers to salad dressing are basically assaulted at a cellular level on a daily basis without realising it.

You can try to control the number of ads you see every day, or you can minimise their effects by taking charge of when you eat.

While most contemporary diets focus on the content of the diet i.e. food, focusing on WHEN YOU EAT has been shown to have serious health benefits. This idea is currently part of a new health and wellness trend called Intermittent Fasting. Like most new trends, it’s been around for millennia, and is actually how humans evolved to eat.

Various studies have demonstrated many benefits including improved brain health, insulin levels, cell repair, muscle growth, gene expression, weight loss, and inflammation.

As excess weight and inflammation can contribute to the severity of IBS symptoms, fasting can be a powerful way to control them; FYI speaking from personal experience, it’s the most effective way I’ve found to manage bloating, gas and inflammation.

There are different levels of fasting but at it’s most basic, fasting means leaving a 12-hour gap between your last meal in the evening, and breakfast the next day: Finish eating at 7pm, and don’t eat again till 7am. This schedule gives you a 12-hour eating window, and a 12-hour fasting window, and it’s possibly to increase the intensity and results by shortening the eating window while lengthening the fasting window.

Today, we’re surrounded by food so much it’s impossible to conceive a past where there was none. But times of famine were common until recent history (and continue in some countries), and the human body evolved to accommodate shifts in food availability enabling it to survive and function on stored fat for a long time.

The body is so smart that not only has it figured out how to survive on nothing but water, it also figure out how to use those lean times to give the internal organs a make-over. That said scientists still don’t know what the ideal length of time to fast is.

However, if the idea of fasting is completely new to you, start with a 12/12 split, see how you feel, and go from there. The longest fast I’ve done is 24 hours, which I now do regularly – it’s recommended to do a 24-hour fast once a month.

2. FOOD IS A RITUAL THAT BEGINS WITH SMELL

Smelling food, known as olfaction, is an important part of eating. Smell not only tells your ever-vigilant digestive system that food is on the way, it also helps you decide whether or not you want to eat what’s on offer.

Using scent to tell the difference between food that is or isn’t edible is another essential evolutionary tool that kept us alive for millennia, though today it’s used by brands to tempt you into eating food that will probably kill you. Taking time to smell food is an important part of your digestive process, so it’s a good habit to develop.

Retronasal olfaction is another type of smelling but this time it’s the flavours you taste as you chew and swallow your food. The creamy tang of peanut butter, zest of lime, or sweetness of honey that you taste in the back of your throat after you swallow plays an important role in letting your body know it’s satiated and full.

3. TAKE YOUR TIME AND CHEW

There are a lot of things going on in your mouth when you eat, a whole city’s worth of activity: teeth, jaw, palate, tongue, taste buds, mucous membranes, salivary glands and oral microbiome all serve a vital function every time food enters the mouth.

Teeth are uniquely adapted to our omnivore diet, a mix of cutters, choppers, and grinders, enabling us to chew food into tiny particles for swallowing. Jaw muscles are amongst the strongest in the body, and when we chew, it stimulates pleasurable neurotransmitters – one reason we enjoy eating, or chew on something when we’re anxious.

The tongue is covered with papillae, tiny bumps that help move food around the mouth and contain taste buds. Because the mucous membrane is porous, some substances can be absorbed in the mouth, such as drugs. The saliva, which is 95% water, contains enzymes and antimicrobial chemicals that stop pathogens entering the body.

While saliva gets rid of unwanted bacteria, the mouth is far from sterile. On the contrary, it’s home to anywhere between 300 and 700 species of bacteria, each one existing in its own neighbourhood, be it the gum-line or under the tongue.

Your mouth is effectively the gatekeeper of your gut, and when you take care of your mouth, you’re taking care of your whole body. When one of the mouth’s functions fails, it can have drastic effects on overall health.

For example, older people with tooth erosion may not be able to chew properly, which reduces the nutrients extracted from food. And while most of us think bad breath is a mouth problem, it’s really a sign of something more serious in the gut. Gum disease can be a sign of untreated diabetes, inflammatory conditions, or even potential cardiovascular problems.

Bottom line: do not swallow your lunch in one go, or wolf down your dinner. Take your time, chew, and give the mouth a chance to do its job. Also, science shows that keeping food in the mouth for longer improves satiety, which is why eating slowly is such an important tool for anyone who wants to lose or maintain weight.

