Sunday, September 27, 2009

Take Control of Food ~ Ask Your Heart What It Needs

"Nothin' says lovin' like something from the oven!" That’s what Pillsbury used to say back in the ‘60s when the little dough boy would appear on TV commercials. It conjured an aspect of nurturing. Or so we were led to believe!

Since that time food has continued to take center stage as a way to make us feel good. We use it to feed emptiness and loneliness, or calm fear and anger. Given a collective national deficiency in those areas, the more food the better.

Whatever taste we crave, the food industry has stepped up to respond by layering chemical concoctions, along with heaping measures of salt, sugar and fat to feed those cravings.

As a result, what we know about eating right gets shoved aside anytime we’re within range of food laced with those addictive elements.

Not so with the good stuff.

It’s so simple ~ If you eat it, you’ll feel good, and you won’t crave more.

Here’s the key. Keep a supply of fresh fruits, vegetables and nuts around, and toss the bags of potato chips, the bottles of ranch dressing and mayo, or the left-over birthday cake.

Some other hints ~

Graze throughout the day and make your meals smaller.

Make a half sandwich instead of a whole one. Balance it with an apple instead of chips.

If you eat out a lunch, make it a larger meal than supper. Opt for home made soup as an evening meal.

Drink water, water, water! It’s the elixir of life. (Soda pop isn’t!)

Like leaving any other addiction behind, not indulging in the old “comfort foods” may feel like you’re entering unfamiliar territory.That’s because you are.

But at the same time, you can discover that there are better ways to nurture yourself ~ like learning something new, exploring the outdoors, changing hugs with someone you love, or a heart-to-heart talk that clears the air. It's a way of rediscovering passion.

Nurture your heart. Then the food part will be easy.

Saturday, September 19, 2009

Need Grounding? Try Moroccan Vegetable Stew

It was one of those days when my very soul felt scattered in too many directions. The clue for me would be irritated drivers honking their horns or giving me finger signals as I process my “to do” list, instead of focusing on which lane of traffic I should be in.

I’ve noticed life seems to run pretty efficiently until my ego begs me to take on just one more thing, or squeeze a 45-minute errand into 20 minutes. It never works, but there are days I keep trying anyway. (It neatly fits that definition of insanity ~ you know, doing the same thing over and over again but hoping maybe ~ this time ~ it will all click?)

Of course, the day got worse. My concentration level dropped, my nerves felt frayed, and I was talking way too much and way too fast, setting the perfect stage for unmindful eating.

I reasoned that in order to “cope” with the afternoon that stretched before me, I would get a grilled cheese sandwich, along with some potato chips laced with salt and fat. Yum!

But minutes after I started eating, I became mindful again. I craved the chips, and if there had been a bag of them to go, I would have finished it off through the course of the afternoon. I felt calmer and more centered while I was eating, but not enough to deceive myself as to what was really going on here. I was getting a “fix.”

Enter Moroccan stew. I had made it the day before, and the leftover was in my refrigerator. It was a rich blend of carrots, butternut squash, onions, garbanzo beans, tomatoes and a few chopped prunes seasoned with crushed red pepper, cinnamon and cilantro. The flavors had married and produced a veritable balm for my nerves, nourishment for my body, and peace for my state of mind.

I remembered because I was mindful as I prepared it, and mindful as I had eaten it. So when I got home, I reheated the soup, ladled out a bowl of it, and then savored it as I ate.

Also, mindful of what I needed at that point in the day, I decided NOT to turn on CNN so screaming talk show guests wouldn’t upset the ambiance of this experience.

I was rewarded by my choices. As I ate the stew, I began to notice a sense of well-being. I felt GOOD. I didn’t crave more. I felt satisfied when I finished.

Life was balanced once again.

Sunday, September 13, 2009

Want to Change Your Eating Habits? Try a 12 Step Program!

I have to say that AA’s 12-Step Program could come in handy as we try to change how we eat.

