Tuesday, April 15, 2014

How To Learn a New Language in Less Than 6 Months

Have you heard the old concept that children can pick up other languages much quicker than adults? It seems to be true…but have you ever wondered why?

My eldest son was 6 years old when we came to Tonga. He knew three Tongan words: kai (eat), lotu (pray) and ha’u (come here). A week later, we sent him off to the local village school, where all lessons are taught in Tongan. He was really thrown in at the deep end, and I had some serious misgivings.

I don’t doubt that he struggled in the beginning, but within a month he was semi-fluent (enough to understand, and be understood by others) and by the end of that semester (5 months later) he was fully fluent, and ranked third in class, where all the other children were native speakers.

One day, I was listening to my children playing outside and I suddenly had an epiphany as to why my children had picked up the language so quickly. There are five reasons for this, and when you understand them, any adult can use the same principles to be speaking a new language in less than 6 months.

But first..

6 REASONS WHY YOU SHOULD LEARN ANOTHER LANGUAGE:

  • People will be delighted that you’ve made the effort to communicate with them in their own language. It’s kind of arrogant to assume that others will bend over backwards to speak YOUR language every time you wish to communicate, especially if you are the visitor in their country.
  • You’ll better understand the culture, since language and culture are so intricately connected. 
  • Learning a second language improves memory, creativity, concentration levels and helps prevent dementia. 
  • Being able to speak a second language literally allows you to “see” the world from a different perspective. 
  •  The confidence you gain from mastering another language is priceless.
  •  The ability to speak another language opens up opportunities for friendships, relationships and job/business advancement that might have otherwise been overlooked.
Now, how to go about learning a language as quickly and efficiently as any kid? Let’s take a look at the reasons why kids are such efficient little learners.


#1 Kids talk to other kids! As adults we are at somewhat of a disadvantage when starting out with a new language. Generally, we find ourselves amongst other adults and listening to adult conversations, which may be anything from politics to religion to local gossip or current affairs. If you’re new to the language, the vast majority of the conversation will go right over your head. 

Contrast this with kids, however. Their conversations are simple and generally use a lot of repetition. They’re usually playing at the same time, so their conversation will be more like: “Throw me the ball” and “Stand here” or “It’s my turn” or “Give it to me”, usually repeated several times over the course of the conversation. 

So, the next time you are in a situation where people are speaking another language, seek out the children and join in their activities. Guaranteed within half an hour, you’ll have some simple phrases under your belt, which can be used in everyday life.

How To Use This To Your Advantage: Hang out with kids more. Listen and repeat. Kids are awesome teachers.

#2 Kids are not burdened by the expectation that learning a new language is “difficult” and will take a long time. 

When we have beliefs and preconceived ideas (whether they’re correct, or not), we then look for evidence to “prove” that they’re correct. In this sense, we become our own worst enemies when the “proof” we’re seeking is that we are terrible at learning something new, we just make mistake after mistake, it's going to take years before we're any good at this…

As “A Course in Miracles” states: “Once you form a belief, you attach all your senses and all your life to it’s survival”. 

Kids are not held back by any of these notions. They just get in there and start repeating what they hear. It’s quite simple, really.

How to Use This To Your Advantage: Believe that you can, and will, speak fluently in another language within 6 months. Look for evidence that it is not only possible, but entirely do-able, and you’ll start finding it everywhere.

#3. Kids are courageous. Generally speaking, kids are not as self-conscious as we adults, and less concerned about making a fool of themselves. For example: I was listening to my (then 3 year old) son playing with his cousin. They were using the kind of simple phrases I mentioned earlier. As I listened carefully, I realized my son knew some of the words but not enough to actually string them together into a sentence. But that didn’t stop him from trying!

I had an epiphany then, because I realized if it were me, I would simply revert to English, or stay quiet. How many learning opportunities I must have missed, for fear of looking like an idiot! I decided then to learn from my children, and quit worrying about correct grammar and whether my sentence was perfect, and practice what I knew, anyway. I’ve improved in leaps and bounds ever since.