4. WHAT’S IN YOUR FRIDGE?

Do you know what’s in your fridge? Do you know where that food actually came from? What’s in it? How much fat, sugar, salt, preservatives, emulsifiers, and additives each item contains? What’s driving your decision-making process: Calories? Convenience? Cost? Do you read labels? Do they mean anything to you?

Product labels are supposed to be there to guide us, and make the decision-making process easier. They’re also there to ensure manufacturers are accountable and transparent, which is why strict regulations apply. Having clear rules and laws ensures that product labels are standardised, accurate, honest and based on scientific evidence – in theory.

In reality, most people don’t read labels, or don’t understand them, opting instead to be seduced by the colourful pictures or tag-lines on the front of the package. Brands know this, and exploit it to the max. There are moves underway to explore different types of labelling, and put nutritional info on the front of packaging.

Brands also take advantage by using misleading or unclear words such as “light-tasting,” “part of a healthy breakfast,” and “made with real fruit,” terms that are hard to qualify, or descriptive terms that are actually trademarks.

Even calorie labelling can’t be trusted because the methods used to calculate calorie content share absolutely nothing in common with how the human body digests food. The body is not a controlled environment like a lab test; it’s a dynamic, adaptive organism that’s affected by infinite internal and external factors that determine how food is digested.

FYI This is why counting calories is such an ineffective way to control weight long-term; not to mention it makes eating torture! I counted calories for two months, and though it was hugely beneficial in identifying the ways I overeat, once I’d figured that out, I shelved it, and will never do it again. Pure torture!

The easiest way to get around this problem is to buy food that doesn’t have a label, a bunch of asparagus or a head of cabbage from a local fruit and veg; a side of beef or breast of chicken from a free-range butcher; a loaf of bread from a bakery.

If you can think about one thing, or check one piece of info on the label, check the food source. Know where your food comes from. Aim to eat food that comes from the same place you do, or as close as possible.

Yes, shopping like this takes more effort and planning but the rewards are worth it. Plus, there are hacks. For example, I buy 1 kilo of ground pork and chicken, and use it to make burgers that I freeze, and use as needed. I buy free-range eggs in bulk, and peeled almonds to make almond butter. I go to the whole food shop in the evening so I can take more time.

When you reach the day that you open your fridge, and know what the food in it is, and where it comes from, you will have an achieved a primal connection to your health.

5. SAY GOODBYE TO PROCESSED FOOD

Here’s the thing, once you become more aware of food, and what tastes better, you want the real thing. We’re so caught up in this mad rush to go organic, eat fresh, and be natural that most of us can’t tell our bananas from our bok choi.

Most of us think of processed food as Doritos and Dunkin’ Donuts, or frozen sausage rolls and ready meals. While those things are not food (from a nutrition standpoint they’re literally dead) the reality is every packaged form of food is processed in some way.

Ketchup, mayonnaise, marmalade, jam, honey, cheese, yoghurt, yoghurt drinks, juices, peanut butter, roasted nuts, chips, salt, spices, cooked meats, cold meats, meal sauces and tinned foods, and every other thing we use on a regular basis has been modified in some way that does strange things to the body.

Need more perspective? Homemade bread has three ingredients. The bread you buy in the supermarket has up to 30.

Rather than thinking about going on a diet and cutting out the food you love, think about the food you love and how you can eat a healthier version of it. For example, I love bread, so for years I made homemade bread with almond or coconut flour as a substitute to store-bought bread. It became my Sunday ritual, a quiet moment to take care of my nutrition for the week ahead.

Changes like this are not instant. Rather they’re a process that’s part of an overall shift in how you view food and what you want from it. If you care about your health, or live in constant fear of a flare up and are eating processed foods, it’s a problem because these foods are drivers for conditions including IBS, obesity, and depression.

The good news is that the problem has an easy fix: say goodbye to process foods.

The main goals of mindful eating are to reduce processed foods in the diet and be conscious of where food comes from – this is not easy. Despite my best efforts, I recently discovered a supermarket meat I like is more processed than frozen pizza. I like it for its convenience as well as taste but I’m going to have to learn how to make my own version of it. Chances are, I’ll make it even better, and I’ll make it mindfully.

 

 

What If Doctors Are Right & IBS is “All In Your Head”?

