The Transformation: Stress

Hello, lovely readers.

I hope you have a big mug of Joe and possibly a lovely *SANE snack on hand, and are sitting somewhere comfy.  This is a looooooooong read.  You may want to grab a blanket in case you need a nap in the middle.

Today we’re going to talk about stress, because I am as certain as I can be that next to my insomnia, stress was my biggest enemy in the fat-loss arena, as well as generally messing up all manner of bodily operations.  Stress causes physiological changes in our bodies and if it goes on too long all sorts of mayhem ensues.  The 18-month-long siege on my adrenal glands wreaked havoc with a variety of hormones that play key roles in the stress response, metabolism, and the balance of salt and water in the body.  Cortisol is one of those hormones, and cortisol serves an important role in controlling the metabolism and use of proteins, fats and carbohydrates.  My research into adrenal fatigue clearly called out the body’s inability to burn fat when the adrenal glands are exhausted.  Bummer.  If you are not convinced that stress can have that big of an impact on fat-loss, read this.

Shame on me for not sitting up and paying attention to the stress a whole lot sooner.  Shame on me for not making changes way before 18 months had rolled past.  But I am not going to dwell on what caused me to get in this pickle - not in this blog post, anyway, although that may make for a highly entertaining read down the road - because at this point it just is what it is.  Instead of looking back at what got me here I am going to focus on sharing what I am doing to reduce stressors in my life as much as I can.  While it is true there are some things we can’t change, there is a lot we can.  Let’s concentrate on the latter.

Before we begin though, I want to point out that stress is very individual.  What is stressful for me may be something irrelevant to you.  What is stressful to you may seem trivial to me.  What is important is that you work out what stresses YOU.  I don’t give a flying fig what other people think about my stressors.  Simply because they stress me means I need to find a solution to stop them doing so.  Don’t let anyone tell you that the things that stress you are silly.  It doesn’t matter what anyone else thinks, only what you think.  Only enlist the opinions of people who will help you find a solution to your stressors, not tell you it’s something you shouldn’t be stressing about.

Carrie Brown | Flower

Here’s what I did to minimize the stressors in my life:

SEPARATING WORK FROM PLAY

I completely separated my day-job from my personal life.  My personal life includes this blog, my cookbooks, and everything I do in the name of *SANEity.  Making this separation possible meant buying a new laptop which houses only personal stuff on it, and I will never connect it to my employer’s corporate network.  I likewise removed everything personal from my work laptop, so I am very clear about when I am doing my day-job and when I am not, because my technology no longer allows me to multi-task work and play simultaneously.  And HURRAH! for that.  Now when I am doing stuff on here I am not continually interrupted and stressed seeing work emails pop up, which inevitably lead to me working far more than I should, when really the world wouldn’t end if I dealt with it first thing Monday morning.  If something serious does bubble up on the work front out of hours, people know how to get a hold of me.  I am more than open to getting a call if there’s an emergency or someone really needs help before the next work day rolls around.

For me this is a drastic change from always being connected at work.  In fact, if there are any of my in-real-life friends reading this I can imagine they’re wondering where Carrie Brown went and who exactly is writing this stuff.  I have always been known as a workaholic – always online, always responding to email and instant messages no matter the time of day or night.  It used to feel like I was “on” 24*7 and never had any opportunity to rest, relax, recover, or give my brain a break.  But as well we know, all work and no play make Jill a dull girl.  The reality is that when we are less stressed we are more productive, although society tries to tell us that the more we do the better we are.  It’s a lie.  As my stress levels got higher and higher it was taking me longer and longer to accomplish the same amount of work, and that work was not my usual high quality either.  In order to work at it’s peak, the brain needs to have downtime.  NEEDS.  You have to keep the machine well-oiled if it is to run most effectively and not break down.  In the case of our brains, oil = rest and recreation.

Separating work from play was a huge de-stressor for me.  HUGE.

Carrie Brown | Flowers

ORGANIZING

For the past several weeks I have been huddled under a siege of to-do lists – some of which have existed for more than a year, and others I have been furiously creating as a kind of mind-dump exercise.  You have to define the problem before you can effectively tackle it.

I am generally a super-organized person by nature, but the last 18 months have been so crazy that a lot of things started to slip, and some fell through the cracks altogether.  With some things it didn’t really matter, but with other things the slippage created new problems on top.  All of the slippages caused me stress – whether that was stress in the mornings because the clean laundry had not been put away for long enough that the contents of my closet were now in a crumpled heap and I had nothing ready to wear, or whether that was stress in the evenings because the dishwasher was full of clean dishes and the sink was full of dirty dishes and I didn’t have a plate to hand but was so tired I just went to bed without dinner, or whether that was ongoing stress because I hadn’t reconciled my finances in a few weeks.  It is amazing how fast life can go sideways if little things stop getting done.

Capturing on paper everything I had to do and everything stressing me made me feel in control, and that right there eased the stress.  As I read through the lists I realized – to my delight – that some of the things had been done and just not crossed off, so the lists automatically got shorter.  Once I had what I felt was a complete to-do list, I figured out which ones were critical or urgent and marked them accordingly.  In my critical and urgent list I included the things that were giving me the most heart-burn, making me worry all day, or keeping me awake at night.

