Category Archives: health

Our real home

What is the real home we live in?

Do you invest in the profitability of bricks and concrete or in the quality of the only real home you will live in all your life?

This interesting question arose when I was looking for a possible alternative home that would better suit my changing needs.

I visited an expensive flat that was being sold by a charming and talkative man who had once bought the flat on plan as an investment, and now wanted to get rid of it because he considered “the profitability to be insufficient”.

I listened and observed the man carefully as we walked through the fairly recent flat, which as usual had a mixture of good and less suitable features. It also struck me as a little “boxy”. I immediately felt like wanting to tear down the partition walls and opening up the space.

The man himself did not look healthy at all. I felt something like high blood pressure and could not help feeling that he was on medication. Nevertheless, he had a successful career in the medical field. A bit like the prototype of the hardworking, socially successful worker with lots of savings and many investments in “real estate”.

Vital energy

I realised that “real estate” is somewhat illusory. The only thing that remains real is change.
I had the feeling that there are two relevant dwellings in which we spend our whole lives. On the one hand, the energetic and physical entity of our individual body.
On the other, the larger home of this planet where we as privileged beings may temporarily reside.

How do we deal with these houses?
Where do you invest your money and life energy?

Respect for one’s own body and the larger body of this earth creates the basic conditions for a meaningful and successful existence, where you can let the best of yourself flourish in a sound relationship with the greater whole.

Picture of different granulated sugars

Sugar is a drug

The food industry has incorporated sugar in just about all common products, to the point of absurdity. Suppose you make a fresh tomato sauce with very fresh tomatoes, onions, garlic, fresh herbs. Would finish your sauce by adding two heaped tablespoons of white sugar?
Well, I guess not !
And yet that is exactly what the food industry does. Sugar is even added to things like bacon. All the bread in the supermarket has sugar in it.

The only reason why the food industry adds sugar everywhere, and even sometimes in hallucinatory amounts, is that sugar causes a physiological reaction that makes you want to eat even more.

As part of a 30-day no refined sugar challenge, I decided to take a look at how much sugar and in what form I actually keep in my pantry. Refined white sugar, the cocaine of sweeteners, has been out of my kitchen pantry for about 20 years. And when I bought or ate something sweet, like a piece of cake, I always went for the so-called better kinds of sweeteners. Like coconut blossom sugar, whole raw cane sugar and so on.

Glycemic index

One of the criteria for finding the best alternative was to go for the lowest “glycemic index” of a sweetener. That index is supposed to be a measurement of how fast sugar is metabolised, and the slower, the better. But it could be yet another false concept from the food industry. Each sweetener comes with its own marketing tactics, which would have us all believe that this one is better than the other. In Europe, cane sugar has long been considered better than the more common beet sugar. Simply because it is exotic and tropical and therefore has a more natural, unspoilt image. But it is still sugar.

Eight alternatives

Wow, I discovered that I currently have 8 alternatives to refined sugar in stock, some never used, some occasionally, albeit in moderate amounts. Today’s main sweetener for baking or making sweet desserts is not in the photos, that is medjoul dates. Apart from that, I still use a teaspoon of maple or rice syrup over a portion of soy yoghurt, for example.
It reflects a decades-long search for “the good/best sweetener”, but it also reflects the problem I really have: an excessive craving for sweet things. Even after a large, complete and healthy meal, I often feel the need to end it on a sweet note.

Resisting temptation

It must be purely emotional. Last night, for the first time in a long time, I felt an emotional dip, partly because I was physically and mentally very tired. Normally, I would smother such dips by grabbing a banana or an apple or putting a dried fig or date in my mouth. But this month I am playing the “no sugar” challenge: no more fruit during the day after breakfast. And also resist the temptation not only for refined sugar and its 60+ disguises, but for sweet in general. To see what this experience could teach me.

Sweet during childhood

I had been thinking all day about the role of sweetness today and in my childhood and youth.
Today, I am “tickled” to buy something sweet when I go into town. I eat sweet in search of peace, to escape stressful situations. When in town, I often walk into a health food shop or supermarket, even if I don’t have to be there. Just to get a supposedly healthy sweet date-nut protein bar and eat it to feel an instant sense of relief and satisfaction.
As a youngster, satisfying the sweet tooth was a daily ritual. Sugary things were everywhere. Bread with chocolate spread and jam was served at breakfast, together and mixed with salty cheeses or processed meats. No wonder I remember having stomach cramps every now and then. When we came home from school, around 5 p.m., my mother served us a sweet snack, made of sugared “Dr Oetker” pudding powder, to be dissolved in boiling milk. W either vanilla flavour or chocolate flavour. In the vanilla variant, my mother would always soak two or three speculoos biscuits (the typical Belgian allspice and cinnamon biscuit called speculoos). It tasted heavenly and kept us satisfied for a couple of hours before dinner, so that might have been some sort of device to control our behaviour.

