Tuesday 31 March 2015

Abstainer or Moderator? The One Square of Chocolate a Day Test

What I should have had instead of wine and chocolate!
So I went down the pub.  Had a glass of red wine.  So far, so not so bad.  Cos, see, the Viva Mayr regime doesn't exclude the odd glass of wine.  However, of course, I didn't stop at the one.  I had another.  And then I went home and, before I knew it, I was sitting watching Poldark with my paw in the bag of mini eggs I'd bought for James.  Okay, let's step back there - I had metered out a small bowl of them, saving the majority for James but, well, you know how it goes...
Or do you?
According to a book I read lately for research, we all tend to fall into one of two camps - we're moderators or abstainers.
Gretchen Rubin, author of Better Than Before: Mastering the Habits of Our Everyday Lives says, 'We're often told, ‘Be moderate. Don’t indulge every day, but don’t deny yourself altogether because, if you do, you’ll fall even further off the wagon.’

You know the deal - it's behind the whole 80:20 eating idea - if you eat healthily 80 percent of the time, it's fine to indulge for the other 20 percent.  Except...it just doesn't work for everyone.  It certainly doesn't work for me.  I'm an all or nothing person.  I've tried moderation - again and again - and I come up short every time.

I actually find it much easier to give up something altogether than to just dabble in it.  I'd rather fast than diet; I'd rather wreck myself with four hours exercise a day than do a sensible hour three times a week. Maybe that's part and parcel of having an addictive personality?
Anyhow, with Gretchen, I found a kindred spirit.  'I realized that one way to deprive myself without creating a feeling of deprivation is to deprive myself totally,' she says.   'Weirdly, when I deprive myself altogether, I feel as though I haven’t deprived myself at all.'  And I nodded in total agreement.

Remember back when I stopped drinking alcohol altogether?  I didn't miss it at all.  Easy-peasy, lemon squeezy.  Now I drink it occasionally, I find that I really can't just drink the one glass, I'll scarf the bottle (and then look winningly at a second).  So that makes me one of life's Abstainers apparently.   'When we Abstainers deprive ourselves totally, we conserve energy and will-power,' says Gretchen. 'Because there are no decisions to make and no self-control to muster.'

According to her research, we fall into either the Abstainer camp - those who do better when they follow all-or-nothing habits - or the Moderator camp - those who do better when they indulge - yup, moderately.

How to tell?  Could you put a large bar of chocolate in your fridge and eat one square every day?  Or have one glass of wine and pop the cork back in the bottle without the barest urge to neck the lot? (feel free to substitute your favourite temptation here).  This is the point at which the Moderators shrug and go, 'Duh!  Of course I could. Who couldn't?'  This is also the point at which the Abstainers snort with laughter and go, 'Duh! Don't be an effing numpty!'

Gretchen reckons that the less we indulge in something, the less we want it.  'When we believe that a craving will remain unsatisfied, it may diminish; cravings are more provoked by possibility than by denial,' she says, and then quotes William James:  ‘It is surprising how soon a desire will die of inanition if it be never fed.’

Etymology: L, inanis, empty

1 an exhausted condition resulting from lack of food and water or a defect in assimilation; starvation.
2 a state of lethargy characterized by a loss of vitality or vigor in all aspects of social, moral, and intellectual life.

And then she quotes Samael Johnson:  ‘I can’t drink a little, child; therefore I never touch it. Abstinence is as easy to me, as temperance would be difficult’.

Have I wrecked my Viva Mayr Cure?  Probably not, but I know myself well enough to realise that I've probably sewn the seeds for last week's good foundations slipping away.  For what?  For a glass of wine and a bag of sugar?  Pretty dumb, huh?

Anyway, the book is great - a real eye-opener.  If you are interested in what makes you tick, and why you find it nigh-on impossible to make healthy habits, or to ditch the unhealthy ones, I'd highly recommend it.  Click on the cover below to check it out.

Monday 30 March 2015

How to eat - the Viva Mayr way - for weightloss, energy and good health

I did feel pretty grim during most of my week at Viva Mayr.  But then, it was only a week, and one is supposed to take the 'cure' for two or, preferably, three weeks.  Over the last couple of days, however, since I've been home, I have been feeling much better.  I'm continuing with the dietary programme and finding it an interesting process.