For the remaining tasks I sorted them into categories according to how long the task would take.  Sorting the list into smaller ones made the whole thing seem way less daunting and overwhelming.  Living in clouds and clouds of ‘grey’ can be extremely stressful.  Not knowing the size of the problem and constantly wondering if you are forgetting something can be very stressful. Once I got clear about what I had to do, just knowing that was a huge stress-reliever.

Carrie Brown | Flowers

PURGING

I am not a hoarder by any stretch of the imagination.  When my sister-in-law came on vacation she looked quizzically at me after the house tour was over and queried, “So where’s all your stuff?”.  I don’t have a lot, but still, over the years things have accumulated – things that I no longer have a use for, clothes and shoes that I no longer wear, candles I knew I would never burn, gadgetry that had served it’s purpose, books I didn’t feel a need to read over, art that no longer moved me, Christmas decorations that would never see the light of day again, paperwork from the last 13 years.  I’ll admit I had boxes from my last move 7 ½ years ago that had yet to be unpacked.  It never occurred to me how weighed down I felt having this redundant stuff in my house until I sat down and examined everything in my life that might be causing me stress.  So I went through closets and drawers and paperwork and simply moved out anything that was no longer relevant to my life now.  Oh the sense of freedom in my brain when I posted 7 years of tax records into the shredder.

I didn’t start brazenly purging like a woman possessed.  Instead of feeling overwhelmed by what seemed like such a huge undertaking, I systematically did a little bit every day – one drawer, one shelf, one box, one cupboard, until I had been through the entire house, packed it all up, and delivered it to Goodwill.  Except the garage.  I am unashamedly waiting for warmer weather before I embark on that piece of the project.  Even though I am not completely done, just knowing that the garage is the only place I might have things I don’t need is liberating.  The act of purging stuff made my brain feel like it was being purged simultaneously.

As a consequence of purging, every drawer, cupboard, shelf, and box got organized at the same time.  The process involved emptying everything out, removing what was no longer useful or important in my life, arranging what was left (if there was anything left!), and putting it back.  Thus this act of purging also got everything in order.  Doing one area a day made the task very manageable, and usually took no more than 15 minutes.  Every day I felt a little bit lighter, a little bit more in control, and then before I knew it the whole house was done.  Hurrah!

The process of purging also wiped a load of things off my to-do lists.  Gone are things that had needed to be cleaned, maintained, or otherwise cared for.  The things that remain are simpler to find and the closets easier to clean because they are emptier.  It also just felt really good to donate things to others that they may need or have a use for.

Carrie Brown | Flowers

GETTING STUFF DONE

Once I had my to-do lists finalized, I set about getting things done.  I started with the things on the critical and urgent list.  Getting these done caused the biggest gain in stress-relief.  These included things like getting my websites and images backed up to both offline and cloud locations (no more stressing about a catastrophic data loss), getting the taxes filed (no more stressing about whether I owed or not), and getting my oven fixed before it ran out of warranty (no more stressing about whether I would have to buy a new oven).  Follow-ups: CrashPlan now backup all 400Gb of my data into the cloud for $60 a year.  Are you kidding me??  I put off getting backups taken care of over $60 a year??  C-R-A-Z-Y.  I don’t owe money to the IRS.  Hurrah!  And I do not need to buy a new oven, it was a simple over-the-phone fix.  All that stress because I was worrying so much I didn’t have time to just get them done.  I had similar results with all of my big stressors.  Once I took care of them I was amazed at how simple the fix had been and how long I had carried that stress around with me for nothing.

The stress-relief I gained from getting these critical and urgent things done was enormous.  Yes, I had to make time to do them.  Yes, I had to put off other things to do them.  Yes, I had to give up some play time to do them.  YES!  The rewards made up for all that a bajillion times over!  To be free of that constant, nagging, background stress in my brain over the possibility of data loss, owing money, and having no oven was liberating beyond words.  I have gained so much more time back now I am not spending time worrying about them.

Then I moved to the to-do’s categorized by how long the task would take.  I took all the tasks that took 15 minutes or less and started working on them.  Like my purging efforts, I systematically did a few at a time.  I would set aside an hour a day and see how many of these short tasks I could get done in that time.  Then once the hour was up I’d go off and do something fun, curl up on the couch with the ‘kids’ and a good read, or have a cup of coffee and a *SANE treat.  Breaking it up into sections like this stopped it from seeming like this gargantuan task that would never get done.  Doing all the short tasks first makes it feel like you are making blazing fast progress – and that’s always good for the soul.  Seeing all those check marks is a huge encouragement to get more things done, and with each check mark there is more stress relief.  I found that as I went along I could get more done because there was that much less stress and the to-do list was no longer overwhelming.

My short tasks included things like putting up the utensil hanging rails under my kitchen cabinets (no more stressing over finding cooking implements in cluttered drawers), putting up coat hooks in the closet (no more stressing over having nowhere to hang my jacket tidily), labelling the drawers in my office (no more stressing over where things were), and pruning the roses (no more stressing over whether they would bloom this year or not).  If you’re wondering about the whole blooming thing, the scent of roses is like crack to me, so to have a whole pile of them blooming in my own backyard that I can smell whenever I need a pick-me-up is very important to my wellbeing.  See?  I told you stressors were very individual.

