Yorkshire Puddings: Paleo, Grain Free, Dairy Free

Paleo style eating asks you to lose some quite specific foods: grains, dairy, legumes – all gone. This in turn then removes some of the foods that you have likely enjoyed throughout your life such as bread and cheese.

You also lose a lot of foods that contained said ingredients. Fortunately though, the Paleo massive are pretty good at creating versions of common foods using more nutritious, Paleo friendly ingredients.

One food though that we really seemed to struggle to replicate though was Yorkshire Puddings. Whether this is due to the largely US following of the Paleo diet not quite getting what a good yorkie should be like or something else entirely matters not – most of the recipes out there simply did not work for me.

So, I am happy to say, that after much struggle and experimentation I seem to have come the closest yet. These will be soft and stodgy or more crispy if that’s how you like them. They taste good, have the right consistency and are just generally a joy to have on your plate with any Sunday lunch.

Also with eggs & coconut milk at the centre of the recipe they will deliver a good whack of fat and protein along with some healthy fats if you use coconut oil, butter or grass fed beef fat.

Paleo Yorkshire Puddings

  • 3 x eggs
  • 1 x cup of coconut milk
  • 1/2 teaspoon of baking powder
  • 1 x cup of Arrowroot flour (also called arrowroot starch)
  • 1 x tablespoon of beef fat / coconut oil / butter
  • fat for each tray (beef fat / coconut oil / butter)
  • 1/2 teaspoon of sea salt
  • pepper (optional – to taste)


This recipe works for small individual Yorkshire puddings or larger single ones (toad in the hole anyone?). Larger ones tend to take a touch longer so just keep an eye on them as times can vary a couple of minutes each way depending on the oven.

You will want a good tablespoon of fat in the tray for a single large one and a level teaspoon in each tray for smaller ones.

  • Heat oven to 200 C / 400 F
  • Add fat to the tray and give it 5 minutes in the oven to get good and hot
  • Mix the dry ingredients: arrowroot, baking powder, salt & pepper
  • Mix the wet ingredients: eggs, coconut milk & fat (melt this first)
  • Combine the wet and dry ingredients
  • Add the mix to the tray


This can vary a little but as a general rule of thumb:

  • Cook for 20 minutes for small ones
  • 25 for medium sized
  • 30 mins for a large single one


There you go. Proper Yorkshire puddings back on the menu for Paleo, Primal, dairy free & grain free diets. Let me know how you get on in the comments. 🙂

Paleo Diet: Personalised and Improved for 2016

In addition to my three months alcohol free I am further customising our diet to really focus on maximising health. We follow what is a largely Paleo Diet inspired way of eating with tweaks for autoimmunity. The basic diet guidelines leaves some room for self interpretation and that is where we have made a few missteps and have some room for optimisation over the coming three months.

I figure with alcohol removed this is a perfect time for me to tweak the basic Paleo template to include more of the good stuff. I guess it also does not hurt to add that we have been a little naughty over the Christmas break. A few takeaways and too much alcohol. We always eat well but I want to eat as clean as possible for the next few months and really maximise nutrition.

The diet I am looking to develop is ultimately fine tuned as a starting point for those of us in our fortieth year and beyond to keep us happy, fit and functional for many more years to come.

Basic Paleo

Robb Wolf is pretty much the standard bearer for what is or is what is not Paleo and I tend to look at Robb’s site first. Few reasons for this but the Paleo theory has led to a pretty dynamic diet which has, much like our good selves, evolved over time. Low carb, high carb, high protein – all can be catered for within a Paleo template. However, for absolute beginners there are a few basic guidelines that helps you get 90% of the way there. Beyond that, you must experiment, tweak and customise the diet to your own specific situation and goals.

I pinched the following cute little table from Robb’s site but it sums things up quite nicely:

basic Paleo diet guidelines

So we have fruits, vegetables, lean meats, seafood, nuts and seeds and healthy fats in the okay to eat column. We then have dairy, grains, processed food of all types, sugars, legumes (beans), starches and alcohol in the avoid column.

For many people following these basic guidelines provides the simplest route to improved health, weight and sporting performance. This is somewhat of an umbrella approach and sure some folks are okay with a few grains or dairy and grass fed butter is okay for most but this approach provides a simple jump in point (which is important). Certainly, if you have digestive issues or health maladies of any kind rearing their ugly head (as many of us do as we enter our forties) then this basic template offers huge improvements without too much tinkering or experimentation.

For a more detailed overview of each of these categories head over to Robb’s site and read the overview of the basic Paleo diet tenets there.

Improvements to Paleo

There are a few people out there that have tried to tweak or refine the basic Paleo guidelines. The idea being that they are improving the core guidelines in some way. As with Robb Wolf most of these ancestral diet strategies have been founded by people who have fought their way back from complex health conditions that where traditional medicine offered little in the way of results.

Before we can look at ways to improve and simplify implementation of the overall Paleo prescription for those of us 40 and beyond we should look at the others diets that have tried this usually with a very specific goal.

Dr. Mark Hyman – The Pegan Diet 

The Pegan diet is interesting if somewhat strangely named. My initial feeling was that this would be a Vegan take on Paleo so include no animal products all. Rather the diet is inspired by the fact that Vegan seems to work for some folks as does Paleo. What the diet really does is focus more on vegetables, reducing the amount of meat, removing dairy for most and further promoting fish, grass fed meats etc in a lower quantity and to ensure you get some good omega 3 sources like sardines in the diet.

My take really is that this is just a sensible spin on Paleo which often gets regarded as a kind of low carb “eat as much bacon as you like” diet like Atkins rather than the sensible take promoted by Robb Wolf, Chris Kresser etc. To get around this the diet outlines key foods that should be included like oily fish and limits too much (cheap and nasty) meat products.

Dr. Jack Kruse – Epi Paleo

Jake Kruse comes off as a bit of a loon. This is a shame as he does have some good ideas so it is worth looking past the veneer of crazy.