Yes, you may meet the occasional doofus who will remind you for the next five years that you once pronounced “hide” so it sounded like “masturbate” (Every Tongan will know what I’m talking about here…) Yes, you’ll occasionally say things you didn’t intend to say. Yes, you may tell everyone that you are going to cut down the undergrowth, while actually saying that you are going to cut the pubic hair. (True story!) 

Despite these unfortunate (but often hilarious) mishaps, the vast majority of people will love that you are making the effort, their respect for you grows, and they’ll help you out when they see you struggling to pronounce a word or put a sentence together using strange hand gestures. It goes without saying that a sense of humor comes in handy, when learning a new language…

It also helps to remember that if we always hide our struggles or “weaknesses”, we deny others the opportunity to help us and show us how much they care and support us. 

How To Use This To Your Advantage: Make learning the language a priority. If you become the butt of a few jokes along the way, then so be it. Also, it’s okay to not be perfect, to not be an expert. When you humble yourself to be a learner, you’ll find teachers everywhere, ready and willing to help you out.

#4 Kids are naturally curious about everything. We learn and retain information that is relevant to us. For a kid, that means a lot, because they’re fascinated by everything! They want to know why the sky is blue, why people get married, who made the fish in the ocean, how come ants can walk upside-down and how long is a piece of string!

Because we’re constantly bombarded by information, our brain filters out that which is not deemed useful or relevant. When you’re a child, trying to figure out how the world works, it is a matter of great importance to figure out this kind of stuff, so you can develop some sense of security and safety within it. You tend to learn pretty quickly, if your brain deems it necessary for your survival.

How To Use This To Your Advantage: Be curious! Ask too many questions. A sense of curiosity and wonder opens the mind, so that learning is inevitable. It also makes learning fun.

#5 Kids practice, even when they don't "have to". One thing I noticed was that, if given the choice (such as talking with someone who was also fluent in English), I would immediately revert back to English. Almost all of my conversations with my husband happened in English, because it was easier, and it was what I was comfortable with.

Unfortunately, real growth happens when we step outside our comfort zones!

My kids, on the other hand, when confronted with someone who was also fluent in English, would still speak in Tongan, or perhaps a mix of English and Tongan. This practicing whenever possible not only helps to reinforce language associations and improve pronunciation, but it helps to develop facial muscles which may be under-used in our own language.
How To Use This To Your Advantage: Practice whenever possible, even if "easier" and more comfortable options are available to you.

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Friday, April 11, 2014

What's Happening in My Life (April Update)

It occurred to me recently, that many readers of this blog are either friends, friends of friends, or people I’ve met through online forums. These people are still interested in hearing what’s going on in my life, so I’ve decided to start a monthly update to satisfy your curiosity..!

A little background to my life, for the newer readers: In 2011, just before the birth of our third child, we sold our home in Canberra, Australia, got rid of most of our possessions, and put the rest into a 3x3m storage unit. When our daughter was just 11 weeks old, we moved across the ocean to my husband’s country of birth – the Kingdom of Tonga.

It was meant to be a year of exploration, challenge and growth, before returning to our comfortable lives in Australia. 

More than 2 years later, we’re still here! During this time, our family of 5 has been living in one bedroom of my mother-in-law’s home. (More about the poverty and paradise of everyday island life here.) At some point, we dreamed up this crazy idea of shipping a container of building supplies over, and building our own home, amongst the coconut trees and taro plantations.

We spent the summer of 2012 in Australia, and after months of sourcing all the supplies ourselves, going to auctions and warehouses, scouring the classifieds and driving from one end of Sydney to the other, we finally had our building materials. Then we began the herculean effort of loading the 40-foot container. My husband and I spent days, and one entire night getting it finished. I thought the hardest part was over. Ha! I often think it’s a merciful thing we can’t see into the future, or we’d be overwhelmed at the enormity of what is still in front of us.  

The container arrived, but we still had no land, despite a promise from the village chief. So we busied ourselves setting up Tonga’s first ever health food business – I’m not one to just sit around and wait. Must be the Capricorn in me! After a year of waiting for land, an uncle offered us a piece of land on his bush plantation, which we gratefully accepted.