What I found in every instance was that once I got started on a task it was never as difficult, complicated, or big as I had imagined.  Never.  Experiencing this time after time makes it much easier to get started on tasks as I am not paralyzed by the thought of them any more.

It was amazing how much stuff I got taken care of by just setting aside an hour a day.  The best bonus was that as tasks got done, the number of things slipping through the cracks got less, so I wasn’t inadvertently creating more to-do’s and more stress any more.  After a very short time I got to the point where I was waking up on a Saturday and thinking, “I’ve got nothing to do.  I can do whatever I want today!” instead of waking up and lying in bed feeling entirely overwhelmed and stressed about an endless to-do list, or a brain full of clutter that I was terrified I would forget.

This method of getting stuff done has been completely transformative.

Carrie Brown | Flower

SIMPLIFYING

Once the purging and to-do lists were done (OK no, to-do lists will never be entirely done…) I wanted to simplify as many areas of my life as possible to reduce the chance of things getting so out of whack again, even if life gets crazy busy for a while.  This meant simplifying possessions, paperwork, schedules, and tasks.  I started to look at ways I could make life less complicated for myself.

Having purged the house of things that are not relevant to my life now, I made the decision to really ponder anything new I think I want to bring into the house.  I created a set of criteria on which to base new purchases and I judge everything that I think I want to buy against it.  Your criteria will be different to mine.  I am just a lot more mindful that having more stuff creates a longer to-do list, and I balance that against how I want to spend my time, energy and brain-power.

I was stunned when I started going through paperwork how much of it went in the recycle bin or the shredder.  Things I thought would be interesting to read but were no longer relevant, statements and bills that I also had stored digitally, instruction manuals for things I didn’t own any more, catalogs that were 5 (!) years (!) old (!), junk mail, tax records from years 2000 – 2007, Christmas cards from goodness-knows-how-many years, and on and on.  One Monday I filled my 64 gallon recycle container so full of papers and catalogs that I could barely wheel it out onto the street for pickup.  Do you have any idea how clean I felt after I watched the garbage truck empty it?  Very.  Now I am way more careful about what gets past the recycle and into a file or drawer in the first place.  I open the mail as soon as I bring it in the house and I recycle as I look at each item.  When a new catalog arrives that I do want to keep I immediately find the previous one and drop it in the recycle.  I have signed up for every no-junk-mail service there is.  I have cancelled paper statements and bills for every service that allows me to download a digital copy from their site.  You get the idea.  If you don’t let it in the house you will never have to decide whether to keep it or not.  This also makes finding the info you do need much easier, and cuts down on filing and sorting time – simply because there is so much less to wade through.

I started using just one calendar (Outlook) instead of several different ones, and I run everything through that one calendar.  I am hardcore about scheduling everything.  While I realize that may sound boring, it has actually freed up so much more of my life because things that need to get done are getting done in a timely manner and without me constantly worrying if I have forgotten something or missed a due date.  I wake up in the morning, open my calendar and anything that I have to do to keep life flowing smoothly and on track I do at the allotted time.  What’s brilliant is that the rest of the time I am free to do whatever I feel is most important that day - which may well be reading a book, going for a walk, or taking in a movie – and my brain is free from worry.  I find that by having everything written down it creates a plan, and I am far more likely to stick to a plan than if I just wake up and do whatever comes into my head first.  Doing this means I am no longer thrown into crisis over having forgotten to do something or letting some task slide.

Carrie Brown | Flower

As well as using my calendar to schedule tasks, I started using my phone to set audible reminders for a few really important things – like taking my meds at the same time each day.  If you are on critical medications, the stress of forgetting them can be huge.  Setting a simple alarm on my phone stopped that stressor dead in its tracks.

I handle new tasks that pop up on my to-do list the same way I handled the BIG list when I got started.  I tackle the critical and urgent tasks and the ones that are causing me the most stress, and then I set aside small blocks of time to take care of the other tasks, starting with the one that takes the least time.  Once you have the main list down it is so much easier to just stay on top of new things that need doing.  Having experienced the enormous benefits of getting stuff done I have got into the habit of doing new tasks straight away so they never have the opportunity to become big hairy monsters in my mind.

I looked for ways that I could make big things more manageable.  One example is the tax return.  Instead of the 4-day horror movie that I created for myself this year, I am now doing a little bit of tax prep for next year every month.  I collect all the paperwork and receipts pertaining to the previous month and update a spreadsheet with business income and expenses.  It takes at most one hour a month.  When tax time rolls around next year it will simply be a matter of punching numbers into the return, which will save me 4 days of time and stress.

I looked for ways to stop little things turning into big stressful things.  One example is laundry.  Being single it can take quite a time to create a full load of dirty laundry, but that means I can run out of socks or undies before I’ve got around to putting a wash on.  To stop that stress I now do smaller loads more often.  Saving a few pennies on soap and electricity in no way made up for the stress running out of clean underwear caused.  The same goes for dishes.  I would fill the sink with dirty dishes until I had enough for a full load in the dishwasher, by which time loading the dishwasher became this big, time-consuming task.  Now I load the dishwasher as I go, run it as soon as it is full, and empty it immediately so I can beginning filling it straight away.  Little changes can make the biggest difference.  While little stressors are lightweight on their own, if you have enough of them they can really weigh you down.

