Friday, December 5, 2014

4 gift ideas to create WELLTH - a book a sensor a stimulant an energy source - Fire Up the Season.

'Tis the season of giving, and boy do i have what i think are absolutely AWESOME ideas to help the ones you love experience joy and wellbeing - all over the map in prices, so you have LOTS of wonderful options.
Whether celebrating Festivus or Solstice
it's fun to share some wellth with the ones you love
(image source
Today, i'm going to offer you food for thought on four wellbeing things:

  • a paradigm shifting book on physical practice - the CardioCode
  • the one sensor i can recommend on multiple levels - for the sun - sunsprite
  • a couple things in the coffee space from flavour to skills beans to pour over
  • and still cooking - what may be a paradigm shift to make cooking more fast fun efficient and enjoyable - with induction

Hope you enjoy, and perhaps get inspired with related ideas to help your loved ones OWN their wellbeing practices.

Idea 1: Books

If you already have a fitness practice

"what books would you recommend" in the strength space, a wonderful sports columnist asked me recently - he mentioned a bunch - not the one i'm about to recommend -and i said, well, there's really only one right now - and i'd suggest you read it first as it may change your mind about the other ones.

The book is Kenneth Jay's CardioCode  - download

That's it. This is the only book on the list, and there's a reason:

It's a kind of paradigm shift for those of us who love strength training and have thought of cardio as more of a supplement than a primary.

From reading this book, you'll get that that perception of cardio may just be a bit wrong. You'll see why especially if you're doing a lot of strength work, your heart valves NEED this kind of cadio/vascular work.

If you already do primarily aerobic work from step to long runs, this book will help you understand how to tune that practice and assess it on multiple levels to make sure you're spending your time on the trail as effectively as possible.

I hope to do a more indepth review/interview with KJ about the book, but for now, suffice it to say, the emphasis of the book is to get at helping us (1) understand what cardio vascular training really is/means (not what we usually think eg long slow endurance or occasional fat burning intervals) (2) what CV training means (3) how to assess baselines and progress across multiple factors (not just heartrate zones, oh no. we're talking power power power) (4) why CV training in the way described in the book may need to become the dominant form of training.

For those who know KJ from his Kettlebell days, Cardio Code is not a repudiation of strength training; it's a refinement of previous practice - it comes to terms with how doing One Thing of anything when talking complex systems like the body may not be ideal. KJ seems to be exploring how to develop optimal approaches to training to support optimizing the performance for which we as humans seem best designed.  The next time KJ talks about weights, it will likely be around power/force generation rather than lifting raw loads for the sake of. I'm not prescient - he's been posting about Fast Force First for awhile on Facebook.

This book is what ya might call "important" - and part of why i think it's important is this alignment - as i see it anyway - of exploring what it means to be Human - physically in particular. And how to be a Great Human - physically.

Other books that treat CV related training do so as a means to an end: do this to be a better rower, cyclists, runner. And that's fine. KJ's focus - again, this is my take - we haven't talked about this - is that he's interested in how to become an optimal KJ - for his own sake. And that he's sharing this rationale with the rest of us so we can optimise up, too.

It's not that other folks haven't been talking about functional, primal and all sorts of basic movements and practices for ages. You will be hard pressed however to find another book that goes into the basics behind why the kind of intense CV work KJ describes. Or offers ways to baseline performance.

I've said intense a few times. CV training in this book is intense. It's not sit on a bike and casually spin. It's work. Again, the book takes you into why/how of working this way in order to achieve very particular adaptations.

I'm kinda in love with the book because it shows research on what are the BEST mechanisms to achieve these CV adaptations. Guess what they are? Running Rowing and Biking. I rarely see that combination - especially getting down with the research on rowing. and i love to row as my cv power hour and channel Xeno Muller.

On biking if you cycle (i like to ride (hills in the rain, oh ya) and row; run is usually recovery) - there's good literature review of what's going on there and why but the two main performance examples illustrated throughout the book are running and rowing. And that's fine. If you're into cycling this book will let you know why you'd want a power meter - and there are some good books in that space - but neither focus on the why's for wellbeing like KJ does - they focus on dialing in power for performance. So if you're a power cyclist - you will benefit mightily from this book.

Examples Live: As we speak KJ is also running a 6week protocol for rowing to improve his 2k row time. Folks can follow the program on facebook, run it themselves etc. He walks the walk and the book lets you know why this might be a Good Idea for getting into the CV intense space. And because he's always online on FB it's easy to engage and get feedback.

If you're super interested, KJ has started a course on the cardio code, too, to help you get one with the measures and techniques.

Really, read this book. It will tune your mind in new ways

Very short list, eh? really, i just don't want to suggest anything else till we're all on the same page with this one.

Idea 2: Sensors

Here comes the Sun:

Ya fitbits. wifi scales; calorie counters; hours slept - all things that count - what are we doing? That's
a post coming up. What the heck are we doing with these numbers. Really i'm asking what's our model for these devices? Are they helping to make us healthy? For instance: are 10k steps the big win, or is it movement frequency - maybe fewer steps - that is the big win - and that's harder isn't it? how build a sensor to help us move more frequently? It's not as simple as a jawbone zapping us every 20 mins - it's supposed to do that only if you haven't been moving - but doesn't know if you're standing - and movement is pretty insensitive. 

SO i'm feeling a little dubious about measures without good models as part of building resilient knowledge.

BUT there is one sensor that i think is just fantastic in its completeness.

It's something called sunsprite. I THANK Ben Rubin of Boston's Change Collective (formerly of Zeo) for telling me about the folks at Sunsprite and this awesome tool.

