I Quit I Quit Sugar (Before I even started)

Recently I became interested in the I Quit Sugar program, made famous (?) by Sarah Wilson. I’d looked at it before, partly motivated by a friend of mine who’d lost quite a bit of weight by following it. She actually reviewed the book on her blog. My parents also lost quite a bit of weight by “giving up” sugar, although they didn’t do Sarah Wilson’s program.

Sarah maintains that the real enemy in the Western diet is fructose. Apparently (she’s sketchy on the biochemical explanations) fructose “cannot be utilised by the liver” and is converted straight to fat. Hmmmm. She quotes (repeatedly) a paediatric endocrinologist who is credited with this metabolic pearl of wisdom.

I’m not an endocrinologist and I didn’t do brilliantly at university biochemisty. I cannot draw the Krebs cycle or whatever cycle it is that fructose features in. But even if fructose IS “converted directly to fat”, this theory of it making us fat, to me, still seems highly flawed.

This is my reasoning as to why this is rubbish:

Our bodies burn energy (calories) through a) intentional activity ie exercise and b) metabolic processes such as generating body heat and digesting our food, which add up to a figure known as our basal metabolic rate, or BMR. Our BMR is mainly determined by our gender, our age, our weight, our body composition, disease states and medications and is far more significant than voluntary activity when it comes to burning calories. In the short term, we have no voluntary control over our BMR (we can change it in the long term by altering our body mass or composition or by taking drugs, but we can’t decide to “ramp up our BMR” one day and slow it down the next.)

Our bodies obtain energy to fuel these processes through the food, or calories, we eat (and drink).

If we consume more calories than we expend, we store the surplus as excess body weight. If we consume less than we expend, we obtain the deficit by burning off body weight, and if the two are equal, we are in equilibrium and we stay the same.

Now, Sarah Wilson maintains that all the fructose we eat gets turned into fat because our bodies can’t “use” the calories in that fructose. Ok, let’s assume that she’s right. So, take a person who consumes the same number of calories as they expend. Assume none of it comes from fructose. Great. They burn what they eat, and stay the same weight. Now take someone who consumes, say, 30% of their calories in the form of fructose. Their livers can’t use those calories and covert it to fat. But then they are short that 30% of their caloric requirement. So what happens? Surely that person obtains the shortfall from their glycogen and then fat stores? So they may be “putting on” weight from the fructose calories, but they ought to be burning an equal amount of weight to obtain what they supposedly can’t get from the fructose. So it balances out.

Critics of the CICO (calories in calories out) model will say “Oh but not all calories are equal, some foods require more energy to digest so they actually don’t give your body all the calories they contain.” Yes that’s probably true, but I am very doubtful it makes a significant difference, especially in a balanced diet. The same would also potentially be an argument for this whole fructose theory- if fructose is effortlessly converted to fat while other substrates use up a lot more energy in that conversion then perhaps Sarah’s onto something. But I doubt it.

Don’t get me wrong, I think sugar is way too prevalent in our diet and I am not for a minute suggesting a high sugar diet is good, or even “not bad” for us. But I don’t think there’s anything magical about fructose. I am extremely cynical about all those other “natural” sweeteners too- stevia, agave, rice bran syrup (like, HELLO!!! cane sugar grows naturally and abundantly in far north Queensland- I’m not sure why it’s considered “unnatural”)

But this is why I think we should minimise our sugar intake:

  • Sugar is high in calories
  • Sugar has no other nutritional value, ie it provides us with no good stuff apart from energy (sure if you were starving this wouldn’t matter so much but there are other more nutritious sources of energy for most of us)
  • You rarely eat sugar by itself. It’s usually combined with other calorie dense, nutritionally sketchy ingredients, like fat and white flour, to make tasty “treats” that are ok to eat from time to time, but most of us indulge in a bit too often, in quantities which are too large.

The final nail in the IQS coffin (for me) is Sarah banging on about other pseudo-scientific rubbish (actually there’s nothing pseudo about it, it’s just un-scientific). She advocates “activating” nuts and seeds, “sprouting” legumes, “fermenting” vegetables and drinking apple cider vinegar which allegedly helps “alkalinise” our bodies yet somehow also gives the hydrochloric acid in our stomachs a helping hand with digestion. (Never mind university biochemistry, it doesn’t sound to me like she did much high school chemistry either). All these processes are supposed to “help” our bodies digest and absorb the goodness from these foods. Seriously? How did the human race ever manage to evolve without the assistance of sprouts and kombucha?? It’s a miracle we’re alive at all, thank god for Sarah and other proponents of this twaddle.

In summary, all I’ve taken away from Sarah’s 2 books (borrowed from the library) is that:

  • I actually don’t eat much sugar when I think about it- no soft drink, no (well not many) lollies, no store-bought baked goods, no store-bought sauces (thanks zero waste!)
  • I should eat more fruit, not less, I don’t care which ones are high fructose
  • I should eat fewer cakes and pastries (which I do bake too many of), not because of the fructose but because I am a greedy guts who can’t seem to stop at just a tiny, calorie-controlled, nibble!!

I’m not sure I really needed her to figure any of that out!!

 

Trying to be mindful

After my recent (actually it was about 6 months ago- wow) foray into mindfulness I was kind of aware of the fact that it might be useful to practice some simple techniques on a regular basis (mindfulness aficionados would refer to this as a “daily formal practice”) for the whole thing to really benefit me when it counts. But, like most things I know I ought to do (or not do) regularly, it kind of got shoved in the “too hard” basket (which should really be re-named the “can’t be bothered basket”).