I looked at every activity and commitment that I have on my schedule and thought long and hard about whether or not each of them was necessary or just keeping other people happy.  I thought about whether they were leading me towards my goals or away from them.  I thought about whether they caused me stress or were restorative.  Those thoughts lead me to step back from some habitual activities altogether, and had me saying to others, “I would love to help but I am not able to right now”.  It is so easy to get caught up in constant busy-ness without stopping to think about whether it is actually beneficial in any way.  If it isn’t, I stop doing it.  There is no big gold medal for just doing more.  Taking time to rest and rejuvenate are just as worthy of your time and attention.

Carrie Brown | Flowers

THINKING SMARTER

Every day I spend a few minutes identifying any stressors in my life and if anything comes to mind I immediately make a plan for how I am going to take care of it.  Throughout the day I am mindful of anything that causes me stress and either take care of it immediately if I can (like stopping at the very next gas station when the empty light comes on instead of hoping to save a few cents at another garage that may or may not show up before I run out) or make a note of it to review later.  Later I take a few more minutes to review anything that I noted during the day and make a plan for reducing the stress.  That plan may involve putting a task on a to-do list, scheduling time to take action, changing perspective on a stressor, or deciding that whatever it is is no longer important enough to allow it to be stressful.  I have found that actively spending some time thinking about stressors every day gives me the opportunity to take care of them before they turn into something huge and unwieldy.

I realized that being kind to myself during this process would get me to my goal of reducing stress much quicker than if I beat myself up to get it all done in the shortest possible time.  Being kind means taking one step at a time, breaking big things into smaller, more manageable pieces, and rewarding yourself when you’ve accomplished each task or set of tasks.  Being kind means understanding that it will take time, and that’s OK.  Even scheduling tasks for a later date reduces stress because you know that you have time set aside to take care of them.  Being kind means building in time to do things that you enjoy.  Being kind means knowing that you are worth taking care of and that you deserve to live a less stressful life.  Being kind means recognizing that slowing down is a good thing.  Being kind means saying “No” to other things until you have got your stress down to the level where it is no longer causing your body and brain physical harm.  Being kind means knowing that reducing your stress is one of the most important things you can do for yourself.

I recognized how interrelated everything in our lives is and that stress not only affects every other area of our lives, but that every other area of our life can affect our stress levels.  Alongside all that I did above, I built in several other practices that effectively help to manage stress: sleep, exercise, yoga, SANE eating, supplements, rejuvenation, and routine.  You can read about what I do in those areas by clicking on each link.

That’s all I got.

Phew!  Now I need that cup of Joe and a *SANE treat!

 

 

PS. Love the images and would love to hang them on your wall?  Check out the gallery!

 

*SANE™, inSANE, SANEity – terms used in Jonathan Bailor’s books, The Smarter Science of Slim (out of print) and The Calorie Myth.

What does SANE mean? Click here.Want more scrumptious recipes? Click here to check out my SANE Cookbooks!

Allison - Really enjoyed this post. Had my morning cuppa joe and it was very lovely morning reading. Did you ever feel like you’re not sure who you are anymore? I mean, you changed so much about the way you think, work, do, that did it create any insecurity? I know all these changes were good and freeing and had all sorts of positive domino effects but even in our imperfections we are comforted so I was just curious if you saw any psychological fall-out of the “mental upgrade”. As always, thank you so much for sharing your path with us.

Pam - Loved your long and insightful post today, Carrie and the photos are all spectacular – I love shooting flowers as well! Meanwhile I have just set my goal for the “uncluttering and simplifying” of all the “stuff” I have around. One of the first projects will be my closet – it’s a lovely walk-in closet with about 1/2 of the stuff hanging there not fitting! You know – keep those old size XYZ for the day I’ll fit in them again?! NOPE – when I get to my healthy goals from being SANE I will want to buy NEW, fresh, stylish clothes and not put on my old stuff again. SOOOO out it goes – starting tonight!!! Anything that doesn’t fit OR anything that DOES fit that I simply do not wear anymore is going in a BIG BAG for whichever charity pickup groups calls me next! Thanks for the inspiration and thanks for offering us a peek into your stressed out life knowing that we all face similar challenges. Somehow there is comfort in that knowledge but inspiration as well.

Susan L. - Brilliant and inspiring, thank you!

Julie - Carrie, thank you for a great post. One thing that has helped me not to have to wash my underwear as often is to buy extras. It really helps. So glad that you have gotten a lot of stress out of your life.

Barbie - This is just what I needed to hear today! I have gained weight on SSoS but my stress level bumped up 12 notches at the time I started the plan. Thanks so much for sharing your trials and tribulations. I love your writing style, your photos and your recipes. You rock!

The Big Breakfast Adventure | Icebox Grocery

It was one grey, grey day, weather-wise at least, when I shot over to North Queen Anne to meet Suzanne for a Big Breakfast Adventure.  One of those days the clouds were so low they were sitting on the pavement.  That, along with steady rain and gallons of spray from the cars careering down the road added up to an awful lot of grey.  The only things maintaining a vestige of color were the road signs, the emerald green paint reminding me that it is also the predominant color around here when the sun is shining – only then it’s the trees that catch my attention.

