In Search of the Lean Six Life

Smarter, not harder. Preferrably A LOT smarter.


Leave a comment

My New Earthing Shoes

Yes, I meant earthing, Earthling.

Since first learning about earthing in the book Head Strong, I’ve become a fan of going barefoot outside. Earthing – also known as grounding – promotes the idea that being in direct contact with the earth’s surface allows the planet’s negative charge to impact the body. Restoring this connection, which is often interrupted by our modern nature-free lifestyles, can supposedly bring about a wide array of health benefits.

If you do an internet search on the term “earthing”, the first search results are all for fancy gadgets to simulate that electric charge: while sleeping, while working on your computing, even while relaxing on your couch in front of the TV.

What about just, you know, being in direct contact with the earth?

I’m not going to spend a ton of money on a fancy earthing mat or any of the other “trending” earthing products, because that is not aligned with my values. I go barefoot primarily in my own yard, where I know exactly what has been sprayed on the grass (nothing for at least a year) and it’s relatively easy to dodge any “presents” from the neighbor’s dogs. Gardening barefoot has been my major source of earthing time. I have no evidence either way if earthing has impacted my health or mental well-being, but there are a lot of things we do (like taking vitamins) without *really* knowing if they make a difference.

Until it nearly killed me.

Well, I am exaggerating. Slightly. But it could have. You see, I got stung when I stepped on a honey bee.

In previous years, we’ve had few, if any, honey bees in our yard. But since we stopped spraying the grass to kill the “weeds”, and persistent wet weather had prevented mowing, clover was EVERYWHERE. Plus, I suspect someone in our area got a hive, because it went from ZERO honey bees last year, to honey bees everywhere this year. (Thank you, neighbor, whoever you are.)

Honey bee with clover

Mmmm, Clover!

It was great, all those extra pollinators buzzing around my yard. Until it wasn’t. I hadn’t been stung in over 30 years, and I’d completely forgotten how much it hurt. Plus when the sting is on the bottom of your foot, how do you hobble the 100+ feet back to your house to get help? I finally reached the house; my husband removed the stinger and applied ice, no big deal.

Then two days later, my foot swelled to the point where I couldn’t wear any shoes but flip-flops. As a result, I learned that you can in fact be allergic to bee stings without experiencing anaphylaxis. I thought those were the only two options – just a sting, or slow suffocating death as your airways swell shut. Nope, somewhere in between those two ends of the spectrum is me. Although if it had been multiple stings, or it had been near my face or neck, the story might have had a different ending. And apparently allergic reactions can worsen over time with repeated exposures, eventually reaching the anaphylaxis level.

Can you tell which foot was stung?

Can you tell which foot was stung?

Needless to say, I don’t garden barefoot anymore. Flip-flops or sloggers – and their thick rubber soles – protect me from wanton insects. And the static charge of the earth.

Enter: my new gardening shoes.

My New Earthing Shoes

My New Earthing Shoes

I had scoured the internet for ‘earthing shoes’ previously, without much luck. I wanted a shoe that didn’t keep the earth’s charge from reaching the wearer. This could be accomplished with an entirely leather shoe, perhaps, or with capacitive materials running through the sole to allow the charge to pass from earth to shoe to person. With a few exceptions, every shoe out there anymore has rubber or plastic soles. (Some men’s dress shoes for example … not gonna wear those while gardening though. Same for the “Dash Runamoc” shoe from softstarshoes.com – I am NOT wearing anything that pricey to garden!)

So I did what I always do when the marketplace fails to provide the product I want to buy. I made it myself. And by “I”, I mean myself with a lot of support from my husband who is better at leatherworking than I am. And by “a lot of support”, I mean he basically made them according to my instructions!

Apparently “barefoot running” is a thing, and provided a good starting point to fashion my own sandal. I used this site and this site as my main sources of inspiration. I thought I would be clever and use my favorite sandal to cut the pattern. After a shoe isn’t “really” the shape of a foot, it’s the shape of an object encasing a foot. Not so much – look at that weird shape.

Sandal tracing - terrible idea!

Sandal tracing – terrible idea!

So I stood on the paper and my husband traced around my actual foot. You can see the difference in the sandal shape (right) and my actual foot shape (left).

Tracings Compared (Foot, left; Sandal, right)

Tracings Compared (Foot, left; Sandal, right)

We (he) free-handed the holes between the toes, and the tabs on the sides to lace through. The leather is 4/5 ounce vegetable tanned cow. Yes, we are the kind of family that has hides laying around the house waiting to be fashioned into crafts!

Completed Earthing Shoe Pattern

Completed Earthing Shoe Pattern

The first attempt worked ok, only needing minor adjustments to better follow the shape of my toes. The second attempt was a substantial improvement, but you can see from the photo they are stiff and flat. The side flaps jut out awkwardly to the sides.