Gotta do a big review of this too, but for right now why spend money on this over a fitbit or anything else? because it will help you Dial In Better more quickly and easily and effectively than just about anything else with the LEAST cost/effort of any of those other awesome things AND it's the one key thing, especially to be aware of in this dark season, that most of us simply are not dialed into - at our loss. Having a plateau issue? with weight loss or strength or stress? put some light on it and see what happens. 

Sunsprite happy dance

A video posted by @m.c.phoo on

The simple simple premise of a whole lot of complex science is: get a bunch of sun (or bright white light) at the start of your day, and you'll feel SO MUCH better - and sleep better. 

The monitor simply tells you when you've gotten 10K Lux worth of radiation. 10 LEDs on a sensor - brilliantly powered by a solar battery - clever or what - let you know how you're doing. That's it. 

What's really scary is how dark UK days make it almost impossible to get that level of sun. I've walked 5miles in dark grey days and gotten to 4 only. WHereas a bit more sun - 30 mins and all in. I'm exploring using a litebook or philips goLite as ways to pump up my exposure. 

The thing is, getting the sun/light DOES make a difference to quality of life pretty quickly. Do it for a week and notice better sleep - less interrupted - less stress too.  I dunno. it's freaky.  

The research i've been going through shows that for everything from mood/affect to weight management, syncing our various circadian clocks earlier in the day with a solar jolt does amazing good - quickly.

So why the sensor?
 If the intent is to develop a light practice, a sun focus, this tool helps build in some feedback on success or not.  There is a bluetooth phone app you can also use to observe patterns of light - would be nice to have a build in affect / sleep quality perception tracker too to make correlating light and mood and rest together. But perhaps that's a developer opportuntiy.

 If you've hit a plateau with your wellbeing practice, if you're dealing with stress, poor sleep, mood stuff - or just not feeling like you're firing on all cylinders - get some more big light. And if you want to see how you're doing - and get a nudge to keep this in mind - the tracker is the only sensor i can happily recommend right now as connecting model and measure so elegantly.

Idea 3: Stimulants - and so much more 

 Coffee - Consider the source: Go Local and International

Do you know someone who really loves good coffee? Coffee can be so wonderful.
i've been tweating over @mcphoo a variety of articles about coffee and green tea and how they are good for so many things  - and i mean the whole food/thing that is coffee and tea - not isolated caffeine. 

Coffee because of its strange flavour possibilities can be so nuanced. It's wonderful to have a really good cup of coffee. One where you really don't want to put anything in it. I mean it. Recently i started making hand cut french fries: slicing up the spud, baking them in the oven. We could not believe the flavour - ketchup took away from the natural savory sweetness of the spud. Great coffee is like that - it's so good it doesn't need anything else - that starts to kill it. You know?

Not that there's anything wrong with a fantastic latte - esp with latte art - but that's a different drink that a lovely cup of coffee. They are different. That's a latte this is a cup of coffee, you know? 

Coffee Beans make a fantastic gift: the bag is kinda squishy, you can shake it - and it gives off a fabulous aroma. What's not to love?

AND if you do a google search for your area, guaranteed you'll find roasters who will mail out fresh roast beens. Read the reviews online - find out who people recommend - look at what feels good. This can be a hugely affordable and personal gift all at once.

Roasted Single Origin Beans. If you have someone in your life that enjoys coffee, you may want to find out how they make it at home: if they like to buy beans and grind them at home, consider getting them some single origin coffee beans. Just check for roasters in your area. Mail order is easy; beans come fast and fresh roasted - just ask when the beans do get roasted - try to get under a week old. In the UK i just got some from a roaster called RaveCoffee that was roasted the day before it got to me. 

If they get beans ground: you can still get them fresh roasted beans and ask to have them ground - for the kind of coffee they like - a press pot grind is different than drip is different than epsresso. So are the roasts. Lighter for pour over; darker for espresso - not always but usually. 

You may want to get a couple types of beans that are very distinct from each other for flavour. Kenya AA is very different from Ethiopian is very different from Guatamalen. Which is great - it means your pal can start to explore tastes and learn more about the beverage they love.

Local Baristas
What can also be fun is doing a Cafe Crawl - to find independent coffee makers - sans attitude - who will make coffee for you and talk about it with you. Loads of resources here too to put together a tour for your pal - that is something made with research and lots of love. In the London area for instance, Philip Wain is a total coffee area maven. In Boston for espresso and related espresso based drinks, for bean recommendations, well, you might check out San at the coffee trike 

Going Manual - for the slightly ocd coffee person in your life
In the UK startbux was quoted the other day as saying it makes Zero profit here (tax issue - starbucks/amazon not paying uk tax). 

Fantastic. Let's help Startbucks go even further away from worrying about profit. How? 
2) make your own (dam) coffee 

I don't mean espresso per say but that cup of coffee thing.
You may be thinking, i have a coffee maker, and i go to Starbucks or Nero or Costa because i don't really like the coffee pot next to my double carmel machiata for a million dollars every morning.

I understand. I hear you.
It's so easy to get coffee wrong - to be crap. 
But, it's also fun to get into making it beautifully - to OWN that cup of coffee.

There are many many ways to go here, but i'm going to touch on two i enjoy for one or two people servings - not for something to stand all day. 
1) aerobie aeropress (Amazon uk || amazon US link affil links) and 
2) hario v60 ceramic with filters with choice of sizes (1 or 2). (UK || US

They both cost about the same in the USD 25'ish mark. They each require practice to get right, but when you dial it in, it's awesome. And saying that - they're both different. The aeropress forces the water via pressure over the grounds (not unlike espresso/moka uses pressure); the pour over uses gravity of the water to flow over the grounds. 

There are many videos and how to's for both. In each case, you will hear about grams of water vs coffee -and water temperature, and how these all effect extraction/flavour. 

The amazing thing is, a coffee buddy who goes out for coffee and has a cup of coffee from time to time will amaze themselves if they just follow the instructions for instance that come with the aeropress - and make it dead easy to have a brave new coffee experience.