Grey weather be darned, I was off for a fun couple of hours in a café I had never entered, in a neighborhood I had never driven through.  The review of The Icebox Grocery was that they whipped up fantastic scrambles, so I had an inkling I was in for a relatively easy time finding some *SANEity to get my Sunday started.

Suzanne arrived 10 minutes ahead of me, and I found her wandering around the part-café-part-grocery store taking in the rustic charm – colorful cushions, walls dripping with local art, fresh produce, a smattering of café tables and chairs, and a wall of interesting groceries.  Arriving early got us the best seat in the house – a cushioned bench seat nestled right into the huge, bright, paned windows.  I imagined what it would be like to sit there on days when the sun was streaming in.  I may just have to go back there expressly for that experience.

I first met Suzanne back in November when she was part of the audience for the CreativeLive Course that Jonathan and I did.  Well, just to be clear, Jonathan did most of it – I just showed up, threw some recipes together, and fed everyone.  I like to think I played an important part in the proceedings.

During our time at the recording studio Suzanne and I had the chance to natter during breaks and over lunch.  She shared with me how passionate she was about improving her family of 6′s health and wellness, and was excited about Jonathan’s science and my recipes.  For me it is always wonderful meeting people out there in the trenches – so to speak – who are living what Jonathan and I share.  To hear how much better people are feeling and how easy it is for them compared to diets they had tried previously is immensely gratifying.  It makes everything that I do here on my blog and in my cookbooks worthwhile.

The Icebox Grocery is an order-at-the-counter affair so once we had made our scramble selections we ambled up to the counter to order.  Suzanne fancied the Greek Scramble – goat cheese, spinach, red onion, kalamata olives, tomatoes.  I opted for the Farm Scramble – bacon, spinach, tomatoes, gorgonzola.  The scrambles are served up with either potatoes or fruit.  I definitely wasn’t going to eat potatoes and I didn’t want to eat fruit either, but as I waited for my turn to order I spied some fresh coleslaw in the deli counter.  Once my Farm Scramble had been duly scribbled on the order pad I enquired, “Would it be possible to have a bowl of that delicious-looking coleslaw instead of the fruit or potatoes?”

“Yes!  Of course!” came the enthusiastic reply.  Perfect.  Unlike this photograph.  I obviously forgot to pack my shooting mojo when I left the house for this adventure.  Sorry about that.

Icebox Grocery  |  Carrie Brown

We settled down at our table in the window and stayed there for 2½ hours – me sipping peppermint tea and Suzanne sloshing back glass after glass of water, eating our scrambles, and talking.  Yes, mostly talking.  Suzanne told fascinating stories of the places she has lived being married to a Coastguard, who it turns out cannot eat my SANE Peanut Butter Ice Cream in case he gets drug tested and shows positive for hemp milk.  Who knew?!?!  She’s going to use almond milk instead.

She shared how she had declared that she would move anywhere except Alaska, then spent 11 years living there after hubs was stationed in Juneau and loved it so much they are going to retire there.  I shared how I had planned to drive to Alaska one summer but my left kidney had other plans so I spent that time in a hospital in Manhattan instead.  Being hospitalized in New York was an interesting experience, but I suspect not nearly as interesting – and a lot more expensive - than a road trip to Alaska would have been.  I still plan to drive to Alaska someday.  I do not plan on being hospitalized in Manhattan again – and let me tell you my insurance company is thrilled about that.  It would have been {much} cheaper to have stayed at Trump Towers than Lennox Hill Hospital.  I am sure the food would have been better, by quite a margin, too.

We talked about the challenge of steering a whole family to *SANEity when Every. Single. Meal. you ‘ve served for the last 25 years has involved bread.  My Tortilla Soup has apparently played a not insignificant part in the process.  We shared our respective stories of ending up in the hood in New Orleans and wondering if we were going to make it out alive.  We talked about rejuvenation and how doing things that make you feel good is so very important.  I explained what my Saturday had looked like and how I felt bad for not being productive, to which Suzanne replied, “That sounds like a perfect day!”  Clearly I must work harder on the whole relaxation thing.

And then we shared how hugely grateful we each are for Jonathan Bailor and his dedication to debunking the last 40 years of dodgy health and weight loss advice.

As we sat there other brunchers came and went, and when we finally gathered up our things to head out there wasn’t an empty table in the place.  Word about their fabulous scrambles has obviously got out.

It was still raining as we said our goodbyes, but while it may have been a grey day weather-wise, we had a very sunny time by the window at The Icebox.

Whatever makes you feel good – do more of that.

 

 

 

*SANE™, inSANE, SANEity – terms used in Jonathan Bailor’s books, The Smarter Science of Slim (out of print) and The Calorie Myth.

What does SANE mean? Click here.Want more scrumptious recipes? Click here to check out my SANE Cookbooks!

Allison - When you’re ready to drive to AK just let me know. I grew up there. :)

Your scramble looked delicious. I would have ordered that same thing!

