The Ties that Bind

“My friend and I were passing some elephants, when my friend suddenly stopped. She was confused as to how these massive creatures were held only by a small rope tied to their front leg. No chains, no cages. It was obvious that the elephants could, at anytime, break away from their bonds, but for some reason, they did not. She saw a trainer nearby and asked why these animals just stood there and made no attempt to get away. “Well,” the trainer said, “when they are very young and much smaller, we use the same size rope to tie them and, at that age, it’s enough to hold them. As they grow up, they are conditioned to believe they cannot break away. They believe the rope can still hold them, so they never try to break free.” The man was amazed. These animals could at any time break free from their bonds, but because they believed they couldn’t, they were stuck right where they were.” –The Elephant and the Rope

As a health coach I often find many of my clients are “held back” by self-limiting beliefs. They either cling to beliefs that no longer serve them, or they still adhere to falsehoods they learned in childhood.   For example, while exploring why a severely obese client of mine over eats, he revealed that as a child, he was expected to eat everything on his plate even after he was full.  As he got older, and serving sizes got larger he continued to eat until his plate was empty.   By the way, did you know the average restaurant meal is now more than four times larger than it was in 1950’s?

So, are you like the elephant?  Were you told to keep eating even after you were full?  Have you tried every diet in the world and still can’t lose weight? Maybe it’s time to dig deeper and find out what’s really holding you back.  What ways do you feel bound and powerless?  The great thing about our belief system is that we can change it. And change it immediately.  Like the mighty elephant, you hold the power, even if you don’t realize it. It’s time to break the rope and finally be free.

 

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Chocolate Cream Pie (Vegan, GF)

I have a love/hate relationship with the word vegan.  On one hand, it encompasses many fundamental aspects of who I am.  Legitimate scientific concerns about my health and the systematic destruction of our planet, topped with my love and compassion for ALL of God’s creatures, far outweigh any desire I might have for a Delmonico Ribeye.  But, on the other hand the word vegan strikes fear into the hearts of most people. And its presumed connotations immediately separate me from the flock. For many, vegans are seen as extremists. Fanatics, who are either angry animal right suffragists, or gaunt, pale hippies who live on scant amounts of lettuce and tofu.  Just Google the phrase, “Vegans are…” and see what comes next. Adjectives like crazy, stupid, weird, and extreme, popped up in my search bar.  But ya know what?  I’m kinda getting over it.

When an “Omni'” eats a meal I’ve prepared, they are intrigued. Almost beguiled by my ability to make not only a palatable, but delectable meal without using any part of an animal.   It’s as if they’ve suddenly realized eating meat and cheese isn’t the only way to be truly satiated.   And one of my favorite ways to showcase my vegan culinary prowess is with this Chocolate Cream Pie.

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CRUST:

• 2 cups raw pecans
• 1/4 cup date sugar or maple sugar (I used coconut sugar and 1 tbsp maple syrup)
• 1 1/2 tbsp coconut oil (melted)
• 1/2 tsp sea salt
• 1/4 tsp chipotle powder (optional, but highly recommended)

FILLING:

• 2 1/2 cups vegan dark chocolate chips (add half semi-sweet vegan to make pie sweeter)
• 2 packs of organic firm silken tofu  (I like Mori-Nu Organic firm)
• 1 tsp vanilla extract
• Pinch of sea salt

Preheat the oven to 350°F

To prepare the crust, combine the pecans and sugar in a food processor fitted with the metal blade. Process until the mixture resembles a fine meal. Add the coconut oil, salt and optional chipotle powder and pulse to combine well.
Transfer the mixture to an 8- or 9-inch pie pan (I use an 8″ springform pan). Press and shape the mixture into the bottom and sides of the pan to make a pie shell.

Place the chocolate chips in a baking tray or shallow pan, Transfer to the preheated oven and heat for 3 to 4 minutes or just until melted. Watch carefully as the chocolate can burn quickly. Remove from the oven.

While the chocolate is melting, combine the tofu, vanilla and salt in a food processor fitted with the metal blade. Add the melted chocolate and blend until very smooth.

*Note: For the tofu, if you cannot find firm silken tofu, “soft” tofu can be used instead. In this case, use 600 grams total.

