Wednesday, December 5, 2012

Another New Year of Broken Resolutions

New Year's resolutions are over rated, aren't they?

Made to be broken.  But maybe because we set the bar way too high, as a result of visions of where we think we should be.

"Should" is  a word laden with high expectations and a good dose of shame. No surprise, then, that we fall short of our lofty goals.

Few resolutions are more popular than the resolve to loose weight.

We create a grand plan, but we seriously underestimate how the bombardment of stimulation in our day-to day lives continually pulls us off course.

But it doesn't have to be so hard. Small shifts in behavior can produce huge results.

During this busy holiday season, start integrating those small changes by just drinking more water and eating an apple a day. Along with that, take the time to savor what this practice means for your body.

Taking time to notice and be aware of the nurturing you are providing yourself is a great way to punctuate your day. Little by little, you'll notice that those small changes are making a noticeable difference in the way you feel.

Give it a try. Passage into the coming year just might be a while lot smoother.

Saturday, November 17, 2012

Twinkies Are Toast!

That's it! Twinkies are toast!

After a run of grocery stores, no doubt the shelves where the junk food introduced when Boomer's were kids will soon have some other brand of sugar fix to offer.

But it won't be from the folks who brought us Wonder Bread and Hostess cupcakes.They've shut their doors and given all their workers pink slips.

Somewhere between 1948 and 1950 I sank my baby teeth into my first chocolate, cream- filled Hostess cupcake. A bakery truck used to drive to our door out on our Ohio farm, and the driver would gleefully write out a bill on those occasions when my brother and I would let him in the door and unload the goods. 

I would wash mine down with a glass of chocolate-flavored Ovaltine, while my grandmother would lecture me about not chewing my food enough to let the digestive enzymes from my saliva do their work.(She also used to tell me a penny would turn green if I dropped it into a glass of Coke. I laughed then because I thought she was behind the times. Now I think she was brilliant.)

Absent back then,  Hostess products would have left a significant void in all of the sugary snacks available to Americans.

Not so now.

That's because high-fructose corn syrup laces most of the food products in those middle grocery aisles. If it's in a box or a can, it's probably got sugar, fat or salt; often, all three.

Back in the day when Twinkies premiered, most Americans were fairly fit. But as a society, we became more prosperous, we accumulated more stuff, and we began to eat a lot more food.

Food was no longer fuel for our bodies three times a day; smewhere along the way we became hooked, and food became a drug of choice.

Few people will go through withdrawal in the absence of Twinkies. There's still plenty of sugar out there.

Sunday, November 4, 2012

Signficant Change Starts With Just a Shift

I attended an obesity conference here in town last week.

We all know the situation is grim. Just take a look around.

The room was filled with worried professionals who work to serve health care and wellness. They know it's a situation that not only destroys a person's health, but collectively it is on track to bankrupt the country.

Understandably, not a few people doubt their ability to make themselves healthier because they've failed before; and they assume that, should they try, they'll fail again.

Someone who is 25 or more pounds overweight (much of the population), living with the stress of an uncertain economy (most of the population) can't find the first rung on the ladder towards gaining some sense of control.

There seems to be little sense of "space" amidst the complexities of the world in which we live where we can collect ourselves and consciously decide our course, and then carry it out. We're blown all over the place by the winds of change.

We live in a culture of people who frame reality around the way it's gonna be someday rather than the way it is. Our minds reside in the realm of expectations, putting any decisions that might carry us forward on hold. Maybe that's what's been modeled for them in their families, or what's projected through media advertising. What we want is always somehow out of reach, but we wish and hope for that to change.

Those are extremely strong beliefs ~ enough to solidly stop any forward momentum.

Those are the beliefs of the disempowered, but it's really a short distance to empowerment.

That's becuase the most significant changes are only the slightest shifts; when you choose to go without fries when you order that cheeseburger, or drink from your water bottle instead of a soda cup.

It can be when you steam some diced broccoli and carrots to mix with the kids' mac and cheese; and then take them for a 10 minute walk around the neighborhood instead of heading right to the TV.

Or maybe you give your husband or wife a hug and just say "I love you" for no reason, and feel how that feeds your heart so much more than does food.

Those represent those "first rungs" we're looking for on the road to better health!

Sunday, October 28, 2012

Is It Really Time for Dinner?

This evening I was frustrated because my husband and I arrived home from a weekend trip, and I had nothing planned for supper.

I immediately reached for one of my cookbooks for using fresh produce, but I was coming up with nothing that appealed to me. Why was that? I'm telling everyone to eat whole foods as much as possible, and I was flaking out on them!

Then I realized something. I wasn't that hungry.

That was a pivotal moment. I remembered that I had a large breakfast (eggs benedict with spinach) as we traveled back from Colorado Springs to Grand Junction; and then we each had an avocado, tomato and cheese sandwich, along with with apple slices and almonds, mid-afternoon. No wonder I had no appetite for a full dinner meal.

So I drove to the store and picked up some prepared chicken noodle soup from the deli area, and a few small squares of jalapeno corn bread. I heated the soup, cut a couple of slices of  the cornbread for the side, and we were set.

The soup portions weren't large; about a cup and a half for each of us, but it was plenty.

Here's the take-away.