We are in Canada skiing at the moment, and getting myself down a ski slope is one such time when, you could say, “it counts”.

Skiing is not something I am naturally good at. For starters, I didn’t ski for the first time until I was 33 years old.

The other things that go against me are:

  • I am not very brave. Specifically, I don’t like going very fast (on skis, horses or mountain bikes), I don’t like falling off (skis, horses or mountain bikes) and I don’t like breaking bones (which I have only ever done in association with horses and mountain bikes…. so far)
  • I don’t have a great innate sense of balance (although luckily it turns out that this can be developed)
  • I am not naturally very coordinated
  • I tend to be put off by previous bad experiences (such as broken bones)

Sometimes I have these amazing skiing days when things just effortlessly come together. Each time this happens I try to identify what it is that’s going right. Somehow, my posture seems spot on, my weight is balanced, I’m relaxed and I gain confidence with every slope I comfortably negotiate.

Conversely, I sometimes have days, or at least runs, when it seems I’m doomed. I try to lean forward, remember what I’ve been taught previously, be brave and confident and relaaaaax…… easier said than done, right?

Well maybe not any more.

I didn’t have the best day yesterday, it wasn’t terrible but it ended with a long, difficult, icy, monotonous run home. Not my finest moment. (If only it were just a moment, it was actually over an hour of “moments”). At the top of that steep, white, icy descent, my brain went from thinking “Ok, let’s do this! Final run!” to “Oh my god it’s steep! It’s long! How long is it exactly? And how long will it take? My legs are tired! Will I be able to make it? How long till I can take a break? Is there a bail-out option? Why did I ever think this was a good idea?!?!?! HEEEEEELLP!!!!”

But this morning, when my thoughts started to rapid cycle, I took some deep breaths. In and out. Cold, pure, mountain air. I looked at the snow on the pine trees. I saw the icicles hanging from the tips of the branches. I noticed how the trees seemed to grow out of the rocks, from barely any soil. In the distance I took in the blue sky, the mountains, how the snow goes from a dense white blanket to a speckled mixture of green and white, to dense evergreen lower down- a gradual transition from white to almost black without any discernible borders. I made a point of thinking “Just take it as it comes. Not even one run at a time, but one turn at a time, one moment at a time. It is what it is.”

Did it make a difference? I don’t know. I was less anxious than yesterday. I didn’t ski brilliantly, but I didn’t ski terribly. I didn’t have any moments of complete and utter panic and despair. I still wimped out of a lot of stuff I should have been able to do.

But at the end of the day I thought “It was what it was. I’m better than I used to be. I wasn’t as good as I can be at times, but that’s ok.” I didn’t worry about wasted time or wasted money. I felt like I had spent the day doing what it felt right to do at the time.

And I have convinced myself that as well as lots more formal skiing practice, I need lots more formal mindfulness practice. Fortunately, unlike skiing, I can do that every single day. Without breaking any bones.

Zero Waste Fail- My Guilty Secret

On the whole, I feel fairly virtuous when it comes to my environmental footprint and zero-waste habits. But there is one habit I cannot let go of. My guilty secret is that every Wednesday night when I put out our rubbish bin, 90% of the contents are made up of DISPOSABLE NAPPIES.

I know they are terrible for the environment. I know they are made of plastic, manufactured in pollution-emitting, resource-consuming factories, I know that no one even knows how long they take to break down in landfill because it’s longer than we’ve been making them- 100 years? 500 years? 1000 years? Does it matter once we’re talking about those lengths of time?

When I was pregnant with Master L, who is now approaching 4 ½, I was attracted to cloth nappies. Initially it was the cost savings that motivated me. Bamboozled by the different systems available, I bought several different styles (not a complete set of each- cloth nappies are really expensive!) to try out before I committed to one particular style. None were perfect. Despite any claims to the contrary, they leak. Not as much if you change them often enough, but no one tells you that “often enough” is roughly every hour. Not practical, even with just one baby. They are also bulky (even the cool, all in one styles) so they stretch your baby’s onsies and you need extra big pants to fit over them. Not such a big deal, but annoying when you want to use the clothes again for the next child.

I also hadn’t bargained on just how cheap disposable nappies are (ie I didn’t do my sums). They are super cheap. And the cheaper brands work just as well as the expensive ones (generally).

But I persevered. The thought of those heavy balls of pooey wet plasticky evil going to landfill was enough to keep me using cloth nappies. Mostly. As was the theoretical advantage that cloth nappies supposedly result in earlier toilet training (my children have clearly not read that research). Master L outgrew his cloth nappies, however, well before he was ready for toilet training. His howl of agony the first time I pinched the skin of his fat thigh between the poppers on the nappy finally convinced me to put them away, guilt-free, for the next baby.

Cue Miss L. Her arrival (the hardest transition I think of all the kids) meant I had 2 kids in nappies and I didn’t even bother trying the cloth nappies with her.

However, since my newfound zero waste crusade, I have re-tried my cloth nappies with Baby L. And I have nicely demonstrated all the above points to still be true. I have toyed with selling them or giving them away, then last week I thought I’d just have one more go. Two cloth nappies and two hours later, I removed Baby L’s urine-soaked clothes and sodden nappy to find his bottom red, raw and angry. He cried when I put him in the bath that night and every time I cleaned his bottom for the next 2 days. What’s more, I used more disposable nappies in the following days trying to improve his nappy rash with frequent changing than I had saved in the two hours I had the cloth nappies on him.

