Thursday, June 24, 2010

Eat for warmth in winter

My love for winter is simple. I like wearing boots (my havaianas are feeling jealous and displaced) and I like skiing. I like wearing scarves too. And the occasional rainy day (read: excuse to wear Ugg boots and watch DVDs all day without feeling guilty).

I also love winter foods (mmm… curry). There is something very nourishing about eating casseroles, soups, stews and roasts. And apple crumble. Oh yum… hang on, I’m having a moment.

Eat warm, stay slim 
Winter is a time for nourishing foods; it’s when we should be eating the richest, warmest and heaviest meals and cooked meals are required to support the body’s need for protection in the colder weather. It’s also *gulp* a time when we tend to put on an extra kilo or two of “insulation”. Portion control is really important during this time, remembering that a salad is probably half the kilojoules compared to a casserole or stew of the same size. If you want to avoid putting on weight in winter, I strongly recommend you watch your portion sizes, eat slooooowwwwly and maintain a regular exercise program. Exercise is particularly important to keep the spine and joints flexible, but I digress…

Eat intuitively
The extent to which you follow winter eating principles really depends on your constitution. It’s pretty intuitive and you probably do it naturally - if you have a tendency to feel the cold, then you need to eat warming foods more than someone who can get away without wearing a jacket in winter. What’s particularly important, is that you listen to your body. Don’t eat salads and raw foods if you feel the cold. It’s common sense really, but it’s all too easy to grab a salad (and feel virtuous about it) when what you really need are cooked and warming foods.

Cooking methods and meals
The general rule for winter cooking is to cook foods for longer at lower temperature with less water. Warming cooking methods include grilling, frying, roasting, searing, baking, long simmering in liquid, slow cooking, cooking with alcohol, and using hot or warming spices. Think casserole, stew, roast, soup, bakes and curry. Invest in a slow cooker if you have the time (ha!).

My favourite winter breakfast is porridge. Plain porridge can be a little boring, but add stewed fruit, honey, roasted slivered almonds and cinnamon and it not only looks pretty, but tastes delicious. 

Warming foods
Meat (if you’re so inclined) and eggs are very warming, so that’s good news for the meat-eaters. As far as vegetables go, a good rule of thumb for veggies is, the longer it takes to grow, the more warming it is. Root vegetables (carrots, potatoes, pumpkin, sweet potato, beetroot, onions, garlic) are among the most warming. Avoid cold drinks and cold foods like icecream as they have a cooling affect on the body (I can hear you saying “duh”, but I thought I’d mention it anyway).

Here are some basic lists of warming foods.

Fruit (especially cooked): apple, cranberry, date, dried fruits, grape, kiwi, mandarin, orange, pear, tangerine, watermelon
Veggies: boy choy, broccoli, brussel sprouts, cabbage, carrot, cauliflower, garlic, ginger, kale, leek, onion, parsnip, potato, seaweed, spinach, sprouts, squash, pumpkin, sweet potato, turnip
Nuts and seeds: almond, brazil, cashew, macadamia, pecan, pine nut, pistachio, walnut, linseed (flax), pumpkin, sesame, sunflower
Grains (cooked): barley, corn, millet, oat, quinoa, rice, rye, wheat
Beans: adzuki, black, kidney, lentil, lima, navy, soy

Warming herbs and spices
A great way to warm up a dish is to add warming spices and herbs in the cooking process. Cumin is excellent, as is turmeric, cayenne pepper, chilli, cinnamon, cardamom and cloves. Chai tea contains lots of these spices and is a yummy way to warm your body. Garlic and ginger (actually vegetables) are very warming too.

Add salt for extra warmth
Salt is very warming and has the most grounding action of food. Any dish can be made “warmer” by adding a little salt (I recommend sea salt, rather than table salt, which is far less good). Good sources of salt include sea salt, soy, miso and seaweed. In Ayurveda, the traditional medicine system of India, salt is said to strengthen one’s energy. Do be cautious with the quantity that you add, particularly if you tend towards fluid retention (water weight) as I do.