We are so conditioned to eating full meals in the evening that it may feel strange not to do it.

True enough, the soup wasn't prepared in my kitchen, and neither was the corn bread. Had I prepared a meal of fresh, whole foods, I probably would have served up larger portions, along with some pasta.

But quite often, "less is more," and ideally we're better off putting less food into our stomachs in the evening; and eating more earlier in the day.

Think about it. We probably spend more on stocking up for dinner in the evening than for any other meal.

Less food at night could mean a lot more savings on your grocery bill!

Wednesday, October 24, 2012

A World View of Food

I've noticed over the past few years that there have been a number of international viewers of this blog.

As you've seen, I am passionate about sharing how good food can empower our lives in so many ways; by making us healthier, more focused, and less wasteful of our time, our energy and our money. It's the one area of our lives we can exercise some control.

Whole foods and clean water is the currency of the future; it's where our true wealth lies. If you've read my blogs, you see that my main message is that healthy eating is affordable health care.

I invite comments from my readers, particularly those beyond our borders, to share with me how they view food and how people relate to it within their own cultures.

I truly believe we can simplify and enrich our lives by simplifying our eating habits.

How do you see it? I'd like to know ~

Saturday, October 20, 2012

Eating Is a "Mind" Thing

For those who are "single minded," I'm convinced that life "flows" and that food has its proper place.

Whole foods get by-passed as conduits to good health when our attention is divided. In those situations, it is all too easy to mindlessly go about our day, yanked from one distraction to another, and not a clue of what foods we've eaten, or how much.

It's easy to feel bad about the whole thing when we can't seem to keep the promises we make to ourselves.

But when we're on different "channels" or energy frequencies, our choices are simply going to be different. The higher the frequency, the better the choices. The lower the frequency; well, we're talking a McDonald's whopper with fries.

To put it differently, a higher frequency would be a positive frame of mind. Negative thoughts put you on a lower frequency. Positive thoughts lead to better choices. Negative thoughts do you no favors.

Unfortunately, when negative thoughts kick in, it's very difficult to control the emotions. And the more stressed we are, the stronger and more frequent the negative thoughts and emotions. As a result we feel out of control, and emotional eating directs our food choices.

What to do?

The solution is "mindfulness." Paying attention. Focusing.

So much easier said than done when we feel so responsible for how things turn out. That misguided belief puts us in a mode of constantly responding to what's outside of us, rather than being directed from the inside.

The only way to change that is to pay attention to what we're feeling and what we're doing in this very moment.

Contemplate that while you enjoy an apple!

Sunday, September 30, 2012

A Garden Can Be Your Financial Life Boat

I heard a news commentator today say that more than 37 million Americans can't find full time work.

They're struggling, and it doesn't appear that there's any solution in site at the national level. We owe too much money. On paper, we're fiscally bankrupt.

If people haven't read about it, they feel it. We are living in a time of inevitable transition, and in our guts we know we're in for a rocky ride.

But if we step outside and look around, we know that our true equity isn't on paper. It's us, and our ability to be resourceful.

If we think of what we really need, it's good food, and that can be as close as our own backyards. You can grow food in an area about the size of the bed of a pick-up truck.

For instance, I think of Swiss chard, those elephant-ear sized greens from the spinach family, but surprising pack much more nutrients. It's easy to grow, and you can cook it up in soups or pasta sauces, or saute' it in a pan along with some onions and garlic. Once it gets to your stomach, it can begin processing all that "medicine" to deliver a dose of health to your cells.(It can even survive into the winter if you cover it!)

I use this space to write about the abundance of nutrients available in fruits, vegetables, nuts and grains because I've seen the difference good food can make in a variety of health conditions. In these days of concerns over the future of health care in this country, it should be of some comfort to know that we can access a veritable pharmacy in a garden.

Saturday, September 8, 2012

An Encore for Fiber

Barring any medical conditions that are aggravated by eating lots of fiber, most people would probably find that it's a silver bullet for reducing sugar cravings, becoming healthier, and, yes, losing weight.

Food journals are useful for tracking your eating patterns, just like you would track your spending. But at the end of the day, the result is the same surprise at how much you are eating ~ or spending.

But if you're focusing on fiber, all you need is to add. Basically you're just counting up the fiber grams, veritable deposits in your physical health account.

You can Google the fiber grams for various fruits, vegetables and nuts, but to simplify it for you, a 1/2 cup serving for most of them contains about 3 - 4 grams.

But if you set a goal to eat 35 to 40 grams of fiber every day, you really have to eat plenty of good stuff to reach that amount. You can't eat junk because there's little fiber in processed foods. Not only that, you WON"T eat junk if you're lasered in on getting enough fiber because you won't have enough room in your tummy!

What's not to like about that approach?

Saturday, August 18, 2012

Of Food and Fiber

If you want your nutrition strategy in a word, it's "fiber."

It's a veritable "silver bullet," guaranteed to reduce cravings, shed pounds; and clear your arteries, as well as your head.

To gain such impressive results, especially if you're dealing with any of those illnesses that result from inflammation in the body, you probably need to get at least 30 to 35 grams of fiber ~ ideally, closer to 40.

That said, eating well couldn't be simpler!