My cloth nappies are now sitting in a box in the dining room, waiting to be photographed and advertised on Trade Me. Let’s just hope no prospective buyers are reading this post!!

Reflections on 2015

And so we near the end of another year. That’s 2 (and a bit) years I’ve been (very sporadically) blogging!

My views on New Year’s Resolutions have varied from year to year but what I always enjoy is looking back on the year that was. The Facebook gimmick “Your Year in Review” has already appeared and people are beginning to share their yearly summaries. If this replaces the annual “Christmas newsletter” a lot of people send out, I think there’d be a sigh of relief from many reluctant recipients, but weirdly, I don’t actually mind getting those letters, I even like reading the details that really don’t concern me, about people I barely know.

(What always impresses me, though, is that people have enough self-confidence to send these things out, knowing how they are received by the majority of people, which is one reason it’s not something I do.)

So, 2015- what sticks in my mind?

More travel- this year we explored Marlborough at the top of the South Island and beautiful Martinborough at the bottom of the North, catching the ferry in between. I think we only managed 3 trips to our beloved Queenstown, once in March for Mr L’s off-road marathon, the Motatapu Classic, once in August to ski and then we’ll be back there next week for Christmas. I made several trips across the ditch- 2 to Melbourne for work and 2 to Sydney. We did a couple of local weekends away too- to Russell & Northland, Waitomo caves (twice) and just last weekend to Waiheke Island. Our list of places to visit and revisit seems to be ever-expanding, and if 2016 is to be our last year living here, we’d like to make some headway into that list!

Of course, our beautiful Baby L arrived in May and he has been a delight and a privilege to have completing our family. In many ways, seeing him change so fast has made both Mr L and myself all the more aware of the idiosyncrasies (amusing and not-so) of Master and Miss L, as we see them change and realise just how fleeting their stages of growth and development are.

This year has been a big year for me in terms of mindset, with determined forays into mindfulness (my favourite champion of this cause so far being Dan Harris) and happiness (I’ve become something of a Gretchen groupie). I feel that my/our Zero Waste dabblings (inspired largely by Bea Johnson) are, in many ways, an extension (or perhaps combination) of these two ways of thinking. I’ve become so much more aware of our impact on the earth and of the earth’s impact on us and I suppose you could say I’ve spent some time getting to know my inner hippie and seeing just how a simpler way of living, spending, thinking and doing frees up so much time for taking notice of what matters and what lasts.

On that note, as I look back through my calendar I’m surprise to see there aren’t a lot of scheduled events, for a year that has felt so full and formative. I think that’s because you don’t write down the little things- cherry picking with Master and Miss L in January, losing Miss L (ok only very briefly) on a plane in August, someone walking off with Baby L in the supermarket trolley (hmmm, maybe I need to start paying attention to my children more!), Master L astounding us one day by casually announcing he was going to write his name- and then doing it! Me falling off the side of a cliff while skiing, drinking beer in the middle of the afternoon in the Fork and Tap in Arrowtown (Miss L developing quite a taste for it too!), the feeling I had opening a box of macarons and a spa voucher as a “thank you” present from Mr L, playing Calon Lan to try and get Baby L back to sleep at 3am, getting both feet off the floor (not for long!) in crow pose…. And so on.

A few weeks ago we watched “Inside Out”. Since then, Mr L has talked about generating “core memories” for our kids. I agree, that’s important, but from a slighty more selfish point of view, I’m very happy to look after them in my own memory bank for now!

Here’s to 2015…. x

Hauraki Rail Trail

In preparation for our Big Christmas Adventure, we cycled the Hauraki Rail Trail last weekend.

“We” being myself, Mr L and the three little Ls. When we mention family bike rides to people, the usual response is “Wow! Ummm- how does that work, exactly, with 3 kids?”

Well, here’s how we do it:

The cycling logistics involve Mr L pulling a Wee Hoo iGo Two behind him. Master L (and usually Miss L) sit on this. Whoever’s at the front can also “help” by pedaling, although Mr L tells me it’s not a huge contribution they make! I pull baby L (and sometimes Miss L, when she tires of the Wee Hoo) in a Chariot double trailer. Mr L is a competent, experienced cyclist, so having an extra long bike with two young children who like to randomly throw their weight around (and sometimes fall asleep and slump inadvertently to one side) is a small challenge but not a huge deal. I’m not sure how I’d manage, being by far the less experienced, less confident, less fit and less skillful rider (not meaning to put myself down, just being honest). Towing the Chariot, on the other hand, while being harder work than propelling just myself, isn’t technically any more challenging, although some of the narrower gates require a certain amount of precision riding!

So the Hauraki Rail Trail is a 95km trail (in its entirety) between Thames and Te Aroha at the southern end of the Coromandel peninsula. There’s a side arm approximately 21km long which goes from Paeroa up to Waihi and this is definitely the most scenic section of the trail and would be my recommendation if all you were looking for was a day ride. The trail runs beside the beautiful Ohinemuri river, through the Karangahake Gorge, which is the kind of place you’d almost expect to find a hobbit asleep under a tree, it’s just so picturesque. We wanted to do the whole thing, not just the prettiest bit, partly as a trial run for Christmas and partly because there’s something immensely satisfying about waking up at point A and transporting yourself (without a vehicle) to point B, where you sleep. Thames-Paeroa and Paeroa-Te Aroha are not unpleasant rides by any means, cruising through mostly rolling fields and agricultural land.