Suzanne - Just read this and GUESS where I am?! Anchorage!! We’re just visiting but I was thinking…WHEN you do your road trip up here, you’ll have to let me know and we can do a Big Breakfast Adventure here too! No hospitals allowed! :)

The Transformation: SANE Eating

When my adrenal glands decided to go on strike at the end of last year I already knew that my eating needed some work.  Knowing the right things to do and putting those things into practice can be two very different things, especially if you are chronically stressed and can’t think straight.

There’s a difference between *SANE eating and not eating *inSANE foods, and that difference can be big.  Let me explain.  When you don’t eat *inSANE foods you avoid sugar of all kinds, grains, highly processed oils, most fruit, and starchy foods.  Staying away from those things is awesome for your health.  BUT.  It’s not the same as *SANE eating.  *SANE eating means focusing on nutrient-dense foods containing water, protein, fiber, and whole-food fats – and I mean ALL of those things, not just some of those things.  That difference between *SANE eating and not eating *inSANE foods is where I had inadvertently got off-track.

I was definitely not eating *inSANE foods.  If you’ve read The Calorie Myth it’s impossible to see *inSANE foods the same way as you used to.  And when you regularly spend hours with The Bailornator it’s pretty hard to look *inSANE foods in the face again, let alone let them past your lips.  So it wasn’t eating *inSANE foods that was the problem.  Rather it was not focusing on *SANE eating.  It can be easy to think we are doing everything right by not eating *inSANE foods, but that’s not always the case.

There were two things that had unwittingly derailed me in the *SANE eating department:

      1. I was skipping a lot of meals altogether.  Not out of conscious choice to try and reduce the amount of food I was eating, but because of my exhaustion and ridiculous schedule.  I was often too exhausted when I woke up in the morning to get up early enough to eat breakfast, and then, the number of days I had time to run and grab something from the café at work for breakfast was rare.  Lunchtime would roll around and if I hadn’t had the energy to pack something before I left the house, the chances of me getting a long enough break to head down to the café were almost zero.  Then my schedule regularly had me getting home so late that I was simply too tired to make dinner.  I never skipped all three meals in the same day, but there were far too many days where I skipped two, and every day I skipped at least one.  As Jonathan has repeatedly told us, “Starvation is not healthy” – whether it’s intentional or not.  Skipping meals also completely messes with our metabolism and ability to burn fat.
      2. I wasn’t eating anywhere near enough non-starchy veggies.  When I did eat, the water and fiber parts of *SANE eating were missing more often than not.  Not because I don’t love veggies – I do.  For me though, protein and fat is much easier to grab on the go than non-starchy vegetables are.  Veggies require some preparation, while beef jerky is ready in the time it takes to pull open the packet.  If I had time to eat breakfast at work it was protein and fat heavy – scrambles, omelets, bacon and sausage being the only options other than the usual array of starchy, sugary *inSANEity.  The café at my day job just doesn’t have a lot of veggies floating around at 7 am.  If I did manage to pack a lunch it was usually some protein grabbed from the meat drawer, some non-fat Greek yogurt, or cottage cheese.  Dinner more often than not comprised of more protein from the meat drawer, yogurt, cottage cheese, or scrambled eggs.  It wasn’t just lack of physical time, it was also a complete lack of energy or desire to do anything other than sleep when I got in the door.

After finding out that my adrenal glands were on a go-slow I scampered home and did some research.  Funnily enough I learned that the best diet for supporting your adrenal glands is what we call *SANE.  No surprise there then.  I also learned that when you eat is critical to supporting your adrenal glands function, so the first thing I did was get serious about eating 3 meals a day.  NO. MATTER. WHAT.  Eating good food before 10 am is vital – skipping breakfast had to stop, even though I rarely wake up hungry.  My adrenals were depending on me to send some good energy coursing through my veins as soon as I swung my legs over the side of the bed.

The other thing that happened that forced me to become laser-focused on *SANE eating was that after I got my stress and sleep under control, and started doing my eccentrics and interval training every week, my appetite tanked.  Given the small amount of food I could consume at one sitting, I had to focus on eating super-SANE in order to get enough nutrients into my body.

Those two things – needing to eat breakfast and having a very small appetite - led to me developing The Hardcore Green Smoothie.  It takes a couple of minutes to make, is not huge, and is about the *SANEst thing you could possibly drink.  Making this smoothie is the first thing that I do every day after my feet hit the floor.  It also gets 6 servings of non-starchy veg inside me before I’ve been awake for 15 minutes.  Just drinking this smoothie every day increased my overall *SANEity dramatically over where I had been.

I now eat lunch and dinner every single day.  Somewhere between noon and 1 pm you will find me eating a bowl of scrumptious SANE soup or protein with salad, and somewhere between 6 and 7 pm I’ll be guzzling down some protein and delicious veggies.  On the odd occasion I feel the need for a snack I eat a handful of roasted hazelnuts or macadamias.  Now I am focused on *SANE eating, as opposed to just not eating *inSANE foods.

Now that my body is in fat-burning mode - and I have fat to burn - my appetite is reduced, so there is no room for other SANE treats.  Once my appetite increases again I will simply add some SANE treats on top of my current regimen, but what I am doing now has become my new baseline way of eating.

So what made these changes possible?