It's totally different from most detox programmes on offer.  Forget juicing and raw vegan regimes, the Mayr doctors believe firmly that cold raw food is tough on the digestion.  Their principles revolve mainly around getting the right acid/alkaline balance in the body and not stressing the gut with problematic foods and food combinations.  At a Mayr clinic you will usually be tested for food intolerances, either via conventional lab tests or by the less conventional kinesiology (muscle testing).

They don't advocate lifetime exclusion diets.  Often a short break from difficult foods allows the gut time to sort itself out (to use a highly technical term) and you can reintroduce the food later with no problems.

Anyhow.  There are a few general rules and regulations which seem to hold good for pretty well everyone so I thought I'd share them.  The proof of the pudding is in the eating, so to speak, so if they do speak to you, then try 'em out.  Nothing to lose and potentially a lot to gain.

1. Keep cold liquids separate from mealtimes.  There are no carafes of water on the table at Viva Mayr as water is thought to dilute the digestive juices.  You're asked not to drink for half an hour before mealtimes, and for 60-90 minutes afterwards.  Curiously, the odd glass of wine with a meal is fine - but not the whole bottle!  Ideally 'eat' your wine with a teaspoon.

2. Always eat at a table, without any distractions.  So, no reading, no television watching, no working at your desk, no browsing Twitter, no conversation even.  Focus on your food and be mindful.

3. Smell your food before you eat.  Your brain will recognise what you're about to eat and will signal to your digestive system to fire up the right enzymes and acids required to deal with the incoming load.

4. Chew. And chew and chew and chew.  The more you chew your food, the more you make it easily digestible.  Digestion begins in the mouth, remember, with saliva.  The mouth can also be the last chance for some foods (vegetables in particular) to have their outer skin broken, allowing essential nutrients to be absorbed by the digestive tract.  If you don't chew, you risk losing out on vital nutrients and micronutrients.  You can also end up feeding the bacteria in your colon, producing gas. If you eat meat, then chewing is particularly important - if you're eating steak you should aim for 50 chews per mouthful.  Yup, you read that right.

5. Raw food is fine - providing you chew properly.  However Viva Mayr has the rule 'nothing raw after four (pm)' - as your digestive powers start lessening after that time and could cause food to sit around undigested overnight, powering up the gassy bacterial brigade.

6. Smoothies are fine - in small doses.  They are full of good things but tend not to have enough enzymes for easy digestion.  Have one small cup at lunch, if you like, but 'eat' it with a spoon very slowly (as for wine).  Eat fruit in the same way - slowly and well chewed.

7. Don't snack in between meals.  Instead use mid-morning and mid-afternoon as times to take water and plenty of it.

8. Make breakfast the largest meal of the day, lunch reasonable and supper very small and light.  Eat your supper as early as possible - at Viva Mayr dinner kicked off at 5pm.  A small bowl of soup is ideal.  Or a dish of potatoes drizzled with linseed or hempseed oil (Viva Mayr loves potatoes for their alkalising effect).

9. As far as possible, practice food combining.  So eat carbohydrate with vegetables, or protein with vegetables, but try to avoid mixing protein and carbohydrate at the same meal.  Though, to be fair, they seemed to mix them up a fair bit at Viva Mayr.

10. One small cup of decent coffee a day is fine - ideally at breakfast.  Then switch to herbal teas.

I was on a very strict diet at the clinic and, as you'll have seen, my meals were very bland and pretty uninspiring.  But it doesn't need to be that draconian. As we left, we were given copies of the newly published Eat Alkaline: The Viva- Mayr- Principleby Harald Stossier and Emanuela Fischer
Although it does go in to some of the philosophy behind the Viva diet, it's primarily a cookbook and a rather inspiring one too, packed with nice looking recipes, divided into the four seasons.  So, we're talking about things like Early Potato Strudel with Fresh Spinach.
Millet Wraps with Artichoke Dip...
Moist Poppyseed Cake with Warm Raspberry Sauce
In case you're wondering, yes, there are fish and meat recipes too, though Viva Mayr suggest you eat them just two or three times a week.
The meat-adoring, 'health food' abhorrent husband sniffed when he saw the book but when he started flicking through he had to admit that a lot of it looked 'rather good.'

Click the pic for a link

Thursday 26 March 2015

The Pale, Paler, Palest Diet

So, I'm not feeling good.  Not good at all.  But then, as the charming Dr Sepp Fegerl (the clinic's medical director) says, 'If you want to feel better, you have to feel worse to begin with.'  The Mayr Cure goes deep, it seems, and plucks out all kinds of old nonsense from the body.

