Category Archives: Healthy living – La santé

So I went on the Internet today and I…binge ate!

Things were going fine until he explained he had made brownies not using sugar but coconut sugar and instead of butter, he used avocado and coconut oil.
… … …
I suddenly had a glimpse of the future of food lead by health-freaks so instead of watching the video to the end, I went to the kitchen and ate a whole jar of strawberry jam with a spoon – before it’s replaced by kale and coconut paste obviously!

Of blood and fibers.

It’s weird but when people learn I am a vegetarian, they always ask me why I don’t eat any fish and meat. And I gladly answer their curiosity without making any fuss. I assume they are genuinely interested and I am happy to tell. Generally, regarding food, unless I am asked, I don’t demand anything or bother anyone with my eating. It’s something between me and myself.

However, once in a while, when the discussion lingers on the topic, I venture myself into asking the same question to non-vegetarians: why are you eating meat and fish? Suddenly, I am facing a tide of “I do whatever I want, don’t I? Why do you care?!”, “Give us a break already!”, “Stop trying to convert me to your lifestyle!”, “Like all bloody veggies, a killjoy!”, “Why do veggies always have to question everyone’s lifestyle?”

I just asked…

I guess it’s the making a choice for yourself that will always bring double-standards.

My mother.

The Long Read – Anxiety and ASMR

I suffer from chronic anxiety on which PTSD likes to surf happily but, when PTSD started in my teenage years driven and fed by extreme bullying, my anxiety has always been there. As far as I can remember, I heard my relatives telling me I was anxious but never really understood what it meant. I now do – but that’s another post.

I have learnt to live with my anxiety on a daily basis. I do have some freak-outs but I have a mother and friends who are good at keeping me grounded so it has never stopped me from moving and living abroad on my own for nearly a decade, from working, from having a life. Overall, I see myself as a cat: a control freak who only likes attention when I define the terms of it, otherwise I need to be left alone to enjoy solitude, or I’ll scratch everything in sight.

Anxiety isn’t too negative, except for one manifestation: the sleepless night. Even as a child, I vividly recall that once-a-week sleepless night when no could do: music, radio, rocking myself, getting up and doing something before going back to bed, reading, sucking my thump to soothe myself…I just wouldn’t sleep. I used to appreciate the next day for I would be so tired that all seems like a blur. No freaking out, no care for the world anymore, just me and going slow. No break of sweat for no reason, no heart-racing, no overthinking. A normal day for me after a night without sleep. However, as I grow older and take on more responsibilities, I can afford these zombie days less and less.

What keeps me awake, and I realised this a couple of years ago as I had a complete nervous break down, is my brain. Occupied all day, he is fine and for a long time I lived close to main roads or with a motorway yonder so there was something to distract him because at night, once the light is off, instead of enjoying the silence and peacefulness to drift into unconsciousness, everything goes bonkers.

“Now that we’re alone, how about we review everything single thing you said in your life and you regret, their consequences on you and others, how they perceived you because we both know this is still how they think of you everyday?!”

“No? Okay, so let’s remind ourselves of every single missed opportunity you had to prove your worth and snap a good come back to the bastards who took pleasure bullying you?”

“No, you actually have pity for them? Why? Because they were acting like such for they suffered themselves? Okay so you know the ‘little talk’ you want to have with that student/your manager/these parents? Yeah, we both know it’s not going to be ‘little’ so let’s rehearse it and plan for every eventuality. Especially, those when they get angry so you can snap a good come back that would shut them up.”

The hours I spent tossing and turning, getting increasingly restless, edging on the rage, wanting to scream out loud: “Shut the fuck up and let me fucking sleep!” The countless times I actually did it as my legs were burning up and started to sweat even though it was winter, the windows were open the water in my bottle was so call, it ached my teeth. Many times, I even resulted to getting up to shower call water on them so I could finally stop irradiating my bed.

Then I remembered the music of my childhood. There was noise that had disappeared over the years and it seemed to coincide with the increasing number of sleepless nights. I had music to fall asleep and throughout my teenage years hours of radio recordings on cassettes I was playing right next to me. I suddenly remembered that every single night without it, for this or that reason, was sleepless.