There’s not a lot in the way of skilled bike support on the trail, so my advice would be as prepared as you can be for technical issues. Another big worry I had was sun protection and it turned out not to be an unfounded one. The NZ sun is fierce and we proved that even on a mostly cloudy, rainy day, it’s still possible to get burnt. The strategy of covering up as much as possible with clothing (long sleeves and pants), hats and sunscreen proved a successful one but even so, it’s easy to forget about exposed hands and that long shorts can ride up to expose un-sunscreened knees.

So was it worth the logistical challenge and extra grunt to pull 3 children along almost 100km of cycle trail? Absolutely. Our feeling is that if we can make adventures like these realistic and fun for the kids, they are far more likely to embark upon their own later in life (not to mention enjoy some more challenging ones with us as they get bigger). When I think of my own childhood, where a “bike ride” meant 10 minutes down the street and around the corner to the playground, it just doesn’t compare.

Happier at Home

I’ve become quite fond of Gretchen. Since reading The Happiness Project and attempting my own (and therein gaining a newfound respect for her diligence to such a project) I’ve been listening to her podcast Happier and I’ve read (and really enjoyed) Better Than Before.

I was wandering around my local library the other day (not quite deliberately enough to call it browsing) when I came across her book Happier At Home. I’ve never really had a great urge to read this one- for a while I thought it was the same as The Happiness Project but with a different cover or title, as some books seem to have for various international versions. But after seeing it there in front of me and reading the back to make sure it wasn’t the same as The Happiness Project, I thought “Let’s give it a whirl!” so I borrowed it. (I love libraries, they satisfy my penchant for zero waste, frugal, clutter-free living.)

Although I’d had my reservations about The Happiness Project, I enjoyed Happier At Home from page 1. Gretchen’s writing voice is different to her podcast voice. When I first tuned into her podcasts, I remember being quite surprised to hear the way she spoke. I’m not sure why…. Reading another of her books then reminded me of that slightly awkward, nerdy, slightly neurotic type A persona that I found difficult to fully warm to in The Happiness Project. But this time, instead of finding it disconcerting, I actually found it quite comforting to hear it again.

And so, I read about what is, essentially, her second happiness project, this one on a slightly smaller scale, set in and around her home. And, just as with The Happiness Project, I was inspired to take away from it some “Try this at home”s (find out what this is on her podcast- although it’s pretty self-explanatory!)

Specifically,

  • Go shelf by shelf (declutter- a constant mission of mine)
  • Kiss in the morning, kiss at night (Give proofs of love)
  • Give gold stars (Acknowledge others’ good deeds verbally not just mentally)
  • Go on adventures (Big and small, with both Mr L and the little Ls)
  • Give warm greetings and farewells (a kiss at least, hello and goodbye)
  • Dig Deep (My personal commandments need revisiting I think)
  • Suffer for fifteen minutes (Get a potentially tedious and large scale chore done little by little each day- mine, as Gretchen’s was, is collating some family photo albums.)
  • Follow a threshold ritual (Literally, cross the threshold of your house with gratitude)
  • Eat like a yogi (I added this one myself- more on this later, it’s a work in progress)

I wonder if I’d have been better off reading Happier At Home before The Happiness Project. Despite coming first, The Happiness Project is on a much bigger scale and was a bit full on for me. Mine kind of fizzled. This one’s much less rigid. It’s just going to aim to incorporate these habits into my day, rather than ticking off resolution charts or writing time lines.

We’ll see how we go!

 

 

Zero Waste Update 4

Ok so I promise this is not turning into a Zero Waste blog. There are a lot of those around and while they can be very inspiring, I do find they tend to run out of new things to talk about after a while.

However, I read back over a couple of my previous Zero Waste posts last night and realised how much things have changed, especially my attitude!

I can’t believe I complained about recycled toilet paper being “ugly” and in this post said, about people who use cloth baby wipes:

There are people who use old rags as baby wipes and wash them. Good for them.

So, just a quick update on what’s new around here….

Baby wipes– While we’re on the subject: I couldn’t really find a definitive answer on the environmental impact of bamboo/viscose etc etc but I suspect it’s still significant. When in doubt, something reusable is almost always going to have less impact than something single use. Also, what really bothered me was the plastic packets they all come in, which is definitely single use and not recyclable/biodegradable etc. So I took the plunge. Mr L had a couple of old t shirts destined for the rag bag so I chopped them up and have been using them as babywipes. I just wet about 10 at a time in a sink of cold water with a squirt of baby shampoo in it (although this is probably unnecessary) and store them in a small reusable baby wipe container we had lying around. Once they’re dirty I chuck them in the laundry sink and put them in the next wash. Because they’re thick and fairly large (actually probably no bigger than a standard babywipe, but more substantial because of their thickness), one usually does the job, so a box of 10 lasts at least a day, usually two.

Miss L isn’t a big fan of them, but she’s practically toilet trained now. Baby L doesn’t care as long as his bottom’s clean. I must point out though, for those unaccustomed to the different grades of baby poo, that the newborn poos (when all they drink is milk) are liquid and relatively inoffensive. Once they start eating solids there is a steady progression in gross-ness as their poos become more voluminous and solid, and once they’ve smooshed around a nappy for anything more than a few minutes they are probably not something you want to use a reusable anything on. So for these ones of Miss L’s, I do the bulk of the job with toilet paper and then finish off with a reusable wipe.