Pour the mixture into the reserved pie shell, smooth the top with an offset spatula and refrigerate for at least 20 minutes or until firm. When firm, slice and serve.

*Modified from Original Recipe via Rouxbe Cooking School.

 

Banana Chocolate Chip Muffins (Vegan, GF)

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This is an absolute favorite in our house.  The problem is we can’t keep them in our house.  When I take them hot out of the oven they’re gone before they’ve even cooled.  They’re that good!  I’ve modified the original recipe to make it gluten free.  Gluten free cooking often requires slight modifications, including cooking time.   I have also made a few substitutions that I felt made this recipe perfect for me!   I hope you enjoy them as much as we do! 

What You Need: (Makes 16 regular or 8-9 large muffins)

  • 2 cups gluten free all purpose flour (I use Bob’s Red Mill GF All Purpose flour)
  • 1 1/2 tsp of baking soda
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 1 cup brown sugar (makes them moist and less dense)
  • 1/3 cup coconut oil
  • 4 super ripe bananas
  • 1 tsp vanilla extract
  • 1 cup dairy free vegan chocolate chips (I use Enjoy Life)

 

Instructions:

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Lightly grease your muffin tins or use muffin liners.

In a bowl, mix the flour, baking soda and salt.

In a separate bowl, mix the sugar and the oil.  Add the mashed banana to the sugar mixture, then add chocolate chips, and vanilla.

Finally, add the flour, and mix everything well.

Evenly pour the batter into the muffin tins. Place in the oven for about 18-20 minutes if using GF flour.  If using regular all-purpose flour, test at 20 minutes.  Add more time (three minutes at a time) as needed.

***Cool for at least 5 minutes before you remove from the pan!

 

Nobody Knows the Trouble I’ve Seen…

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A while back, I sat down to read a book called “Women Food And God.” Written by Geneen Roth, a pioneer in the field of eating disorders, Roth was one of the first people to “link compulsive eating and perpetual dieting with deeply personal and spiritual issues that go far beyond food, weight and body image.” Ms. Roth is also designated mentor and friend… Whether she will ever know me, or not.

As a health coach, many of my clients are seeking to lose weight for the umpteenth time. They come to me wanting to know how I could possibly help them when none of the popular weight loss programs could. And most of them look at me like I’m crazy when I tell them, “Because we aren’t going to count calories, or points, and I don’t care how much you weigh. You see, it’s not about the food, and it never has been.”

Before puberty, I was a scrawny kid.  I had thin, wispy hair, huge eyes, and lots of freckles.  My poor, single mother constantly moved my brother and I from town to town. Even when she remarried, we still moved.  A lot.  I counted once, and realized I had lived in 18 different homes from birth until college. I remember in 5th grade attending two different schools in the same week.  I was often teased for being the new kid, for being gangly and awkward, for being poor, for being me.  And my inner voice, HER voice, was always there to assure me that somehow they were right, and that I deserved their ridicule.

But by the time I was 14, my freckles had faded, my hair was thicker, and my mom said my head had finally grown enough to catch up with my eyes.  At 15, a modeling scout noticed me while at the mall with my Grandmother, and signed me. Suddenly life was exciting. People were telling me that I was pretty, that I was fashionably thin, and that my eyes were not only huge, they were beautiful. For me, this translated into being valued. I spent the next two years modeling clothes for major retailers, going on cattle calls for commercials, and was selected from dozens of other girls to represent my agency in a nationwide “Look of the Year,” contest.  Suddenly, the popular girls at school were noticing me, wanting to be my friend, me, the girl who had managed to mostly fade into the background.  Though I was still quite insecure, HER voice had been just a whisper.

Print ads required a lot of “prep time,” sometimes as much as two hours before the shoot.  I was taped up, taped down, lifted, tucked, and padded.  In one particular store ad, I had underwear physically taped onto my back. I got highlights, lowlights, and my front teeth were filed down. I was told I’d never do runway because I was only 5’6 but not to worry because the camera loved my face.  By the age of 17, I was dizzy, exhausted, and confused.  I was tired of living in a world of false impressions, flawed concepts of beauty, and a world full of judgment.  I was terrified of being accepted one day, and rejected the next.  I had witnessed girls pass out from hunger. One girl was hospitalized for bulimia (and almost died), and countless other girls internalized that they were not pretty enough, tall enough, or thin enough.  And for many of those impressionable young women, myself included, those things ultimately translated into not being good enough.  HER voice was getting louder.