Here's a wee video i did about travelling with the aeropress -

And here's my fave way to make a wee Hario v60 pour over 

Life tuning events can happen so unexpectedly...
My thanks to Ed Cutrell for challenging me this spring/summer to give the Aeropress a try. 

Idea 4: Cooking 

- induction 

This gift idea starts to get into electronics and the price goes up. Double the price of that aeropress, and getting even more personal with the one you heart.

induction plus pressure cooker
mas macho.
see stock story
If your loved one has pots/pans on the bottom that say they can handle induction, you may want to give getting a portable induction hob as a gift - if they don't already have induction. Why?  It's a great complement to gas, and blows the doors off any kind of traditional electric.

Induction is cooking by magnetic field: so only the part of the element gets hot that is under the pot. really simple. And very very fast to get to any level of heating. Very efficient, too. It's so clean in how it works, it's just awesome. When it's off, like gas, it's off. And like gas, the only thing that stays warm is what the gas has heated - so it comes on fast the area cools fast. It's amazing. For the pressure cooker that i love the induction plate is its soul mate.

I first got turned onto induction watching a how to make a hanah grant Saxo bike team how to make an omelette video (take a look)

Then! i was staying at a place for a conference that had induction. WOW.

Some portables i can tell ya, are great in the mid range but are not great when it comes to simmering - so need to check how it does its temperature intervals. It seems that they may have a limited shelf life, given comments on amazon. But they're cheaper than taking the family out for a meal, so oh well.

Now, in looking for a better induction hob, i inadvertently found one that is the Ferrari of induction plates: the CS30001TS. Ferrari From quality to price. Designed and made in the UK for the catering 12-15 hours a day of use, it has 99 steps for tuning its heat. My portable has 10.

look - one surface, three pots going - and a half grape fruit
staying chill.
AND it has that funky blue light.
like neon lit license plates, or what?
If you're into the pro level - or just want to see what that's like, in the UK, do check out Induced Energy - they even have an induction set that works under a fabricated granite-type counter top - to no cutting holes in the counter to have a hob. Freaky.  If you are at that place where you can get one of these - let me know - would love to hear how you use and enjoy it to pieces.

Heh, they even have a two ring version - and after watching Little Paris Kitchen - where the wee wee flat has a two ring gas burner and toaster oven for all cooking - well you know - one could do a more space age version of that flat - and still save space.

And if none of this works techno wise, but your pal/family want to get more into cooking, then Little Paris Kitchen also shows, it don't take much besides fresh whole food to make flavourful feasts (check out use of limited space, dual gas ring and toaster over here).

Wrapping Up - An important part of giving, for the Reveal

Well here's a bunch of ways to support various aspects of wellbeing in i hope a few new ways at least - and sometimes a change in practice is as good as a rest.

If you try these, please let me know - give me a shout @mcphoo on twitter (kinda phasing out @begin2dig)

And have a great solstice season.


Thursday, December 4, 2014

buddha and the nervous system: detachment from stress & suffering via reducing threat

i'd like to suggest that buddhism has a nervous system analog. In fact any systemic approach to the
Walking Buddha
Even the Buddha
got movement
to blow off stress
(image source)

world, like buddhism and my fave the Sedona Method that all feature "letting go," of desire in the former case and feelings in the latter, are really cognitive analogues to a cold shower: something that snaps us out of our threat/neurotic focus on the thing in front of us - often to the exclusion of all else in order to restore our peripheral vision, awareness of Other Stuff, alternatives, the wider view.

When we are less attached to something it's easier to see others, other ideas; when we are less invested in one position we are open to possibilities others might offer.

I am effectively likening stress to attachment. Let me try to break this down.

Stress = Attachment = Viewfield Narrowing (ie Focus)

In buddhism, as i understand it, suffering is the big issue - and suffering comes from attachment. Let go of desire; let go of suffering. We cause our own suffering. Suffering; joy - it's argued is all just perspective.

Ah ha!

Perspective is a metaphor, but a telling one relative to what happens via the nervous system under threat.

Our field of view - our peripheral vision - closes down when we're under threat. We focus on the salient thing in front of us: the tiger, the avalanche, the angry boss, the object of lust. With that focus, there is a phisiologic response that includes that narrowed field of view (and also audio shut down). We do not hear or perceive much outside that salient focus.

fight, flight or freeze
when under threat we protect the squishy bits
that becomes our reflexive locus of concern
In a stressed state, what's more, with that narrowed often negative field of view, the salient bits that get through tend to be negative. We have a hard time perceiving positive occurrences when recalling our day, for example. We are physiologically as well as now psychologically attached to that stress/negative filter and focus.

Dealing with a Stress/Threat/Attachment Response as it happens

We often imagine the buddha sitting with his fingers up.
Maybe he's doing breathing exercises.
Buddha was also around when folks were a lot more active - not living in a sedentary culture - like now.

Thus, for most of us sitting is not a change up; not a break and NOT the best way to deal with that stress/negative focus, yet this is the dominant posture of most of us reading this post. IF you're sitting right now and feeling stressed, consider getting up and doing some stairs or going for a walk.

We go do that walk or some push ups or something to elevate the heart if we are having a stress/threat (attachment to suffering/emotional) response in a non-physical context in particular (that is not being threatened by a bear), where we are still wired to respond by movement: getting our heart rates up will help blow off the chemical responses being triggered by stress.

Stress is a sign physically to fight or run away. If we get our heart rates up from movement, our hormones charging us up for a physical response can calm down because we are doing what we're wired to do. When we don't move, that's not listening, is it? so the signal gets sent again - our stress level increases (irrationally, but physiologically) - do we respond by moving?