The exorbitant rent we were paying for the shop, eventually drained all our savings and we sadly closed down our shop, but continued selling our products from home to a few loyal customers. 

Our income had reduced to an occasional dribble. We managed to scrape by with money my husband was given for taking people’s produce to market, or picking up people from the wharf. Somehow, he became an unofficial courier service, because we have reliable transport (we shipped a 4x4 ute over with the building supplies) in a village where most people don’t have any transport (except their own two feet!). 

We knew that we would never be able to get our house built on such a tiny income, so in February, my husband flew to Australia to work for a few months. The children and I stayed here with his family.

Since he left, I’ve realized that the presence of a husband shielded me from some of the realities of island life.

When people wanted something (which is often), they would come and ask my husband, but now they come and ask me. Where my husband would have dealt with any differences or the inevitable issues that come up when three families are living in one house together, now it’s up to me.

It so happens that I am terrible at saying “no” and I’m terrible at confronting confrontation! I’ve struggled often, and yet I recognize that this experience is an opportunity for me to address some of the things that challenge me, such as learning to say “no” sometimes, and how to resolve conflict respectfully, rather than sweeping it under the carpet where it festers into resentment. 

When my husband arrived in Australia, he immediately started working at a well-paying job on a construction site. Our spirits were high. We would get started on the house, and he’d be home again in no time. 

Then began a series of setbacks, specifically designed to test my patience, I believe! 

The bulldozer we hired to clear the land finally turned up, but only did a fraction of the job (kept the $200 we paid, though). I was expecting to arrive and find a newly cleared patch of ground, with all the coconut trees and undergrowth pushed to the side. It was a rather unpleasant surprise to find only some of the trees had been pushed over, left right where they fell, and the undergrowth untouched.

The builder (my husband’s brother) attempted to get them back and finish the job. They said they would, but never showed. We decided to just get on and do it ourselves, which set us back several weeks.

That was followed by an entire week of torrential downpour, where the schools closed down and we were all stuck inside our bedroom for a week, getting on each others nerves.

When the rain finally cleared, we began the slow, arduous task of cutting up the coconut with a chainsaw and shifting the wood out of the road. Coconut wood is extremely hard wood, and HEAVY. We had to use our 4x4 to tow away sections of the trees. That was followed by more rain, so work came to a halt again. 

Then, some of the village youth came with machetes and cleared away the undergrowth. (As you can see, it's cool to show off your undies and boxer shorts here in Tonga...)



...which was immediately followed by news that the village chief had put out a decree that only one home was allowed per bush allotment (ours would be the second). So, my mother-in-law and I dressed in our Sunday best and went to see the village chief (who also happens to be the Prime Minister of Tonga).

One of the things I love about Tonga, is that the Prime Minister lives in a nondescript house, on an ordinary suburban street and people can go to his house and talk to him. So, that’s what we did! I baked a banana cake, since the custom is to take gifts when visiting an “important” person. 

When we arrived, he was standing out front of his house, talking on the phone. We waited, and when he finished, he turned to us. He was dressed in T-shirt and shorts, about to go and play tennis. My mother-in-law told him about our situation, and he immediately gave his permission for us to go ahead with our building plans. I hadn’t even whipped out my banana cake! Elatedly, we drove away (with our banana cake) and everybody ate it for supper (except me, because I’m now gluten-free. More on that later. )

That was immediately followed by more rain, which brings us to today. When the skies clear, we’re back on the chainsaw again, to try and cut down another five coconut trees which are growing too close to where the house will be built. These trees were meant to be removed by the bulldozer, too…

Meanwhile, my husband’s work in Australia has slowed to a day here, another day there.

When I first came to Tonga, I was possibly the world’s most impatient person. With the slow pace of island life, I soon realized that I could either learn patience, or go mad. Obviously, I chose the former :-)

So, while I’ve had moments of intense frustration during the past month or two, I’ve kept my sanity by focusing on the fact that when I finally have my own home again, I’m going to really, REALLY appreciate it, because of these challenges. 