As is the case for anyone struggling with alcoholism, there is a recovery aspect to learning to eat well. That’s because as we change our eating patterns, emotional cues pop up that would pull us right back to a diet heavily laced with sugar, salt and sugar.

Like a shot of Jack Daniels, or a drag on a cigarette, there’s that momentary feeling that once you slurp from a boat of ice cream and chocolate syrup, or sink your teeth into a plateful of greasy, barbequed buffalo wings, you’re among “friends.”

Why’s that? Because there’s a comfort in the familiar, and what’s unfamiliar is uncomfortable. The familiar territory is the land of processed foods. Along with sugar, salt and fat, they also have chemical additives to create or enhance virtually any flavor. It’s a fool’s culinary paradise!

There’s also that aspect of routine ~ something we’ve gotten so used to ~ we feel uncomfortable if we do things differently, like drinking water instead of soda pop, or fixing a veggie plate instead of a meal, or not eating until we’re stuffed.

It’s a big part of what we as a culture DO. We work, EAT, and sleep.

But like any dysfunctional habit, we come by it honestly. It’s reinforced through TV commercials, billboards, radio ads and restaurant menus, and a plethora of other prompts.

And like any other dysfunctional habit, it helps distance us from who we are. Our feelings clue us as to what’s authentic and what’s not, and indulging in the addictive elements of food keep us stuck in the “same old, same old.”

The insight here is to realize that, just as in the case of alcoholism, there is no personal indictment here, so shame is totally out of place ~ besides being disabling and non-productive.

There is a connection between our relationship wtih food and our relationship with ourselves. Make just one change in what you drink or eat by replacing it with a food choice in its natural state. It could be as simple as drinking water instead of soda pop.

And if that feels uncomfortable, you’re probably headed in the right direction!

Monday, September 7, 2009

Few Get Their Money's Worth Outside the Kitchen!

Unless you live in a monastery, eating only healthy foods is tough to do. But you can be mindful of what you eat all the time, and that’s optimal.

When you get it right, it’s become a lifestyle. Until then, it’s practice ~ everyday. I find there can be quite a distance in between, but your paycheck can be the voice of reason.

Witness a day trip my husband and I took up on the Grand Mesa with our two small grandaughters. We set off to drive up Lands End Road through Kannah Creek to the top of the mountain to see the chipmunks that swarm around up there waiting for tourists to toss them pumpkin seeds.

Thinking ahead, I packed grapes, trail mix and bottled water. The girls had such fun seeing chipmunks for the first time, that we introduced another “first” ~ a walk in the woods. By mid-afternoon we were hungry, so we stopped into a lodge restaurant for lunch.

Thirty-five dollars later we walked out, feeling less than satisfied. I would guess the same thing plays out with parents and grandparents in restaurants everywhere.

You look on the menu for something for the kids and your options are basically the following: corn dogs with fries, grilled cheese sandwiches with fries, chicken strips with fries, or peanut butter and jelly ~ with fries.

I ordered a half turkey sandwich with a side salad, and my husband ordered a buffalo burger. We ordered one serving of chicken strips for the girls to spilt. They ate a few bites and were done.

Oh, I was mindful, alright ~ That probably with the exception of the buffalo burger, the food wasn’t that great. The chicken strips were tough and deep fried, the turkey sandwich was overloaded with meat, and we left a lot on the plates. I was mindful that the meal was minimally nutritious, and I was mindful that it cost $35!

It would have made more sense to split one buffalo burger four ways ~ and share the side order of fries.

I know there are lots of families eating out many times during the week, because it’s easier than navigating their kitchens and planning a menu. They’d probably be shocked to know how much they spend.

Those crumbled up receipts we dig out of our purses and our pants pockets at the end of the week give a pretty good picture of our choices.

If you’re mindful, you'll see that those choices can be pretty expensive ~ for your pocketbook, and eventually, for your health!