Tuesday, October 6, 2015

That Sugar Post

Long before I was an ethical consumer, I was a healthy eater. By healthy, I mean many things but, for the purposes of this post, I mean there’s little processed food in my diet. In addition to that, I’ve always been annoyed that a great number of processed foods are packaged, advertised and sold as “healthy.” Often high profile sports people endorse them. As a result of that, many consumers are eating foods that they believe are healthy and consuming more fat and/or sugar than they realise.

As an ethical consumer, I try to avoid both excess packaging and large corporations. Consequently, rarely eating packaged food supports both my choice to be healthy and my choice to be ethical.
Recently, both choices were confirmed in quite a dramatic way by viewing “That Sugar Film.”

Australian actor, Damon Gameau, who also eats an unprocessed diet, made the decision to see what would happen to him if he were to spend two months eating so called healthy processed foods. He learnt that although the U.S. recommended sugar consumption for an adult male is no more than nine teaspoons per day, the average Australian consumes forty teaspoons each day. That sounds virtually impossible to someone who watches what they eat, right? Wrong! On his first morning he ate a bowl of “healthy” cereal topped with flavoured yoghurt and washed it down with juice. That “healthy” breakfast contained twenty teaspoons of sugar.

For two months he ate cereal, flavoured yoghurt, muesli bars and fruit roll ups, and drank lots of juice and flavoured milk. His caloric intake remained the same because his usual diet is rich in fats from nuts and avocados.  Despite no increase in his caloric intake, he gained weight, increased his BMI, decreased his liver health and function, felt chronically tired and became dependent on his sugary but “healthy” treats. His fitness level dropped because he found his usual exercise harder. Throughout the experiment he was being monitored by his GP, a dietician and an endocrinologist. When the two months was up, he went through a physical withdrawal from the sugar when he returned to his low sugar, low processed diet.

What happened to his body was no surprise to me. Other parts of the movie were, however. Sugar triggers the same dopamine response in the brain as heroin. While a great many of us probably eat too much sugar, either by choice or from ignorance, it is possible for people to become as addicted to sugar as any other brain altering substance; much like alcohol in the sense that many adults drink but some of them become dependent on or addicted to alcohol and to stop means going through painful withdrawal.

Food manufacturers know this. They know exactly what sugar can do to the body and are downplaying it in the same way tobacco companies once distanced themselves from lung cancer. They experiment to find the “bliss point” of food or drink, the point at which it is as sweet as it can be without tasting bad. There is a science behind it and that science is experimenting to ensure that as many consumers as possible eat or drink their sugary treats. That’s also how they market them; as treats that we deserve. Or as something that creates a friend and fun filled life instead of compromising our health so that we become so ill and overweight that we can’t frolic on the beach in bikinis or boardies with our friends, with a soft drink in our hands. Worst of all is the idea that, by feeding our children these “healthy” foods, they’ll have the energy they need to be an active kid. Those ads tap directly into the fragile confidence of parents trying to do the right thing by their children, just as the ones suggesting we deserve a treat targets hard-working, harried individuals, and the ones showing fun and friendship are usually aimed at teenagers and young adults.

The other tactic used by big food manufacturers is to say “calories are calories.” In other words, if I choose to eat a packet of sweet biscuits for lunch instead of a salad sandwich of the same number of calories, it amounts to the same thing. (I’m not suggesting they’re the same number of calories; I’m just illustrating a point.) Nothing could be farther from the truth, however. The salad sandwich is full of a variety of nutrients, all of which my body will use for energy and repair. The biscuits, however, will give me a burst of short-term energy, followed by a slump that will make me feel the need to eat more sugar. In fact, I’ll use so little of the energy from the biscuits that it will be stored as fat. If, as time passes, I fail to use the energy which is stored as fat and eat more and more biscuits, I will continue to gain weight. With that weight gain will come the associated health risks of heart attack, stroke, diabetes and certain cancers. Furthermore, as I progress to one of those conditions, I’ll find myself feeling tiring more easily and less able to do the things I used to be able to easily do. So, calories aren’t just calories. If, however, the big food manufacturers can make consumers believe that they are, people will continue to eat those foods.

When we’d finished watching, “That Sugar Film”, Husband and I just looked at each other and shook our heads. The next day I went shopping and filled my trolley, as always, with mostly non-processed, ethically branded food.

Monday, May 25, 2015

Psst! Hey! Remember Me?