His take on Paleo though I have a lot of time for. Jack has several tiers where he believes we should focus our food intake. These almost sit above standard Paleo and provide clearer guidelines on what should be eaten to maximise nutritional input.

Ideally the diet should include the following in order of priority (if not volume):

  1. Shellfish
  2. Crustaceans
  3. General Fish
  4. Organ meat of grass fed pastured animals
  5. Muscle meat of grass fed pastured animals (Paleo starts here in Jack’s opinion)

The diet also strongly suggests the inclusion of:

  • bone broths
  • sea vegetables

The diet also considers meditation, circadian rhythms and exercise as part of the core prescription. Jack also asks that any nightshade vegetables are removed ideally and certainly where there is proven illness or inflammation (potatoes, peppers, tomatoes, aubergines/eggplants etc).

The practical takeaway here is to maximise fish input and ensure small omega three fish like sardines, prawns, highly nutritious food like mussels etc are a regular part of the diet as they are just so packed with goodness and less problematic than traditional meat products.

There is a good overview of the Epi Paleo diet here: https://www.jackkruse.com/brain-gut-6-epi-paleo-rx/

The Paleo Autoimmune Protocol (AIP)

The autoimmune protocol is close to my heart as my wife has multiple sclerosis that we keep largely under control and have done for five years or so with our own take on Paleo which we talk about at our other site: www.primod.co.uk.

The autoimmune protocol builds on the basic Paleo guidelines and recommends the removal of other food types with a goal to test if they are problematic:

  • Nuts & Seeds
  • Nightshades (potatoes, tomatoes, peppers, aubergines / eggplants etc)
  • Eggs
  • Alcohol
  • Sweeteners

Much like the Epi Paleo and Pegan there is a focus on maximising nutrient intake and healing the gut so adding in bone broth and ensuring no grains, no dairy, no legumes etc are key components here.

I first heard of the autoimmune tweaks to Paleo from the original Paleo Diet book by Lauren Cordain and then this was expanded by Robb Wolf on his podcast (which largely launched Paleo out of the gyms and into the public eye).

The Autoimmune research has really been spearheaded by Sarah Ballantyne AKA The Paleo Mom in recent years who I have had the pleasure of working with in helping her manage her website. Sarah herself battles autoimmune conditions and as such has in the trenches experience which I think is essential when wading through the sea of often contradictory information.

The Perfect Health Diet

The Perfect Health Diet is not quite Paleo but it is certainly inspired by ancestral thinking and evolution and has reached many of the same conclusions. The Perfect Health Diet has helped to remove the scaremongering around carbohydrates and starches which has fed back into modern Paleo carbohydrate and starch recommendations (some good, lots can be bad, non is also hugely problematic over time). The whole carbohydrates picture is complex primarily due to the starting point of the individual yet it’s clear some whole food carbohydrates are essential and this needs to be adjusted around goals.

The diet also provides simplified instructions regards the exact types and ratios of foods available and has dared to question some Paleo stalwarts like the safety of pork.

Perfect Health Diet Recommedations

I think that the perfect health diet represents the best overall diet for most people looking to maximise health and longevity. It is of note that it is not finely tuned to specific autoimmune conditions and needs a few small tweaks such as the removal of potatoes and other nightshades should you have autoimmune issues yet for most it is practical and achievable.

The Paleo Cure / Personal Paleo Code

Chris Kresser is a Paleo practitioner who has been involved in the scene since the early days. Chris has a strong research background and a clinic where he has helped thousands of people who have tried many different approaches to deal with and recover from chronic health issues.

This research and practical experience has led to a strong understanding of how various dietary strategies like GAPS,  SCD and low carb can be used as tools to tackle specific issues. Additionally how the diet must be customised for an individual based on their current situation. That is the diet to fix a problem may not be the same as the diet to maintain health once it has been achieved.

Chris has a diet that he has called Your Personal Paleo Protocol and which has seemingly rebranded to the Paleo Cure (confusing). The approach though is to customise a diet based on the basic Paleo premise and all these many twists and turns to suit your specific needs at a given time.

More than anyone else on the Paleo scene Chris understands the need to identify an individuals situation and customise a diet accordingly so this is a great jump in point for those with complex health problems or issues not resolved by basic Paleo.

Terry Wahls – The Wahls Protocol 

Terry Wahls is a medical doctor who used Paleo principles and functional medicine to reverse the ravaging effects of Multiple Sclerosis (an issue close to my heart). Terry declined rapidly after diagnosis and spent four years in a tilt recline wheel chair and was almost completely confined to a bed. During this time she researched brain health and the autoimmune disease process and devised a diet that was designed to A) halt the autoimmune process and B) provide optimal nourishment for the brain.

Terry’s story is truly amazing and a testament to the power of the human spirit and how diet and lifestyle changes can impact ones individual health. I recommend everyone watch her TED Health video to get the full story.

The Wahls diet tackles things primarily from these two directions to halt and heal but really focuses on covering all of the nutritional bases to ensure healthy brain and central nervous system functioning. As such there are some great takeaways with regards to keeping our brains functional as we age – something I certainly care about.

The problem with Paleo

The main problem with Paleo is that it is predominantly a loose set of a high level guidelines with a hell of a lot of scope for personalisation. Much as you could follow a vegetarian diet and just eat toast and pasta every day you can craft a far from perfect diet under the basic Paleo guidelines. I think there may be a bit too much entrenched ‘meat is good’ mentality which eclipses the fact that fish is also good and that most folks are simply not going to source high quality, organic and grass fed meat (certainly in the UK / busy families etc).

We also have a lot of people that think that Paleo is basically a low carb or Atkins style diet which is far from the truth and leads to some frustrating opinions online.