What I thought was wrong, I never went to bed and just fell asleep. I went to bed, put some noise on and fell asleep much later. I had always needed an early bedtime because it took a least a hour for me to fall asleep after I decided to go to bed. Sometimes, I had to turn the cassette around as 60 minutes were not enough. I used to fall asleep with people talking.

However, no cassettes in London in 2012 but YouTube on my phone on which I searched “soft-spoken”. I ended up on one of Maria’s (GentleWhispering) first videos where she teaches Russian in the most relaxing way I had ever experienced. That was my first ASMR experience. The problem was that I was in a very bad place, working in a very stressful school for which I had to leave the house at 5.20am if I wanted to have a chance to make it before 8.30am. Cheers London private transport and crap roads! I didn’t sleep for 3 days in a row, didn’t eat for 5 and ended up calling an ambulance with insanely high blood pressure at 4am.

I had a burn-out and ASMR which wasn’t called like that at the time became irrelevant. Instead, I realised that one of my favourite Youtuber’s voice, Stacyplays, was very soothing so I chose the longest videos and put my phone next to my head to fall asleep. It worked, no sleepless nights for weeks. Maybe even a couple of months. But, as usual with my anxiety, it gets used to everything so within weeks, it wasn’t working anymore and I have been taking anti-anxiety medicine since mid-2012.

I am fine with taking medication. I am not that type to distrust medicine, on the contrary, but I already have to live with anti-histamine medication every night because of my allergic background so already two pills/night when you are not even 30 years old is not exactly sending a good message for the future. When it is not three because of head-splitting migraines.

Then in late 2015, AMSR comes back in my life through a video by the Guardian. Maria and other pioneers have made it big. It’s not just a niche anymore but actually a sixth sense scientists are working on to understand it. In the video, a woman is speaking: Emma – WhispersRed. It’s the trigger. I didn’t experience much tingling with Maria or anyone else, just a feeling of soothing but Emma, her accent, the tone of her voice, it’s instant.

I spend the rest of the day, headphones in my ears, listening to every videos she makes. It’s the middle of the day and it’s when the tingles are here. It’s impossible to describe. I like the noise but I can’t get enough of her speaking. I then try putting her speaking softly on my phone the shelf above my bed as I try to fall sleep. I expect the usual struggle but nothing. I cannot even remember when I fell asleep. Sometimes, I even fall asleep with the phone still in my hand and my glasses on. No time to put it on the shelf and get ready. Two minutes in and I am out.

It works and has been working for the past nine months. I had one sleepless night in nine months. It’s a first in my life after 32 years of increasingly dreading going to bed, hating my bed, resenting the moment when I have to force my brain to disconnect. Emma does for me.

I have mentioned it my mum who just was snide about it: “Just boring stuff then”. Another time to someone in my family who told me “Aw, so you’re all about that ASMR thing…” but there judgmental amusement in it. I didn’t feel bad or offended, rather just decided it’s something I must do and keep for me. Not because I have to or feel judged but because it’s actually very intimate. It’s for me and who needs to know about it after all? They don’t get it, why should they? And why would I try to convince them? It’s inexplicable.

Some people think AMSR is sexual. Of course, they do. We live in a world that also thinks Victoria Beckham is a lesbian for kissing her daughter. Everything today that provides you with any kind of soothing or positive feeling is associated to sex. Also, as a gay man, I have learnt that what people don’t understand, they tend to diminish it and what best way to do it than saying it’s a fetish and some weird sexual fantasy.

As a gay man, I don’t listen to Emma talking because I am sexually attracted to her. On the opposite, I always make sure I never make the mistake of putting one of her video on as I am browsing for porn (Grow up!) like I do something with Youtube videos in the background. For me, it has to be completely separate and come to think of it, it’s incompatible. I am looking to fall asleep, not get aroused. I have Dean Monroe for that, thank you very much. Frankly, I don’t see how this could ever be sexual. At least for me, a gay man listening to women.

Emma and her ASMR work is shushing and soothing my brain. I don’t listen intensively, it’s just there like a mother putting a child to sleep with a story. I don’t care for the story itself, I just want a reassuring voice to help him with my restless, overthink brain. I tried other AMSRtists but they don’t work as well. There is a connection with Emma that is inexplicable.