When I get frustrated about the people in this house, with their different ideas on work ethic, cleanliness, personal property, child-rearing and discipline etc…I use it to fuel my determination to carry on, to see this through to completion.

I know I will eventually be in my own home, surrounded by green trees and whispering coconut palms. I see this clearly in my mind, and I conjure up this image whenever faced by another setback. I dreamed up, and drew those plans myself.

In other news, I quit gluten three weeks ago. Quitting sugar was really hard, quitting meat was really easy, but wheat has always been my greatest food addiction. I've known this for a long time. But I'm feeling good and staying strong, after two previous attempts last year. I've been using the rainy days as opportunity to try out new recipes. My absolute favorite so far, is the Cumin & Lime Baked Sweet Potatoes.















If it's possible, they are even nicer when tossed together with shredded lettuce, diced avocado and crumbled feta. Heavenly!!

Coming in a close second is pizza, made with chickpea flour, topped with home-made pizza sauce, onion, basil and cheese. Oh, my!!















The base is made using a recipe called socca. It is kind of sloppy and hard to handle when hot, but if you allow it to cool for 15 - 20 minutes, it becomes much firmer. But seriously, who wants to wait that long for pizza!

Until next time,

Love & Light.

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Tuesday, April 8, 2014

10 Ways to Supercharge Your Energy Levels (No Caffeine Required)

Do you struggle to get through the day without sneaking away for a little "nanna nap"? Do you hit the snooze button twelve times before finally dragging yourself out of bed in the morning?

Don't despair. It doesn't have to be this way! I've been there, and I'm here to tell you that changing your diet and lifestyle CAN turn your flagging energy into vibrant zest for life.

1. Quit Sugar (and DON’T replace with artificial sweeteners): I’ve listed this first because, while many people find it the most difficult to think about, it's also the one change that can transform your health and energy levels like no other.

Many people are addicted to sugar and don’t realize it (I certainly was). 

They also don’t realize that they’re eating it at virtually every meal. Start reading ingredient labels, and you may be surprised to discover that sugar is everywhere! Besides the usual sweet offenders, it may be found in salad dressings and mayonnaise, sauces and ketchup, processed meats, medicines, crackers and dips…the list goes on and on. 

In my own experience, quitting sugar was pretty rough. I had some unpleasant withdrawal symptoms from Day 3 to Day 6 (thumping headaches, hot/cold sweats, aching back) but once I persisted through that, my energy levels soared and so many niggling little health issues (like PMS and aching legs) simply went away, never to return again.

The good news is that quitting sugar and artificial sweeteners automatically rules out great swathes of processed foods. This is a good thing, indeed. Don’t mourn the loss of your favorite “convenient” foods, there’s nothing even slightly convenient about being tired and run-down and sick all the time.

Read this woman's story: Our Year of No Sugar

How long before you notice more energy: 5 – 7 days

2. A Green Smoothie Per Day (or at Least One Salad Per Day): Every action in your body, including production of energy and digestion of food, requires enzymes. These enzymes are only found in raw foods. Once food is cooked, they are destroyed, so if you’re only eating cooked foods, your body is forced to withdraw from it’s own supplies of enzymes, and it can only keep that up for so long, before things start going awry. 

Nourish your body with real, living food. Leafy greens are some of the most nutrient-rich foods known to man. If you’re not a salad fan, you’ll be relieved to know that green smoothies are absolutely delicious.

You will need a blender to make smoothies. A beginner’s green smoothie might look like this – Two bananas, one apple (peeled and cored), a handful of frozen berries, plus a handful of leafy greens (start with mild-tasting ones, such as baby spinach, bok choy, romaine lettuce). Add enough water to almost cover the fruit, then whizz all together. Drink! Add a teaspoon of spirulina or wheatgrass powder for another hit of nutrients and goodness.

As your tastes change, you can begin to increase the amount of leafy greens.

How long before you notice more energy: 1-2 days
Recommended Reading: Green for Life-The Updated Classic on Green Smoothie Nutrition

3. Apple Cider Vinegar: ACV has been a revered health tonic for thousands of years, and if you have a look on EarthClinic, you’ll see what a popular remedy it is, for everything from fatigue to kidney stones, obesity, arthritis, gout, acne, and the list goes on.