So, today, as he massaged my poor groaning abdomen, he told me about the 75 year old woman who spontaneously had LSD flashback while undergoing the Mayr.  And a similarly aged man who was mightily alarmed when he looked in the loo and saw he'd passed something that looked like a long red tube.  It turned out to be something he'd swallowed when he was a child.

And then he smiled (Dr Fegerl, not the guy who'd swallowed the tube).  'Of course, if it's not the right time for you, or it's all too much, we can back off; you don't have to do it now.'

Yeah, well, you know me.  I accept most challenges.  Not eating much doesn't bother me at all.  But it's a bit demoralising when the choices get smaller and smaller each day.

It started off so well - with a pretty solid breakfast of omelette, manchego cheese and spelt roll.  A bit anaemic but hey...  Because it's Viva Mayr you're supposed to eat in silence (so you're mindful of what you're eating) and you are supposed to chew each mouthful as many times as possible (the aim is 40 chews per mouthful).  Why?  Because digestion begins in the mouth so you need to unleash as much saliva as possible.  And also because this can be the last opportunity for certain cell membranes to be broken down.  Don't chew your peas properly and they will just pass through more or less undigested.
Here's lunch...a small (very small) bowl of soup, a jaw-breaking buckwheat roll and two slivers of Camembert. Curiously, the Mayr Cure includes dairy produce and even red  meat on its cure.  So, fine, if a tad bland.  And not exactly a colourful plate, eh?
And for supper?  Mayr firmly holds to the principle that you don't eat much in the evening.  So supper kicks off at 5pm (and the kitchen closes up at 6.30pm) and, in my case, consisted of herbal tea and, er...no, not dog biscuits...or even dog turds...but soy bread.
Which was all well and good until Dr Fegerl tested me for food intolerances and wiped out eggs, cheese and yoghurt.  So, given I don't eat meat and fish...my choices were getting more and more limited, and more and more bland.
And, after that...well...it got a bit pale...
 And paler...
 And the palest.
Forget the Paleo Diet...this is the Pale, Paler, Palest Diet.  Yummy.

Tuesday 24 March 2015

High-tech and low-choice at VIVAMAYR

Yes, I'm hugely lucky that my job lets me travel so much and go to such incredible places.  But, you know, it's not all pampering massages and luscious facials, no sirree.
Sometimes you get what you need rather than what you'd really like.  Here at VIVAMAYR, there's no perusing long menus of spa 'journeys' and beauty treatments; no umming and aahing about which massage to have.  You see the doctor, who orders a battery of tests.  Actually I got off quite lightly with just free radical measuring and mineral analysis (maybe because I looked wild-eyed and terrified about the potential costs - each and every test costs extra here and, although as journalists, we get a certain amount for free, even so it's apparently quite easy to rack up a bill that runs into hundreds or even thousands for extras).
So, they took my blood and gave me an infusion of vitamins and minerals in its place...
Apparently I'm not breathing properly - well, there's a surprise!  So I've been doing some IHHT (aka Hypoxytraining or Altitude training) - fetching mask, huh?
Next up, I was booked in for a 'relaxing' massage but...  My therapist Jan drove his thumb into my shoulder. 'On a scale of one to ten, where ten is unbearable, how much does it hurt?' he said.
'Er,up at about a nine,' I said, tears in my eyes.
He nodded, and kept pressing.
But hey, it's all good.  Turns out I've got a rotator cuff injury (have been struggling with arm pain for months) and no amount of soft soothing effluerage is going to fix that.

Then there's the food.  But let's save that for another post, huh?

Scorching my ladycarriage by remote at the new VIVA MAYR at Altaussee

So, I was shown round my room at the brand new VIVA MAYR clinic, and it all looked pretty standard.  Nice bathroom - all the usual gear except...
'The toilet has a remote control,' said my guide with a flourish.  I frowned. Something was surely lost in translation.

She logged the look, reached to the wall and plucked out, yup, a remote control.  'Very high-tech,' she said.  'Just like in  Japan.'

Okaaay.  But this is Austria.  Back at the original clinic I seem to remember the loos all had a shelf so you could inspect your outgoing messages but this was something quite, quite different.  Could you fast forward with it? Pause mid-stool? Record your, um, progress???