I’m afraid we’ve been stomping our way through life, leaving enormous footprints over the past nine or so months. There are many reasons but they’re probably not really valid excuses. So, rather than give you a litany of reasons as to why we’ve not done so well, I’m going to bring you up to date on what we’re still doing.

The season has ended but we enjoyed more home-grown lettuces, tomatoes and basil over the summer, as well as the first fruits from our orchard. We had peaches and nectarines and they were like an explosion of flavour whenever we bit into one. Sensational. We still have a couple of herbs which we faithfully add to our pasta and pizza sauces.

A couple of months ago, we bought a 10kg box of cooking tomatoes which we chopped, fried with onion and garlic and froze. We got many pastas, chilis, curries and soups from them. We’ve got another long weekend coming up soon and we’re going to do it again.

Daughter and I visited Hobart at the end of January and it was much colder than we had expected or packed for. Consequently, we had to go out on our first morning and buy warmer clothes. The place to which we rushed was the Vinnies near us. Daughter bought a jumper and I bought a lightweight jacket. We didn’t remove them for most of our nine days down there.

We continue to sort our rubbish into three bins, including putting our kitchen scraps into our green waste bin. Hubby is talking about composting but we’re not there yet. Our rubbish bin is rarely full, with most of it going into green waste and recycling. Where possible, I use old paper as scrap paper so both sides are used before recycling it.

I still faithfully shop with my Ethical Consumer Guide in hand, trying to choose the brands that do the least harm. My local supermarket is carrying fewer and fewer of those brands so I’m shopping a little further afield now. I try, however, to offset that by doing several other errands, too, whilst I’m out and about.

Earth friendly products are staples on my shopping list. For cleaning, however, I just use bicarb, vinegar and (green) dishwashing liquid.

Being nearly winter, it’s heater weather here now. We’re careful to only turn on the heater when we’re cold even in several layers and only use it in the rooms we’re in. When we go to bed, the heater goes off. So does the wifi.

We cook mostly from scratch, using fresh vegetables and staples from the pantry.

We borrow far more books and DVDs than we buy. The ones we purchase are usually gifts for each other.

We’re getting more creative about using leftover food but we still have a long way to go before we reach zero waste. Using puff pastry is one of our favourite ways to use leftovers. When my father-in-law passed away in September we took his old freezer. While we may be using more electricity, we’re using it really well and freezing much more leftover food for “puffs” and other meals. Without it, we couldn’t have frozen the tomatoes we processed. We eat a lot more meals from the freezer these days, saving small amounts we may have discarded in the past.

Wow, just writing it down, I realise that we haven’t been stomping as hard as I’d thought. I think I was just disappointed in myself for buying a few new items of unethical clothing and at Hubby and me for not getting our winter veggies happening.

What’s new with you?


Monday, March 9, 2015

The Mad March long weekend

March is called Mad March in Adelaide, where I live. During March there is a long weekend, which is even crazier than the rest of the month. The holiday Monday is for a horse race, the Adelaide Cup, which used to be held in May. I’m not sure why they changed it but it sort of works.

In March there are two concurrent Arts festivals, the Fringe and the Festival, a four-day WOMAD festival, a car race and a horse race. Over the long weekend, one can attend WOMAD, the horse race and/or any number of Fringe or Festival shows. Most people complain afterwards that they need a long weekend to recover from the long weekend.

Hubby and I began our weekend with his return from a five-day trip to Perth on Friday night. All of the children were at WOMAD so we had some time to catch up on each other’s weeks. He crashed early and I stayed awake in order to pick up the children at 12.30 from the local train station.

After a late start on Saturday, once the children had been deposited at the train station for another long day at WOMAD, Hubby and I drove to Gaganis Brothers to do some early Passover shopping. We bought a truckload of almond meal. I can only get it in small bags at the supermarket and I usually use over a kilogram in various cakes and snacks. It seems unnecessary to buy five small bags when I can buy one, resulting in much less packaging. Gaganis is a local food wholesaler and the meal was made from Australian almonds.

We also had to do a run up to Hahndorf to pick up some cheese. It made a lot more sense to stay out and go straight to there from Thebarton. Once in Hahndorf, we got cheese from local Adelaide Hills cheese maker, Udder Delights. By then, we were pretty hungry so we shared a seasonal produce plate, full of locally grown and freshly prepared salads, dips, olives and cheese at the Seasonal Garden Cafe.

We made a quick stop at the supermarket while we were out and headed home until it was time for WOMAD pick up.