  • Making a commitment to myself.  I determined that eating 3 meals of highly nutritious food every day was critical to my recovery and long-term wellbeing, and I made the decision that this was non-negotiable.
  • Refusing to leave the house in the morning before I’ve had a Hardcore Green Smoothie, or at the very least making it and carrying it out the door with me.
  • Grocery shopping twice a week instead of once every other week, so I always have fresh veggies (especially all that spinach!) in the house.
  • Focusing on getting protein and non-starchy veggies first, and then filling in any gaps with whole-food fats.
  • Having stuff ready in advance for the work-week.  Pre-cooking a pile of turkey or salmon burgers, hard-boiling eggs, making big batches of my soups, cutting up veggies in advance – either to eat raw or be ready to cook.  Having proteins and veggies ready to go mean I eat even when I don’t have the time or energy to cook.  This little trick may horrify some of you, because I am after all supposed to be the chef around here.  I am unrepentant.  I’ve started adding pre-cooked chicken pieces to my Trader Joe’s shopping list.  Now you very well may think that’s being lazy, but if I come home late at night I know myself well enough to know that I am not going to start cooking.  Having some pre-cooked chicken and salad ready in 2 minutes is *way* better than not eating, stuffing down something *inSANE, or swinging by the drive-through.  *SANE eating when you are tired is infinitely more important than feeling morally superior for cooking the chicken yourself.  So these days I always have some pre-cooked chicken on hand for such occasions.  Whatever makes it more likely that we will do more *SANE eating is what we should do.

The two things that had the biggest impact for me in terms of making these changes were 1) recognizing that I had inadvertently got off track, and 2) making a commitment to eating 3 meals of highly nutritious food every day.  Once I got my head sorted out with those 2 things, figuring out what I needed to do came easily, and putting it into action was just practicing until they became habits.  Now I don’t even have to think about food, yet I am eating healthier than I ever have.  Not to mention that less things to think about = a more peaceful life.

If your fat-loss has stalled, it’s worth a look to see if you are erring on the side of not eating *inSANE foods rather than *SANE eating, or skipping meals too often.  A little tweak could make all the difference.

 

*SANE™, inSANE, SANEity – terms used in Jonathan Bailor’s books, The Smarter Science of Slim (out of print) and The Calorie Myth.

What does SANE mean? Click here.Want more scrumptious recipes? Click here to check out my SANE Cookbooks!

Susan - Thank you for sharing. I am a single person and I tend to eat the same thing several times a week. I cook but it’s very difficult to create just one portion of something. I do freeze food into serving portions though. I don’t like to shop for anything so the thought of grocery shopping twice a week is not appealing but maybe that is exactly what I need to do.
Again, thanks for sharing.

Terry - Wow…I have my eyes and ears open now. I have been eating pretty SANE but have not been eating with purpose. Thanks for the wake up call! I have my marching orders now. I need to be purposeful in my eating.

Thanks, Carrie.

Pat Otto - It seems so counterintuitive to eat when you are not hungry. I would make your soups then blend them to be able to drink down more at a time. Now warm weather is here (in Florida – 80′s already) so soups aren’t as appealing. I have not been able to chug down blended salads – tastes to me like eating grass clippings – also there are lots of blogs that say don’t eat raw spinach or kale, only cooked.
Good point about not eating insane – but not eating Sane either – that has been me. Thanks for the post. I will make and effort to get back on the (veggie)wagon.

Betta - Hi Carrie,
Thank you so much for your recent posts, “magically” they came at the right time. I have been listening to your podcast and reading your blog since last October, and thanks to you and Jonathan I finally felt really well. Unfortunately after my dad’s death a month ago, I felt off the wagon…. Your posts gave me the motivation and the strength to pick up where I left…. Thank you!!

carrie - Susan – I don’t like shopping either! However, the benefits of always having fresh veggies in the house have far outweighed the negatives of nipping into TJ’s for 15 minutes twice a week to grab them, so I just do it.

lee adley - So the amount of spinach in this smoothie is equivalent then to 6 potions of green veg??

Shannon - I know this struggle. I have my work week down. For me, it is the weekend because we are usually running out of food. If I want to go out on a Friday night, the weekend is messed up because I haven’t bought groceries yet. Plus my focus is on my children’s events (baseball, etc). I’m starting to realize that I might have to plan twice a week rather than once.

If this mom, family of 5 and all boys, can get her whole family to eat SANE, I know you can do it too. Planning ahead is the key to success.

carrie - Lee – I say 1 oz spinach = 1 serving

carrie - Shannon – planning really does make it SOOOOOOOOOOOOO much easier to reach our goals!

Pam - Carrie – your message was SO TIMELY! I realize that I have been doing exactly what you said for the exact reasons you stated. Easier to grab a protein/fat serving on the go than to grab veggies – time for me to start making those smoothies AND more soups. I’m really new to SANE eating although I’ve been listening to the podcasts for a long time but have never really committed to a completely SANE lifestyle! I have been avoiding ‘inSane’ but not eating totally SANE. So, WOW thanks for the inspiration – again :-)

Lori - Carrie, I found myself doing the same thing. I’m lucky that the cafe in my office building makes amazing omelets chock full of onions and green peppers. And the omelets are so big I can never finish the whole thing.