I wrote to her to thank her as I discovered I started to softly stroke or tab on things during the day, in meetings, at dinner with relatives, or during long conversations. It keeps me calm and focused. I spent decades fiddling with things, twiddling my fingers, writing anything to keep me from overthink something else. Thanks to Emma, I have developed soft, delicate and silent ways that allow me to be able to look at someone in the eye when they speak to me.

She replied to my email very nicely and said we were all going through the same steps when it comes to ASMR. Some days, I even am thinking of making videos. Not for the views or the money – I have a job and hates attention – but because she has been talking about how therapeutic it has been for her, how good it feels to channel your energy towards something that will soothe you and others.

Reading a couple of comments on her and others’ videos, reading about ASMR, there is a common ground to all of us, something that Emma and other ASMRtists mentionned: hyper sensitivity to our surrounding. Stemming from my anxiety, I have understood that my impossibility to let go of the past, the mistakes I made, of the guilt, my inability to just let something go, to ignore what’s happening, my constant anger towards the world and the unfairness that is the pillar of human society, my need to take a step back in crowd situation because I feel overwhelmed…

All of it is hyper sensitivity. Day in day out, I suck up everything from everyone and everything: feelings, energy, reactions, consequences, interactions without having learnt how or have the time to process them properly and that’s what can keep me awake all night. Once all are gone, my brain finally finds the time to analyse them, to make sense of them and to encourage me to find a way to deal with them but by that time, I am exhausted and the last thing I want is to have to dissect the world and reflect upon my place in it.

This is where Emma and ASMR comes in. So I can sleep then think about the world the next day and write posts for my blog – that I can never bloody finish and post!

In brief: Actual food? Are you for real?

I went on the Internet this week and I found this…

No, seriously. I watched another video but this time from Matt and Blue (husbands Dallas and Hamilton) and Blue was cooking some pasta with bacon sauce.

Bacon.

Bacon!

He cooked meat on YouTube! And not just meat but there was oil involved so…fat. There were pasta so…carbs. There was cheese so…diary products.

Is he a mad man? Meat and carbs and fat and dairy product on social media? How not Gwyneth Paltrow and all her clones of him to do that! People think social services are going to be on their back for being gay parents but no, it’s because they are cooking and eating delicious, guilt-free food and they are feeding it to their son.

Honestly, we need more of that, please, so the tide of self-proclaimed healthy gurus can finally ebb and we can eat some food without being judged and frowned upon. What helps this insanity surrounding food is usually that these gurus are mostly blonde, paper-thin and all living “wonderful lives”. Who wouldn’t want to be like them? I don’t but…

The good thing with Matt and Blue is they are both handsome, gorgeous, fit men so they are showing food-related health problems, such as obesity, are not about this or that type of food but about your diet as a whole.

In brief: Who are you targeting?

I watched a quick Instagram video of Tom Daley giving us tips to get healthy by doing something call the Pistol Squat – which I am convinced gets its name from prisoners of war who managed to not get shot by doing it.

One thing: anyone who can pull that off is already healthy. There might not have very defined six packs or the 0.1% of fat necessary to see them because they don’t do eight hours of sports everyday for a living but this exercise requires so much from your body, i.e. put the entire weight of yourself on one knee, that only the 5% fittest can do it.

Bottom-line is: the more I watch Tom Daley, his fitness challenges and advice on how to get healthy, the more I realise he’s talking to people who are already healthy. Just not calendar-fit, like he is. PR…PR…PR…

The Health Inquisition – Dogmas and heresies

As outlandish as it may sound, I have been working on these few pages for months. Translating feelings into thoughts is harder than I imagined. Anyway, I wanted to have a look at the religion behind our current Health Inquisition because, although they appear as one to name, shame and aim for the destruction of the likes of me, they are also akin to all mainstream religions: made of countless little sects, each with its own mind-set regarding how we should all be absolved, find solace and eventually salvation in the form of body-shape uniformity.

Let’s look at the different sects within the Food Religion, shall we?