Reducing Instances of Threat/Attachment/Stress

That's what to do to help blow off a stress response when it's happening, but how about reducing the likelihood of getting triggered into a stress or highly emotive state (anger, fear, lust, pride - any of these can get us tripping, narrowed focus).

A great way to help stop undue triggers/attachments is sleep. If we're tired/vulnerable/less able to react effectively, we also tend to have less resources to deal with stress, so it takes less to set us into that negative spiral. Get sufficient sleep, we have more resilience. Less attachment. Easier to be buddha.

Resources to Deal with the Physiology of Attachment/Stress/Threat

One more way to make it easier to be buddha is to eat whole food so our necessary nutrients are stocked up.

Stress, after all, has a HUGE  physiological component. We may cause our stress to get worse by dwelling on a situation cognitively, or by trying to rationalise away our feelings, but there's a cycle at play: are our hormones triggering a tighter focus on getting an appropriate threat response? or our lack of physiological resources upping our reactivity to smaller triggers? If we don't eat the nutrients we need to function in a balanced way, we don't have the chemical resources our systems require to process these stressors effectively. We are running on a chemical deficit. Heck even being dehydrated can make it harder to deal with stress. Fast food or lots of processed food that takes out nutrients are both great ways to put us at a nutritional deficit such that we're more vulnerable to getting into a threat response.

And stress, hormonally, is a threat response.

Consider if we feel stressed at work. Why? because we fear our job is under threat? our performance is being judged? we are being bullied and feel unsafe?

Attachment as Threat Response

To bring this back to buddhism - Why do we fear an evaluation of our work, for instance? we are attached to our status and that may be at risk - unfairly or otherwise - from this evaluation? We are afraid to lose our perceived means of survival (income loss etc and can't perceive the options we may have)? We have a desire to achieve something we've invested in and thus are attached to that outcome ( eg i put in a grant proposal that takes months to write - do i get invested in wanting to see it come through? uh huh!) Our concerns about outcomes can narrow our focus to just that thing - we stop seeing alternatives.

The simple equation here is that attachment to suffering may just be a threat response: where attachment is focus narrowed to the most salient target - our fear (or lust), and a belief that says must focus on this as my life/happiness/success/relationship depends on it. But does it? or does it just seem that way? How do we know? If we can't pull up - reduce the threat, the attachment, the emotional state - it's very difficult to "see" what's around us, to perceive the panorama

panorama view - disappears under threat
comes back when we reduce threat (image source)
Reduce threat - reduce that hormonal response we AUTOMATICALLY restore a wider field of view; we can perceive options again - we are able to ask, for example, "what is the worst that could happen" - and work back from there.

This framing is not to say that having a threat response is not appropriate in some cases; it's not saying move to some la la state where everything is awesome when it's not  - but sometimes we get triggered more easily than may be appropriate to the situation, we get too focused on the Thing rahter than on for instance what the sedona method calls Right Action.

My observation - and the research literature seems to back this up -  is that we are more easily threatened/triggered/fearful when we are
- under slept
- poorly fed
- sedentary

just to touch on a few factors.
let the sunshine in - the earlier
in the day, the better
check out to check your levels
image source

Circadian Syncing for Neural Support
Another factor i've been noticing lately is helping me feel more balanced/less attached and less easily triggered, and therefore more able to respond effectively without freaking myself out, is getting a big jolt of light in the morning. In other words, working with my circadian rhythms which also is a key to our hormonal processes- but more of that (and the amazing sunsprite) another time.

We have Bodies: work WITH them
The big point here is that we are physical beings, and our physiology has a lot to do with how we cognitively process our environments.

You may be able to think of times when things seemed so much easier when you were well rested or had been doing more walks or were eating healthier - if not, you may wish to give it a go.

A Wider Field of View: Houston we Have Options

The benefits from a creative, innovative perspective, and from a working with others perspective, is
winter sunrise - walkin' buddha
knows sunshine helps
keep it together - in a detached
kinda way
(image source)
that it's much much easier to think new ideas, to perceive options, when our bodies do not feel under stress - when we can therefore physiologically achieve a wider field of view - literally and metaphorically.

It is easier to deal with the tiger in front of us if we can perceive the tools/support around us to deal with that situation; when we're less stressed we can also respond less reflexively and more thoughtfully/lovingly

In other words, it's simply easier to be zen about the world around us, our lives, to feel less attached, less emotionally driven, when we reduce the threat response.

It's much easier to move out of threat when we have quality movement, rest and food

So if you are feeling stressed about work, short tempered with your family, in lust with something or person, consider your movement, sleep and food as places you can start to engage the problem. From improving these aspects, you may find it easier to relax, physically look up and around the horizon, breath and see options. From here it is easier to "let go" of the attachments, the feelings, keeping us in the hole.

In other words, we can give ourselves a better chance at enlightenment with quality rest, activity and food.

If you're feeling stressed/fearful/lusty right now - narrow focus - rather than wider view - which one of these three might you be able to tune in right now: movement, rest, quality food. Give yourself a week with one of them; see how you feel. My bet is your inner smiling buddha will emerge fairly effortlessly.

let go of attachment; perceiving the options
easier with quality food, sleep movement and food
image source
Thank you to Ed Cutrell for a lovely suite of conversations about Buddhism.
The concept of the Nervous System wired to detect threat or not threat was introduced to me by Eric Cobb D.C., founder of Z-Health.

Saturday, October 25, 2014

Skin and Bone meets pressure cooker for awesome broth stock staple paleo or not it rocks - How to Make your Own

This post is going to be a how to for making fantastic stock/broth - as well as some thoughts on why you might want to bother - regularly - both to make and consume it.
making bone broth from scratch: yes you can
and in about 70 mins rather than 12 hours or 7 days
If you already know the pure and delightful Truth of Broth (or Stock) then please sing along with me, here. If you do not, have i ever got news for you - and fear not - this is going to be SO EASY AND FUN you’ll wonder where this food source has been all your life.