The link between gut and mental health is controversial for many IBS sufferers because so many have been dismissed by doctors who say the condition is “all in your head.” While this diagnosis feels vague at best and derogatory at worst, the reality is, there’s truth to it.

As a woman, now in my 40s, who’s been dealing with IBS all my life, I’ve learned a thing or two about digestive issues along the way. The connection between mental and gut health is one of the most important things I’ve learned, as well as the importance of eating locally produced whole foods.

Before I learned about nutrition, I thought whole foods were for health nuts; now I know they’re a health hack.

IBS Demands 24/7 Self-Care

Of course, IBS has real symptoms that cause pain throughout the abdominal area, symptoms that intensify after eating, making it clear there’s a link. But what if eating is only half the problem, or 30%? What if the reason symptoms continue no matter what you eat is because until you correct other aspects of your life, you’ll always be sick.

That was the case for me, for 15 years, or more. I’d been having symptoms for years but didn’t have the right information to make the connection between my awful diet, mood disorders and stress levels. Looking back, I made life-changing decisions in the grips of agonizing flare-ups, decisions that affect my life to this day.

Back then, I had no concept of self-care; I worked hard, played hard, and treated my body like an inconvenient passenger.

At the time I was making three key mistakes:

  • I wasn’t considering the quality of food I was eating
  • I wasn’t considering my mood, sleep cycles and overall wellbeing
  • I had no concept of food as fuel or nourishment

Typically, I’d find something I could eat, and live on it for months, until finally, it too made me sick and I’d have to find a new thing to switch to; this went on for years.

Making the decision to cut alcohol from my diet was a moment of change for me. That was in 2014, and once I gave it up, I realised it had been poisoning me for years. Then I joined a gym, and with time, working out enabled me to start a new conversation with my body.

Because fitness and nutrition go hand-in-hand, I began to explore new ways to eat, trying out different diets including Paleo, vegetarian, carnivore, and Keto. Over the course of four years, I made my way through every diet on the hunt for one I could sustain. Nothing stuck.

What I finally learned was that until I made a conscious effort to eat in a holistic or mindful way, I’d always have problems.

What do I mean by a mindful way of eating?

Developing a diet or meal plan that is easy for me to maintain based on whole foods, with the right macro balance to fuel my body and satisfy my mental cravings, ensuring I feel full and don’t overeat or use food to manage stress.

Do You Use Food to Manage Stress?

When I’m stressed out, my body shuts down.

That means one of two things can happen:

  1. I stop eating, as my appetite is gone, replaced with a fireball of anxiety in the pit of my stomach.
  2. I have no appetite but in a reckless bid to ease the fireball of anxiety in the pit of stomach, I pile in food I don’t want and can’t stop eating even though I feel sick.

Sound familiar?

Leaning how to eat properly isn’t just about eating whole foods, it’s about understanding the rhythms of your body, what it wants and when it wants it, as well as making sure what you’re giving it is the healthiest, and tastiest option for you. You have to eat food you like, food that makes you happy, food you want to prepare.

It also means learning when to eat, and how to make hunger your friend.

To achieve this, it’s really important to develop a conversation with your body that’s proactive instead of reactive. What does that look like?

It means that when you get stressed out, instead of immediately looking to food to soothe the issue, sit with the discomfort and consider where it’s coming from? What is the problem? Why is it stressful? Is there a course of action that can be taken? Is the situation hopeless? Is it best to walk away?

It also means pausing for a moment and asking, do I really need a third donut? Believe me, as someone who can eat a packet of HobNobs in one sitting I know how tough it can be to just PAUSE. But it’s like anything, a habit. I pause, and consider, am I really hungry? Why am I eating this? If I have a good reason, I eat.

No matter how bleak any given situation, you always have a choice: You choose how you’re going to react. You choose to buy those donuts and eat them all in one go.

If I find myself craving snacks in a stressful moment, it’s typically because I don’t want to deal with whatever shitty decision I have to make right now. I’m procrastinating and in search of distractions, any distraction.

If my tummy is screaming at me, that’s the distraction I tend to, though it’s not the course of action that’s going get me results or fix the situation. It’s a balm.

The same is true when I stop eating. I’m punishing myself, enduring hunger as a way to avoid relaxing and settling into whatever task I need to do in order to solve a problem.