Apologies to anyone for whom that was TMI.

Coffee cup– I broke my ceramic mug at the zoo when it was knocked out of the holder on the stroller (talk about first world problems). Apart from being slightly embarrassed about the big “smash” inside the (supposedly) quiet Kiwi enclosure and then having to scrabble around picking up broken bits of china (one of which cut me), I felt like a complete idiot that I had just created more waste in trying to avoid waste. I had visions of the pieces of ceramic lying, never to decompose, in a landfill somewhere, the shards cutting the feet of small animals or ripping the guts of sea birds open. Then I got a grip.

My new cup is plastic, so it shouldn’t meet the same fate. I actually like the spout better than my old one, it’s nicer to drink out of, and in the unlikely event that I one day have no use for it, it’s recyclable. (Yes, I know, internal lecture to self about the evils of plastic recycling)

I was faced with a real dilemma the other day though, stopping for a quick coffee on my way home without my cup!! What to do?!?! Easy, I decided to “have here”. Only it was 4.30 and they were clearing up and told me I could only have it in a takeaway cup!! Wracked with guilt (and desperate for a coffee) I wondered what I should do. As she made the coffee I stood there already feeling guilty for the waste that one coffee cup would produce. So I compromised, and took the cup but asked for no lid…. After all, I consoled myself, it’s not about being perfect. I think I need to start thinking “Less waste” rather than “Zero waste”.

Toilet paper– I’m now buying Safe from Huckleberry Farms. Recycled toilet paper, paper packaging, and no, it’s not that ugly. It’s certainly prettier than the job it’s designed for anyway!

Also at Huckleberry Farms I found they stock a few things which might be handy- they let you fill your own container with Ecostore washing up liquid, meaning I don’t have to go all the way to Binn Inn for it. They also sell Global Soap, so I bought a bar of their stain remover to see if we can do away with the plastic-packaged Vanish stain remover which comes in handy for baby poo explosions and the collars and cuffs of Mr L’s business shirts when they get grubby. So far, the trial on the shirts has been disappointing…. Might have to try harder.

Loving Earth Chocolate– also at Huckleberry Farms, this chocolate comes in a compostable wrapper. And costs a small fortune. But at least I only buy (and therefore eat) a tiny bit at a time.

Cooking– kiwifruit jam, more marmalade, tamarillo chutney…. All of these are easy to make, taste great, are zero waste and are great to give away as small impromptu gifts. They also invite oos and ahs of admiration as people say “OMG how you have the time to make your own jam with 3 children?” Well I have the time to update my Facebook and watch crap TV, so I figure I have the time to make jam. What’s that? You update your FB and watch crap TV too… precisely.

Other pleasing discoveries have been zero waste crackers (good with cheese) and “larabars”- also pseudo healthy- as a chocolatey treat. What’s also good about making these things yourself is that as making them is (arguably) harder work and more expensive than tossing a packet in the supermarket trolley when you walk past them, you feel less inclined to polish off a whole packet. This is probably also because they are quite rich- you just wouldn’t eat a whole tray of them.

Toiletries– I am now using Lush toothy tabs instead of toothpaste (most of the time). They took a bit of getting used to but I’ve been pleasantly surprised. They don’t give you that big mint hit but they do leave your teeth feeling really clean and smooth and most mornings I wake up feeling fresher. They feel a bit odd- a bit like brushing your teeth with chalk, but they taste so much better than any bicarb concoction that I came up with. They are quite abrasive though (hence the smooth teeth!) so I hope they aren’t damaging the enamel on my teeth. The abrasiveness also means I have to keep my mouth open when I brush as my toothbrush rubbing against the corner of my mouth with the toothy tabs was really irritant. I’m using “Breath of God” at the moment, which I chose on the recommendation of the shop assistant as being the least radical change from conventional toothpaste. And if I’ve had something particularly garlicky or I just want to be “normal” again I do occasionally still use regular toothpaste, probably about once every 3 or 4 days.

Lotion bars- Lush also do massage bars so I bought one to use instead of body moisturiser. I’m not a big body moisturiser user anyway, but occasionally my legs or elbows get dry and I want to put something on. I’ve been really happy with these- they go on quite sparingly and smell subtle but nice (of lemons, despite being supposedly peach scented). Once the weather warms up I have a feeling they might melt a bit too easily and be a bit greasy, but we’ll see. You can keep them in the fridge but who wants to go to the kitchen after a shower to put on moisturizer before they get dressed??

Unfortunately both the toothy tabs and the lotion bars are slightly more expensive than the products they’re replacing.

I’ve now used up the J&J cornstarch so I’m just using regular cooking cornflour instead of deodorant. I looked around for a while for a metal shaker for it but gave up and bought a plastic one- hopefully it’ll last.

Books– I did a bit more reading- “Plastic Free” by Beth Terry, who attacks plastic not just due to the waste impact but all the other evils it supposedly delivers (endocrine disruptors, carcinogens etc etc). I take these things with a grain of (package free) salt, but it’s easy to see how planting the seeds of doubt and fertilisng them with supposed science to a naïve (or even merely) open mind can create obsession and paranoia. I can imagine how people get turned against things like vaccination and fluoride, two other 20th century innovations that have done a lot of good but can be portrayed as the harbingers of just about every modern day affliction you can imagine. That said, I’m still trying to avoid it as much as possible, without being too paranoid about the damage it might be doing me personally.