So let me begin:
Do you love food? The flavours? the textures?
Are you a bit of a techno geek? (anyone a little ocd in this regard - there’s love here for you too).

DO you like the idea of eating not only flavourful stuff but mmm mmm healthy too?

So my next question if you’re saying AMEN, mc, AMEN to any of these is:

Well do you make your own stock?

if the answer is “ah….” perhaps we may want to start with the basics:

Well what the heck is STOCK? 

Oh, to be able to hold your hand, and look you in the eye and say “it’s wonderful!”

If you eat meat, if you cook it at home, if you have bones left over that you’ve been throwing out or composting, i have news for you: these are the source of Awesome Goodness - and taste. rich wonderful soothing happiness can be yours - and you can feel better in yourself for getting EVEN MORE VALUE out of your meat (energy costly) purchases.

Stock/Broth (broth tends to have more meat in it than stock which is more bone, so if there's chunks of meat left on the bone?? let's not get hung up on terms) - is made from cooking up bones in water to pull out their nutrient goodness  that just doesn’t come out of them when surface cooking meat.

There are some really nice overviews of the benefits of broth already online () that suggest even if some of the claims may seem to jump the shark, there's some home and science truths in there, as well. [the Paleo Leap detailed faq seems the richest. the whole9 bone broth FAQ, some good stuff on geletin and collagen via Dr. Axe  and learn about GAGs and broth, too]

This stock is the basis of traditional preparations from chicken soup to rich gravy to anything in a recipe where anyone would suggest a disgusting bovril cube.

The Horror of Dehydrated Stock: Where's the Beed?

Indeed, this whole exploration into stock started for me when feeling a bit punk last year and thinking “consume would be good - how about getting a beef bouillon cube?” - and then reading the labels of said cubes. To quote a 70’s commercial “where’s the beef”? or Chicken.

Ew! what is that? MSG much?
so called "stock" cube -don't do it
Here's the ingredient list of a Bovril Chicken Sachet in Oct 2014:

Do you see Chicken in this? What's the first ingredient?

Here's the Beef Sachet

What’s the solution? Going manual.

Cooking Up Bones

AH but HOW go manual?

Stock is traditionally done up by bones in water for a long time on a low heat to get them to break down enough to release that goodness from marrow innards to releasing bone itself - and also extracting more goodness from the stuff left on the bones (tendons, bits of meat, fats) that usually gets tossed and lost.

8-12 hours is not uncommon for the slow cooking approach to bone broth. That's a bit much. I say, a bit much.

Enter Technology: long live the Pressure Cooker.

My hope was that there may be a way to shorten cooking time for stock, and that something in the back of my mind said “pressure cooker”

Now the pressure cooker for me was something when growing up was to be feared: used for canning jams, apparently the pot could just fly apart - or so we were lead to believe - with this little rocker on top of it pistoning back and forth, steam squirting from it “pressure cookers are dangerous - back away” - Fear.

que es mas macho? mc describing research while swinging 48kg
- how hard can a pressure cooker be?
But then i thought, now wait a minute: i’ve heard that about kettlebells, too, and it just takes some skills to use those safely. Perhaps pressure cookers are sort of the same.

Pressure Cooker or Kettlebell.
Que es mas macho?

Turns out pressure cookers have come a long way in terms of reliability of their seals, and the mechanisms used to suggest the heat can now be turned down to maintain internal pressure.  Turns out pressure cookers are about the coolest cooking implement out there in terms of not just speed of cooking but the way they (a) reduce energy use big time for cooking and (b) maintain nutrients in the foods better than anything else. no kidding.

Quick Insight into How PC’s work

Ah even Peter Gabriel celebrates the wonderful power of Steam.
Raise pressure, we raise boiling point.
Higher boiling point, hotter by product of boiling, that is, hotter steam.
image from Pressure Cooker Diaries: how pc's work

Pressurised steam gets really hot (120C rather than 100 [okay, 250+ rather than 212F])
- steam also transfers energy more intensely when cooking than putting the thing on a grill - by about 6x’s. So it’s fast - as steaming veggies shows.
That highly efficient fast energy transfer  in the steamer can transform those veggies rapidly without damaging it/changing it (i.e. killng nutrients and taste) as much as air-based (oven) cooking (check out PC nutrient cooking facts - you may be surprised at just how awesome PC's are for preserving food value - esp. for big greens like kale or spring greens i am totally doing them in the PC now - 3 mins - done).

Now with a PC we’re combining the benefits of steam with even higher temperatures, which means that cooking times can also be significantly reduced.

Back to Broth: Pressure Cooker Meets Bone

SO instead of beef bones slowly simmering away in water at a low heat for 8-10 hours (called slow cooking for a reason), we now get bone broth done in a pressure cooker for, oh, all in, 70-90 minutes. Some people go for even shorter cooks, but in my experience, from the moment one turns on the heat, to when the lid is ready to open again we’re talking about an hour and a half.

Here’s how it goes:

What you Need - besides the pressure cooker
- whatever bones you like -
Chicken carcass from
roast chicken - great base for broth - include the
skin and any herbs used in roasting

They all create something slightly different. For instance, chicken bones and skin can be pretty mild and not very gelatinous when the broth is done.

Red meat bones (lamb, beef)seem to be more punchy in their flavour.

 I like to use a mix of chicken and beef bones. As i don’t eat as much red meat, but do have a local butcher, i can get a big bag o’ beef bones for a quid. This is stunning to me: when visiting pals in Seattle this summer, we went to an organic food co-op and two bits of soup bone from a happy grass fed cow were over 6 dollars. Uh huh. So yes, bones for a quid. From UK grass fed cows. Thank you.