In college, I cut off my long blonde hair, traded in my penny loafers for Birkenstocks, and established friendships with a group of women who raged against our culture’s personification of beauty and body image. I was in awe of their strength and courage. From them, I began to see glimpses of myself as a whole being, though it would be years before I came to accept all of me, I rejoiced at the possibility that there more to me than what people saw on the outside. Soon after I graduated, a 5-year emotionally (and one night physically) abusive relationship came to an abrupt end.  He gave no reason, no warning (although it turned out he had been “dating” another woman for almost a year.)  He just stopped calling and refused to take my calls.  It simply ended. Forever. At which time, I stopped eating and went from 118 pounds down to 97 pounds.  Smoking a pack or two of Marlborough Lights a day, I hardly slept, nearly passed out on more than one occasion, and was plagued by chronic panic attacks.  For 5 long years, for better or worse, my life revolved around the need to be accepted by this man.  By now, HER voice was screaming.  YOU ARE NOT WORTHY.  YOU ARE NOT GOOD ENOUGH.  YOU WILL NEVER BE HAPPY. IN FACT, WHY ARE YOU EVEN HERE?

Roth calls HER, “The Voice.”  The Voice “usurps your strength, passion and energy–and turns them against you. The Voice is merciless, ravaging, life destroying. The Voice makes you feel so weak, so paralyzed, so incompetent you wouldn’t dare question (its) authority.”  Roth goes on to explain “According to developmental psychologists, The Voice is fully operative in most of us by the time we are four years old.” And, “Everyone has The Voice. It’s a developmental necessity.  When external authority figures, parents, teachers, family members, (even peers), communicate verbal and nonverbal instructions about physical and emotional survival, we coalesce those voices into one voice–THE VOICE.   You need to learn not to put your hands into fire, walk into oncoming traffic, stick electrical wires in water.” In my version of THE VOICE it was, you’re ugly and poor, and you don’t matter because you don’t wear the same clothes as the rest of us. Or, “Sorry Stephanie, but you just aren’t the marrying kind.” The VOICE lies to you. It makes you believe that you are all of the things it’s telling you. In fact THE VOICE “feels and sounds so much like you, that you believe it is you.”

Eventually, I moved away, married a sweet, loving man, and life was good.  My husband and I had our first baby a few years later, and life was even better.  In fact, HER voice remained silent until the birth of our third baby just four days after I turned 41.  Aside from the stress of having three kids, and a husband who traveled, I began to get sick, really sick. I suffered from chronic joint pain, recurrent sinus infections, and reflux so bad I slept sitting upright in my husband’s recliner. My nails and hair had stopped growing and I could scarcely walk up the stairs without gasping for air. Exhausted and depressed I began to hear HER voice again.  YOU MIGHT HAVE BEEN HAPPY FOR A WHILE, BUT I’M BACK, AND I’M GOING TO MAKE SURE YOU KNOW THE OTHER SHOE…ALWAYS DROPS.

In her book, Roth described it this way, “You can be showered with money or love or thin thighs and still feel as if you are separate from all that is good about being alive. Despite present-day circumstances, your deepest beliefs will always–100 percent of the time–reconfigure you into the familiar patters you associate with being yourself.  Being at your natural weight will be impossible to maintain. Having what you want will not seem real.  When someone truly loves you, you will dismiss her or him as unattractive or shallow or dumb.  You will feel like an imposter living someone else’s life and you will once again inhabit the skin and the life of “un-love” in whatever forms you find the most familiar.”  Her words rang almost prophetic.

With the help of an amazing nutritionist, I got better. And for the last four years I have dedicated myself to learning as much as I possibly could about the connection between food and health.  But until I read Roth’s book, I never knew other people were plagued with the same kinds of thoughts. I never realized that those voices in my head were not my true voice. But that they were the internalization of the many negative voices I associated with in my early years. And that the awful things I believed to be true about myself, the ones that I let define me for most of my life, were nothing more than a bunch of lies.  When I began to, as Roth put it, “disengage from THE VOICE,” I began to see myself differently. The more I stopped listening to HER, the more I began to feel free.