In the beginning, take one tablespoon in a cup of water, 3x per day. After a few weeks, you may wish to cut back to 1-2x per day. I don’t drink cups of tea, but I drink my ACV like tea. I have a little break from what I’m doing, sit down and sip my drink. It takes some people a while to get used to the taste. In the beginning I used a little drop of stevia to sweeten it a little, but I’ve long stopped doing that. 

Be sure to buy raw, unfiltered vinegar with the “mother” in it. I highly recommend Bragg’s brand.

How long before you notice more energy: 3 -4 days

4. Think Energizing Thoughts: Reminding yourself how tired you feel is not going to make you feel refreshed and alive. Our thoughts can drain and deplete our energy just as surely as dead, processed foods will slowly drain the life out of us. Therefore, choose both your thoughts and your food wisely!

Examples of thoughts that drain:
- Dwelling on past hurts/setbacks/ “failures”
- Worrying about the telephone bill for the 58th time in the past hour
- Criticism of oneself and other
- Keeping count of all the things that go “wrong” during the day
           - A “Why Me?” victim attitude

Examples of thoughts that uplift:
     - Seeking out the lesson from past hurts/setbacks/”failures” – how we can use the experience to improve 
          - Encouraging oneself and others
     - Reminding oneself of their goals and aspirations, their "why".

How long before you notice more energy: A few moments

5. Drink Enough Water: Every process in your body relies on well-hydrated cells to perform properly. Even a mild case of dehydration is enough to prompt the body into “drought” mode, where it begins prioritizing which processes are more important, and which can be neglected until later. In his fascinating book “The Body’s Many Cries for Water”, Dr Batmanghelidj explains how lack of water affects the brain's energy output.

Drink 8 glasses of pure water every day - more during hot weather or intense exercise. Tea, coffee, soda, cordial, juice don't count!
How long before you notice more energy: 1-2 days

6. Breathe Deeply: A lack of oxygen circulating in the body will make anyone feel sluggish and lethargic. Most of us adults don’t even know how to breathe correctly! We know it instinctively as babies, but somehow we lose it over time. 

Try this little experiment: Place your hand over your stomach, and take a deep breath. Did your stomach swell outwards, or your chest? If your stomach didn’t move, or (worse) sucked inwards, you’re not allowing your lungs to properly fill with air. When you breathe in, your stomach should expand, which allows your lungs to fill right down into the chest cavity. Your stomach should contract when you breath OUT, which helps to expel the air from deep in the lungs. 

See, what I mean? Most adults do the exact opposite – I did too, until I began making a conscious effort to change my breathing. Perhaps it’s the result of one too many adolescent photos where we are reminded to “suck our tummies in”…

 Deep breathing works well in conjunction with #4 “Think energizing thoughts”. I often find an uplifting, inspiring mantra and repeat it while doing a few minutes of slow, deep breathing

How long before you notice more energy: Within a minute

7. Detoxify: When toxins build up in your body, it slows, tires and ages you. I’m not talking about some fad detox diet or shake program or something else to waste your dollars on. I’m simply talking about limiting the amount of toxins entering your body, and making some effort to remove the ones that are already there.

I constantly "detox", and I do this in several ways: 
 - Fasting for 12 – 16 hours each day (overnight), which gives my body time for rest, rejuvenation, healing and cleansing. Sometimes I do a 24 – 36 hour fast, if I feel my body needs it.
Not eating processed foods 
 -  Not using chemicals on my skin. 
 - Oil-pulling every morning

Every 6 months or so, I do an extra detox with activated charcoal, which binds up heavy metals and toxins and removes them from the body.

How long before you notice more energy: It will probably be a gradual change over several months, depending on how you choose to detox.
Recommended Reading: The Beauty Detox Solution-Eat Your Way to Radiant Skin, Renewed Energy and the Body You've Always Wanted (I love this book! One of my all-time faves...)