Dealing with high sensitivity

I realise that, as a hypersensitive child I had to deal daily with rather mundane situations that were challenging and stressful for me. Plus there was a lack of my own territory. The sweet became like a drug. I must have rarely felt safe outside the house, and stressed once home. At home, there were the special events where we felt we were noticed or taken into account, with family dinners and their dessert buffets. Or the occasional waffle and pancake nights where you could cut through the sugar in the baking smells.
I am still very sensitive to auditory and visual over-stimulation, I dislike crowded, noisy environments or large crowds, and whenever I find myself in them, the craving for sweetness rears its head.

Recalibration

The really interesting part of the month will be the recalibration of the taste buds. By reducing my intake of concentrated sweetness, I can re-appreciate the subtle sweetness present in, for example, a cashew nut, in steamed pumpkin puree, in carrots, in a watermelon, in almond paste, in sprouted lentils or even in unsweetened grains such as boiled rice. I feel this will be a great benefit. Being able to taste the natural sweetness in pure, unprocessed foods without needing a shot or overdose of all those concentrated sweeteners.
It’s almost like learning to revalue life in its smallest aspects, without the need for powerful, explosive sensations.

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What it will be about in any case is regaining freedom. Because if you find yourself craving a certain taste and getting saddled with an uncontrollable urge, you become a slave to it. To an emotion that doesn’t get a proper response. And which you try to numb with food.
Picture of visual fat loss progress

Halfway through

Four out of eight weeks of fat loss challenge are already a thing of the past.
And, how are things going?

What I’m actually doing

(What is it all about?)
I want to make a conscious change to my body.
To do so, I am stepping out of my comfort zone.
I put myself into a conscious calorie deficiency of about 20% for a period of 8 weeks.
In addition, I am following a progressive power training programme.

The first experiences

The centimetres are disappearing, slowly but surely.
I was not overweight in the classic sense of the term, and yet I saw and felt that I was walking around with too much fat. Even in places where I would rather not see it. For me these are the legs and in the waist.

In figures there is little spectacular to report compared to those who really want to get rid of a lot of overweight or centimetres. And then: that’s the way it should be. Every body is unique. Comparing with others often marks the end of joy. So it is better to look at what’s on your own plate.
Each Monday I can take off with a lower starting weight.

Physically speaking, it was not easy at first:

  • There were days when I felt weaker and my voice sounded weaker too
  • The first weeks my sleep was significantly worse in quality
  • The higher protein intake did not feel completely OK during the first weeks. Now it does.
  • The power training sometimes felt heavy, especially in combination with eating less

Forward … march !

Mentally I feel strengthened. The challenge, together with the corresponding assignments, diagrams and tables:

  • help me to structure
  • challenge me to be more thorough
  • confront me with my inferior sides, such as laziness, procrastination, lack of consistency
  • Inspire me to clean up and get along with business in other areas of my life, just like “cleaning up” my body
  • challenge me and make me curious to learn more and understand more
  • ensure that I also make commitments in other areas of my life

Emotionally it is sometimes a bit difficult:

  • For the first few weeks I was often in a bad mood, I was walking on the tips of my toes
  • A couple of times I succumbed to the temptation of eating more than I was allowed that day, and then I was disappointed and a little angry with myself
  • Some existential doubts are still gnawing at me. Like: Why am I doing this? Isn’t this just belly-button staring?

The first benefits show up and let them feel

There is a clear visual result and from the inside it feels very different.

  • Round my waist and on my belly the underlying muscles become visible
  • I get more strength in my legs and mobility in my hip joints
  • I am more stable
  • In my yoga practice I feel the extra space and the lightness around my belly

There is, physically speaking, less ‘stuff in the way’.

The most important learning points

What I have learnt about myself going through this process:

  • The power of calorie management and monitoring the ratio of the three macro-nutrients (carbohydrates, proteins, fats)
  • All excess weight and fat can be traced back to “too much”. Systematically eating too much than you need in relation to your activity level
  • Even with a full stomach, just after a meal, I am still hungry for “something extra”. At that moment it is neither physical hunger nor a necessity. So what is it? What do I do with it?
  • I understand now that I generally drank too little water. Drinking more water is more beneficial than I thought

What I am not yet on good terms with

The whole protein story is still dubious. As part of these eight weeks of conscious fat loss, with the combination of calorie calculation and moderation plus the strength training, I am also expected to eat a lot of extra protein.
Is that really necessary? Or is that part of the famous protein myth? The myth that protein deficiency lurks around every corner. While the reality is, that the majority of westerners take in far too much protein … . To be continued.
I now play the game according to the rules of the challenge.

What the real challenge will be

Maintaining this beautiful result (which will only be better in 4 weeks) and to stay ahead of the seemingly random fluctuations of the past.
Counting the calories requires work and discipline. I find it very useful. It pushes you with your nose upon the facts, it’s done with guessing, fantasizing and wet fingerwork.
But maybe I won’t always be able to make time for it. So maybe I would like to evolve to a slightly more intuitive way of eating.
And still be able to maintain and master body weight and body constitution, without daily food tracking.