Some local “fast food” recommendations
While healthy home cooking is best, you can still get food quickly and eat well, particularly in winter. Iku Wholefoods is definitely a firm favourite. As is About Life (formerly Macro Wholefoods) in Bondi Junction/Rozelle and The Health Emporium in Bondi. Iku does the most delicious porridge and tofu curry and About Life does yummy soups, casseroles and curries. I also really love Laurie’s Vegetarian Cafe in Bondi. Try the veggie burger or the lentil casserole. Yum and yum.

Now if you’ll excuse me, I’m putting on my Ugg boots, stretchy pants (my guilty pleasure) and a scarf.

Pitchford, P 2002, Healing with Wholefoods, North Atlantic Books, California
Haas, E M 2006, Staying Healthy with Nutrition, Celestial Arts, California

Thursday, June 10, 2010

Up my what? A colonic affair

So my beautiful housemate has been RAVING about her series of colonics. Her tummy is flatter, her digestive system has improved, she’s been having regular “movements”, her skin looks amazing and she generally feels great.

Ok, so it’s my turn. I’m not particularly fond of the idea of having a foreign object put in my “sacred place” (just around the corner from my “special place”), but the benefits sound great, so I’m willing to give it a shot.

Beforehand I’m a little bit worried about it being embarrassing and my “not so nice stuff” from my “sacred place” being on display. I have visions of unflattering noises and yucky mucky stuff coming out for all to see. This is made worse by the fact that my colon hydrotherapist turns out to be a man. Oh joy.

Believe it or not, it’s actually not that bad and not really embarrassing at all (especially if you have had a Brazilian wax before and been asked by your therapist to lie on your tummy and “spread em please”).

For those of you interested in the gory details, I’ll give you a quick rundown of the process. The therapist leaves the room and you get undressed from the waist down and cover yourself with a towel. Therapist comes back and puts lubed tube in “sacred place”. This is the least fun part. I might have yelped as Marcus (lovely Marcus with whom I am now intimately acquainted, much to the displeasure of my boyfriend, who likens it to having an affair) asked if I was ok, to which I replied, “um, it’s just that I’ve never had anything up there.” He then said, “that’s too much information.” And I said, “no, too much information would be me telling you that I have all sorts of stuff up there all the time.” Ice-breaker. I feel better already. But still not happy with tube in sacred place.

Then comes the “fill” part, where 18-25 litres of water is pumped into your colon. I didn’t even feel this; it was only noticeable when there was a little “gas” to pass through and then it just felt like a slight cramp.  Then the pressure is released and stuff starts coming out. There is no sound at all (thank goodness) and it’s not like you even feel like you’re going to the toilet. Aside from the tube up the youknowwhatsit and seeing your waste travelling past a glass window in the machine, it’s actually fine.

Each treatment is a series of fills and releases and lasts for about 45 mins. Your therapist stays with you the whole time guiding you through the process, massaging your tummy to move things through and watching what is coming out. All sorts of wonderful things can come out; gas, candida, parasites, poorly chewed food, waste, toxins and adrenal fluid (caused by stress). I’m not telling you which of those came out of me, but suffice to say that most did and I am a pretty healthy person, so imagine what an unhealthy person would pass through!

After four treatments with the lovely Marcus at The Colon Hydrotherapy Centre in Darlinghurst (also in Randwick), I can honestly say that I feel amazing. One of the key benefits that I’ve noticed is reduced edema (fluid retention) due to allergenic substances being removed with the waste and I swear that I feel skinnier and lighter than I have in ages. My tummy is flat and my digestive system is much improved.

I can honestly say that combining a juice cleanse (I know of a good one…) and series of colonics is an amazing way to detox and feel light and full of energy.

The cost is $95 per session. Well worth it in my humble (nothing more humbling than having tube in sacred place) opinion. 

PS. I highly, highly recommend Marcus as he made me feel so comfortable and at ease. He’s my new best friend and I’m going back in 5 weeks for a follow up treatment.

PPS. I almost titled this post “A colonic journey with a happy ending”, but then I thought better of it.