In both situations I’m using food as entertainment or as a stopgap to avoid dealing with the real issue.

Do You Use Food to Manage Boredom?

We all use food as entertainment.

Not only is it sold to us that way, breaking bread with family and friends, is a tradition as old as the dinosaurs.

Food is so important it defines our culture, heritage and lifestyle choices precisely because it’s the most accessible form of entertainment … as well as the most endorsed anxiety drug.

On a recent train journey, I watched in horror as a group of adults at a table a few rows down from me ate breakfast, and later lunch. The morning meal was mini-chocolate croissants, plastic buns from a plastic bag.

The man sitting in my line of vision was middle-aged, balding with a trimmed beard and 40-inch waistline. He looked healthy, smiled often, and swallowed two of those mini-breads in four bites.

Lunch was wrapped in tinfoil, a baguette, more dough, stuffed with processed meat, and washed down with Coca-Cola.

As he ate, he joked with his friends, passed food to his wife at the table across the aisle, and looked like he was enjoying every morsel, blissfully unaware that what he was eating was as useful as a cardboard suitcase.

Some people are lucky and can digest these kinds of processed foods but will typically develop symptoms later in life, be it cancer or diabetes.

People with IBS are allergic to processed foods and must avoid them.

As I watched that man eat, what disturbed me most was how automatic the process was, how little thought went into it, how they were eating simply because it was time, or to pass the time.

Plus, someone – probably his wife – had gone to the trouble to make those sandwiches and wrap them in tinfoil. Would it be so hard to make a salad instead, or use fresh bread, or switch out the processed meat for cooked meat?

What is Mindful Eating?

Let’s get one thing clear: I love chocolate and eat a lot of it.

Mindful eating is not about living on steamed chicken and boiled cabbage, the opposite.

I have a sweet tooth and know that if I don’t eat a diverse diet with lots of flavour I’ll compensate by heading to the bakery to buy jam donuts for lunch.

Instead, I find mindful ways to incorporate chocolate and sugar, along with food I like, and can eat, into my daily meal plan.

That means I use pure cocoa and coconut sugar, maple syrup or local honey, purchased from local whole food shops, to make homemade brownies and cookies. I buy peanut powder to make Chinese sauces, and often make sweet marinades for dinner, experimenting with coconut oil, ginger, cinnamon, cardamom, lemon and honey.

One of the good things about IBS is that it has forced me to learn about food, what I like, and what my body needs. I used to detest cooking, now it’s therapy, quiet time to nourish me, to mother myself. We all need a bit of mothering. It’s such a simple pleasure: to know how to cook the food you like in the way you like it.

I research the brands I’m buying, and don’t buy anything without first reading the label to see what’s in it. I do this because I have to avoid foods that might trigger my IBS, but this is a good habit for everybody.

When I’m reading the label I’m looking for a few things such as sugar content, preservatives, additives, fat and carb content, and country source. For example, if I’m looking at nuts from Argentina, chances are they’ve been on the move for a long time and are packed with preservatives, meaning I avoid them. Mindful eating is common sense, too. My priority is to find food that’s as local and fresh as possible.

To help with my mindful meal planning, I have a system: I freeze portions and take it out the night before for easy preparation the next day. I either make something like homemade burgers and freeze them, or I buy salmon, and freeze individual slices to be used as needed.

I have a selection of veg in the fridge, limited to what I can eat, which I rotate for variety and flavour. I’m limited to a small selection of fruit, too, mostly berries, but also eat bananas and apples, on occasion. I make stewed apple with cinnamon, topped with Greek yoghurt and tahini. Yum! It’s amazing how creative you can be when you have to be.

Try this smoothie: Almond milk, peanut butter powder, spinach leaves, frozen berries, banana, chia seeds and hemp hearts. Boom! Tastes like heaven and packed with nutrients.

Mindful means making the right choices for you, understanding why they’re the right choices for you, and setting up your day-to-day life so that it’s easy to make the right choice.

It becomes more than habit or automatic, it becomes conscious, a conscious choice to heal. Every day.

Why is Mindful Eating Important?

What the hell has all this got to do with mental health? Bear with me.

Have you heard of the Gut Brain Axis?

In short, it’s the communication network that connects the gut to the brain, controlling all sorts of things from hormone balance and mood to inflammatory responses and brain function.