Note on Chicken: it’s nice if you’ve roasted a chicken and you put thyme and rosemary inside the cavity - to leave those herbs in the carcass for the broth - nice flavours.

- veggies
really - here, it’s very simple - break up some older carrots, cut up an onion or so,

Garlic, carrots, onions - enough for stock
smash in some garlic (i like rather a lot) - leave the skins on as all this will be sieved out - and that’s about it for the veg. Some folks like to add cilantro etc. Ya go ahead. i prefer that fresh cut after.

other bits
- 5ml of cider vinegar - this helps get the stuff off the bones
- 30 ml of Red Boat Fish Sauce - this is a Thai fish sauce that is just anchovies and salt - and it’s used in lieu of salt - thanks to Nom Nom Paleo for this tip.

Red Boat Fish Sauce;
Cider Vinegar
WHY Red Boat reason 1:- it’s the one Thai Fish Sauce i’ve found that doesn’t have sugar in it - if you find others you like that are just anchovies and salt, please let me know
WHY Red Boat reason 2:  i’m really hesitant to put salt into a pressure cooker. Some folks do this with no problems, but if a bit of salt doesn’t dissolve i’ve seen it pit the floor of the PC - that’s only an aesthetic gripe perhaps - but i like my tools to be as happy as possible.
WHY Red Boat reason 3: compared to using salt, i prefer the slight taste difference of the fish sauce.

Put about 120ml of water into a cup and pour in both the cider vinegar and the red boat sauce - leave aside

That’s it for ingredients.

Thinking ahead: how much bone-age?

You’re going to be putting bones and veg into this pot and covering it with water (a la top photo). The absolute MAX amount you want in whatever size PC you’re using is no more than 2/3 full. I prefer to go for enough so that when the bones and veg are covered it’s no more than the half way mark. I get about 2.5L of stock from that, (done in a 6L PC) and that’s more than ample for a week of fresh stock.

Once you’ve figured out Amounts,
BROWN THE BONES (about 10 minutes)
That means: put some olive oil in the bottom of the pot, get it up to a medium heat and put in the bones, so they can fit making good contact with the surface of the bone to the pot bottom, turning them every few minutes, to build up some brownness on the bone. Some people skip this step, but i think that’s sad: you’d be missing a really lovely flavour if ya don’t brown the bones. but you know - find out what you like.

Chicken and Beef Bones in the pot with some oil to brown
bone remnants post browning
Now take out the bones - put ‘em aside on a plate

next: degalze (wonderful term, eh?)
This is easy and just takes a minute or two
Put a little water (use filtered again for flavour) into the hot pot, and use a spatula or water - bamboo or silicon tools are groovy here - to scrape off the stuff that’s now at the bottom of the pot - get all the bits off. it’s easy to do. just watch for rubbing so vigerously you splatter your self - there’s hot fat in there!

add a little water and then scrape gently to remove bone bits from bottom of pan
watch for steam and oil spitting up at you.
after de-glazing bone bits loosened off.
Now we’re all set to go: 
Put the bones back in.
Cover them with water.
Put in the veggies
veggies laid in on the bones

Cover everything with water - again just cover - onions and carrots can float so just poke ‘em to make sure they’re floating as opposed to sitting high, meaning more water.

** Pour in the fish sauce/vinegar/water mix.

Check that all is covered and that you’re not TOO FULL (not beyond 2/3s - a mark many pots have inside ) better to be safe than sorry - so be careful here.

note water is just to 1/2 full mark here
Check the gasket around the lid of your PC to make sure it’s seated correctly
Put the lid on.

Fire up the pressure cooker.
— On a stove - whether electric or gas - you can crank the element as high as you’d like here.
Getting the PC to 15PSI on Induction Plate
— On an induction hob: back off from full bore - medium high is usually great - going back to medium high give the PC time to get the whole PC nice and evenly hot inside rather than just stoking up the boil on the water. The heuristic here is find a temp so it takes at least 10 minutes for the PC to get to its HI pressure setting. Thanks for here for tips on induction heating of PC’s

Once the PC hits hi (every PC is a little different in how it indicates its full 15psi, but that's what we're looking for: hi pressure) start the time for 50mins and back it off to whatever heat setting is required to maintain high pressure for the 50 minutes.

NOTE ON TIME - some folks like 30 minutes - yes that can work - but i like the extra time that i’ve found really takes the stuff off the bones and the bones become more soft, white, extracted. It’s up to you.

Once the 50mins is up, take the PC off the heat and let the pressure release on its own (called natural release method)
Once the valve says it’s ready to take off the lid, take off the lid.


here's that same beef bone from
the browning image above, post PC.
Bone is white and along with tendon/cartilage
 notice how broken down,
mineral goodness into broth
For this stage, i like to move the whole pot into the sink because i’m going to be transferring bones etc to a sieve over the bowel i’m going to use to hold the broth, and from there out to the Compost or Trash for the left over bits.

SO - from the sink, open pot, get a spoon - again i like to use a spoon with a plastic head to avoid scratching the inside of the pot. you don’t have to - you can use stainless steel - i just prefer this way.

You can also use tongs to pull out the bones or you can be brave and just pour the whole thing into a sieve sitting in a bowl, lift out the sieve, and voila, your hot stock is there.

Do whatever you wish with the bones etc, and prepare to TASTE your broth. There will be a lot of fat potentially floating on the top that will later be skimmed off but right now (if you wish), inhale the aroma and enjoy a taste.

Stock SETTING - Pre Fridge
I like to put a plate on top of the bowl and let the broth cool before putting it in the fridge overnight.
A method to accelerate the cooling of the broth to get it into the fridge sooner? i bet i didn’t invent this - someone else must have thought of it - but  i feel pretty clever - i fill a big mason jar with icy cold water and put that in the middle of the bowl.