If we dig in we see that there are several diets that are suggested as being optimal for health:

  • Conventional dietary guidelines
  • The Mediterranean Diet
  • Paleo / Ancestral Diets
  • Low Fat Diets
  • Low Carb Diets
  • Vegetarian Diets
  • Vegan Diets

That is just the tip of the iceberg and each diet has it’s own detractors and fans. The big conflict I see at the moment is between the pro fat and anti fat crowds. We have those like Dr. Dean Ornish and Dr. Roger McDougal which firmly believe in the power of a low fat diet for everything from MS to Cardiovascular disease. Then the pro (good) fat crowd which includes Paleo and the likes of Dr. William Davis and Dr. David Perlmutter who argue for the inclusion of more dietary fat. We even have folks like the Bulletproof Executive telling us to drink butter and refined coconut oil products in our (bulletproof) coffee every morning.

The main takeaway here is that it is super confusing out there and many people have success with many different dietary strategies. Even the BBC has picked up on this and has articles on the low fat, high fat conundrum.

If we look at the diets of traditional people we see populations eating high fat and protein diets, high fat and dairy diets, low fat carbohydrate heavy diets and all without the modern diseases of civilisation. Therefore it would seem that there is no perfect combination of macronutrients and those arguing for such a case are likely incorrect or trying to push an overly simplified generalisation.

In fact, if we think from an evolutionary perspective. Humans would likely have eaten high carb some times, low carb some times and somewhere in between at other times. It is crazy to think that ancestral diets would have had a perfect split of carbohydrates, proteins and fats on a daily basis. You kill a huge beast – you are going to eat that huge beast for a few days so protein and fat. Berries are in season – you may eat super high carb for a while. Factor some seasonality into this and it is likely we would have swung between periods of lower and higher carbohydrate and other macronutrients. The human body is very flexible and some variation in the foods and macronutrients we eat throughout the seasons is natural – there likely is no single perfect prescription for every single day of our life despite dietary guidelines to this effect being everywhere.

The issue of food quality and in particular organic and pasture raised naturally fed meat makes things difficult further still. In many cases Paleo makes the assumption we are eating food that is naturally grown be that meat, fruit or vegetables and for most real people we are eating what we can find (and afford) in the supermarkets or local shops which  does not always live up to these lofty standards. Certainly supermarket chicken is a nasty old affair.

From a diet prescription perspective having this many natural variables is troubling – we want simplicity. Do this and see this result. Maybe this is why so many diets work for a while and then plateau. There are actually diets like the Paleo inspired AltShift diet that recommends shifting between high and low carb days and this is not miles away from the treat day approach often used (and taken to the extreme by Carb Nite).

There are a few variables here so how do we improve Paleo? How do we create some practical and easy to follow guidelines? How do we make it more suitable for your average 40 something? Is it tweaks to the recommendations to keep our body and brains healthy? Is it a more practical approach to the implementation? Improved guidance with regards to customisation? All the above? The following is my attempt at a prescription so you can take all that Paleo has to offer and ensure you are maximising to keep yourself physically and mentally healthy to a ripe old age.

Improving Paleo for the Average Joe (and Jane)

A lot of diets start with what you can’t have. That sucks a bit as it starts you off on a negative footing so lets look at the wondrous world of food that you can enjoy.


Vegetables should form the base of your diet and be the thing you eat in abundance. That is they should be at the bottom of your food pyramid. Lots of colourful, seasonal, vegetables. Cooked and raw. Fermented. Just eat lots and lots of vegetables of all shapes and sizes and you are going in the right direction.

  • vegetables of all shapes and sizes
  • don’t go crazy with the starches (potatoes etc) *
  • try and include vegetables with prebiotic fiber
  • eat cooked and raw vegetables
  • avoid nightshades if you have autoimmune issues


I am a big believer that starch should be tailored to personal situation and matched to activity levels. I am not against carbs and the science shows that they are essential but everything from no carb, low carb, high carb has it’s place – I think of these approaches as tools and they must be tweaked for the individuals tolerance / situation.

As some general guidelines I think the following works:

  • 20% to 30% of calories – for general population who are not athletes – this level of carbs would tend to promote longevity and limit the ravaging effects sugar can have on our brains as we age so for those of us 40 plus looking to extend our lives you will want to sit about here
  • 30% to 40% of calories – active people or athletes *

Athletes can also take additional carbs after activity or on training days if required

To keep this simple I just tend to have some carbs with dinner and keep breakfast and lunch low carb. A sweet potato or some roots. If I have been inactive (working at my desk and little else) I will keep it lower carb on the evenings as well. My wife who walks 10k a day on average and runs tends to need a bit more so she fills the gap with dark chocolate bounties – not ideal but the exercise certainly allows her some flexibility that I don’t really have.

There is a really comprehensive (and totally sane) look at carbohydrates on the perfect health diet site.


I find the ancestral mindset really useful here – consider where you live and what fruit would have been available? Three bananas a day? I don’t think so. The availability of fruit would have been seasonal and there would have been a lot of berries with apples and pears likely available at certain points.

Most modern fruit has been modified to be sweeter than it would have been – I still remember the crab apples that just grew in my garden as a kid and they were edible but not pleasant.

Fruit is okay and high sugar fruits can be good after exercise but don’t go crazy. Fructose (fruit sugar) does us no good in large amounts so that morning glass of healthy fruit juice needs to go.

Some basic rules for fruit:

  • berries are low sugar and ideal
  • ideally aim for seasonal fruit so you are not scoffing bananas every day
  • give yourself a bit more breathing room for fruit in summer
  • use fruit for a post exercise sugar boost if needed


If Paleo gets one thing wrong it is that it points people towards meat over fish. Generally fish is a safer choice and white fish hits the lean protein guideline perfectly. However, it is the shellfish and crustaceans that really provide benefits as we age and we try to have mussels at least once a week. Also smaller oily fish like Mackerel and Sardines provide a cheap, convenient and healthy way to get our Omega 3’s in.

