When is Enough, Enough?

Every event in my family centered around food. Every birthday, holiday, baptism, funeral, and wedding. Our family reunions consisted of table after table of chickens and casseroles, desserts and salads. Food was the celebration of life, and the suffering of death.

As a young child, I didn’t know how to deal with death, so I attached food to those I lost. It was my comfort when nothing else could.

Food became entangled with my emotions, my comfort when I was sad, my friend when I was lonely, my savior from girlish pre-teen traumas, which stretched my skin to new-found weight, which disgusted the little girl inside me, and led to anorexia.

Even as an anorexic, I never stopped thinking about food. I’d stare at the open fridge, dream of bread turning mushy in my mouth, longing for a popsicle to drip down my chin.

In high school, I learned to eat again, and my love/hate relationship with food turned to an obsession. Crackers and candy were stuffed in my locker, devoured in my bedroom, and snuck in the middle of the night. I even worked at a grill where I could eat all the ice cream, burgers, and fries I wanted. Only by then, I had figured out how to exercise and burn off excess calories.

Food problems have followed me all my life, though today, I am a healthy eater. But I still have this horrible, incredible, addiction to food.

I gather food like a squirrel gathers nuts, hoarding like I’m preparing for a disaster. My kitchen holds seven kinds of beans, flours I will never use, and seasonings I know for a fact will turn old (or maybe already are).

I gave up the Big Box Store:

This is the reason I gave up the big box club, the reason I had to stop shopping at four stores. I over-buy, though I don’t overconsume. I spend too much, emotions tied to purchases I don’t need, and sometimes, seriously, don’t really want.

The Big Box Club sold packages of tomato juice in cans of twenty-four, which we never drank, which expired many months before I knew they still existed in our fridge. The large bags of rice produced little bugs that crawled beyond the bag, and the peas turned to freezer dust.

And the four stores I once shopped at? Well, they are now down to one main store, with an occasional stop at another for items the first one doesn’t sell.

It is an obsession, a sickness, an emotional attachment I can’t let go of. But I don’t think I am the only one.

Our society is dominated by food. Why else would we have so many restaurants and fast food joints popping up all over the cities?

Food is tied to our emotions. Fear of running out, doing without, having less than someone else. Food is happiness, sadness, anger, resentment, jealousy.

What can we do about this emotional entanglement with food? And when is enough, enough?

First, I think we need to see food for what it is – energy for our bodies. We eat it, burn it, then eat more when our power runs low. Food gives us the fuel we need to keep moving.

Second, shop less. I used to make multiple trips throughout the week. I now stretch my shopping outings to one per week, less when I can.

Shop only one store. I can’t believe how much time, money, and energy I spent shopping at four stores. When I cut out three, an incredible thing happened. My food bill decreased, as did my stress levels. I also gained more time in my day, and of course, purchased less food.

Know what you need before you go shopping. Make a menu, if that works for you. Write a list of only what you need. I don’t know about you, but stores make me loopy. I forget who I am and what I want when I walk through those big glass doors. Without a list, I purchase anything and everything. It’s funny how even foods I don’t usually like look delicious in a grocery store.

This one goes with the one above – Know what is in your cabinets and fridge before you leave. Make a mental note, write it down, or take a photo.

Use what you have. If you have chicken, eat it. If you have two kinds of meat already, why buy more? Use those veggies and fruits before purchasing fresh ones. Use up the old before bringing in the new.

Learn to substitute. I love this part! It brings out the creative side of me. Substitute one bean for another, rice for quinoa, play with spices, make tomato-less tomato sauce with carrots and beets. There are many foods one can substitute for another. If you need some ideas, Greatist.com is a good place to start. Which leads me to this –

You are never required to follow a recipe. Just because a recipe says you need a certain seasoning, or ingredient, doesn’t mean you must use it. Make your own version of a dish.

Create your own seasoning mixes. Taco seasoning is just a simple mix of chili powder, garlic and onion powders, red pepper, oregano, cumin, salt and pepper. I’ve made mine many times without the red pepper. I also make my own garam masala and curry mix.

Budget. Admittedly, this one is the most difficult for me, and yet the most important if I want to keep my food purchases under control. If you find budgeting difficult, use cash.

Purchase jars or canisters for dry goods – beans, grains, flours, cereal. Limit what you buy to how many jars you have on hand. For example, if you have four jars designated for beans, and only one is empty, only one type of bean can be purchased that week. If you have two cereal jars, and both are full, no cereal needs to be bought.