8. Get proper rest. Let me say it straight. If you don’t wake up feeling refreshed (without an alarm clock) after 8 hours sleep, you’re probably over-burdening your body with wrong food/lifestyle choices, too much stress…or you’re simply not getting restful sleep. (Or all three.) Mothers of babies or sick children are exempt from the above!

Our bodies are physiologically designed to sleep in darkness. If you sleep in front of any kind of lit screen, whether it’s a TV or an alarm clock or computer, you’re body’s natural rhythms are being disturbed. Same goes for street-lights, lamps or any other lighting while you sleep. 

Leave your mobile phone and all electronic equipment as far away as possible from where you sleep. Mobile phones and other devices are sending and receiving electromagnetic waves constantly, which can affect your own electromagnetic frequencies.

An ancient Ayarvedic practice which is said to aid in restful sleep, is to massage the soles of your feet with coconut oil before you lay down to sleep. Afterwards, you will feel the most delicious tingling creeping up your legs.

Live your life according to the principles you most strongly believe in. Treat others as you would like to be treated. There’s nothing like shame or guilt to keep you tossing and turning at night…

How long before you notice more energy: 1 - 2 weeks. 

9. Get fit: It sounds counter-intuitive, I know. Many people associate exercise with tiredness, but after the initial adjustment period, the exact opposite is true. Regular exercise will give you more energy, because the fitter you are, the more efficient your body becomes, which frees up energy for other things.

How long before you notice more energy: One week
Recommended Reading: Fast Exercise - Get Fitter, Stronger and Better Toned in Just a Few Minutes a Day.

10. Live With Purpose: There is nothing in the world that will energize you, and make you absolutely vibrate with zest, as finding purpose in your life and surrendering yourself wholly to it. 

I had a brilliant reminder of this one day, when I was pregnant with my third child, working full-time, under a lot of stress, and struggling to keep it all together. A year earlier, I had realized my life calling was to inspire people to be well and live to their potential. 

It was a cold, wintry day, and I had finished work, came home and cooked dinner, and finally got the kids to bed. I was exhausted, but I logged into facebook anyway (tsk, tsk! I’ve developed more self-control since then), and something prompted me to write a status, sharing hints on how to never “catch a cold” again. 

Within minutes, my timeline had come alight with comments from people who were sick and tired of being sick and tired. My exhaustion melted away within an instant, and I came alive. I swear I started glowing! I thought “Yes! This is why I’m alive. This is my reason for being here on this earth!” Needless to say, I couldn’t sleep for hours because I was buzzing with energy (Lesson learned, I do my facebook sharing in the morning now!)

How long before you’ll notice more energy: As soon as you discover what lights you up...and then start doing it.

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Friday, April 4, 2014

There Is No Magic Pill...And That's a Good Thing

When I worked behind the counter of my health-food store, the most popular question I got asked (usually by women, but not always) was: "Have you got something to help me lose weight".

In my eagerness, I would begin telling them the not-so-secrets of weight loss. Cut out all white flour, all refined sugar, eat lots of leafy greens...by this point their eyes were beginning to glaze over, and they were staring at a point on the wall behind me. My excited spiel would inevitably fade into embarrassed silence.

It took me a while to "get it". Ninety-nine percent of people are not interested in learning how to lose weight. They wanted a pill or a tea, that would lose the weight for them, while they continued to eat and live the same as they always have.

Let me say it straight. There is no magic pill. There's no potion or tea that will make you effortlessly lose weight, while sitting on the couch eating potato crisps. 

For every thing worthwhile achieving or becoming in this life, effort and consistency are required. There is just no getting round this! There's no miracle tea, no get-rich-quick scheme, no magic pill. 

And that's a good thing. 

Can you imagine what a bunch of pompous, ungrateful clods we'd be, if everything were handed to us? Working our way towards a goal - whether it's getting healthy, or learning a new skill, or forging a new business - empowers us to go even further than we first dreamed possible. Growth becomes inevitable. 

In order to reach a goal, it first requires making a choice. But that's just the beginning! Then we need to keep making that same choice over and over, every step of the way.