I realize this is about much more than just making a selfie of progress. It’s a picture of the inside as well as the outside. Changing your body equals changing your mind and vice versa.

Neti nose flush

The yoga path is a path of personal development, striving to experience what is called “the divine essence”.
This is a state in which all the superfluous, all illusions, all ballast, whether mental, emotional, physical or energetic, has been released.
So it presupposes a cleansing on all levels. This “cleansing”, and especially the maintenance of a state of purity, is a prerequisite for good meditation, in order to be able to perceive the most subtle movements of consciousness and energy in the body.
In fact, there is a lot of truth in that. An emotional layer that is torn by violent emotions, a mind that is misty or overly excited by inappropriate, or excessively stimulating nutrition, or a body that suffers from a high degree of obesity or too many toxins is not conducive to lucid concentration or serene meditation.

Purity

Old yoga texts therefore contain relatively many instructions on purity and hygiene. Purity of the body, purity of food, purity of one’s relationship to oneself, to others and to the world.
The sanskrit term for purity is saucha.
The purity of the body was taken very literally. The daily purification of all body orifices is part of this. The aim was to remove all kinds of unruly dirt that jhad gotten incrusted in the body.
Rinsing the large intestine (colon cleansing), or swallowing a long stretch of fabrie which is then slowly pulled out again. Or drinking a large quantity of lukewarm salted water and then vomiting up the entire contents of the stomach. It was all part of the process and sometimes looked more like self-flagellation.

Nasal rinse

However, some of these practices are easily achievable and of great benefit to modern people. One of them is the daily rinsing of the nose with lukewarm salted water.
I learned it in the days when I was still practising Kundalini yoga. In the meantime I have abandoned that particular type of yoga. But I am still into the neti-nose rinse almost on a daily basis.
Together with ditching milk products, the neti-nose rinse is also one of the key reasons why I have almost never suffered from nasal colds for more than 7 years now.
Picture of tools for netu nose flush

What do you need

Very little, in fact!

  • A little jug for nasal rinsing
  • A solution of sea salt or himalaya salt in water
  • A kettle or water heater
  • 5 minutes of discipline every morning

The saline solution

Sea salt and himalaya salt are closest to the salt found in nature. After all, in addition to the ordinary sodium chloride, they contain countless other salts and minerals.
How concentrated should it be?
When I first heard about neti-nose rinsing, there was no clarity or clear information at all about it in the Kundalini world. People just went along, and it sometimes seemed like a form of competition to show who was the toughest: the more salt, the better. The more it gave a burning sensation in the nose, the better.
But today we are going to use our common sense and above all, treat our body with love and respect. That is why it is good to have a look at the natural internal salt concentration of the body, and take that as a starting point for an efficient and pleasant mixture. In a ratio that purifies the nose well and only causes a slight, rather pleasant activation of the mucous membranes.
The natural salt concentration of our body is approximately 8.5 to 9 grams of salt per litre.

A bottle with stock solution

Preparing the salted water and storing it in a bottle is a very practical way of working. It provides you with good rinsing water at an appropriate temperature every day:

  • Take a 1 litre glass bottle, with a resealable ceramic stopper
  • Weigh about 20 to 25 grams of salt
  • Bring the salt into the bottle, and then fill the bottle almost completely with warm tap water
  • Shake the mixture until the salt is completely dissolved
  • Fill further with cold water until the bottle is full.

You now have a bottle with a saline solution of 20 to 25 grams per litre. That is twice as concentrated as what you need.

The daily rinse

Now proceed as follows in the morning:

  • Take a glass with about the same content as your neti jug
  • Fill half the glass with the salt solution from the storage bottle
  • Fill the other half with hot, boiled water
  • Pour the mixture into your neti jug
  • Go stand with your head tilted to one side above a washbasin or sink
  • Insert the spout of the jug into your upper nostril and pour the liquid into it
  • Let the water drain through your internal nasal cavity and through the lower nostril into the sink
  • You can, if so desired, breathe in the saline rinsing liquid a bit. Hold your head tilted slightly backwards in order to “gargle”
  • Repeat the cleansing procedure with your head the other way around until the jug is empty
  • Finally, snout forcefully to empty each nostril in order to remove any remaining impurities.

For maintenance, just rinse the jug with water after use.

Free breathing

By cleaning your nose in this way at the beginning of every day, you ensure a clean nasal cavity in which dirt does not get a chance to linger. After all, it is precisely in these waste products that bacteria and viruses can nestle in advance, after which they easily find their way up into the nasal cavity. They can be at the origin of colds or flu.

Moreover, after rinsing, you will experience the pleasant feeling of free and unhindered breathing, which also benefits your morning yoga practice.

The white porcelain neti jugs of German manufacture are available in the yoga studio.
They cost 22,00 euros a piece.
If you want to make a reservation for one, please send me an e-mail.