Normality – Needs to be converted!
Atkins diet – Next, please.
Low calorie diet – What’s a calorie? Can I grow them myself?
Low fat diet – Sounds good but the pasta is pretty bland.
Low salt diet – Fish pee in sea water!
Low carb diet – My brain can’t concentrate for more than 10 minutes at once.
Low fibre diet – Hello, bowel cancer.
South Beach diet – Getting ready for Spring Break.
Gluten-free diet – I feel like gasworks.
Vegetarian diet – Are cakes alright? There’s butter and eggs in there…
Vegan diet – Look at my Instagram! I look great naked!
Organic diet – Is “fair trade” the same?
Locavore diet – It’s all about tending to my neighbour’s wallet.
Palaeolithic diet – Because life was so good back then, tape worm especially.
Juices cleanse – Eating is for weaklings!
Just cleanse – Let the settlers invade you and kill everything. Very popular in the US and Australia.

What do preachers, or “food experts”, say?

Fat is bad for you – I knew that.
Sugar is bad for you – Don’t care!
Chocolate is bad for you – F*** you!
Bread is bad for you – What about toasts?
Milk is bad for you – Can I milk rice?
Water is bad for you – But…aren’t we made 75% of it?!
Alcohol is bad for you –  Yeah…My mum said the same about my boyfriend.
Fruits are bad for you – My doctor said that about apples.
Meat is bad for you – Even?…you know…
Fish is bad for you – Sharks don’t even eat them.
Vegetables are bad for you – What’s in guacamole?
Cooked food is bad for you – Too expensive to heat up nowadays anyway.
Raw food is bad for you – No mini sushis?! How not 2015!
Vitamins supplements are bad for you – Vegans are gonna die?
Proteins are bad for you – So I can’t swallow?
Products without the “fair trade” label are bad for you – That’s what Glamour says.
Products with the “fair trade” label are bad for you – That’s what the Guardian says.
Products without the “organic” label are bad for you – That’s what my local farmer says.
Products with the “organic” label are bad for you – That’s what his neighbour says.

What are the pillars of these sects? – Super Foods, with a big F…for fudge!

Superfruits – Scomiche! 😀
Supervegetables – Mister Peanuts for the win.
Superfat – Rude!
Supernuts – Starring Rocco Siffredi.
Supervitamins – Always buy one get one free.
Supermen – If only!…

Seriously, does anyone actually know what they are talking about?

Because frankly, it seems to me that we are living a world, the Western World, where we have completely lost touch with the reality of what food and eating is. Is it our living in endlessly-sprawling urban spaces where the only wild nature visible is in cages and the rest is constantly unrooted to make place for the neatly trimmed and the visually pleasant? Have we grown so far away from a field that we don’t even know what’s what and are left to the mercy of some experts with credentials they created for themselves as a mean to find health salvation?

When I hear urban people talking about food, it does seem like it. American Youtubers are the best, I have to say. They will believe absolutely anything and preach it the next day.

Every month, newspapers are filled with statements and counter-statements based on some research, all about the same things. Every month, there is a new food dogma we should all embrace for it will save our lives, or at the least add a couple of decades to our life-expectancy in our quest to immortality. We are buzzing: a new diet, a new way of life, always “better”, always “healthier” than the previous one, always calling the anathema on the heresy we had been happily following for the past 30 days. Until the next month, when yet another research shows we had all been fooled and heretics: this time, THIS is the real food dogma.

How have we become like this? How have we become so lost that even reasonable people are ready to believe that milk and bread are the sources of all our diet problems when that’s what humanity has been surviving on for the best part of dozens of millennia?

There is, first and foremost, the lack of education and our desperate need to fit in our society’s very tight jeans, bikinis and zero-size clothes. Desperation in the face of the everyday bullying and finger-pointing we enjoy so much will bring people to do anything: from genuinely believing that we can milk almonds to popping dieting pills that will burn your body to death. We have not become but remain completely gullible in the face of someone or something that promises the never-ending of social acceptance and who wants to be an ostracised heretic? So we go to the gym like our ancestors went to church and read dieting books like they read the Bible in latin. We don’t understand a word of it but it’s the only key to happiness. Apparently…

But then again, who to believe? All these scientists, doctors and researches, isn’t it their job to advise you, to guide us? Why should have we believed anyone critical of his findings when the name Atkins came with the title “Doctor”? It did not matter he was fat and obviously a clear case of “Do what I say but don’t do what I do’, all because stars were raving about the weight loss. And we all know that’s the key to making Earth an present paradise. The true believers don’t go to church anymore, they can fit in Victoria Beckham’s clothes.