On Sunday, Hubby and I went out to the Garden of Unearthly Delights, where we bought dinner at a local food stall, Voodoo Burgers, and drank locally owned and made beer, Coopers. We went to see comedian, Wil Anderson and then stopped for gelato at independent café, Brunelli, on Rundle Street.

Yesterday we walked over to nearby friends and had a lovely shared lunch.

And guess what? There are still five days left of the Fringe and the Festival! Bring it on.


Thursday, January 22, 2015

And While We're on the Subject of Hygiene...

If you read my most recent post, you'll know that I've been co washing my hair instead of using shampoo. Today I had my hair trimmed. I co washed and went off to the hairdresser. He didn't notice any difference - not that I told him. My hairdresser is pretty upfront so I'm certain he would have told me if he thought my hair was oily.

That was just an update, not the topic of today's post. I just thought that, since my last two have covered hygiene, I'd make it a trifecta.

I've been doing a lot of reading about hygiene and what is healthy and what is over the top. I was far more interested in researching it from a dermatological - rather than cosmetic - point of view. The cosmetic industry is the reason we think we need to cleanse, tone, exfoliate, moisturise, defoliate and douse every inch of ourselves with potentially harmful chemicals.

These are my findings:

Washing hair two to three times each week is sufficient for hygiene. "Squeaky clean" isn't clean; it means one's hair has been stripped of its natural oils.
Dermatologists don't seem to have a strong opinion one way or the other in relation to not using shampoo.

Bathing and Showering
Again, two to three times each week is sufficient, with additional sponge bathing of the smelly parts in between. Daily showers or baths are drying and damaging.

We're over-washing our faces. All we need to do is wash with a PH balanced cleanser in the evening and moisturise if the skin is dry. The older we get, the more important it is to exfoliate regularly to remove dead skin cells. Oil cleansing is still quite alternative and I could find nothing on what dermatologists think of it.

Not necessary for any reason other than social.

How is this relevant to Footprints??? Anything we can do to reduce the products and, thus, resources that we're using is important to us.

Having said that, the idea of not showering every day is eew. I realised many years ago, though, that if I only used soap on the smelly parts, my skin wouldn't dry out so much. The soap we use is very kind; it's made with vegetable oil and is locally and ethically produced. I still need to moisturise after my shower but my skin isn't dry or damaged. I've been thinking that using a loofah or flannel a couple times a week to remove dead skin might be beneficial and help the moisturiser sink in more deeply. At present, I use jojoba oil to moisturise. I do use soap all over when I've been wearing sunblock, been swimming or have been particularly sweaty.

Despite the fact that deodorant is unnecessary and I use a more natural alternative, I don't plan to stop using it. The reasons may be social but they're deeply ingrained, not just in me but in others. I don't want to smell.

I don't think the family and I are doing much to save the planet when it comes to our hygiene. We like our daily showers and to smell and look clean. What we are doing, however, is not overusing products and trying to use ethical and natural ones.


Monday, January 19, 2015

To (Sham) Poo or Not To Poo

A few years ago Daughter’s then boyfriend mentioned in conversation that he’d read that there were people who no longer used shampoo. He said that, after a period of oiliness, the scalp down regulates its sebum production and the hair begins to look clean again. My initial reaction was, “Eew.”

When I joined The Non-Consumer Advocate Facebook group, periodic threads would come up about washing with “no poo.” I learnt that giving up shampoo didn’t mean giving up washing. The most common washing agents – used in conjunction as shampoo and conditioner – are bicarb and apple cider vinegar. People use other things, too, however, such as honey, tea, apple sauce, egg and water only. Washing with conditioner only is known as “co washing”.  The most common reason for washing with “no poo” is to minimize the chemicals which are prevalent in shampoo.

As I learnt more about “no poo” I became increasingly curious about the down regulation of sebum production. I had learnt from washing my face with water only and then with the Oil Cleansing Method that the manner and products with which one washes one’s face plays a large role in sebum production. I began to wonder if there was a way of washing my hair that would have the same effect. I certainly found that when I was in a situation where I was shampooing every day, oil production increased.

I’ve had short hair at various times in my life but have never been able to just towel dry it. Due to its fineness, in order for it to hold a style, I have to use product in it and then blow dry it. When it was short I had to shampoo every day to wash out product so I could put new product in. On home days I would just wet it and give it a rest. Interestingly, on those days, when it was a little oily, it would look good because I could finger style it and let it dry naturally.