Fish is not without it’s problems though and farmed fish fed unnatural diets (pretty much all Salmon) should be avoided where possible. As a tip the fish in the freezer section generally tends to be wild and from the sea so start there.

  • Shellfish – not a lot but try to include once a week
  • crustaceans – prawns are lovely
  • small oily fish – three to four times a week
  • avoid large fish – this tends to have the worst issues with polution
  • lean fish protein – better than most lean meats

I know not everyone is super keen on fish but if you can work some sardines into a big ass salad a couple of times a week at work (or just eat them out the tin as a snack as I do) then have shellfish, prawns and cod one night you are really moving in the right direction.


There is nothing wrong with eating meat. Meat provides a comprehensive range of nutrients and protein and lets be honest, is very tasty. Meat in the UK is not quite the horror story it is in the US but there is still an order of preference.

As a general rule of thumb: wild or traditionally reared (grass fed) animals are better. Limit animal fats – saturated fat is not the demon it was once portrayed as however the fat is where the nasties build up (if your meat is organic and grass fed then don’t worry about this).

The following is from the Perfect Health Diet site:

If we were to rank popular meats by their healthfulness, the order would be (1) fish and shellfish, (2) ruminants (beef, lamb, goat), and (3) birds (duck, chicken, turkey). In last place would be pork.

We avoid pork pretty much. We will eat good bacon now and again but the correlation between pork and various diseases along with our own experiences means that joints of pork are off the table for good. There is an interesting study on pork and inflammation on the Weston A Price site that that I recommend anyone struggling with inflammatory conditions read: http://www.westonaprice.org/health-topics/how-does-pork-prepared-in-various-ways-affect-the-blood/

Meat that can be worked into the weekly diet

  • Chicken breasts
  • Grass fed and pastured ruminants (beef & lamb)
  • offal – tough gig for some but very good for you if from healthy animals
  • birds (duck, chicken & turkey – ideally organic)

We avoid pork as much as possible which is not to say we never eat good quality bacon.


My mission here is to simplify and frame the Paleo recommendations in particular for those of us 40 or older. I want to provide a clear guideline for what you should eat to really maximise nutrition and health.

I would however welcome any feedback – what are you guys eating? What are you not eating? What is working for you? And most importantly of all – why?


Do you need a holiday to recover from your xmas holiday?

It’s day 1 after the Christmas break. My team at Bowler Hat, the digital marketing agency I manage all broke up on the 22nd of December and I broke up a little earlier on the 18th. We were all tired as we headed into the end of the year and ready for a break to recharge our batteries with a much needed break.

So, 16 days off for me and best part of two weeks for everyone else yet I have come to work to a room full of tired looking, dreary faces. This is not a terrible place to work. Not by a long shot. I also know that nobody is totally over the moon about returning after a holiday yet everyone looks more tired than when we broke up.

Frankly, I pretty much get where they are all coming from and feel like that myself. What is going wrong that a holiday is such a demotivating experience? Surely, we should all be rested and ready for another challenge without the toils and tribulations of work which is what makes us so tired after all – right?

You Booze you Lose

In my case I know there is one thing that contributes to this malaise – alcohol. Alcohol slowly but surely grinds me down. In the usual run of things this is not so bad but when we have a two week holiday with lots of socialising then soon enough I start to see a dip in my general mood and positivity.

Leave this long enough and I really see my edge go. I get grumpy. Tired. Just not operating with my usual zest for family, work, life etc.


Are we all in the same booze drenched boat?

I can’t talk for everyone but certainly, as we get older, and drinking at all activities becomes the norm then we are spending a lot of time not operating at 100%. I don’t even really mean the epic, never drinking again hangovers but more the insidious creep of just having four or so drinks every night.

100 days alcohol free

I have talked about this before and my thoughts that alcohol may well be affecting me in a negative way and I had toyed with the idea of doing a year of no booze.

I think that a year as a concept seems really daunting. I have done a month before and you do feel better but it is very much a willpower exercise. It is seemingly not long enough to change habits and educate. It’s a bit of a bell curve as you feel better and then start to wonder if anything is different. Life is still life after all. Certainly, at 40 changing habits that are 25 years in the making can’t be fixed in just over 25 days.

I think to really see if you can change habits and make an informed call on this you have to look at at least three months or 100 days. So, I am going to do three months with the thought of reviewing my thinking on booze then at three months in. Maybe I will do a year. Maybe I will commit to a new degree of moderation. Maybe I will hit the bottle! Who knows. But I will report on my progress here and keep you all in the loop.

Here’s to a happy and productive 2016.

Squatting to Poop – a beginners guide

You have been pooping wrong for all of your life. Well, maybe not all of it. You likely squatted to poop when you were a baby. Be that a behind-the-sofa squat whilst you let it go into your nappy or a squat down to reach your potty. You likely pooped just as nature intended for a while. That is until you were told to do something different and you were trained to use the modern toilet.

As this blog is aimed at those of us 40 upwards this is the sort of time we start to see real problems from these small imperfections – fortunately, this one is easy remedied and you simply have to lift your feet and lean forwards to emulate a more natural squatting position when you do your business.

The Pooping Particulars

Modern science has shown us what mother nature knew all along and that we should squat down to poop. There are plenty of studies out there that discuss the why and for those of you interested in the dirty details then the book Gut by Julia Enders gives the most comprehensive overview I have seen to date.

Let me give you the skinny version: Your gut has a mechanism that is designed to open when you squat. The best analogy I have seen to date is that of a kinked garden hose. The hose may have a lot of pressure behind it but the ‘kink’ prevents the water (poo) getting out. This is by design and helps us keep our poo where it needs to be most of the time. The problem comes when we sit on a normal toilet we are not removing the kink and we are having to increase the pressure to get the water (poop) out.