We know now, Atkins was just another con artist who surfed on the wave of low self-esteem and desperation millions of us suffer from. You’d think we’d listen to those who have been telling us to stop with this fanatic nonsense and just be sensible. No, we just moved on to another diet coming from the findings of yet another research, another doctor, another scientist who, if you look closely, mostly turn out to be have been sponsored generously and selflessly, of course, by the food industry.

That’s my issue with these research papers. We do have genuinely independent research published by various institutions and they pretty much say all the same thing: Mutatis mutandis. Everything is poison, nothing is poison, the dose is poison. You can eat everything as long as you remain sensible about it. Get your 3 liters of water, whichever, your 5 to 7 fruits and veg every day, whichever, 20 to 30 minutes of exercises, even walking the dog in the park, avoid processed meals, and prepare your own food. Even burgers, as long as you don’t go to McDonalds to buy them, don’t eat them everyday and prepare them yourself, you’ll be fine.

Why isn’t it enough then? Why don’t we do just that and go on with our easily accessible and sound healthy living? Because this is not religion, this is sensible advice and that’s how it is advertised. No sensationalism, no celebrity so where’s the dream, the impossible? The fast weight loss? The promise of a better sex life?

So we turn to “the research from an American university” published with a parade in every newspapers and all languages. The issue is that most of these various research papers are not independent: they serve a purpose. A company or someone trying to cash in on our needs for a quick solution and the avoidance of having to take responsibility for our own problems. If it doesn’t work, we’ll hang them by the feet in the main square anyway.

Look carefully and you’ll find out that behind an American research on how bad fat is for you often lays the money of a soft-drinks and sweets company. And vice versa with a research on the terrible effect of sugar sponsored generously, and selflessly, by a butter-producing giant. It’s not just our naivety or wilful ignorance that’s the reason, it’s also that food is now a battlefield on the constant wars of neo-capitalism. Everyone is riding the wave on its own boat trying to shoot everybody in sight with pseudo-science for it’s the first who can land on the shores to preach to the hurdled masses.

You think we were desperate to fit in, not as desperate as the food industry to cash in on whatever and whoever we decide to believe is good for us. Food giants will to any length to make us believe that they are the healthy option. I mean Nutella is advertised as a healthy option for breakfast for the kids and no one sees a problem in that!

The issue is the food industry and everything that comes with it. First, the language: we blame the food rather than everything they are allowed to put in or on it to make it grow faster, stronger, better. “Bread is bad” but it’s not bread that is bad or gluten, it’s the pesticides we spread the wheat with that are the real problem. And the alternative? To genetically modify it. What a treat! So yes, bread and gluten seem bad, and for some people they are, because we can’t process it anymore.

It’s the same with the milk, the eggs and the meat. They have been the base of our eating habits and have allowed us to develop our brain, make our bodies stronger and more resilient, to expend our life expectancy. The food itself isn’t bad. Unlike all the chemicals the food industry has been lobbying to make legal so we can feed the animals we keep in terrible conditions in the modern farms at the lowest costs.

Then we are back to us, who are now consuming food like we consume everything: the more the better but in a world where everything costs, we want meat for nothing and, cheap meat will make you sick or/and fat.

I understand the fact that we are blaming some foods while calling other “superfoods” which no one actually fathoms. I understand that we have to start somewhere when it comes to changing our habits and unfortunately, we are born and bred in this fundamentally Manichean society built on monotheism where there is no time for sensibility, only knee-jerking preaching. The debate has become solely about pitting something against something else, about dogma against heresy. Fat vs sugar. Meat vs fish. Fruits vs vegetables. Cooked vs raw. Milk vs vitamin supplements.

As the language of food is now akin to the one of all religions, one needs to consider its countless holy scripts with a pinch of salt, or sugar if you prefer. Except for actual poisons, there is no bad or good, black or white, healthy and unhealthy because even the healthiest can become dangerous when consumed without moderation. It’s called orthorexia and like all orthodoxies, it does more harm than good in the long term.

Orthorexia divides, creates new boxes, new barriers, new prejudices as we are working toward brining all the others down. Right now, the divide between “healthy” and “unhealthy” seems to be for the greater good, but all divides and categorisations were until we realise they are helping no one except a tiny minority, the ones who benefits from the apartheid: “the ones on the right side”.