I also read “The Zero-Waste Lifestyle” by Amy Korst by but to be honest it didn’t contain much I hadn’t read before, so it was a skim read really. That’s not to say it wouldn’t be interesting to someone embarking on a zero/less waste change but it didn’t hold a huge amount for me.

Right so much for that quick update.

I promise to write about something different next time, really!!!

 

 

Zero Waste Update 3- Collecting Rubbish

Sometimes I feel like I’ve become that annoying, preachy, eco-warrior from hell… Some days I feel like it’s all completely futile. But most days I feel like I’m actually on a meaningful venture that might, just maybe, make a difference. If not to the world then at least to me, my family and even my neighbourhood. There’s been enough interest on my Facebook Zero Waste posts – several likes, a couple of (positive) questions or comments- that suggest to me that a) there are more people who are interested in changing their own habits than I thought there were and that b) there are more people who hadn’t thought about a lot of the issues but are open to hearing new ideas. If there are a lot of people who are cynical about the whole thing and sick of me banging on about it, then at least they’ve had the good cyber-manners to keep quiet.

So, what’s new in the Life household, zero waste wise?? Lots but I think this one deserves a post of its own…

I’ve been on a couple of walks with the dog which have doubled as rubbish-collecting expeditions. One day last week, after a lot of wind and rain (and as it happened the day after the weekly council rubbish collection) I walked down to our local water-front park. The walk itself pretty much demonstrated the journey of a piece of rubbish (plastic and otherwise) that gets dropped in the street. There was so much of it around, undoubtedly much of it dropped and/or blown from household bins as the garbage truck picked them up. From the footpath, rubbish had blown into the gutters. It had then washed along the gutter to the drain, where surprisingly large pieces (and of course small ones) are able to enter. I picked up a shopping bag full of rubbish up off the street and out of the gutter on my way down to the park (about 1km away).

The park is on the water’s edge- there is a narrow harbour beach with a small retaining wall and with the recent wind and high tides the water level had evidently risen high enough to overflow and rise up onto the grass. Once it had subsided, the tide had left a high water line of sticks, plants, shells and RUBBISH. It was incredible. Much of it was plastic. Light enough to float and be washed up, I guess. Top mentions go to the round plastic peelable seals that most milk cartons come with these days. Second was probably those plastic ring seals that the milk cartons without the peelable ones have. There were the ubiquitous bottle tops from sports drinks and bottled water, particularly those small round clear plastic caps they put over the plastic pop-up spout. Plus the inside of pens, miniature plastic soy sauce bottles, many unidentifiable small plastic bits and bobs and of course, a couple of drinking straws. Beer bottle tops and cigarette butts topped the non-plastic offenders and just to mix it up there was also a piece of polystyrene which had broken up into a million billion pieces and I probably picked up about fifty of them.

The park has a dog poo bag dispenser, which I usually shun in favour of my own dog poo bags (we are currently using up our bought stock, after which we’ll start repurposing the other plastic bags that still, somehow, make their way into our home from time to time.) However, on this occasion I was quite glad of the bags, they are the size of a medium freezer bag and I filled 2 of them with small bits of litter from the park.

I set off back up the hill, feeling very virtuous although bothered slightly that if that rubbish hadn’t made it to landfill the first time, perhaps it wouldn’t the second, either. Or the third, or the fourth. Another thing I’ve noticed is how old and tatty a lot of the plastic is and I wonder how long it’s taken to look like that- are these bits of rubbish that have been in the water a month? A year? A decade?

This morning’s walk was more focused on the macro. I took a big department store bag with me (it was the first to hand) which proved lucky as, today being Monday, there seemed to be a lot of weekend rubbish around- not just bottle tops but bottles!! I walked down to a local beach this time. In total, 3 beer bottles, a vodka bottle and a bourbon and coke can plus several cigarette packets and soft drink bottle labels. Plus an equal number of milk bottle seals. At least my neighbours aren’t just drinking booze! The beach itself had the usual little plastic bits and bobs, I didn’t have the time (or, to be honest, the inclination) to pick every single one of them up. After all, I’m meant to be enjoying the walk too, not just staring down at my feet looking for bits of rubbish.

So on my way home I was thinking, I probably need a set of guidelines for when it all seems too much, a futile exercise, or one that becomes a chore rather than a good deed.

Perhaps I should focus on plastic, or big things, or just get a bag-full then stop. I’ve already decided that tiny things in the gutter (in fact most things in the gutter) can just stay there- there’s not much point trying to make the world a better place for myself, my children and the dog to live in if any of us gets taken out by a car whilst scrabbling around in the gutter for rubbish. I’m also really careful with tins and broken glass, my tetanus immunisations are up to date but similarly getting a festering infected wound is probably counter-productive to my zero waste endeavours.

So if you see a strange woman and a bored-looking dog wandering around the beaches and parks of Auckland, it’s probably me!

Zero Waste Update 2*

*I wrote this post in May but it looks as though I didn’t post it…. think maybe Baby L interrupted… Oops!