I’ll change the water a few times - it’s cool to observe this energy transfer: 70degree broth with a 15C 500ml jar of water - both will get to the same temperature in how long?? When the stock gets to about 20C it’s ready to go into the fridge.
ice and cold water in jar, jar in broth
accelerate cooling down to get into fridge
Setting  - in fridge
let the stock do its thing overnight in the fridge. Cover bowl with a plate while in the fridge: as it does its final cooling the fat may form stalagtites on the underside of the plate - better there than a shelf in your fridge. With say Lamb in the stock, that lanolin can be quite the chore to get off.

In the morning the fat will come to the top of the broth and form a skin (referred to as scum. blick) ; this skin can be easily peeled off with a big spoon, and then chucked. I’m sure some folks will find a way to make candles or something from this - i haven’t done that as of this date.

morning Stock: fat skin (aka scum) on broth

Fat is quite hard on top and easy to lift off in sheets
The stock can then be put into airtight containers.
Pending on the type of bones, the stock will be more liquidy or gelatinous. Neither state has an effect on taste; it may only indicate something about the amount of gelatine in the stock. If you want lots, those large beef bones are the ticket. Chicken skin going in with the caracas also seems to make some difference here.

in this case, a pretty getaltinous thick stock,
pouring into airtight container for fridge
Stock can be frozen easily in freezer bags or in ice cube trays and then into freezer bags for easy use, and kept that way for months.
et voila! thick stock - 2.5L - ready to heat, eat, put
back in fridge or freeze
Fresh, lasts without any second guessing for a week.

Example USE - Fish Soup 

Stock can be used for all sorts of things: glazing meats making gravy, bases for soups, steaming veggies. Anywhere you'd usually use water in cooking, we can use stock it seems.

A recipe i've been loving in the mornings as a safe way to get my DHA/EPA from whole-food sources is fish soup.
 100g skinless cooked/smoked mackerel cut up into small pieces the size you'd like in a spoon

- 2 ladels of stock 

- a bit of unpasturised miso paste, for all the good little bacteria (i like clearspring organic - keeps in the fridge, from japan (about miso))

- a bit of hot sauce to taste (i love me some Cambrdige Chilli Company Ghost Pepper no. 10)

- some wakame (dried little pieces of sea weed that reconstitute in the broth)

That's about it - now you can heat this back up on the stove or shove it in the nuker for 2mins.

Enjoy with a side of cooked kale and blanched spinach, with a bit of coarse ground salt.


I like this for the protein and for the natural fish oil (over 2.5 g of omega 3 in 100g of mackerel) and the FLAVOUR and the warmth.

One More Example: Broth for Lunch

A very similar recipe is simply to replace the fish with turkey and pop the whole thing into an airtight and leak tight container to take to work. We have a fridge at work, so that's where this container goes till lunch. 

Prepping Lunch: stock, a couple shots Ghost Pepper no. 10,
clearspring organic miso paste, wakame, chopped up
turkey cooked the night before.
Lid up, away ya go.
There's something so civilised about a hot lunch, don't you think? Stock lets you have something home made, extremely tasty and filling - that double hit of protein - a bit from the broth and more from the meat - also has a high satiety value to keep us rolling through the afternoon.

Sunday Ritual: Making Stock.

Making stock like this has become a bit of a sunday ritual - it's easy to do, soothing, takes my head out of work, and provides something nice for the family for the rest of the week. With a pressure cooker and left over bones, rescuing some tired veggies, i'm reducing food waste, getting more out of an animal, and apparently doing something health positive too. What's not to enjoy?

Hope you'll let me know if you give this a go.  And especially hope you'll find the taste place you love as you do.

Saturday, September 20, 2014

Losing Weight by Losing Weight Loss Want?

Question 1: Are any of you at a place where you'd kinda like to burn some fat, get a little leaner? sQuestion 2: have you been here before? where you've lost it, had it down for a bit but now you're back? Question 3: the scale therefore is a big part of validating progress: must weigh X; a good day is seeing scale go down; a bad day is scale goes up?

Ya, that's me, too -(loving that withings wifi scale...) except my mind is starting to change about the scale.

For context, here's my eating base line:
eat protein, eat greens each time i eat - have healthy fats during the day. that's about it as foundation.

For the past little while - 50 days - via the Precision Nutrition Lean Eating approach -

i've been doing two things:

1. Amping back into resistance, with endurance for active recovery, and intervals

2. and just focusing on, what to me have been some novel basics to add to the above greens/proteins/fats:

- eat **slowly** - that's a biggie
- eat to 80% full;

Here's what i'm noticing over the past 50ish days: weight is not changing at all. I mean. nada. it goes down it goes up - all within one pound, within any given week.

BUT girth measures are going down. Not rapidly, but unequivocally. Steadily. Weekly.

I have begun to use a tape measure each day i weigh in.

And we know what that tape / weight measure means, don't we?
Yup, there is a fat reduction that's happening and a lean mass improvement.

What's the big deal surprise about that, you may be asking?
Lots of people when they start trying to lose weight think they're not making progress cuz the scale isn't changing, but their measures are.


But here's the deal: i'm not approaching this process to think "diet" or "i have to lose X pounds by Y" or that i have to eat less.

i'm just exploring a process.

History to This Practice Change

See, about 22 m. ago i was as lean and strong as i've ever been. Took me about four months of training for a lifting challenge and being radical about food in order to make weight for this competition.

i used a pretty extreme approach - the "modified velocity diet" - (you can see that all on begin2dig here). I certainly proved to myself that one could both lose weight/burn fat AND get stronger at the same time. Bully.

The big PN approach/question is "and how's that working for you?"

I just got schooled.

Plain and simple, it wasn't working for me.

What i found was that after this amazing experience, the weight started climbing back up.