The vagus nerve is one of the biggest nerves in the network, and delivers messages both ways. Studies have shown that people with IBS have reduced function of the vagus nerve.

Neurotransmitters, like serotonin, are produced in the gut by the trillions of microbes living in your intestines AKA the gut microbiome, and have a direct impact on emotions such as happiness and anxiety.

The microbes produce gamma-aminobutyric acid (GABA), the neurotransmitter that controls feelings of fear and anxiety. New understanding of the gut microbiome has shown that for every message going from the brain to the gut there are nine messages going back to the brain, and it’s the microbes that are generating those messages.

The microbes also metabolize bile acids and amino acids, essential for healthy brain function, and play a key role in the strength of the immune system, keeping inflammation in check, and preventing chronic conditions like severe depression, dementia, and schizophrenia.

Long story short: the microbes are your friends. Learn how to feed them.

Health Starts with Listening

Go to any IBS forum and find hundreds of sufferers complaining that no matter what they try, nothing helps, and symptoms persist, or worsen. They’re taking a long list of pills, and trying to adhere to diets they don’t understand. Most of them also complain of issues with anxiety and depression, and many say they feel worthless or hopeless.

The problem is it’s not enough to eliminate food from the diet and expect symptoms to disappear. That’s not how it works.

Although, there’s no question that cutting processed vegetable oils, cheeses and meats from my diet was beneficial, it wasn’t enough to boost my serotonin levels or reverse the inflammation in my body.

To find true relief from my IBS symptoms, I needed a combination of nutrition, fitness, meditation, cannabis, and fasting, or what I like to call the high road to gut health.

It wasn’t enough to go to the gym, I also needed to eat the right food, and learn when to eat. Likewise, it wasn’t enough to meditate I also needed to prioritise what was most important to me, and set my day up to ensure I had time for those things.

Plus, I needed pain relief for those days when I ate the wrong thing, and got hit with a flare-up; on those days, I turn to cannabis. Studies show that cannabis has anti-inflammatory effects in patients with Inflammatory Bowel Disease, so it makes sense that it helps with IBS, too.

Whether I’m planning a workout, choosing food at the supermarket, making lunch, writing a blog post, or taking the dog for a walk, I’m conscious of how the activity fits into my overall health plan.

Finding ways to track progress, and reward myself for sticking to my goals are also important on the high road to gut health.

The link between gut and mental health is so profound, it has inspired a new medical field known as psychobiotics, predicted to be the future treatment for mood disorders and mental health conditions like PTSD, depression, and dementia.

In an interview with The Guardian, Jane A. Foster, associate professor of psychiatry and behavioural neurosciences at McMaster University, Ontario, explained how diet is not the only factor that shapes the microbiome but also genetic makeup as well as environmental factors such as stress, age, and gender.

Giulia Enders, author of international bestseller Gut, points out that health improves when we “eat the foods that our bacteria prefer.” Both experts agree that a varied diet along with exercise and stress management skills, are integral to gut health and a balanced microbiome.

Mindful eating is the beginning of healing from IBS, but it’s mindful living that’s the real key. When your gut health improves, so too does your mood and your zest for life. If you want to know the truth, listen to your gut, because that’s where the voices in your head are coming from, and it’s the microbes talking to you.

Shhh. Get quiet. Listen. What are they telling you to do?

 

#IBSawarenessmonth #cannabisheals #microbiome

From Pot Patient to Successful Pot Stock Trader

Madicyn Marinaro never planned to be a pot patient. She was a good kid into getting good grades and going to college. At 16, she was diagnosed with Crohn’s disease, and was admitted to hospital for a bowel resection that went so horribly wrong she almost died. She ended up spending six months in hospital, and if her mother hadn’t encouraged her to try pot she might never have left.

Today, she takes cannabis in a variety of forms to help her body heal from more than six surgeries, and has launched a career as a cannabis influencer who advises on the emerging pot stock market. She uses her insight as a pot patient to dish out advice in a pull-no-punches style that’s uniquely “Medicyn,” her online handle. This is her story.

HHH: Hey Madicyn, thanks for talking with me today. Your medical history is fairly unbelievable. Can you explain why you first became a pot patient?

MM: Actually, my mom’s been smoking for 40 years but I didn’t know that growing up. I was diagnosed at 16 with Crohn’s disease. At 17, I needed an emergency bowel resection, and the surgeon botched the surgery. I ended up with sepsis, peritonitis, flat-lining, and almost dying. I spent six months in the hospital, and needed two additional emergency surgeries. I had an ostomy bag.