On 10th December I did two things. I had my hair cut short and decided to “co wash” and see what happened. I opted for “co washing” because I wondered if conditioner, like the oil I use on my face, might work to attract the oil and dirt in my hair and scalp, which would then be washed off with it. I “co wash” every four days and either wet it or wash with water only in between, depending on how dirty it looks. (Washing with water only isn’t just rinsing, it involves massaging the scalp the way one would with shampoo, in order to remove dirt and oil.)

I love “co washing”. It leaves my hair clean and soft. As far as sebum production goes, I find my hair is erratic. It may be that it’s still transitioning and down regulating. Sometimes it feels oily the day after it’s washed, sometimes it feels clean until the day before. Other times, it feels dirty on day two but clean again on day three. There’s no rhyme or reason at this stage. It doesn’t look dirty or oily, however; no matter which day it is. It simply looks like there’s product in it and all I have to do is towel dry and finger style it.

This has been an experiment in curiosity. As I’ve used organic shampoo for years, I haven’t been concerned about the chemicals therein. I just like the idea of my hair and scalp dictating how often they’re washed, without using products which alter the natural production of sebum. I don’t know how long I’ll continue; there are days when I long for shampoo. If nothing else, I’ve learnt that I can probably get away with shampooing every third day. I may even “co wash” on some of those days, if I go back to shampoo. I don’t really know yet. I’ll keep you posted.


What I Learned from a Bathroom Renovation

We had our bathroom renovated at the end of last year and I learnt some personal "Footprints" lessons. For three weeks, we walked three doors up the street to our friends' house to shower and do laundry. A couple of times we had to toilet there but the tradies were solicitous of our needs and tried to do the toilet room in such a way that we wouldn't be inconvenienced.

During this time I grabbed showers when I could and never knew if I'd be able to have one every day. Consequently, it was easier to wash my hair and wear commercial antiperspirant every time I showered, which turned out to be every day in the end. We had no bathroom sink so I washed my face with water only rather than oil cleansing.

Before the renovation, I had been washing my hair every second day. Sometimes, if I were having a home day, I'd even let it go three days. It wasn't pleasant on the third day but, whenever I washed it, it looked and felt clean, soft and pretty. During the bathroom renovation I washed it everyday and it felt limp and greasy the whole time. When I went back to washing it less frequently, it was very oily at first but then went back to looking better without daily washing. The first lesson I learnt was that my hair looks and feels much cleaner and less oily if I don't wash it daily.

Several months ago, intrigued by the Oil Cleansing Method, I decided to give it a try. Being a bit lazy I bought Moo Goo brand pre-prepared cleansing oil, rather than make my own. So little oil is needed that the small bottle lasts forever. Furthermore, if I try my hand at making my own, I'll have a perfect little bottle into which to put it. Before then, I'd been washing with water only for years with no adverse effects. Cleansing with oil is wonderful. It leaves my skin feeling deeply clean and actually removes excess oil without drying it out. During our renovation, when I went back to water only because there was no bathroom sink over which to cleanse, my face felt less clean and more oily. If I used any other product it felt dry. The second lesson I learnt was that I'm addicted to oil cleansing.

As for antiperspirant deodorants: I have used a crystal for years and years. If it's particularly hot or I know I'm going somewhere where I'm going to be hugging someone, I use antiperspirant but it's not the norm. I certainly don't use it on a daily basis. I did during our renovation and it was fine. When I returned to the crystal afterwards, however, there was a period of a few days during which I sweated profusely. It was as if my body was grateful that it could sweat again and was going crazy. I don't like to smell but I'm quite happy to sweat and it seems unnatural not to do so. My body certainly seems to think so. The second lesson I learnt was that I much prefer my deodorant crystal to antiperspirant deodorant.

The last lesson I learnt is of a womanly nature so, if you don't want too much information, I suggest you stop reading now.

Of course, according to Murphy's Law, about a day or two into our renovation my period arrived. I've been using cloth moonpads for a year or so. I love them because they're so comfortable. For the last few months I've also been using a cup. It was easier, not having a viable bathroom or being able to do laundry at home, to use disposable products. I know many women are grossed out by the idea of what I use. Interestingly, I found the disposable products disgusting. To me, they're uncomfortable and take up a lot of room in the bin (and eventually in landfill). I love just tossing my pads into the washing machine and washing my lunette in the shower. So easy. The last lesson I learnt was that I'm totally converted to using reusable sanitary products.

The lessons have inspired me to try to wash my hair with "no poo" and try to make deodorant. Those, however, are for another post.