Why this matters

Well, it’s nice to go and just go – if you know what I mean. None of us want to spend forever on the toilet (well, I hide from the kids in there sometimes). It’s also nice to get everything out and really do your business. But, there are also some health benefits beyond simply having a really satisfying poop.

  1. Constipation – fairly common issue where a lack of fibre and water combined with poor toilet posture leads to a build up that simply won’t go. Ensuring a good position and getting your diet dialled in keeps constipation at bay.
  2. Piles – piles or haemorrhoids are almost entirely the result of pushing too hard due to an incorrect seated position on the toilet. You are literally using your muscles to push your insides out. Over time you can likely look forward to incontinence as well.
  3. Cancer – there is lots of thinking that poor elimination leads to cancer of the bowel. The knock on this ranges from a problem absorbing nutrients to fatigue and all the way to the dreaded cancer.

The list does not stop there and good gut health requires thorough elimination. Given the recent science connecting gut health to autoimmune disease, inflammatory bowel disorders and even psychiatric disorders it certainly makes sense to look after your insides and proper pooping is a step in the right direction.

What to do about it

It’s fairly clear we should squat to plop but how do you go about that in the real world? A stack of books in the bathroom is not ideal but you will also need to poop-on-the-go so we need some strategies that work home and away.

  1. Squatty Potty – We simply have to start here with the premium solution. Developed due to a family members struggle with bowel related issues all the science and thinking was used to create the mighty squatty potty. Not everyone is going to want this in their bathroom and it is a premium price for what is essentially a small step but if you want the best then you can’t go far wrong.
  2. Ikea Childrens Stool – These simple stools from Ikea are what we use at home. They are around £3.00 each, they stack and you can use one or a couple if you prefer a wider leg stance (seems more natural from a squat perspective). They don’t look out of place in any bathroom either so you won’t get asked questions you may rather not answer in polite company.
  3. On the go – This is somewhat harder as you won’t have many options. I have found a solution though that seems to work well on the go. The general thinking here is that the knees need to be higher than the hips and you need to lean forwards. I am not a tall man by any means but by going on my tip toes and leaning forwards I can get my business done without any pushing (the gold standard). A few other tips are taking your shoes off and standing on them or sitting on the porcelain rather than the seat to win you an inch or so.

Once you get used to the improved mechanics you can to some extent feel your way around it. You will notice that you simply don’t need to push.

Happy pooping

This is one of those small changes or optimisations if you will that can really make a big difference. Certainly, if you suffer from constipation or some such it can help there but it also has merit as a preventative strategy. Try it for a few weeks and you will never go back.

Let me know how you get on in the comments – no need to go into too much detail! 🙂

Booze is a good thing – right?

I am 40 in five weeks time. The big four zero. Half of my life and what many consider the best half is done and dusted. Yet, I don’t really feel like that. I have a wife, three wonderful kids, a business – things are going well. I am a lucky man.

Yet, I grow ever more aware of how precious time is. The loss of a family member. My oldest child starting secondary school. My youngest heading toward their fourth birthday. Life is a series of moments – many of which are never to be repeated. My life is busy with work and every single spare moment away from that should be optimised to enjoy everything my family has to offer.

But unfortunately, every single moment is not like that. I am often tired and stressed. I work hard. I try to exercise consistently. I eat well and am focused on being well. In a life so busy I typically unwind with a drink. I reward myself for my days hard work with a drink. I maybe have a few more on Thursday, a few more than that Friday and probably even more on Saturday. I cap that off with a couple Sunday afternoon.

Celebrations and Rewards

Booze is woven into everything in our culture. When something great happens we celebrate with Champagne. For birthdays, new years and anything else worth celebrating we tend to celebrate with a drink. A party generally means lots of adults getting together to drink. As we grow up and we start to go out it usually involves alcohol. Booze is everywhere. But so are the hangovers.

Then as we get a bit older alcohol gets wired into our lives as our reward for a hard days work. The glass of wine after work. A few beers after work. The big night out.

Booze is a good thing – right?

Alcohol is everywhere but is it really the great friend it is held up to be in our culture? I tend to find that alcohol makes me snappy, grumpy, tired, sleepy, negative and just generally takes my edge off.

If I have a few drinks I tend to stay up that little bit later and don’t spring out of bed in the morning. Given that I have a gorgeous three year old who gets up early who it is an absolute joy to spend time with you would have thought that getting up would be a joy – and it is – if I have not had a drink the night before.

Everything in moderation

Moderation. Everything in moderation. I really have to call bullshit on that. Firstly, if something is bad for you it’s bad for you so moderation is not suitable for everything – heroin in moderation? Cigarettes in moderation? Of course, moderation with some foods and such may not be a deal breaker but it is certainly not helpful.

However, when it comes to booze moderation is very hard for many people, myself included. The drinking guidelines basically suggest one small drink for females and one larger drink for males per day. And that does not mean seven on one day – it has to be one per day or the supposed health benefits fall away pretty quickly.

My drinking tends to follow a regular pattern in that I will have a couple most week knights and then likely a few more Friday, a few more than that Saturday and then back down to a few on Sunday, Monday etc.

If I have one it always ends up being more than one – it reminds me of an old saying:

First you take a drink, then the drink takes a drink, then the drink takes you.

I know that I can’t moderate. Not to say everyone can’t as my wife does great and can happily open one bottle of sweet cider and often only drink half of it. I however can’t do that. As soon as I start I stop caring. I never drink to oblivion but one is not enough.

I have managed to stop for a month before and did a dry November last year but it soon creeps back up. I spent some time on a site that helps people who want to stop drinking called Hello Sunday Morning (HSM) that suggests a three month or twelve month period of abstinence – I only ever managed a month and then tried to do ‘moderation’ which never worked. Once it is back on the table it is too easy to say yes on that Thursday when you are tired, that Friday as it’s the start of the weekend and off we go again.