And so we continue this zero waste project… this morning as I was gazing into our rubbish bin (yes, I know, sad) I was struck by the proportion of its contents that consisted of nappies. We only have 1 child (Miss L) in nappies, although that’s soon (ie hopefully within the week) to be 2. Miss L, at 15kg and 22 months old, is simply too big for the cloth nappies I have, and I’m not forking out for another system when I hope she’ll be toilet trained in the next 6 months. I do try to make a nappy last as long as possible (sometimes invoking the need for nappy cream) and she does have some nappy-free time (usually at her own insistence) which saves on nappies and also does the job of nappy cream. I know it’s not ideal. But it works for us. As with Master and Miss L, I’m intending to use a combination of cloth & disposable for Baby L.

Wipes are another ongoing issue and source of enviro-guilt for me. I looked into bamboo wipes, and will probably give them a go, but I did some research on bamboo on the internet and found conflicting info. Yes it’s “biodegradable” under the right circumstances and “natural” but many sites seemed to suggest that the environmental impact of growing bamboo (clearing land, water consumption) is considerable. Worse than the alternatives? I don’t know. The other option would be toilet roll and some plant-based, super expensive body lotion from somewhere like Ecostore and I was prepared to try this option but annoyingly, when I was there the other day, I found they only sell teeny weeny bottles (not just expensive but also quite wasteful and their bottles are not refillable, just recyclable). I also thought about cloth wipes and just washing them but I know that the realities of washing a poo-encrusted piece of cloth would be prohibitive and it really wouldn’t take off. So back to bamboo it is, I suppose.

So how are the other projects going?

Reducing packaging

My new bread system is working brilliantly! I found an unused large linen drawstring bag, which had come as one of those protective covers for my Country Road Tote bag- which I use all the time unless I have the nappy bag (which is almost all the time) but regardless, I don’t empty my tote and put it away, so I have never had any use for the special bag-bag. I washed it and use it for my bread. It easily fits 4 large loaves, 6 rolls and the occasional scone or other treat.

I felt jubilant last week at the supermarket after psyching up and asking for my chicken breasts from the meat counter to be placed into my Tupperware container (actually they’re Décor but anyway). I had convinced myself that surely I wasn’t the ONLY person to have ever done this, right? The woman looked at me like I was mad. She glanced sideways and said “I’m not really sure I’m allowed to”. I said “I just want to save the plastic”. She added “I’ll have to weigh the container too”. I smiled, said “Just put it on the scales and zero it, then stick the label on the lid”. I was probably the most exciting customer she had all day. Certainly the most excited, I felt positively buoyant after the experience! Today that all came undone when I tried to buy ham from a different branch of the same chain of supermarket and was told “We’re not allowed to do that” but I was offered one of their plastic boxes instead of the usual plastic bag. I tried to explain that my objection was to the plastic, not to the bag, but got nowhere so took the plastic bag and walked off trying to look more haughty and less sheepish than I actually felt. Might have to work on that one….

We are bin-liner free! This was a really easy progression. I used to double line my bins (!!!) in case the liner leaked, so I wouldn’t have to clean the bin (I’d only routinely throw one liner away though, unless it had leaked and the second was dirty). Yes, I’ve had to wash the kitchen bin out a couple of times but it’s really no big deal. I try to put messy rubbish straight into the wheelie bin (the way our house is laid out this is not a big hassle, although once the rainy days of winter arrive I may feel differently) and for really, really messy things (eg chicken bones boiled & strained to make stock) I do put them in a plastic bag.

Toilet rolls– I placed a bulk order for 48 400-sheet 2-ply toilet rolls, from a website called insinc.co.nz, made from recycled paper and wrapped in paper, delivered in a cardboard box, no plastic!! Not entirely sure of the hydrocarbon cost and carbon emission created from the delivery of the box by, presumably, motorised transport but anyway.

Bamboo toothbrushes– I paid $6 a piece for these in Ecostore, then saw a different brand in New World for $4 each so bought one of those too just to compare. As soon as my plastic ones wear down, they’re getting a trial run. Ditto some bamboo cotton buds (which I personally don’t use but Mr L does).

Soap dishes– we are a liquid-soap free house! The bars are quite messy, I think maybe even worse on a dish. Plus they get dirty if you have really dirty hands (think grease from a car exhaust). Plus once they get soft the kids like to dig their fingers into the bars which is wasteful and unsightly but then I suppose so is chucking out a plastic soap refill container every few months.

Washing powder– I found a new brand in cardboard packaging going cheap in New World so decided to give it a go- it’s called Ecoplanet. Not as zero-waste as refilling my ice-cream container at Bin Inn, but I’d bought the non eco-friendly powder last time at Bin Inn, and was feeling guilty about that. I like the Ecoplanet better than some of the other eco-brands as the packaging is completely plastic free- no annoying plastic bag hiding inside the box and even a cardboard scoop instead of those plastic ones that you then get left wondering what to do with.

Cloth napkins– I dug out my (hardly ever used) cloth napkins to use instead of kitchen roll- we weren’t ever great kitchen-roll consumers anyway but I like to use one if I’m eating something messy and they kids have taken to using them too.

Shops

I continue to visit Bin Inn, trying to be mindful of the environmental issues associated with driving there in the first place. I have bought canola oil, golden syrup and honey there now and they do, in fact, sell olive oil, it’s just not on display.

Some other places I’ve found include:

Wise Cicada in Newmarket- they have loads of stuff on offer and seem to market themselves as an organic café/deli/general store. In fact, not all their products are “eco-friendly”- like the cotton-nylon shower puff they had. They had a lot of alternative-style, hemp and hessian bags and clothes for sale but I didn’t feel they offered much over and above my other eco-resources except for staff members with dreadlocks.