Thursday, May 1, 2014

What's Happening Out There

Long time followers of Footprints know that my favourite blog is The Non-Consumer Advocate. I also belong to the Non-Consumer Advocate group on Facebook and am always inspired by the people in the group. They’re not all non-consumers as such. Their reasons for being in the group are many and varied. Some want to save money, others are part of The Compact, some are trying to help the environment, others want to be ethical and some just love the challenge and the satisfaction of trying not to buy new things. Regardless of the reasons, we have become a vibrant on-line community. I’ve learnt a lot about what people are doing. At times, I feel like I’ve only touched the tip of the iceberg of what I could be doing and need – at those times - to remind myself that anything I do helps.
Some people are willing to take their non-consumerism to lengths I’d never considered, doing things I’d never even heard of and I’d really like to share with you, in this post, some of the things that people are doing. Naturally, there is the usual: growing one’s own veggies and from that, canning and/or freezing and sharing surplus, bartering, buying second-hand, borrowing instead of buying, repairing and mending, taking advantage of special offers, buying in bulk, finding new uses for old things and simply deciding that the desired item isn’t a necessity. The list goes on.

Here are the things I want to add:

Oil Pulling
A couple of my cousins are doing this. It involves swishing and pulling oil – preferably unrefined organic coconut oil – around in one’s mouth for twenty minutes daily. It’s meant to remove bacteria and impurities from the body via the mouth. I’ve read articles on-line in favour and against. All I know is that the people who do it swear by it, saying it makes them feel better. If it works, it would go a long way towards keeping down medical and dental costs and be good preventive medicine. I haven’t tried it yet but am thinking of giving it a go.

Oil Cleansing
While I’m writing about oil, I’ll cover this one, too. Using a combination of the right oils can deep cleanse the face and remove excess oil from the skin. The idea is that oil attracts oil. I tried it but used the wrong oil. Interestingly, it dried out my usually combination skin. Used correctly I think it would be quite effective. It would certainly be a money saver for people who spend a lot on facial cleansers and would be a much more natural way to clean the face. I’m not sure if I’ll bother to try. I have a confession to make. I stopped using cleansers on my face as an experiment many months ago. It occurred to me that I was stripping the natural oils with cleanser which I would then replace with moisturiser. I decided to just use water and see what happened. Absolutely nothing. Nada. My face is clean with the right balance of oils. How’s that???

No Poo
This uses the principle of what I just wrote about my face and applies it to hair. The “poo” in no poo is shampoo. Some people have stopped using shampoo. Shampoo strips the scalp of its natural oils so the skin compensates by producing extra, thus leading to oily hair. People using no poo use a combination of baking soda and apple cider vinegar instead. Initially the hair goes through a greasy stage of adjustment. I’m really attracted to trying this but don’t want to go through that stage. I’ve thought of cutting my hair really short and taking it from there. I like the idea of not using shampoo. I use ones which don’t have SLS but I’d still prefer not to use it at all. It would certainly save money, cut down on packaging and help keep our waterways cleaner. My mother once joked when she had cancer that the upside to chemo was all the money she was saving on hair care.

Wet Wipes
From shampoo to real poo. There are people that use wet rags to wipe themselves after going to the toilet. Some only use them for wees, others for both. Then, just like with cloth nappies, the rags are put into a bucket to soak. Imagine how many trees would be saved if we all used old, unmendable t-shirts and linens to wipe ourselves. I love the idea – in theory. I certainly used cloth nappies for both of my kids. I think that’s one of the reasons I wouldn’t use wet wipes. I’m not grossed out or offended by it and I think it would get one’s bottom much cleaner. It’s just that I’ve been there and done that already with the kids. I don’t want to do it again.

Fanny Rags
If you know the expression “on the rag” you probably know that women once used “fanny rags” instead of disposable pads during their periods. Some have gone back to it, put off by all the chemicals in sanitary pads, the fact that they fill our dumps and waterways, as well as to save money. We must spend a fortune in our fertile lifetimes on those products! It’s a bit like using wet wipes in that soiled ones are put into a bucket to soak. Some people make cloth pads themselves, others buy them from companies such as Moonpads. There are also various internal, washable, reusable cups that can be used instead of tampons. I have no problem with any of the above-mentioned products whatsoever and am not grossed out at all. I have a couple of moonpads and like them. In fact, if I weren’t coming to the end of my child-bearing days I’d completely change over. For now, I'm just marking time.