In the beginning I told HER to shut up.  I told HER that she was a hateful liar who couldn’t be trusted.  I told HER that I resented HER and blamed HER for all of the years I spent feeling sad, insecure, and lonely in a room full of people.  Looking at my life through the lens of compassion and gratitude I was able to see my accomplishments and my failures, with objectivity and discernment. I began to see the possibilities that life had for me, and that the proverbial glass was actually half-full.  Whether we use food, or men, or clothes to comfort us, it doesn’t matter. We can only find true peace, when we begin to look deeper into ourselves and separate the truth from the many lies we tell ourselves.  Sometimes, I still hear HER.  But now, instead of begrudging HER, I want HER to be at peace. And I want HER to know that forgive HER for being wrong about me.

Mixed Berry Acai Bowl

I love Smoothies.  Every day my husband and I have a fruit and a veggie bomb for breakfast.  But sometimes a girl wants some substance.  Enter the Acai Bowl.

The Acai berry is one of the most powerfully healthy berries on the plant. It stimulates the immune system, trace minerals, boosts energy levels, has anti-aging benefits, and improves mood, skin, and hair. This Acai bowl is loaded with antioxidants (help fight off free radical damage), it’s filled with Magnesium, Potassium, Calcium, Vitamin C, Vitamin B1, B2, and B3. Protein, Omega 3’s, fiber, Iron, Vitamin A, Zinc, all 8 Essential Amino Acids, Copper, Biotin, Electrolytes, Anthocyanin’s and polyphenols, (anti-inflammatory).

Acai Bowl

(Makes 4 cups) Freeze then thaw, or refrigerate extra.

1 cup frozen blueberries

1/2 cup frozen strawberries

1 frozen peeled banana

1 package of frozen unsweetened Acai packet (I used Sambazon)

1-cup plant-based milk of choice

1 Tbsp Cacao powder (Wal-Mart carries in Gluten free section)

2 Tbsp Orgain Organic Vanilla Bean powder (Costco or Amazon)

Blend well. Should be smooth and creamy.

**Top with raw unsweetened coconut, cacao nibs, walnuts, blueberries, goji berries or any other yummy treats you have on hand.

What You Don’t See Can Hurt You

So the other day my son was eating an apple that still had the sticker on it. He’s eight, it happens.  It probably makes the most sense for me to wash everything as soon as I bring it home, but that doesn’t happen.  However, I do wash everything (including all my organic stuff) before I use it.  I even wash a cantaloupe before I cut into it because I don’t want what’s on the outside to make its way inside.   In 2011 a Listeria outbreak from cantaloupe killed four people and sickened 141 people across 20 states.  (1)  If you add in the salmonella outbreak (cantaloupe again) in 2012, we now have more than 400 people ill and at least 36 individuals who died as a result of these two outbreaks.  While it may sound like that’s a relatively small number compared to the 318 million Americans in this country, remember only 1 in 10 of us eat our fruits and veggies everyday.

Experts say, all in all, 20 people will touch a tomato before you slice it up for your salad. And that’s in addition to all the animal waste that can mingle with your produce on the long journey from farm to table. (2) At the time of these outbreaks, Michael Landa, the Director at the Center for Food Safety and Applied Nutrition revealed, in part, multiple findings of insanitary production, handling conditions, and practices in packinghouses.   That is why, if I eat the outside or have to slice it to eat the inside, I wash it.  But that’s just pathogens, dirt, and debris.  What about the 146 different pesticides that are found on 75% of our produce?