We looked at one another, the loo and I.  It narrowed its eyes and gave me a challenging 'you'll never dare test-drive me, you scaredy cat, unhygienic English person' sneer.
'You bet I will, you weird unfeasibly bizarre Japanese contraption,' I said.  And looked around for the instruction manual.
What?  Nothing.  Picked up the remote and tried to figure it out.  I mean, really...a picture of a woman (water jets straight up the fanny?); a symbol for wind (drying presumably) and a flower (deodorising?).
Oh, what the hell.  I took the same approach as I do with any remote -  just flail around pressing buttons willy-nilly.  Oooh...the fanny current was weird but not unpleasant.  Then...ouch!  OUCH!  It was trying to nuke my ladycarriage.  I swear I got up singed.

Anyhow.  I still didn't really see the point.  Until the next day.
You start each day like this:

"7.15AM - Taking VIVAMAYR morning drink (intestine cleaning).  Altaussee's Glaubersalt directly from the inner mountain-spring into your bottle.  Pour some warm water into this and drink slowly." (sic)
Ye gods, it tastes disgusting.  Like downing a carafe of ocean.  Apparently it's supposed to suck all the muck out of your digestive system.

Then you get breakfast, lunch and dinner which consist of...very little.  So my dinner looked like this:

No, those aren't dog chew sticks - they're soy bread rolls.  And yup, that's a pot of herb tea.  And yup, that's it.

Then the gurgling began.  Pretty soon I had a concerto going on in my guts - a quartet of stomach, duodenum, ileum and colon.  Not long after that I found myself walking smartly to the loo.  And again...and again...and again...  Let's just say I clocked 15 times within the space of an hour.

And that was when the loo gave me a knowing look.  'Admit it,' it said.  'You need me.'

This may not be the start of a beautiful relationship but let's just say, we've reached an agreement,

Thursday 5 March 2015

Tazeka Aromatherapy - a dose of optimism, balance and motivation in shiny pretty bottles!

Remember, all those years back, when I talked about flirting?  Not about how people flirt (well, not necessarily) but how things can flirt with you?  Well, that’s what happened with Tazeka Aromatherapy.  

I was kicking around on Twitter, as you do, and noticed this woman tweeting about aromatherapy oils.  Not just any old aromatherapy oils but little phials that looked for all the world as if they’d been dropped by fairies, or fallen out of a treasure chest from the 1001 Nights.  Pretty shiny things that, for some strange reason, reminded me of being young (I’m trying to catch the connection and I think it might be that trend for shiny metallic Christmas wrapping paper).  I don’t really know why but they just…flirted. Appallingly.

I frittered away a ridiculous amount of time wandering around the Tazeka website, trying to decide which blends I needed the most.  It was tough – I reckoned it had to be Optimism and Balance above all else, followed by a swift dose of Motivation, Confidence and Concentrate.  And yet my eye was also drawn to Meditation Guru (something has to haul me back to meditation practice).  Slim Solution?  Yup, that would go down well too.  Actually it was all starting to give me a headache. Oh, right, Headache Helper.

We got talking, Zena and I, the way you do on Twitter and, one thing led to another and she offered to send me some samples.  And I admit, there was a part of me that wondered if they might be all style and no substance but no. These things work, they really do.  Plus they're organic and ethical and just darn nice.  Read this and see what I mean...

So now I have them all lined up on my desk and I double and triple layer them – because, frankly, one really needs to be optimistic and balanced and motivated and confident (not to mention calm and focused and slim and serene) on a regular basis, right?  I also play around with them, like toys, lining them up according to my mood – sometimes they go in chakra order from purple (Wise Woman) down to deep red (Confidence) and sometimes I go for colour clashes.

Anyhow.  The business is really really new and at the moment you can only order from the US (which whacks postage on).  Sooo…come on, let’s get these out there, okay?  If you know any spas or gorgeous shops that would like to run the range, get in touch with Zena.  If you know any beauty or health editors (anywhere in the world) who might run a review, get in touch.  Why?  Because, I don't know about you but I love people who have a passion and who make their dreams come true. Plus I get a serious kick out of a product that not only works really well but which looks pretty damn fabulous too – and these are seriously lush.

I’ve reviewed them, in a slightly more sane and reasoned manner, on Queen of Retreats.  Check it out here.