The whole thing was devastating and traumatic. On top, I was getting pain meds, 1mg every six minutes through an IV, so I was also hooked on opiates. At the time, I couldn’t stop throwing up, so I needed everything IV. That was also the reason I couldn’t be discharged from the hospital.

My mom came in one day, and she was like, just try this, and handed me a joint. I wasn’t into the idea because I was anti-pot, and into DARE (Drug Abuse Resistance Education), a total straight edge kid, you know. But I tried it, and for the first time in months I was able to eat things and keep it down. Then I was able to get out of the hospital. After that, I noticed I wasn’t having issues with my Crohn’s and the symptoms, nausea and stomach pain, were subsiding.

For ten years, my Crohn’s has stayed in remission without any conventional treatment like REMICADE® because I eat a steady diet of cannabis in many forms, both raw leaf, caps and edibles. I ingest as much cannabis as I can because it has great anti-inflammatory properties and Crohn’s is basically inflammation of the digestive tract.

HHH: What was that first conversation like between you and your mom? How did she introduce the idea of pot?

MM: My mom’s life was completely devastated by my illness. She stopped going to work so she could stay with me at the hospital. Then she lost her job. After six months, we were at our wit’s end because the doctors stopped paying attention to us, and we felt hopeless. So she said to me, please just try this. There was nothing else left to do. We felt abused and mistreated at the hospital, and all we wanted was to get home. My mom never told me about her pot use because she didn’t want it to affect my high school grades. So, even though she was a user, she was cautious. But after months in the hospital, the risk versus reward shifted, and she just wanted me home.

HHH: It must have been such a relief to finally find something that could help you. What was that like?

MM: To be honest, I was so out of it on opiates back then I don’t really remember. But the last surgery I had, which was a hysterectomy, I ate an edible straight after it because the pain was intense. That’s the first time I’ve had cannabis so quickly after surgery, and let me tell you, that was the quickest recovery. It took my pain away within an hour. It was incredible. Back when I was 17 I don’t remember much because I was heavily addicted to pain meds. When I got out of the hospital, I was on Fentanyl patches, Oxycontin, Xanax, you name it, they gave it to me; I was on everything.

HHH: Why was a hysterectomy necessary?

MM: After my first surgery I told the doctor I was in extreme pain, I mean, it was like there was acid burning inside my body. He brushed me off saying all I wanted was more pain meds. I kept getting sicker and sicker, my stomach blew up, and my condition got worse until eventually I flat-lined.

Because I got sepsis and peritonitis, a lot of scar tissue has built up over the years. While the cannabis can fix my Crohn’s, it can’t do much about the scar tissue from infection, which eventually spread to my uterus. In fact, when I got out of surgery at 17, they told me it would be difficult for me to ever have kids, so on top of everything else, I had to deal with that.

Then I started getting really bad cramps and clotting during my periods, and that went on for years. Finally, about three years ago, we decided I’m never going to be able to have kids anyway, might as well as remove the problem. I’ve had six surgeries in total to fix the damage of the first surgery, and the hysterectomy was the last one. It was the one that I used cannabis before and after, and have gotten the most benefit from, too. It’s made life so much simpler, but the only problem is figuring out my HRT (hormone replacement treatment).

That’s a small issue after 15 years of battling to get healthy. I was basically butchered by a surgeon who never took responsibility for his actions. We hired a lawyer and tried to get some compensation but the system is set up to protect the hospitals so there’s no point in even trying to sue them. I lost the chance to have a family while they were paid millions of dollars for providing a botched service; it’s sickening.

HHH: How did you get off the opiates?

MM: I got so sick of taking them. The constant round of medications totally disrupted my life. I couldn’t hang out with friends, couldn’t do any kind of normal stuff. In the end, I used pot and ecstasy, and spent two weeks withdrawing off a cocktail of narcotics after almost a year of heavy doses. The combination of cannabis and ecstasy worked really well to help me withdraw, and cannabis has been my medicine ever since.

HHH: Did your mom help you to withdraw?