Shoes 1.0 ... Still Pretty Stiff

Shoes 1.0 … Still Pretty Stiff

The next step is getting the leather wet so it can mold to your feet. The challenge is, since this is untreated leather, it will always get floppy any time it gets wet, like in the dewy early morning (the only reasonable time to garden in the summer months), or following rain. Any time the shoes get wet from gardening, I just wear them until completely dry so they can re-mold to my feet. Once they are dry, they fit perfectly again!

Mmmm, Sexy Shoes!

Mmmm, Sexy Shoes!

An extra tab of leather behind the heel allows for a nice, snug fit that stays tight throughout my various gardening activities.

My only complaint is that the front of the sandal tends to fold under while I’m walking, especially if they have gotten wet. I might try a thicker leather in the future, or moving the lacing holes forward for more support. But that is a very minor issue, compared to being almost barefoot in my garden again. These shoes are super lightweight and easy to replace as they go through wear and tear. They are biodegradable too – no landfills for them once they do reach the end of their useful life.


1 Comment

And Now for Something Completely Different

This is not a foraging blog.

Yes, I have recently written many foraging posts. In fact, mostly foraging posts. I discovered that committing to a “weekly series” helps motivate me to post more regularly. And there are always new developments in the realm of wild edibles, particularly this time of year.

But foraging is just one element of what the Lean Six Life means to me. I am seeking ways to reduce waste and clutter in my life, and to reduce variation by bringing my life closer into alignment with my values. (I know, I know, I really need to update my About page.)

Health is also important to me, but historically I have neglected the “fitness” aspect of my well-being. Focusing on food is so much… well, tastier. To address this, recently I started a new workout routine loosely based on / inspired by some exercises and concepts from The Four Hour Body by Tim Ferriss. (From my local library. I have a moratorium on book purchases until I declutter my current collection … see previous description of my Lean Six Life.) Here’s what I am doing, Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays before work:

hip flexor stretches – 30 seconds per leg (p. 179)
kettlebell swings (although I hinge instead of squatting, based on independent research, aka lots of YouTube videos) – 25 reps (p. 165 & 166)
jump squats – 30 seconds (not in the book – I added this for additional toning)
flying dog – 15 per side (p. 164 & 167)
cat vomit (hey, blame Tim for the names, not me!) – 10 reps for 12 seconds each, with a 10 second rest between reps (p. 177 – 178)
kettlebell swings – 25 reps
jump squats – 30 seconds
bridge – 20 reps (p. 164 & 167)
planks – 30 seconds front and each side (p. 179)
kettlebell swings – 25 reps
jump squats – 30 seconds
myotatic crunch (or as I prefer to call it, the myotatic couch … since I don’t have a proper exercise ball) – 10 reps with a 4 second-hold at the top of the movement (p. 175 – 177)
collapse in a quivering pile

This whole routing takes less than 25 minutes, so less than 1.5 hours per week. It’s short enough that my usual cop out (“But I don’t have time!”) holds little weight. (Haha, get it?)

However, I have veered from the book’s guidance in one major way. I have NO before photos, measurements, weight, body fat measurement – no metrics at all by which I can assess my progress towards being more “fit” or “toned.” Yes, Tim emphasized repeatedly the importance of having starting measurements. I’m sorry, Tim. I didn’t listen.

See, over a year ago, I stopped tracking. Yes, really. Yes, everything. I ditched the FitBit activity tracker and the scale, and even abandoned food logging in LoseIt. After reading Yoga of Eating by Charles Eisenstein, I decided to listen to my body and be more in tune with its messages rather than blindly tracking metrics hoping that some perfect combination of macronutrients and calories would lead to some kind of physical perfection. And I don’t (often) regret it. The human body is more than the sum of its measurements, after all.

So I define “success” for this workout by my experience. How easily does it integrate into my daily routine? Can I do it at home with simple equipment? Does it wipe me out by the end of the workout, i.e., continues to challenge me physically – and when it no longer does, how easily can I increase the intensity again? Do I dread exercising or look forward to it (at least enough to haul myself out of bed)? Do I feel changes in my muscles, like a tighter core that helps support my posture?

No, it’s not scientific… but by focusing on my experience, I’m hoping establish an exercise system rather than achieve a specific goal.


2 Comments

This Is Not the Post You Were Looking For

You were looking for the post on dietary habits and sustainability.

Instead, this is a post on me giving up on coconut milk yogurt.

It wasn’t hard to make. But in the several batches I made, I never felt like it was, well, cultured enough.

Normally the bacteria eat the sugar in cow’s milk.  Coconut milk is low in sugar, so I added maple syrup to give the little guys sugar to eat. But adding extra sugar – even “natural” start like maple syrup – feels wrong to me.

Then the results were never as yogurt-y as it seemed they should be. Even after 24 hours of incubating.