I do know from my time on HSM that I am not alone in these feelings and this is further backed up by seeing friends and relatives who are lost to booze and it to a large degree rules them – it’s not always so easy to get such perspectives on yourself.

Better, happier & more productive

The whole purpose of this site is how to be happy and healthy once we hit the bump in the road that is our fortieth birthday. So for various reasons I have come to the conclusion that I may well be better off without booze.

I appreciate that this instantly makes me part of the lunatic fringe but after 25 years or so of drinking I need to see if I really am just a tired, grumpy, snappy old git half the time or, as I suspect, alcohol is just not sitting all that well with me any more.

So, like all good scientists I am going to put my theory to the test and do a full year without alcohol. I will document how I get on along that journey here. My birthday is the 6th of December so I figure I will do a warm up five weeks or so now and then get stuck into a full year from the 6th December 2015 to the 6th December 2016.

I can then do a frank and honest evaluation of where I stand and possibly have another go at moderation – that will also be an interesting experiment given my previous failings with this.

There are a few key things I would like to identify during this process and in particular whether I am:

  • happier
  • more productive
  • a better husband
  • a better parent
  • fitter
  • leaner

I hope that some of you will follow my progress and welcome comments or even anyone who wants to join me on this crazy ride.


The Farty Fourties

So, I have just returned from a trip with four old friends. We all turn forty this year and this was a chance for us all to get together, reflect, drink a bit too much, do some mountain biking and just generally have a bit of good, old fashioned bloke time.

The fart chorus

Night one was pretty much as expected. We were mountain biking on the following day so had promised to take it easy, yet, when old friends get together, well, we regress to what we did when we used to get together and it got a little raucous. It was a great night. We did call it a day at a reasonable time and went to bed at 12pm.

The following day the signs were starting to show. Farts, burps and acid indigestion. We are not the young men we once were it would seem!

A day of bike riding at Coed-y-Brenin followed which was a hoot and everyone was eating bacon sandwiches (I skipped the bread) then we had a selection of full english breakfasts and cornish pasties after the bike ride.

By the time we got back the fart chorus was in full effect. One of the group seemed to get away with it and he did not drink any beer and stuck with rum. Lots of rum mind – but no beer.

My farts were every 10 minutes – some real force behind them – but no real smell fortunately. One other member certainly had

My Pre Paleo Days

In my pre paleo style eating days I used to have bad guts. Smelly, frequent farting. Awful acid indigestion. Burps. Hiccups. Not nice for me or anyone else. It really used to do my head in with the acid being the worst offender in that respect. Any holiday where there would be good food and alcohol over a sustained two to three day period would set me off on the acid indigestion fart train. Not cool.

When I started to follow a Paleo style diet this largely went away. Stopping eating grains and dairy (and legumes but I never ate a great deal of them anyway) was seemingly enough despite the fact I carried on drinking to some degree.

Certainly now, lager and beer will set me off. Whether this is the gluten in the beer or something else to do with the grains it does not seem to happen with cider which is equally as fizzy. If I stick with clear spirits in moderation then alcohol does not cause me too many problems here. Lager causes problems, dark ales even more so making me believe it is something in beer itself and most likely the grains.

If I avoid the common foods excluded in a Paleo diet and beers of all sorts then my indigestion and flatulence goes away.

Why do we fart?

There are two key reasons why we end up passing wind known as exogenous gas and endogenous gas.

Exogenous gas loosely means gas (or air) that comes from outside. Common reasons for this are smoking, swallowing air, gasping, fizzy drinks, chewing gum and one I am guilty of, eating too fast. This is rarely a major issue and can be easily dealt with by some simple behaviour modification. It certainly makes sense to chew your food as much as possible to ensure proper digestion and extraction of nutrients. In fact, there are several well touted benefits of well chewed food with improved weight management and gut health leading the charge. This kind of gas is fairly normal and unlikely to get too much worse as we age.

Endogenous gas is gas that is created inside of us usually by the digestion of carbohydrates. What is really happening here is that bacteria in your gut is digesting and fermenting carbohydrates that you have failed to digest properly.

Why do we fart more when we get older?

Unfortunately, like so much else, this is a by product of ageing. Things we could get away with eating and digesting are now passing through without proper digestion and our aged innards are no longer able to digest the food properly so our gut bacteria is having a feast and rewarding us with the farts!

There is a school of thought that are modern diet and lifestyle is damaging our gut flora and with the passing of time we have decreased digestive abilities and a number of nasty gut invaders surviving on all the food we fail to digest. This creates a perfect storm in our underpants.

The fart solution

Fortunately, this is pretty easy to reduce in most people and simply following a basic Paleo style diet and cutting out grains, dairy and legumes will be enough to reduce flatulence to normal levels. For those still struggling after implementing the basic changes there are additional foods that can be avoided and other tools you can use to help give your digestion a fighting chance.

General Tips

These general tips will help most folks and for many may actually be enough to help kick your digestion into gear.

Eat simple meals – easy enough and rather than going for wildly varied stir fries try eating meals that look at lot more like meat or fish and a given vegetable or two. A steak, sweet potato and some broccoli. A piece of fish, some white rice and some asparagus. These kind of simple meals can really help.

Chew food thoroughly – digestion is a multi stage process that should start in the mouth. This involves the chewing to break the food down and exposure of the broken down food to the enzymes in your saliva. Simply chewing your food well (20 times or so) will ensure your digestion starts as it should and will ensure the next stages of digestion can do their job as they should.

Level 1 – should be enough for most folks

To take this further I would suggest a basic paleo diet template which simply put is the avoidance of grains of all sorts, dairy and legumes (beans). I would also suggest removing any processed food and simple carbohydrates. This for me was enough even when I was still not chewing properly and eating too fast.