MM: She didn’t know about it. To be honest, I went a bit crazy when I got out of the hospital after all that trauma, and I was acting out, staying at my friend’s house, partying. But while friends were doing coke, I stuck with E, and thought, okay, I’m going to try this, let’s see if it works, and it did. The E totally took the edge of the opiate withdrawal, and now when I see studies on using MDMA to treat PTSD, I think it makes sense, and my brain was telling me, this is what you need to get through this.

HHH: That’s a prime example of how little we really understand about drugs, isn’t it?

MM: Exactly. That’s why I’m a firm believer in decriminalisation, and why we have to change the conversation on addiction. Like, I really needed that break from reality at that point in my healing, and if I didn’t have it, I might have gone insane. Some people do after trauma, and for some people, controlled drug assistance can really help. Without going too far, obviously – there has to be a middle ground. But you know, at one point, I just got sick of being a victim, and decided I have a choice, and I can turn a bad thing into a good thing. That’s when things started to change for me.

HHH: When did you have the change in attitude?

MM: About two years ago. After my hysterectomy, my hormones were such a mess I was thinking about suicide. I’ve never been suicidal, so I went to my shrink because I was aware enough to recognise this wasn’t my normal thinking pattern, and I needed to reach out for help. That’s another example of what a crazy health rollercoaster it’s been this last decade. But for the last couple of years, I’m more aware that I only get one life and it’s up to me to make sure I make the most of that. I don’t want to sit around and waste it.

HHH: Do you think cannabis plays a role in your new attitude?

MM: Edibles changed everything for me. I wish I’d known about them five, no, ten years ago. I don’t like to smoke that much but I do it because it means I can eat and I don’t throw up. With edibles, I’m much more comfortable, and know myself well enough to enjoy the high. When you’ve experienced a trauma, cannabis can be quite intense because you don’t want to access those thoughts. That’s why people have to be careful with it, and why education is so important.

When I first started using cannabis, I didn’t like how it made me think about everything. I didn’t want to think about anything. But I finally got to a place where I’m okay with wherever my mind wants to go. Whereas opiates make you numb, cannabis activates your brain. You get pain relief but you also get much more in touch with everything that’s happening to you. You learn who you are. When you’re comfortable with that, and understand its benefits; that’s when cannabis can really help.

HHH: At what point did you get into pot stocks?

MM: In 2012 I needed a new pot dealer, and decided to check out Silk Road. In order to buy on Silk Road, I needed bitcoin so I bought some. I didn’t even understand what I was buying, and in the end, I never ordered the pot because it felt too dangerous. A few years later, when bitcoin blew up, I cashed out, and used that money to invest in cannabis stocks. I previously worked in social media marketing, and wanted a way to expand my platform; cannabis was the obvious answer.

I started to post about investing in pot stocks because it’s something I’m passionate about, and that’s when I started to build my following. I’m interested in bigger problems like the growing homeless population amongst vets in California, and that fact that Americans take 80 per cent of the world’s total pharmaceutical consumption, yet we’re only 5 per cent of the world population. Plus, 80 per cent of Americans are living pay-check to pay-check. That’s a real problem.

HHH: So your interest in cannabis is leading you into other social issues?

MM: That’s the way of cannabis because we’ve been fighting for so long to use this plant it’s become our natural instinct to fight for issues we feel are unfair. I see that with a lot of cannabis influencers, and that’s why I think we can be such a powerful and important voice in the future. We have a unique set of experiences that people will be able to relate to because a lot of us have struggled to get where we are. That’s something most people can identify with.

HHH: Is that part of what inspires you to advise people on investing?

MM: I was on welfare, broke, have had an eviction notice on my door, and know what it’s like to struggle. I want to show people that anyone can get on their phone and start making money on cannabis, and it’s legal. I believe cannabis can heal this world mentally, physically and financially because it gives money back to the farmers so it’s a real redistribution of wealth that people in crypto talked about but didn’t understand.

Americans have always been farmers; it’s China that’s the tech giant. As we approach the next recession, this time due to the tech crash, I think it’s going to become obvious that moving back to our farming roots will save us. I want people to see me and think: Whoa, she saved herself from addiction, she got off welfare; if she can do it I can do it, too. I think it’s so important that we take care control of our finances and our health, and cannabis offers a way. That’s what makes it so powerful.

 

This interview was edited and condensed. 

To hear Madicyn’s take on the trends shaping cannabis online, as well as her investor tips, find her on Twitter, Instagram and LinkedIn.