That's because you have to eat a lot to get that much fiber, and you won't find it in the bad stuff! It resides in the pulp and the skins and the sinew of fruits and vegetables. Nuts and beans are also good sources of fiber.

So it's not about "going without", because once you start making regular fiber deposits in your diet, your cravings for things like sugar, fat and salt won't be as great.

Not a small part of this journey is drinking water. It's the elixir of life!

They've been telling us to drink eight glasses of water a day for as long as I can remember (which is a very long time!). There's good reason. Water helps to flush out all the toxins that break loose from your liver as you eat these very cleansing foods.

The good news is you don't have to be a cook, or follow a bunch of recipes.

A meal can be as simple as cooking up some rice, and spooning some sauteed veggies over it. Or you can prepare a baked potato, but instead of adding butter and sour cream, top it with some steamed broccoli (diced), a little sauteed onion, some shredded cheddar cheese, and some black beans. Add a dollap of Greek yogurt, and you're ready to dine!

And you don't need much protein in the way of meat. A portion the size of a deck of cards is plenty, and you don't need to eat it every day.

Fiber is a great investment for your health. It's not expensive, and it can make a huge difference in how you feel.

Think of it as "affordable health care"!

Wednesday, August 1, 2012

Children Are Watching

Besides the benefits to my own health, probably the most unforeseen benefit of my efforts to eat well has been its effect on my granddaughters.

They've spent a lot of time with me since they were babies, and they've watched me as I've prepared food for the table. I guess I always heard that example was stronger than words, but now I know it.

(Had I "gotten it" earlier as a parent, I would have spent far less time preaching to my kids about how I thought things should be.)

My oldest granddaughter pays attention to what she eats. My daughter tells me when they visit Texas Roadhouse or a McDonald's, she's more apt to order a salad. Her younger sister, on the other hand, enjoys a wider range of foods, some good and some not so good, but at least she notices.

That's what mindful eating is all about. Just noticing.

So when you load up your grocery cart, consider what you're putting in there.

Your kids are watching.

Tuesday, July 17, 2012

This Farm Bill Ain't "Small Potatoes"

While the pending Farm Bill legislation may not be as intriguing as who Tom Kat will choose next, it will have much more impact on our lives.

Depending on how it plays out, we could see huge reductions in Food Stamp allocations at a time when 1/3 of U.S. children live in poverty; relaxed regs on food inspection, living conditions for animals that will eventually become meat, and the proliferation of GMO's.

Also pending is how much subsidy will be allowed for commodities, particularly corn. Corn, of course, being the staple for high fructose corn syrup that is an ingredient in75 percent of what lies on grocery store shelves and contributes heavily (no pun intended) to the obesity crisis.

What if the bill evolved from the platform that every American should be well and able so that they can play a contributing role in our society? How about that?

Keep in mind that about $300 billion will be divied up per this legislation.

How about starting with what's available in the food basket?  Lots of fruits and vegetables? It's an underpinning for good health, so why not subsidize farmers who provide them, particularly if they are organic. Or provide incentives to families who grow their own?

Would we not logically wean ourselves from corn products and lose some of those extra pounds?

Of course, then, we'd want the meat we buy to be raised in sanitary, humane conditions because we're going to be eating it!

And we'd certainly want to be able to hire enough food inspectors to avoid deadly food poisoning, as was the case with Colorado cantalope last year.

This would be assuming we actually view people as the human capital that we absolutely rely on, every day, to show to gas up our airplanes, deliver our food, stock our shelves, and care for us when we're sick.

Three hundred billion dollars spent with those things in mind could go a long way towards making us a healthier nation.

Contact your Congressman. Then let's see what happens.

Tuesday, July 10, 2012

Dogs Should Eat Well, Too!

My nine-year-old dog was getting pretty fat, eventhough I was walking him him every day. Logic told me that if I fed him less, eventually he'd weigh less.

I couldn't figure out why that wasn't working until my daughter made the observation that he wouldn't lose weight until he started eating better. She said the chow he was eating was comprised of more fat than nutrients, and until I purchased a higher quality dog food, nothing was going to change.

It hit me that for all I have to say about eating well, I had failed to apply that knowledge to what I fed my dog.

So I invested in a better brand of dog food, kept up the exercise, and in a little over a week I noticed he looked a little bit slimmer.

Of course, it's no different for anyone who wants to drop some weight. Start eating more nutrient-packed foods and your body will begin to reshape itself by dropping excess weight.

You don't save a thing by buying cheap food, for yourself, or for your pets. What you don't invest in quality food will end up getting spent on visits to the doctor or to the veterinarian!

Saturday, June 30, 2012

Heat, Fires & Savoring What We Have

Nothing reframes priorities like natural disasters, and the record-breaking heat wave we're experiencing in this country is doing just that. As crops burn in the fields and water evaporates, it's easy to translate what's important.

Food and water.

You can forget the paper money you've got stashed away, or the pulse on your 401K. Without water to drink, or healthy food on the table, it means "nada"!

The visual for me is that less than a mile from my home, the Colorado River is ankle-deep, while smoke billows on the horizon above the Bookcliffs from a fire that has raged for days. Over in Colorado Springs, over 300 families have lost their homes to fires of epic proportion there.

All of a sudden, giving thought to which shade of paint to select for my kitchen walls or which style of sandal to purchase seems glaringly inappropriate in the light of what appear to be obvious shifts from life as we know it.