Avoid the following:

  • All forms of dairy (cheese, milk & yogurts)
  • All grains and grain products (bread, pasta, cereal etc)
  • All legumes (beans & peanuts)
  • White potatoes
  • Beer & Ale (I know, I know)

This may seem excessive or difficult but give it a shot for 40 days and see how you get on. If your life is compromised by digestive issues then making these changes is worth the effort! Often, people can bring back in a few meals with white potatoes and white rice once the diet is established (and if there are no other health issues).

On the alcohol front I know this is a tough call for many but it can be a major cause of gas and digestive issues. I tend to do okay with Cider so I don’t think it is the gas we are drinking here so much as what the beer, lager or ale is doing to us on the inside. The only way to know is to give it a go. If you must drink during this period try to stick to good wines, clear spirits or relatively clean drinks like whiskey.

Level 2 – for those still struggling 

The foods that cause the most issues for all kinds of gut related problems from IBS to simply having too much wind are known as FODMAPs. This stands for Fermentable Oligosaccharides, Disaccharides, Monosaccharides and Polyols. These are specific carbohydrates that can’t be well digested by some people and as such are digested by the bacteria in the small intestine. The offshoot of this is wind. Lots and lots of wind. Sometimes smelly. Always noisy. Never welcome.

If you have implemented the simple tips and tried a basic Paleo diet template for 40 days and are still struggling then the next step is to eliminate FODMAPs from your diet.

Foods high in FODMAPs include:

  • Oligosaccharides – Garlic, asparagus, Jerusalem artichokes and all varieties of beans.
  • Disaccharides – the primary disaccharide to avoid is lactose from milk.
  • Monosaccharides – fructose from fruits like nectarines, plums and all stoned fruits.
  • Polyols – these are sugar alcohols used in a range of processed, sweetened foods.

Foods low in FODMAPs include:

  • Peppers, carrots, cucumbers, lettuce, tomato and courgettes
  • Bananas, oranges, grapes, melon, pineapple, raspberry, strawberry
  • Meat, fish & chicken
  • Almonds & pumpkin seeds.

FODMAPs are a little beyond the scope of this post but if you have tried everything else and suspect this may be the issue then for more details take a look at this FODMAP guide from Stanford Health Care.

Next steps

This largely comes down to digestive issues so once you have found the level at which you are comfortable then you may be able to implement an 80/20 approach and have a few of the foods you have knocked out. Truly, this is very individual and you have to see what works for you. Keeping a food journal during the elimination and reintroduction process can be really useful and I like the online journal system Diaro which you can use on your PC or Phone.

Remember though, my digestion is fine but I go away and start to drink beer and maybe eat some less than perfect food the problems can come back in a transient way. Likewise, it is interesting to watch everyone’s problems pop up from indigestion to skin issues – eating clean will help you just feel better and get more from your day.

Once your digestion has settled down you can try adding in a few additional elements to help build up a strong digestive system and capable gut. Note that I do all these things and if I go off-road then I still get problems so these are tweaks rather than replacements!

  • Add some soil based probiotics like Primal Defence Ultra
  • Create some fermented foods like sauerkraut
  • add some prebiotic foods (garlic, onions, bananas)

Hopefully this is helpful and simply eliminating the big three (grains, legumes and dairy) whilst taking more care to eat simple meals, chew thoroughly and avoid stress is going to make a huge difference. You really have to try it out though, give it a shot for 40 days and journal your results as you go.

Carrot Cake Muffins

Following a Paleo style diet should not have to mean that you never have any treats – likewise, it should not mean you only eat Paleo style treats. A big part of this whole game is reducing processed foods, carbs and sugars. And, hopefully replacing all these modern nasties with real, unprocessed, seasonal food.

However, there are times when you will want something a bit sweet – whether that is a Sunday or as a bit of a carb hit after exercise I will leave that to you to sensibly include such things. Personally, I have found the ‘I have to earn my treat’ mentality a good one in that it means I keep more sugary foods in the post workout window where those carbs will be sucked up by my muscles and help me recover.

Carrot cake pretty much seems like some good middle ground here. We have some paleo flour alternatives with almond flour and desiccated coconut. These have no gluten, more protein, less carbs and far improved nutrient profiles to standard flours. Additionally half of the mixture is carrots – win win. We also have healthy fats from the coconut oil and eggs. It’s still a treat but it is certainly a better one than a Starbucks Muffin!

Paleo Carrot Cake Muffins

Right then, this takes about 15 mins to prepare and 35 mins to cook so it’s pretty simple. Hardest bit is grating the carrots but I use a magimix. You will want to mix the dry ingredients and wed ingredients together separately and then combine it all together to ensure the fat gets evenly distributed.

I use the american cup measurements as it just makes life nice and easy – you can grab a cheap set of these here or just eye it up with a small teacup.

Dry ingredients

  • 2 x cups of almond flour
  • 1 x cup of desiccated coconut (unsweetened)
  • 3 x cups of finely grated carrot
  • 1 teaspoon baking powder
  • 1 teaspoon cinnamon
  • 1 teaspoon nutmeg
  • pinch of salt

Wet ingredients

  • 1/2 cup of honey *
  • 1/2 cup of coconut oil
  • 5 x good eggs

* you can use less honey – all depends on how sweet your tooth is! 


Note: grate the carrot finely and don’t be tempted to use more than 3 cups or it does not quite work as well. 

  • Preheat the oven to Gas Mark 3, 170 Celsius (UK), 325 Fahrenheit (US)
  • Mix dry ingredients together
  • Mix wet ingredients together
  • Combine the wet and dry ingredients
  • Add the ingredients to a muffin tray
  • Stick them in the oven for approx 30 to 35 mins depending on size of muffins


That’s pretty much it. Let them cool and they are great on their own, with a frosting of some kind for or even cut up and buttered with a good grass fed butter like Kerrygold. Just try not to eat the whole tray in one go and if you can keep them as a post exercise treat that you have to earn then all the better!