One of the things that has become my savior is the veggie steamer bags in the frozen food section of the grocery store. My freezer gets jam packed full of them and I bring them into the office on Monday to keep me going for the week. Every afternoon – between lunch and before I leave, I pop one of them in the office microwave and bam – 4 servings at least – depending on the veggie of the day. I top it off with a little Kerrygold butter and I’m happy, though it is tough not to overdo the butter. I figure if a little butter helps to get the veggies in – I’m ok.

Monica - The pics of the soup and the salad look Amazing. . . recipe? :))

Susan - Could you post a recipe for salmon burgers please.

carrie - Hi Susan – the Salmon Burgers that I refer to are from Costco – they come ready made. I will get to a made-from-scratch Salmon Burger recipe at some point, just cannot tell you when. Hope that helps!

The Transformation: Stress » Carrie Brown | Life in the SANE lane - […] The Transformation: SANE Eating […]

Noor - Dear Carrie,
First – thank you for sharing your lovely recipes and experiences!
I found this particular blog very personal and interesting because I struggle with weight management due to cortisone production. I have a rare autoimmune condition – Addisons disease. Basically, my immune system attacked my adrenal glands and destroyed them. I have to take cortisone replacements every day for the rest of my life. I used to be able to eat anything I wanted and maintain a healthy weight. Now, I just need to smell a piece of sweet or indulgent savory and the kilos pile on.
I have been trying to follow the SANE lifestyle but struggle to do it properly because I also have to follow the FODMAP diet and can’t eat many of the vegetables you use in your recipes. I have not seen any results yet and I have been trying to follow SANE eating as much has possible for two months now. I think that is because every time I get sick, I need to increase my cortisone intake and I gain weight rapidly even though I watch what I eat.
As you also had trouble with your adrenal glands, do you have any advice for me? Is it possible for me to lose weight and maintain a healthy weight without gaining so much every time I need to increase my cortisone?
Any advice is greatly appreciated!

Jared K. - Great post, Carrie.

The distinction you make is SO important, and it’s very easy to get lost in our modern society that says “I don’t want to read. Just tell me what I can and can’t eat”.

It’s not only the absence of bad stuff that helps us be more healthful. That’s only one part of the equation.

It’s just as (if not more) important to add in the nutrient dense foods.

As Jonathan would say, please keep the “knowledge bombs” coming. ;-)

SANE SWAG! (Updated!)

Just dropping in to say, “Hello, lovely Calorie Myth’ers!”

I hope your week is going brilliantly.  I come bearing tidings of great joy.  Following a bevy of requests, I’ve been doing a different kind of creating for you over the last couple of weeks: SWAG.  Better than that: SANE SWAG.  Because going SANE is just funner if you have some SWAG to brighten life up, to help keep you on track, to motivate you, to amuse you, and otherwise inspire you to keep moving forward towards the SANEst version of yourself.

There’s mugs, t-shirts, water bottles, journals, hoodies, magnets, even baseball caps and aprons.  You can go directly to my little store here (US) or you can get a preview of all the goodness by visiting this page.  Not in the US?  I have set up stores for you in the following countries:

US    |    CANADA    |    UK    |    GERMANY    |    SPAIN    |    FRANCE    |    AUSTRALIA    |    NEW ZEALAND    |    BRASIL

I have also put an easy link in the menu bar  above under “STORE” so you can easily find everything again.  I hope you love it all.  I hope it helps you on your journey.  I hope you get a lot of enjoyment out of it.

Have something you want but don’t see it?  Want your favorite inspirational quote on something?  Have a great idea for something different?  Let me know and I’ll create it!

zazzle18

The fine print: It’s true. I make a 5% commission on sales, which while giving me just a small amount per purchase, all adds up to help keep the lights on and the wheels turning over here on this blog – and keeps it ad free.

Get yourself some fun stuff and in doing so support your favorite (?!) SANE chef!!  Every little helps, and I cannot tell you how hugely your support is appreciated.

Whatever makes you feel good, do more of that.

 

 

 

*SANE™, inSANE, SANEity – terms used in Jonathan Bailor’s books, The Smarter Science of Slim (out of print) and The Calorie Myth.

What does SANE mean? Click here.Want more scrumptious recipes? Click here to check out my SANE Cookbooks!

SANE SWAG!

This post was updated and replaced with this one.

 

The second version is SO much better!

 

Happy Friday!

*SANE™, inSANE, SANEity – terms used in Jonathan Bailor’s books, The Smarter Science of Slim (out of print) and The Calorie Myth.

What does SANE mean? Click here.Want more scrumptious recipes? Click here to check out my SANE Cookbooks!

Fi - Love lOve love!!
Just went thru to order tee, magnet, hoodie, mug…. But as I’m in uk, shipping came to nearly twice as much as the goods!!!! So I’m afraid, Carrie, I won’t be able to order! But, I do love them!!!

carrie - FI! You can!!! I set up a local UK Store for you: http://www.zazzle.co.uk/CarrieBrownBlog?rf=238386382098264295 Happy shopping! I also updated a new post with links to all the local stores. Hope that helps!

Fi - Awesome!! Off there to order now!! So cool!!
Can we get the ‘screw the scale’ design on magnet/tee too? And how about something with ‘resistance not reps’? X

carrie - The new products should be live tomorrow, Fi!