Huckleberry Farms– this appears to be a chain, the closest one being within a few km of our house. It seems to be more of a health-food shop and they do sell a lot of naturopathic/alternative health products, but they have a moderate selection of dry goods in bins.

And so we continue to pare our waste down…. Until next time!

Weighty issues part 1: Michelle, meet Gretchen

I specifically have not talked about weight or dieting (in detail anyway) on this blog- I wanted to keep it a weight-free zone. For most of my life I have had a preoccupation with my weight, diet, eating etc (I kept my first food log when I was 9 years old) and I didn’t want it to take over my blog.

However, Baby L is approaching the 4 month mark and I still have 8kg of baby weight to lose…

As part of my general ruminations about weight loss over the past few months I have vascillated wildly between two main strategies I might use to shift these stubbon kgs.

The first (and the diet I’ve been most successful with in the past, losing my baby weight after Miss L was born) essentially revolves around calorie counting. Specifically, the Michelle Bridges 12 week body transformation. It’s surprisingly simple: you eat fewer calories than you expend and voila, you lose weight. More specifically, 1200 calories a day for women- this allowed me to lose about 10kg in 12 weeks. It even permitted me a few slip-ups along the way. Michelle is big on exercise but emphasises that the calories you burn from exercise are far exceeded by the calories you save by sticking to the diet, however, I’m a big proponent of the other benefits of exercise (link to running post) even if calories burning is not number 1. You get a meal plan, which is essentially 7 new recipes a week, most of which were tasty and surprisingly quick to prepare. I found the diet quite easy to stick to for most of the 12 weeks. You keep a log of the food you eat (just for your own records) and you post your weight online once a week. She advocates weighing in on a Wednesday, which unofficially allows you to relax a bit on the weekend and be really strict on a Monday and Tuesday. You also get a treat meal once a week. She sends you weekly or twice weekly “motivational” emails and video links and you have access to the online 12WBT “community” where you can be encouraged and motivated (I must confess I was largely discouraged by the overwhelming stupidity of the general population and their failure to comprehend basic concepts but that’s another story.) This for the fairly reasonable price (I thought) of $200, which is less than $20 per week.

I finished that diet very pleased with the results, smaller than I’ve ever been (as an adult) and rather smug about how “easy” I’d found the whole thing. “I really have very little sympathy for people who say they can’t lose weight” I recall saying (despite the fact that I’d been struggling with it for 25 odd years). However, I felt a bit lost at the end of it, I kind of wondered “Well what do I do now?” Do I keep counting calories, do I start eating “normally” again? MB recommends you gradually increase your daily calorie allowance until you find your set point. She herself, apparently, doesn’t count calories or log her food but is (obviously) pretty in tune with how much she’s consuming and tends to stick to a fairly strict diet in the week and relaxes a “bit” on weekends. And so I started eating some of the things I’d given up- mainly cheese and cakes- started baking again, got a bit lazy…. And gradually 3kg crept back on. It wasn’t a huge deal, that was me back at the lower end of my comfortable adult weight range, so no big deal, right?

When I got pregnant with Baby L, I was determined not to gain 25kg again as I had done with the other two. But it became obvious I was stacking it on again so I tried to do MB to maintain my weight and limit my pregnancy gain. Hmmm…. Not so easy when nauseated and tired. So I ended up 25kg heavier again with Baby L.

Since giving birth I’ve said “Right, this is it, time to start!” a couple of times but I’ve just found it so bloody hard. I can’t help feeling that signing up online, paying the money, all of that seems key in sticking to it, but I find it ridiculous that handing over $20 a week makes you stick to a diet when you could spend that $20 on something else… like a yoga class, an exercise class, a pedicure (well not every week obviously).

It was timely then that I read Gretchen Rubin’s “Better Than Before”, which is a book about habits- forming good ones mainly. Early in the book she encourages you to identify what sort of personality you are- the options are Obliger, Upholder, Rebel and Questioner. I didn’t even need to read the descriptions of the personality types to know that I am an Obliger. Obligers essentially are motivated to follow through with things if they are accountable to someone else. We don’t like to let other people down but are less motivated by keeping promises we make to ourselves (Upholders on the other hand, are motivated to keep their promises to both other people and themselves). This kind of explained a lot, paying money (and not just my money but mine and Mr L’s money) means if I didn’t get results on this diet I would be wasting our money. And, somehow, posting my weight online for all to see (even people I didn’t know) also motivated me. So how can I substitute that external accountability?

The other thing I had last time was a wedding to go to at the end of the 12 weeks- one of Mr L’s friends- I’m not sure why that made a difference except for the fact that I knew that a lot of the girls there would be fit and skinny as well as younger than me and I suppose I didn’t want to be the fat dumpy wife (not that any of them would have thought that, it’s just how I would have felt).

I’m also trying this time to note how beneficial being a few kgs lighter would be for things like my newly trialled yoga hobby, running, SUPing, etc, rather thn just doing it for the sake of looking good.

So I’ve planned my meals, tried to substitute paying Michelle Bridges with paying my unofficial yoga fund and printed out some skinny pics of myself for motivation. I’ve also written out a week by week countdown and declared my 15 year uni reunion as the official 12 week milestone to get in shape for. (Interestingly, Gretchen warns against using a “finishing line” when trying to achieve goals or start habits, as they generally lead people to stop their new habit, after which they often find the second time round even harder. As I have proven…)

And if it all falls apart this week, there’s an “official” round of 12WBT starting September 14th