A non-profit organization called the Environmental Working Group (EWG) put together two lists, “The Dirty Dozen” and “The Clean 15,” to help consumers know when they should buy organic and when it is unnecessary. These lists were compiled using data from the United States Department of Agriculture on the amount of pesticide residue found in non-organic fruits and vegetables after they had been washed. Domestic and imported versions of two items – blueberries and snap peas – showed sharply different results, so they ranked those domestic and imported items separately. (The full list can be found here, https://www.ewg.org/foodnews/list.php)

The fruits and vegetables on the EWG’s “The Dirty Dozen” list, when conventionally grown, tested positive for at least 48 different chemicals, with some testing positive for as many as 67. For produce on the “dirty” list, always go organic. “The 2016 Dirty Dozen” list includes:

  • Strawberries
  • Apples
  • Nectarines
  • Peaches
  • Celery
  • Grapes
  • Cherries
  • Spinach, kale and collard greens
  • Tomatoes, cherry tomatoes
  • Sweet bell peppers
  • Cucumbers
  • Hot peppers

All the produce on the EWG’s “Clean 15” 2016 list had little to no traces of pesticides, and is considered safe to consume in non-organic form. This list includes:

  • Onions
  • Avocados
  • Cabbage
  • Pineapples
  • Sweet corn *
  • Frozen sweet peas
  • Honeydew melon
  • Mangos
  • Asparagus
  • Eggplant
  • Kiwi fruit
  • Papayas *
  • Grapefruit
  • Cantaloupe
  • Cauliflower
* Denotes the majority of these are Genetically Engineered.  Look for organic if you don’t want GE products.

Remember my son’s apple?  Well, we decided to perform a little science experiment.  We filled three glasses, the glass on the far left is regular tap water, the glass in the middle is my fruit and veggie wash, and the third glass is after his apple soaked in the veggie wash after one minute.   In this case, a picture is definitely worth a thousand words.

This is a link to a story NPR featured on America’s Test Kitchen and their recommendation for the best fruit and veggie wash.  http://www.npr.org/templates/story/story.php?storyId=14540742

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This is a great video about the Environmental Working Group.

What Do You Have To Lose?

I hate the word diet.  Hate it.  Particularly when the word is used as a verb.  Diet as a verb implies restriction.  Its synonyms include words like starvation, famish and “to deny.” And like a child who is forbidden a cookie from the cookie jar,  we take a deep breath, push the image of our illicit desires to the back of our mind, and then fantasize about them, until we crack.   After all, we walked for an hour on the treadmill, and our Paleo, Whole 30, Weight Watchers or (insert other) regimine won’t be that affected, right? Wrong. It’s a vicious cycle replayed over and over again by the countless millions of folks who decide every Janaury to get serious about their health, who in the end are destined to fail.

When we think of food as something we can’t have, it defies our natural instincts.  We are hardwired for three basic needs: shelter, sex and food.  We need to be safe and protected, we need a mate, and we need to be fed.  Which is why nearly 95% of diets fail.  They fail because we are looking at things the wrong way.   In fact, according to a study by UCLA, “People on diets typically lose 5 to 10 percent of their starting weight in the first six months. However, at least one-third to two-thirds of people on diets regain more weight than they lost within four or five years, and the true number may well be significantly higher.” http://newsroom.ucla.edu/releases/Dieting-Does-Not-Work-UCLA-Researchers-7832   Why do they fail?  Because we are looking at food through the lenses of deprivation and denial.

But what happens when we look at diet as a noun, or drop the word diet and use the word, “lifestyle” instead?  Now,  words like nutrition, nourishment and sustenance begin to resonate.   These words imply satisfaction, health and happiness.  Knowing that you have control over what you eat is very powerful. And knowing that you can eat for the nourishment of your body and actually enjoy savory, satisfying meals, makes it even better!   While I am a huge advocate of a complete plant-based lifestyle, realistically, I know it’s not a lifestyle the majority of people are willing to adopt.  So I recommend taking a look at other cultures around the world. Look for recipes from countries who eat nutritious and delicious foods, and yet enjoy a long and disease free lifestyle.  “New data from the country’s Ministry of Health, Labor, and Welfare reveal Japan has broken its own record for most centenarians by population for the 46th straight year!”     Japan, and various Mediterranean countries like France, Greece, and Italy, have some of the best foods and are rewarded with the longest life expectancies in the world.  Buy a veggie cookbook that shows you, from soup to nuts (all puns intended), how to cook vegetable based dishes.  I absolutely love the “Oh She Glows Everyday” cookbook by Angela Liddon.