Am I a doomsdayer?

No. That would be to focus on hand-wringing or mindless distractions.

Every day of our lives, there are choices that lie before us as to how we might play a better role in our world.

I believe it begins with gratitude.

For me, I'm grateful that I even have a kitchen, or a strong body so I can do the things I need to do ~ with or without new sandals!

And if you have good food to eat and fresh, clean water to drink, don't miss any opportunity to whisper a prayer of thanks!

Saturday, June 16, 2012

Mindfulness Isn't Thinking!

There's a veritable "mindfulness" movement going on!

I've married it to "eating" in my blog entries, but it's so much larger than that. And, if you apply mindfulness to eating, you can then apply it to the other areas of your life.

When you create enough space in time to step back and be aware of your food choices, eventually you will find it easier to act on that awareness and make better choices. The other benefit is that when you create some space in time, a pause, you begin to ratchet down your stress level.

The reason "mindfulness" is resonating now is because we're all wound way too tight trying to control everything as the ground shifts beneath us ~ and we're finding that our inner terrain is all we can really count on.

When it comes to that universal challenge of eating well, our minds run like hamsters in a cage as we research the best way to do it, make a plan, and then mentally flog ourselves when we don't make it happen.

But in that calming arena of "mindfulness," we discover that we're not in this to "win," because there is no finish line. Every moment is our opportunity to feel better, and the food choices that we make play a very large part in that because the better the food, the more energy is delivered at a cellular level.

We've been so programmed to investing our efforts in the future, or worthlessly, in the past, that we neglect the very real opportunities before us, right now.

To be mindful, or fully present in the moment, is our reset button.

We all get caught up in the momentum of the things we have to do everyday. Just don't let your food choices become a part of that blur.

Take some time and savor something that you know is good for you!

Saturday, May 26, 2012

Why Do We Do What We Always Did?

(I've taken a break while I dealt with allergies this past month ~ Now I'm back at my keyboard!)

So why is it that we choose foods, or drinks, we know are going to make us feel bad later? Why is it that despite previous experience, we continue to do what we said we wouldn't? Part of it has to do with the definition of insanity: Doing the same think over and over again, but hopin for different results.

It's the "hoping" part.

We "hope" to feel better. We "hope" to lose weight. We "hope" we'll make better choices ~ next time.

"Hoping" implies that something's going to happen without any participation from us. Of course, there may be some real physicial addictions at play that we need to recognize and be aware of.

But if we ever want to change our lives, we have to, by intention, put ourselves out there. It starts with looking closely at what we believe about ourselves.

Do we believe we deserve to feel better? That we deserve to nurture ourselves with good food?

We make the choices that we do becuase there is some perceived reward for us ~ maybe just calming uncomfortable emotions, or feeding some emotional hunger that we mistake for physical hunger.

Knowing that what we seek isn't to be found in that bag of salty potato chips is a start.  Then find something that really does nurture you and choose that instead!

Saturday, April 28, 2012

Of Food & Finances

There’s an article in USA Today this week about how the “millennials” are struggling with financial literacy.

They’re not alone. Plenty of “boomers” who majored in liberal arts back in the day, yet failed to pick up an economics course, are probably in the same boat.

For those trying to figure out where to find firm footing amidst all this economic turbulence, I suggest starting with food.

Here’s where I’ll repeat my old “saw” ~ Americans waste 40 percent of the food they buy in grocery stores and in restaurants. Since we all have to eat every day, all that wasted food can translate into wasted cash that could be set aside for a car payment, utility costs or a savings account.

So where do these “millennials” and every other struggling American start?

The answer is in their kitchens. With some planning, we can eat better and spend less.

Somewhere along the way, we mistakenly learned to equate meeting basic needs with deprivation. We stopped viewing having a place to live, good food, clean air and clean water as the abundance that it really is.

So lacking economic certainly or a road map on how to find it, we need to look to the one area that we clearly can control; and that’s what buy and what we eat.

Cut down on the coffee and the soda pop, and carry a water bottle. If you’re spending as much as $5 a day on that, you’ll save about $25 a week, or $100 a month.

Buy more veggies and learn to stretch your meat portions. Meat is expensive, and our bodies need much less protein than we think.

Incorporate whole wheat or gluten-free pasta into your menu planning. True, it’s a source of carbs, but you can lessen its glycemic effect by cooking it no longer than seven minutes. (Keep the pasta portions smaller, and top it with lots of sautéed veggies).

If you’re still stymied by the plethora of food choices, start by buying a bag of apples and eat one every day for a week, without making any other changes. Pay attention to every bite, and truly savor it, knowing that it’s improving your health and nurturing your body. (A bag can cost as much as a latte’!)

Then start doing some simple menu planning. Even just having a fresh garden salad in the fridge can always be a fallback. (Serve it with the kids’ macaroni and cheese; just give them more salad than pasta!)

It’s easier than you think, and you’ll soon find out that it’s “money in the bank!”

Friday, April 20, 2012

Diabetics Should View Food as Their Pharmacy

That Southern belle of kitchens everywhere, Paula Deen, has provided huge absolution for millions seeking solace and comfort from food by providing recipes and demonstrations on how to cook up sugary, high-fat, palate pleasers.