And I never found a store bought coconut milk yogurt that tasted good either, so….back to cow’s milk yogurt (and sinus congestion) for me.


Leave a comment

Nothing to See Here, Move Along

Yes, I’m eating dairy again. No, the world didn’t end. It’s just once more congested. Of course correlation does not prove causation… But I’m still cutting back on dairy even if I’m not removing it all together.

Future post to follow on diet choices and sustainability, i.e., when drinking milk makes more sense than the alternatives, sinus congestion be damned.

In other news, I think I’m going to open a restaurant, called Free. With a purely allergen free menu.  We will serve, water, air, and lettuce.

Last but definitely not least, I made a thing! Tentatively calling it “Chili Pie with Corn Free Corn Bread.” My first experiment using plantains as a corn / cornmeal substitute.

Chili Pie with Corn-Free Bread

Chili Pie with Corn-Free Bread

I haven’t found the perfect recipe to use as a starting point for a plantain “Corn Free Corn Bread” so I’m just making this up… probably needs a few more revisions before sharing the results. Which is to say, I enjoyed it but the less adventurous folks in my house did not think it a viable substitute for Jiffy Mix.


2 Comments

Facing Food Myths

Dairy Free: Day Thirteen

I have made it this far, but I’m disappointed. I’m sorry to say it, but that’s the honest truth.

I expected something amazing. Like when I cut grains and legumes from my diet, I could tell the difference almost immediately.  Beginning with the immediate disappearance of the stomach upset and digestive issues that I’d always assumed were natural. (Wait, burping and heartburn don’t have to be daily torture?)  Continuing with obtaining a healthy weight and staying there effortlessly. (Even if I’m still not happy with my “healthy weight”, but that’s another story.) 

But deep down inside, I always believed I wasn’t doing all I could. I realize now I’ve harbored a cherished myth that if I could just eat perfectly, all my health complaints ever would go away. Whatever “perfectly” means.  When I was a teen, my mom would go through health food diet fads with pamphlets and articles and flyers and cookbooks all about how diseases could be cured and prevented, vision would revert to 20/20, acne cleared up, minimal body fat and best of all no menstrual period (typed like a chick, eh?) – all just from eating the perfect diet. (I.e., whichever diet made them money!) I thought I got so close with the “paleo” diet, and closer still when I cut further back on processed and natural sugar. But I just couldn’t let go of the dairy.

And now I have, and it’s still not enough. 

Oh don’t get me wrong. I can breathe – and that’s very important! In fact, I was able to stop taking my antihistamine / pseudoephedrine cocktail two days after I cut dairy out. 

But so many dairy-free food bloggers tout the amazing effects they experienced removing the milk products, I had hoped for… well… more!

Friday night, after 15 days, I will reintroduce dairy as dramatically as possible. Pizza with mozzarella and pepperoni on an Against the Grain crust (which is made largely from cheese).

Against The Grain Gourmet - Grain Free Pizza Crust

Against The Grain Gourmet – Grain Free Pizza Crust

A brief shout-out to Against The Grain Gourmet for offering a pizza crust, in addition to their selection of frozen pizzas!

If this dairy allergy of mine isn’t psychosomatic, symptoms should come flooding back in a wave of Immunoglobulin E. We’ll see if there’s anything besides the sinus congestion that I didn’t even realize was missing until it is reintroduced!


Leave a comment

The Quest

Congratulations to me!

I have survived a week of dairy free eating. Unless of course there was hidden dairy products in some processed food I consumed. But guess what? Grain-free, legume-free, and dairy-free really limits your processed food choices.

Plus, I found a workable substitute for my beloved daily Quest bar: behold, the Almond Butter Power Bar!

image

Homemade Energy Bars

(How do food bloggers take such good photos? Topic for later I guess.)

The original recipe started with peanut butter, but I substituted almond butter to avoid the legumes. I think next version, I will use sunflower seed butter, to cut down on the overall amount of nuts, since sometimes I feel bloaty after eating too many nuts (almonds in particular).

These bars lack the gooey texture of the Quest bars, but the texture is pleasant in its own right – it has almost a granola bar crumbly thing going on.

Better yet, they aren’t overwhelmingly sweet like many paleo “energy bars” which are date-based.

Recipe to follow after I try one more round of tweaks. Because that’s what I do. Tinker with things.


2 Comments

Dairy Free Dining Out

image

BJ's Brewhouse Gluten & Allergen Flyer

A shout-out to BJ’s Brewhouse for having a thorough gluten / allergen identification flyer for their patrons.  Although I’m now thoroughly depressed about the sheer number of items with dairy. And finding something which was wheat free and dairy free and, you know, tasty was challenging.

Make sure you ask for the flyer in the restaurant – the one on the website appears out of date, and doesn’t match up with the actual menu.

If you’re wondering – I went with the Thai Chicken Salad, sans wontons.

Dining out dairy free, achievement unlocked!