For example, if I choose to lose weight and get healthy, I don't just decide once. I make that same decision at every meal, every trip to the supermarket, every time I go out for a walk. That's consistency - making the same choice over and over again, even when I don't "feel" like it anymore.

The same principle can be applied to maintaining a marriage/relationship, earning/saving money, building a business, forging a career, or mastering a new skill.

No-one ever became a champion by getting up at 4am to train, only when he "felt" like it! No-one ever built a business empire by hustling only when she "felt" like it. No-one became a world-famous guitar player, by only practicing when he "felt" like it, and his fingers didn't hurt...

Consistency and commitment requires us to transcend the fickle whims of feelings, which change by the moment, and respond to something much deeper and more profound - a sense of meaning and direction for our lives. This is how true character is formed.

The real value of achieving a goal is not the end result, but the person we became in the process.

So, forget pinning your hopes on magic pills, get-rich-quick schemes and lottery jackpots. That's the well-worn path of the masses. Put in the kind of effort and commitment others won't, and you'll achieve things that others don't. You'll be a stronger, wiser person for it, too - no magic pill could possibly compare.

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Tuesday, April 1, 2014

I Quit Gluten! (One Week Update)

I live on an island in the South Pacific. Food choices are fairly limited (compared to being spoilt for choice in Australia), and being a vegetarian limits my choices even further. Quitting gluten was one of those things on my "Like To Do" list, but I convinced myself it would be an impossible task.

That was until I read this article: Three Hidden Ways Wheat Makes You Fat by Dr Mark Hyman (this guy is fast becoming my favorite doctor). The article disturbed me so much that I quit gluten that same day.

Some of the things I've noticed and experienced over the last 10 days or so:

I've definitely lost weight: Okay. Let's be clear. I've never really had a "weight problem". I am blessed with a tall and slim build, that doesn't gain weight quickly. But months of eating bread and pasta, had left me feeling a bit flabby around the waist and hips, and my clothes were starting to feel uncomfortably snug.

I don't own a pair of weighing scales here, so I don't know how much I've lost for certain, but I estimate it's about five pounds over the last 10 days. My clothes certainly fit me better. 

No more bloated stomach: A bloated stomach by evening, was a regular occurrence for me...but not any more. This alone is enough to prove to myself that gluten was affecting me adversely.

Cleansing reaction? At about Day 3 I developed diarrhoea, and a strange feeling in my stomach. It was neither painful or overly uncomfortable, but a definite feeling of "I don't feel like eating". Now, I do live in an undeveloped country where bacterial infections are common, but I don't get gastro often. It's been a year, or more, since my last bout. 

Still, I can't be absolutely sure if it's mere coincidence, or some kind of cleansing action by my body. Either way, it's worked out well, because I haven't felt any cravings for bread or pasta, but rather lighter salads and fruit. 

Less appetite: This could be related to the above point, but even when I haven't felt the strange feeling in my stomach, I haven't felt overly hungry either. This from the same person who could happily eat a large bowl of pasta, go back for seconds and within the hour, be nibbling away at the leftovers again...

I'm more flexible:  One side-effect I've noticed is that I have less stiffness in the joints and I'm much more flexible when stretching or doing yoga poses.

Success with new recipes: Being meat-free and gluten-free (as well as trying to avoid processed sugar) has forced me to get a bit creative. We don't have access to all the "gluten-free" products and flours here in the islands, although tapioca flour is readily available here, (but I haven't learnt how to use it properly yet.)

I still had some chickpea flour left, so used it to make a cheese pizza (recipe here), and although it looked and smelt wonderful, it was kind of sloppy when hot and I couldn't really "slice" it. We ate it the next day when cold, and it was delicious.

I've also been using some of the local root vegetables, such as kumala and yam. The Cumin and Lime Sweet Potatoes (recipe here) was a huge hit that all three children devoured, and then helped me finish my plate. I call that a success!

All in all, I'm really happy with the outcome so far, and intend to stick to this long-term. My children are still eating wheat, although as I get more experienced with recipes, I hope to gradually wean them from wheat (at least when eating at home).

I will update again at the end of one month. If you've quit gluten, I'd love to hear your feedback and experiences (and tips!).