Examples range from her “sweet tea” to entrée’s like her cheesy macaroni & beef casserole, to dessert finales like her skillet-fried apple pie (cooked in 1/2 inch of oil~ seriously!)

Earlier this year, she announced she has Type 2 diabetes.

She’s on a couple of meds to control her diabetes, and said she still enjoys those kinds of dishes, but in smaller portions.

That’s a good start, but her path could be so much better.

Truth is, there’s a better example to be set for the 26 million Americans with diabetes, 90 percent of whom have the Type-2 variety.

Because avoiding saturated fats, high-fat dairy and animal products especially ice cream, cheese, hot dogs, bacon, hamburgers and sausage ~ all those things Paula Deen fans love ~ can go a long ways towards even reversing diabetes.

As for the “sweet tea”, sodas and juices ~ those should be the first to go!

The acidic properties of the “white stuff” like white bread, rice, pasta and sugar help to insure that that environment of inflammation continues ~ putting out the welcome mat for those illnesses we to want to avoid, namely diabetes, heart disease and cancer.
Those rolling blood sugar levels that are the hallmark of diabetes can often be quickly stabilized by combining regular exercise with plenty of high fiber fruits, vegetables, nuts and beans. That is, of course, minus the dollops of butter when they’re served up “Southern style”.

Just cutting sugary drinks from your diet can improve your glucometer readings in a matter of days!

Thursday, April 12, 2012

Choose A Fork!

I watched that much-talked about documentary, “Forks Over Knives”, the other night.

Basically, it presents a scientifically-sound argument for a diet based on whole foods, illustrating their incredible healing properties. (The array of fruits and vegetables out there contain more than 25,000 vitamins, minerals and enzymes.)

It’s a very hopeful message at a time when more and more Americans are being diagnosed with catastrophic illnesses, many of which can be linked to diet. That’s because not only can eating well prevent serious disease, in many cases it can even reverse what deterioration has already occurred.

Whoa! If that’s true, then why would millions of people depend on a cascade of expensive pharmaceutical drugs to keep their sick bodies functioning? That doesn’t make any sense.

Actually, it does.

We can all sit and nod in agreement about the importance of eating good food, but applying that is altogether different.

No one wants to be sick. But the complicated lives most of us live often just siphon off what little motivation there might be to make lasting changes. Factor in a food industry that cranks out products with virtually no nutritional value and addictive ingredients that stoke the furnace of inflammation, and it can seem like a losing battle.

After all, we’re talking about a very, very large group of people who are sick, and they’re also tired.

The documentary interviewed a few of the more chronically ill. Their blood labs basically read: Change or die! (Maybe not tomorrow, but it was in the cards at some point!)

So what did they do?

They started eating mostly fresh, whole foods.

They rid their cabinets of sugar, fats and salt; and they either eliminated, or cut way back on dairy and meat products. They got their protein mainly from sources like beans, nuts and whole grains. (That’s not to say that eliminating dairy and meat should be the course for everyone. You may well decide your body type needs those particular food sources.)

But for the people interviewed, after just eight weeks the results in their blood labs were dramatic. They had literally vacuum-cleaned their arteries!

You’ll say: “… but most of us can’t get from here to there.”

That, of course, is a personal belief, and beliefs are very powerful.

But so are fruits and vegetables, whole grains, legumes (beans) and nuts! Once you make them the underpinnings of your diet, you might just have a very different view of what you can and cannot do.

(Those with serious or chronic conditions should only reduce their meds under the direction of their physician. Your family physician can be your partner in helping you reach your health goals.)

Thursday, March 29, 2012

It's Not Just Food That Feeds Us

There’s another very important element to eating well, and that’s dining together.

There’s even a biblical reference that “man does not live by bread alone.” It’s true. We need each other.

Aside from whatever nutritional properties our food might provide, I believe there’s also an alchemy that’s directly related to the social environment in which we eat. No matter how healthy a plate you have in front of you, eating food in a setting where your heart can be nurtured at the same time is the recipe for actually thriving.

Sitting down with other people in a non-stressful atmosphere not only makes food taste better, but it also affects how it’s metabolized inside your body.

But if you bring anger, or even just irritability, to the table, it can set the stage overeating and indigestion. This may sound radical, but if you’re trying to eat in an atmosphere of conflict, you’d be better off eating a hot dog in a less stressful setting.

(There’s another biblical reference that weighs a plate of herbs against a fattened calf; the better meal has love as an ingredient. My take is, it could be either.)

I suggest inviting people to dinner on a regular basis; at least twice a month. There can be a certain lightness and pure enjoyment to be gained from that because you bring a different part of yourself to the table; maybe a more elevated part of yourself.

Of course we know that’s not always the case.

If you regularly get together with people who are critical, negative, and spend most of the time complaining; you don’t tend to come away truly nourished. (I’ll include myself here, because there are times when any of us can slip into that!) Those may be the very situations where people are more inclined to overeat because, regardless of how much food they might eat, their hearts are starving in that setting.

If you understand what your needs are, it’s more likely they’ll be met because then you can be more purposeful about seeing that it happens.