The Early Bird Doesn’t Drink the Worm


I don’t think it is any great surprise that it is easier to get up in the morning when you have not had a drink. What I am finding surprising is just how early I wake up and am ready to start they day when I have had a drink. In fact, this is something of a cumulative effect and it takes around three nights to really kick in and I am waking up about 5.30am.

90 Minutes for me

I am a happy and relatively healthy guy. I have a great wife and three wonderful kids. A job I mostly enjoy and a few hobbies like cycling, weightlifting, this blog etc. What I don’t have is any spare time.

What this means is things like this blog suffer. My exercise suffers. Doing things I enjoy like getting out on the bike suffers. If I cram these things into the weekend, which I often do that means my time with my family suffers.

I am time challenged. Work is largely to blame but I have to bring home the bacon. I can’t do a lot about that short term other than try to be more productive when I am at work.

So, with this 90 minutes there is just so much more I can do. I can go out on my bike, go for a run or an early morning walk, spend some time with my three year old if he gets up early, do my weights, write a blog post, meditate, read a book or just chill out and enjoy some good coffee. I could even get up early and play a video game on the consoles I get to watch the kids play on everyday.

For a man that does not feel that he has 9 minutes to win 90 minutes like this every day and so easily is just so much better than the time I would spend boozing.

You booze you lose

For various reasons I have come to the conclusion that alcohol is a largely negative factor in my life. I am 39 and think this has been bubbling up for a few years now. I don’t get smashed and argue with my wife and kids. I have not lost a job or anything like that. I score relatively low on the typical ‘are you a drunkard‘ questionnaires but they are largely ridiculous.

I am more of a few drinks every evening to wind down kind of guy. But, what this actually does is tend to keep me up. I am relaxed now so I will watch some crappy TV. Probably stay up that little bit later.

I will then have an less relaxing nights sleep. Maybe up a few times to go to the toilet. Maybe tossing and turning a bit. Waking up tired around 6.30am.

By the evening I get back home, tired, need to wind down and…. off we go again, few drinks, get relaxed and repeat the whole thing all over again. When the weekend rolls around the volume probably goes up a bit – start a bit earlier on a Friday, Saturday and Sunday and increase the volume.

Why is this happening?

Without booze though this is a different story. I will tend to go to sleep earlier. l will certainly wake up earlier, usually around 5.30am and when I wake up I am pretty much awake and ready for action.

There is nothing magical here really, sleep is super important and without booze I get better and more restful sleep. I think we have all collectively numbed ourselves to just how much even a couple of drinks takes our edge off. For years I wanted to do just that but now I seem to be enjoying feeling sharp the next day.  I want to get up and feel good and be productive.

Early bird activities

I figure this wins me about 90 minutes per day. From around 5.30am to 7am when everyone else is still asleep. I don’t get much any time to myself with three kids of 11, 9 and 3 with varying requirements in terms of running around, homework etc so this space to just do something for myself is really rewarding.

Certainly, this is far more rewarding than the couple of drinks I would have as my reward for my days toil.

What I get from alcohol

So, my somewhat wonky thinking that has been in place for 20 years or so is that a drink is my reward. Something good. Something that helps me relax. But, in fact, if I analyse how it impacts my life – which I can only do whilst trying to remove it – it is anything but.

My couple of drinks on the evening habit that is similar to so, so many other folks is actually something holding me back. Something keeping me mentally subdued and sucking the joy out of many basic moments as I am tired, cranky, craving a drink or really, just not 100%.

Booze also makes me and keeps me fat. No doubt about that. I exercise. I have ran a bloody marathon. But, those booze calories that are likely somewhere between 3500 and 7000 a week can’t be discounted. Liquid calories are the worst anyway but cider. Jesus. Lovely cider.

If my drinking ramps up say for instance when we are on holiday I notice much more severe effects in terms of my thinking. Booze makes me dark. Dark thoughts. Increased anxiety. Lack of coping with the day-to-day stresses of life. I think this is always there but to a level you begin to feel is normal – it is just adult life, not the booze – right? Remove booze though and I am calmer, I cope better, have less anxiety and am just generally more present.

I have goals for my business, goals for my health, goals for my physical appearance and ultimately booze is that old friend who is holding you back. So really, it is no friend at all.

Ultimately, booze makes me fat, grumpy, stressed and anxious  – looking at it like that it is really not quite the reward I have held it up as for so many years.

Putting this into practice

So, here is a simple way to put this into practice for yourself. I think you will really need a month but a week would likely give you an indication. If the thought of a month without booze is just too scary (I get it 100%) then aim for a week.

You have to be careful not to tip your weeks worth of booze down your neck over the weekend here so I would say have a drink if you must on Friday and Saturday but keep it super moderate like three drinks max each night. Then, absolutely don’t drink Sunday. Try to get an early night on the Sunday around 9pm and see how early you wake on Monday.

Make a list of things you want to do this week and pin it on your fridge or some such and then work away at that list. You have like ten extra hours here and there is just so much you can do with that.

So, in summary

  • Don’t drink heavily over the preceding weekend
  • Get to bed early as you likely have some catching up to do
  • Wake naturally and get up
  • Have a list of specific goal for the week that you are working towards
  • Review at the end of the week.

Just imagine what you could do with an extra 90 minutes each day? That’s ten hours a week. What is it you want to achieve? That is time to do it. Write a book. Start a blog. Run a marathon. Lift weights and get jacked. Take life by the scruff of the neck, ditch alcohol for a few weeks, even if only in the week and see how you can be happier and more productive – oh, and comment here to let me know how you get on and to help keep me motivated”

My morning

This morning, I got up at 5:15am. Just woke up. Felt rested and ready for the day. This is stark contrast to being jolted out of bed by my alarm or my youngest being up and not being terribly happy about it most mornings around 6.30am. I have got up and written this blog post and am now off out to the garage to do some weights. I will be showered by 7am and off to work for an early start, feeling good and ready for action.