Healthy Heart Food
Super food selection for a healthy diet

Bottom line, get back in the kitchen.  Stay away from McDonald’s and Stouffers.  I don’t need to explain why fast food is a bad idea. But you have to understand that processed “man-made” food is also the enemy. Yes, it’s inexpensive and convenient, but it contains added sugars, preservatives (many of them known carcinogens) and various other things I don’t know how to pronounce.  What’s the alternative?  Take a cooking class with a friend.  Many grocery stores have professional kitchens and offer everything from the basics to gourmet four course meals.   And did I mention they’re usually really fun?  (As I’m typing, a mail notification popped up on my Mac from a  local grocery store offering healthy cooking classes.)  Bust out the slow cooker and make a warm, soul satisfying soup during this Yin season (see note below), create a recipe board on Pinterest, maybe find a favorite blogger whom you would like to learn from.  There are countless blog sites with great recipes.  One of my favorite places to visit is “The Minimalist Baker” blog.  Dana creates yummy recipes with 10 ingredients or less, with  meals ready in 30 minutes or less.  Who doesn’t love that? There are many ways.  Just stop dieting.  Please.

Remember, a healthy, balanced diet includes all of the macro nutrients (fats, proteins and yes, carbohydrates).   Approximately 50-60% of your daily diet should come from complex carbs, things like whole grains, beans and legumes.  If you buy bread make sure it is “whole wheat” and not just wheat.  Just “wheat” has the bran and the germ (peeps, this is where you get your fiber) removed, leaving only the endosperm which is nothing more than starch.  Make only 5-10% of your diet from protein.  Excess protein is stored as fat.  Limit your animal protein to one meal a day.  Nope, you can’t have turkey sausage for breakfast, lean chicken for lunch and fish for dinner.  Too much protein, too much cholesterol and too much fat.  Animal proteins not only contain vast amounts of  cholesterol, fat and calories, they can also contain hormones, antibiotics, and deadly bacteria.   In other words, watch the documentary “Forks over Knives.”

And stop worrying so much about calories (yes, I said it), and add more vegetables and grains to your diet.  Vegetables are very nutritionally dense.  Veggies also keep you full, satisfied, and are full of amazing micronutrients that can prevent and in some cases help reverse heart disease, diabetes, cancer… And yes, they can help you lose weight. Did I mention they are also low in calories and fat?  Keep a giant bag of frozen stir fry veggies in your freezer.  Frozen vegetables are picked and frozen at their nutritional peak, allowing you to enjoy them even when they’re out of season.   They’re also a quick addition to any meal, or can be made to shine as a main dish. And yes Paleo people, whole grains and beans are complex carbohydrates loaded with necessary fiber, and they’re also a good source of healthy plant protein.

Each day, each week, work on making little tweaks to your daily diet until they become a habit. Then move on to making other small changes. In a few weeks you will begin to notice big changes.  Maybe your pants are getting a little big, maybe your joint pain is better.  Maybe you have more energy and feel like going to the gym.  Get creative and try new approaches each week; even the once-a-week cut back on meat is good for your health, according to the Mayo Clinic.  Meatless Monday’s are a great way to bring on the new week.  Studies have shown that if every American just went meatless one day a week, it’s would not only be good for the waistline, but we could save 1.4 billion animals from being factory farmed.  It is also the equivalent of taking 500,000 emission polluting cars off the road.  Yep, just one day a week.

If you’re attempting to change your lifestyle, the MOST important thing is to be kind and patient with yourself.  And as diets often do, they can perpetuate a negative body image, create negative self-talk, and more often than not, have no real long-term results.   Instead, think about changing your lifestyle. Change the way you talk to yourself and talk about food. Work to restore and rebalance yourself.  Maybe start your journey with a good 7-day detox.  I have one that I use and it’s listed in the “My Most Favorite Things” category on the menu bar.   In the end, we are given one body, and one life.  What an amazing gift.

 

Notes:  In Chinese culture, Yin and Yang follow the principle that all things exist as inseparable and contradictory opposites, for example, female-male, dark-light and old-young (1).  Yin season, or fall and winter, bring about a time of introversion (I love to hibernate), nurturing and restoring ourselves, preparing for the Yang, or the vibrant outgoing spring and summer seasons.