If you want to feel optimistic about life, dinner table conversation shouldn’t revolve around how bad things are, and the lack of options for getting better. That kind of chatter carries a low, bottom-dredging frequency that will send your guests dragging out the door as you retreat to the dishes. Even if it’s just your family, dinner isn’t the time to talk about the bad habits that irritate you, your kid’s sliding grades, or how much you hate your job. (The caveat here, of course, would be if you’re moving from one point to explore solutions.)

The “heavy heart” is not just a metaphor. Neither is the “hungry heart.”

In a larger, but very real sense, people sit down together to find encouragement and support, and to talk of possibilities and the prospects for positive outcomes. Also, in a very real sense, those are the kinds of gatherings that feed our hearts.

Sharing meals with other people is a way to stay invested in eating well. It’s true. We need each other.

Just make sure you pick the right people.

Saturday, March 17, 2012

Want Something New in Your Life? Try Wheat Berries!

Before one of the staff at Primary Care Partners brought in a wheat berry Waldorf salad to share at work, I had never tasted a wheat berry!

Like those Waldorf salads that appeared back in the 50’s, this one had plenty of diced apples and walnuts. But there was no mayo.

This was a combination of wheat berries (you have to cook them first), apples, walnuts, raisins and parsley, tossed with a dressing of olive oil, lemon juice, a little apple juice and apple cider vinegar, and spiced with cinnamon and nutmeg.

If you’re trying to stay away from foods containing sugar, fat and salt; the wheat berry can be your new best friend! Just ¼ cup contains five grams of fiber which helps cut those cravings and stabilize blood sugars. They are also an excellent source of magnesium and potassium, not to mention lots of B and E vitamins.

Just having that healthy, hearty salad in my fridge offered an underpinning for other meals. One salad can be used for a couple of days, depending on how many people you have to feed.

For example, one night I cooked and separated a small piece of salmon and tossed it with some whole wheat pasta, some basil, a little olive oil and some fresh grated Parmesan cheese.

I added just a spoonful of the Waldorf salad over a bed of salad greens, and the meal was complete.

The next night, I sautéed some collard greens, some onions and some mushrooms, and again served some of the wheat berry salad, and some of the left-over cooked salmon.

The point is, when you have just one prepared dish of whole foods waiting in the fridge, it’s so much easier to add something to it!

As far as the wheat berries go, you can create your own salad, combining whatever appeals to you. I love the apples, walnuts and raisins, but next time I’ll probably vary the recipe by adding some celery. I might also use basil, instead of cinnamon and nutmeg, and go with olive oil and lemon.

You can even use cooked wheat berries as a hot breakfast cereal.

You probably wouldn’t want to eat it every day, but fixing a batch a couple of times a month could be just the thing as a side for dinner, or as your main dish at lunch.

The thing to remember is you must allow time to soak the wheat berries (6-8 hours), and then they have to be cooked in boiling water brought to a simmer for about 50 minutes before you can begin adding any ingredients.

Just Google wheat berry recipes, find one that appeals to you, and then give it a try!

Saturday, March 10, 2012

How Do You Handle Sugar Cravings?

There are few people who don’t seek a “sugar fix” on a regular basis.

That’s because the food industry has “hard-wired” us. (There are also those who have a gene that stimulates those cravings, so it’s a tougher battle for them.)

Of course, whole foods have natural sugars. That’s not the problem.

It’s the huge amounts of those other sugars in our diets that add up without us even knowing it! No surprise that in this country we have an epidemic of obesity, heart disease and diabetes.

If you’re trying to break the sugar habit, don’t try and rely on will power alone. You need the nutritional support that comes from whole foods.

They contain the fiber needed to balance blood sugars, along with other important vitamins, minerals and antioxidants.

Carrying some high-protein snacks like almonds, a hard-boiled egg, or cheese cubes to graze on if you feel your blood sugars are getting low. (Key symptoms are irritability or feeling “edgy.”)

Also pay attention to times when that sugar fix is most attractive. Are you bored, frustrated, stressed or sad? If that’s the case, it’s really not sugar that you’re looking for.

What we know now, but didn’t know back then, was that the remedy for a more successful Lenten fast from candy wasn’t to just abstain. (I can testify from the rigors of practicing earlier Catholicism, that LOTS of people were frustrated, stressed and sad!)

It’s a matter of seeking balance, and, truth is, we are what we eat.

I’m among the sugar addicts because I have that gene. My “fix” used to come from breads, pastas and donuts, so I rationalized that I really wasn’t “hard-core”. The moment of truth arrived when I was surprised to find myself 25 pounds overweight. That was when I was in college, and few of us could button our skirts at the end of the first semester.

But I was fortunate enough to be on a campus where there were lots of fruit trees, and I started eating pears and apples. Lots of them. I was amazed that my appetite shifted, and I began to lose weight. (Deprivation wasn’t the answer at a secluded, all-girls’ college in rural Kentucky!)

The silver bullet was eating more fiber, and pears and apples have plenty of that.

What’s so easy about this approach is that whole foods are the best source. You won’t find much fiber in processed foods.

So if you want to reduce your craving for sugar, make it a goal to eat about 35 grams of fiber each day. (The average serving of fruits and vegetables has 2-3 grams, so you won’t be depriving yourself!)

I’m betting you won’t miss sugar at all!