And yes, i believed that the expert knowledge is that one can't stay competition lean all the time BUT - but! Really?

I didn't feel great. It was like that comp kinda took the sauce out of me. Burnt out. Kept working out, but not with the vim.

Last year i switched from resistance to endurance training - just to explore that - spending a lot of time on the bike. I enjoyed it - maybe needed a break - and the bike was an interesting place to recover.  My resting heart rate dropped in a big way, too. And so what? well

Didn't like the weight gain of 7-8 pounds from competition weight. On a small person that's not insignificant. It was a familiar weight, but not a desired one. In the past i'd always felt better about 5-6 pounds lighter. Again, for a small person 5 pounds ain't nothin.

And looking at my records, i could see that i have gone through a variety of strategies to get lean, to get to that happy weight. and that all of them have worked.

For about four months.
maybe again you think 5-6 pound - meh - big deal.

I think it's a sign.

What does that sign say?

"How's that working for you?"

This question could quickly be followed by the definition of insanity: to repeat the same thing over and over (try yet another lean speed attempt) and expect a different result.

The other strategy that PN proposes is "try the opposite" 

The opposite of my previous approaches would be - stop going for a "quick fix" - i hadn't thought that's what i'd been doing - because since about 2007 my foundational approach is as above: greens and protein each feeding opportunity, healthy fats. But then i'd try eating only within an 8 hour window and that would work for awhile. or only eating one meal a day. with protein shakes the remainder. or fasting once or twice a week etc. And that all worked. Until it didn't.

Try the opposite - of focusing on weight loss

In this case, with the PN Coaching approach, opposite is letting go(*) of weight loss and focusing on a new relationship with food and movement practice. I've tried all the other sane stuff, so why not? The commitment is - you will achieve your results; but just let go and trust the process. The process is a year long. Not four months. Three times that - a year.

Giving Myself a Year

Taken from the perspective of a year, not seeing weight go down (not seeing it go up either) is easy. Given that i'm used to results in four months, i have a few four month cycles in this process. I'm not even half way through the first four months of this process.

And what i'm finding, as said, is this interesting shift to a new measure that i find i am coming to value more than the scale, and it's my myotape.

Have you ever had a sprain - ligaments ripping? Have you ever broken a bone, too? Which took longer to feel like it had really repaired?
For me, it's been the connective tissue stuff, and it can be really depressing when it feels like it takes so long to get going back to strength.

But you know, we most of us get it: tendons have less blood supply than bones; it's longer for stuff to move around in that tissue to knit it back together, etc etc. It takes time; needs lots of rehab.

Turns out we may need to think about our bodies adapting to new food approaches in a similar way - that it take way more time than we think it does but the effects are more resilient when we take that time

New science suggests that there are reasons why sudden weigh loss is hard to sustain - or almost impossible, and that yo yo'ing is nearly inevitable - because our hormones (those pesky middle managers) take time to adapt to change too.

That also makes sense: if something happens in our bodies quickly - like getting freaked out or being without food, or say really extreme - having the air to our lungs cut off - our bodies will try to compensate to protect us.

Now imagine that we've been perceived to have been starving ourselves - that restraint relaxes - what are the messages going to be?


Slow Down: time to adapt.

So perhaps what i'm learning is to give my body time to adapt, hormonally, to some subtle changes in eating and moving.

Here's the thing: for a person who really does only have a few pounds to lose, and for plain health reasons has absolutely no need to lose them, that weight loss is not going to happen quickly.

The losing a pound or two a week, not on.

And right now, from the girth measures, it seems i'm reducing fat and putting on lean tissue. Nothing radical but not nothing, either.

That's kind of exciting.

Try the opposite - of the scale

The opposite says let go of the number on the scale and focus on  what i'm doing
And there's a new measure for that. The tape measure.
In my oppositeness i'm not using calipers right now either.  Just girth. the classic "is my ass getting smaller?"

And other things i'm noticing:
My relationship to food is changing: i'm eating slower. And with this i'm eating less, by not reflexively getting seconds - whether veggies and protein or not - just no on the seconds and not missing it.
There's hormonal reasons for that working, too.

I'm still trying to get the real feel of eating to 80% of full. But i'm noticing that i could likely stop sooner than i do. And i'm ok with just noticing that right now.

An unexpected AH HA moment

It's as said only near 60days in - so why am i writing this now?
Because i saw something that gave me pause - that made me think this approach is actually having an effect that i would not have noticed.

I saw a video of myself from feb. Feb 14 2014, and i know exactly what i weighed that day from my geek records.

youtube - ogilvyLabs - feb14, 2014

I saw another video of myself from Aug 26, 2014 after i'd been doing this approach for 40ish days.

 ogilvy in5 experiment with m.c.

I weighed about 2 pounds in the second vid than i did in the first, but
personally, i think the second video looks leaner in the face.

Heavier but leaner (looking). Hmm.

So, as said i'm only into this process about two months. But i'm enjoying all these new perspectives, and how calm this approach is to just let go of (another pn focus shift) the OUTCOMES (i must weigh X by Y) and just learning and trusting the BEHAVIOURS - to get towards those outcomes. or not. Those may change from extentional (i weigh x) to intensional* (i'm getting leaner and stronger).

IT's feeling like an interesting experience, and i've been given a boost to say ok, yes, tending towards the right direction - i'm willing to keep exploring this.

SO to answer "how's that working for you"

the answer is "really well, thank you. different, but a good different...willing to keep going...better than the alternative"

SO far sane, calm, easy - all feels better than extreme, driven, wiped out.

Will keep you posted. Happy to take questions, too.

(*a little Montegue Semantics there)

ps - a related paper i co-authored about how scales work - or don't - called "there's no such thing as gaining a pound"

(*) and a note about "letting go" around goals.


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