Saturday, March 3, 2012

Addictions Exclude None of Us

We’re all addicted to something. For some of us, it happens to be food. Any addictive behavior we engage in, regardless of the particular vice, is only our feeble attempt to balance ourselves out.

I saw a film many years ago called “The Addicted Brain.” (At that time I was working for the National Council on Alcoholism and Drug Abuse.) It postulated that people who abuse drugs and/or alcohol are only trying to balance their brain chemistry. The problem is, they’re acting as the “pharmacist,” and they’re simply choosing the wrong medications.

The addicted brain can’t make the best choice as long as it’s ~ well ~ addicted.

Like that great definition of insanity, you do the same thing over and over again, hoping for different results. So nothing changes.

Think about it.

You know that second piece of “molten lava” chocolate cake isn’t going to get you a job, but your addicted brain tells you it will make life so much better - for about five minutes. The insanity of it is that that doesn’t matter when you’re staring at the cake.

It’s no different than how the addicted brain looks at the next drink or the next pill. But what keeps us stuck in these patterns are our perceptions, and particularly our beliefs, as much as reality. Our beliefs frame our reality. So the first important very first step is to change any negative beliefs.

You are NOT your behavior! You simply make choices, some better than others.

That’s how we should view our relationship with food if we don’t want it to control our lives. And that’s how we should view alcohol and drug addiction.

But we ALL need support when we’re embarking on major lifestyle changes. And that support is out there for those who can admit that their eating is out of control. It’s not so easy to openly admit that you struggle with alcohol or drug addiction. That’s something we hide from everyone else, and even ourselves. And the fact that we have no real treatment options here only reinforces that.

The attitude is that those folks get excluded until they can pull themselves up by their boot straps. Meanwhile, it remains a painful secret in many families and for many individuals, and that’s the saddest part of all.

An addiction isn’t a choice. People don’t decide they want to live lop-sided lives, and then consciously go about making that happen. They don’t decide they want to drink all the time, any more than they want to be a hundred or more pounds overweight. In most cases, they arrived there, and their addicted brains didn’t see it happening.

People struggling with addictions don’t need judgment; they need options for getting better. That can be as simple as a food plan, or as much as a complete detox in a treatment facility.

An addiction isn’t a character flaw. It’s an imbalance. And we share that continuum.

All of us.

Saturday, February 18, 2012

Water, Water Everywhere!

Toilets were flushing around the county during week one of the Healthy Heart Challenge!

Employees from a number of participating Mesa County businesses were downing eight glasses of water (or 64 ounces) a day as a first step in becoming healthier. It takes awhile for your body to adapt to that level of fluid intake, especially if you were dehydrated before. (Most Americans are, and the caffeine in coffee and soda pop is a big contributor!)

With the exception of those folks who drink water on a regular basis as they religiously tote their water bottles with them throughout the day, the newbies commented that this would be daunting.

There were those few who confused an 8 oz glass with a tumbler ( 8 ounces really isn't that much!). Others complained about the lack of taste, and some wondered how they would find the time.

But the advice to drink eight 8 oz glasses of water a day has been around for ages, so it must have been a common practice at some point!

I'm well past 60, and I've heard it eversince I was a kid.

But then I think back to the way life was ~ simpler, slower, and there were fewer choices. I remember spending a few weeks each summer at my grandma's house in Kentucky. The water came out of a well, and in the heat of the summer, a dipper full of water was a welcome thirst quencher. People weren't rushing about, although there was plenty of work to do.

When Kool-aid came on the scene, we downed lots it, along with all the sugar the mix called for. It was cheap, it was sweet, and we loved it. What better foray into the pricier world of soda pop? By that time, water was the last drink of choice. Milk was served with breakfast and dinner ~ Kool-aid came with lunch, and soda pop was for parties and weekend TV viewing, and of course, any trip to the movie theater.

Somewhere back there, water lost its rightful place as an underpinning for good health. It's tough to figure since we are fortunate enough to have the cheapest, best water in the world!

Saturday, February 11, 2012

Heart Challenge Can Improve Food Choices

The Healthy Heart Challenge starts in our community this coming week!

It’s not focused on weight loss, although that will most likely be a side benefit for a lot of participants. Rather, its focus is behavior change as the underpinnings of a heart-healthy lifestyle.

For six weeks, those who take part will tackle a different goal each week. They include drinking eight glasses of water a day; eating an apple a day; a 10-minute walk daily; getting at least seven hours of sleep a night; stopping to stretch once every work hour; and doing one act of kindness a day.

The idea is that after six weeks of making some small changes, there should be some noticeable improvements in overall health, along with enough incentive to continue in that direction.

The apple is the main food player featured in the challenge line-up, but if you’re eating an apple a day, all those wonderful nutrients that make up an apple are recalibrating your body chemistry. We’re not talking major upheaval, but just enough of a shift to alter your cravings for stuff that’s not so good for you.

Drinking water contributes to that, as well, because it’s helping to remove toxins from your system and keep you hydrated. (Many people mistake hunger cravings for dehydration; and most people are dehydrated! Drinking sodas doesn’t count because the caffeine in them actually acts as a diuretic.)

The stress-reducing aspects of stretching and walking also make a difference if you are an emotional eater. (That’s most of us, given the right circumstance!) Just backing off from whatever task you’re in a dead-heat to complete can totally reframe what your food choices might be. (If I’m relaxed, an apple will be a much more likely choice as a snack. If I’m not, then I’m more likely to search for salt and vinegar potato chips!)

Enough sleep figures in because those who tend to overeat often aren’t getting enough sleep. If you go to bed at a reasonable hour, then there’s less temptation to go to the refrigerator so you can snack as you watch TV.)

Finally, making it a point to do something kind for someone else expands the heart. We know that’s true in a spiritual sense, but research is showing that our hearts are more than just pumps. Our emotions literally make chemical deposits on a regular basis, and nothing affects our emotions more than our interactions with each other. Positive interactions make us feel more connected, and that craving is stronger than any food craving!

Friday, January 27, 2012

Be Mindful When Eating With Kids

If you’re eating out with kids, think twice before you place a separate order for each of them! And if you’re cooking for them, know that you can waste a lot of food if you don’t pay attention to how they eat.

It’s so easy to routinely fix the food, put it on their plates, the scrape most of it into the garbage disposal! Worse is when you plunk down $40 or more at a restaurant, and look at the nibbled food on the plates as you leave.

That’s especially the case with young children because they “graze” a lot ~ a pretty healthy way to eat, really!

My recommendation is to share orders when you go out, and DON’T order soft drinks! Just drink water instead. You’ll save a bundle, and everyone will still get enough to eat.

I sat beside my four-year-old granddaughter in a restaurant earlier this week. I ordered a cheese enchilada, and she had a kid’s order of chicken nuggets and fries. She ate about three fries and one chicken nugget ~ about 35 cents worth of the $5 order! The smarter course would have been for me to order black beans and rice with the enchilada, and then split that whole meal with her.

When I make sandwiches at home, I don’t give the kids a whole sandwich, but half sandwiches and fruit instead. (Chips are fine, as long as there’s just a few. I never put a bowl of them on the table!)

I always have some apples in the fridge I can slice when they just want a snack.

Saturday, January 14, 2012

Be Careful Where Your Thoughts Take You!

I've been reading some of Wayne Dyer's stuff recently. He writes a lot about spirituality, the power of intention... stuff like that.

But he has some intersting things to say about our thoughts and the power of their vibrational frequencies. By extension, I believe they resonate with food frequencies. So here's something to ponder.

Basically, if we're feeling depressed, sad and unmotivated, the thoughts that support those emotions are low frequency vibrations, and they'll resonate with foods like Lay's salty, greasy potato chips; Krispy Kreme donuts, or a sack of Oreo's.

Dyer would say it's no surprise that that frequency level also attracts what we might label as "bad luck" scenarios in our lives. It's the Law of Attraction.

On the flip side, if you're thoughts are focused on possibilities, solutions, and positive options for your life, your food choices will likely carry a higher energy frequency, such as resides in fruits and vegetables. Generally people whose thoughts are positive, and their choices (i.e. food) are positive, enjoy more favorable outcomes in their lives. Maybe not always ~ but generally.

Check it out.

Just pay closer attention to folks you know who seem to attract good things to their lives; or when life delivers them a challenge, how they respond to it. Also notice how life never seems to change for the people who are always complaining.

I'm betting there may be some correlations with food choices.  Do they value themselves enough to take care of themselves?  Or do their eating habits reflect a belief that they're victims in a life of drama?

It all starts with our thoughts. Which means it's not so much what we DO, but rather how we ARE.

The more relaxed and happier we ARE, the easier it is to make the healthiest choices!

Sunday, January 8, 2012

Here's an Easy Dish ~

One shouldn't obsess too much about healthy eating. That's stressful, and stress can undermine the best of diets. Easy is best, and planning ahead makes a huge difference.

My husband had some thawed chicken thighs in the fridge, and I always get concerned when he decides to cook up a meat dish because it all shows up on the table. However, I got to it first and steamed the six thighs, and put half of them back in the fridge to toss with some cooked cous cous or rice, along with some diced veggies, later.

I had some Thai coconut soup (curried!) in my pantry, so I opened a couple of cans of that and included diced chicken from three of the six thighs. We had some crackers and peanut butter with it, and that was plenty.

Before I turned off the lights in the kitchen, I put a couple of cups of wheatberry grain in some water to soak over night. I got a great recipe from Pam Peppin that calls for cooked wheatberries, tossed with walnuts, apple, raisins, parsley, cider vinegar, cinnamon, nutmeg and olive oil.

That can then be part of lunch or dinner over the coming week!

Sunday, January 1, 2012

Happy New Year!

So much of this food journey is about starting over. And so it is with our lives. We glance backwards at years of broken resolutions ~ but then here comes "grace." Ann Lamott sums it beautifully.

“Grace is the force that infuses our lives and keeps letting us off the hook.

It is unearned love ~ the love that goes before, and greets us on the way.

It’s the help you receive when you have no bright ideas left, when you are empty and desperate and have discovered that your best thinking and most charming charm have failed you.

Grace is the light or breeze that takes you from that isolated place and puts you with others who are as startled and embarrassed and eventually grateful as you are to be there.

I do not at all understand the mystery of grace – only that it meets us where we are, but does not leave us where it found us.”  - Anne Lamott

Now greet this brand new year with faith, confidence, and once again ~ resolve!