It’s easy to buy too much of anything, but with food, emotions run deep. Deeper, I think, than with any other purchase we make.

Maybe food is more than just energy. Maybe it is life. Our tie to the living, our link to the dead.

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Simple Summertime Meals

Who doesn’t love summertime and all the great-tasting food that goes with it? If there is anything bad to say about this warm season of the year, it is this – cooking can be a bear during those 90+ degree days. Which is why I’m always looking for simple recipes I can create in a hurry.

To make your life a little easier, I thought I’d share a few of my favorite recipes.

Enjoy!

Saveur. Sausage and Arugula Pasta Salad. Love pasta in the summer. Great site!

Wellness Mama. Chinese Chicken Stir Fry. A fantastic site with information on how to live a healthier life.

The Cookie Rookie. Skinny Chicken Salad Sliders. I’m new to this site, but I like it already. So many recipes, but I think I’ll start with this one.

Veggies Don’t Bite. Raw Zucchini Noodles and Veggies. Another new site for me. The name alone drew me in. Once you enter this site, you won’t want to leave.

The View from Great Island. Minimal Monday Lemon Thyme Lamb Chops. Don’t these sound amazing? They are easy, too.

Cooking Classy. Balsamic Glazed Salmon. The name of the site scared me. I thought I’d find recipes with dozens of ingredients, and a hundred steps. Not true! This salmon sounds wonderful.

Eat Yourself Skinny. 7 Layer Spicy Taco Dip. Anything taco, and I am in, especially in the summer. A new take on the old taco salad.

Damn Delicious. One Pan Mexican Quinoa. One-pot meals make me happy.

Some of my favorites. What are yours?

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Chocolate – It’s a Hard Habit to Break

Our society has a serious chocolate addiction, to the tune of eleven pounds per person per year. (2.8 billion pounds in the US alone.)

We eat it for Valentine’s Day, Easter, Mother’s Day, Halloween, Christmas, and any other celebration we can think of. And if we can’t think of one, we eat it anyway, just for the sheer joy of it. (I know I do.)


Chocolate has many health benefits. Like these:

– It is an antioxidant, which basically means it can prevent, or at least slow down, damage to the cells.
– It can improve blood pressure.
– It improves our mood (just looking at it makes me happy).
– It helps prevent cardiovascular disease.

Knowing all these benefits encourages me to eat this treat daily. Unfortunately (or fortunately) I am allergic to two main ingredients in most chocolate bars: sugar, and milk.

While neither sugar (in moderation) or milk (also in moderation) are probably not going to kill you, they have become popular ingredients added to many of our foods. It’s crazy. Just check out boxes in the cereal aisle, gum, candy (obviously), processed soups, and frozen foods. Milk and sugar are over-used, and over-processed, and have become an allergen for many people.

To top it off, the chocolate in most bars isn’t always the highest quality, and sometimes a few extra (unhealthy) ingredients are tossed in for good measure.

So, what we do when all we want is chocolate that is great tasting, and healthy for us as well? Why, we make it, of course.

In the book “Nourishing Traditions,” by Sally Fallon, I found a simple recipe for fudge. Believe me, once you eat this, you will never want a store-bought bar again.

THE RECIPE:

In a large bowl, mix:

1 cup melted real butter or coconut oil. I know, fat, right? But (healthy) fat is necessary for our brains to keep their thinking power, and our bodies to work in the amazing way they do. Butter has vitamins D, E, K, and A, and also protects against tooth decay. Coconut oil (which is what I use), prevents high blood pressure and heart disease, reduces inflammation, and improves energy. The way I eat this stuff, I should never have an ounce of inflammation in my body.

1 cup raw, organic cocoa.

1 cup raw, organic honey. (Since I don’t eat cane sugar, I am sensitive to anything sweet, so I do closer to 1/2 cup – but that’s your call).

Mix well before pouring into a 9 x 13 pan lined with parchment paper. Place in freezer. (Note – This bar needs to be kept frozen, or all you’ll have is a pile of chocolate goo. Still tasty, but a lot messier.)

*You can also add shredded coconut, chopped walnuts, macadamias, or even cocoa nibs. A sprinkle of sea salt on the top is a yummy touch. Oh, and I love a dash of cinnamon in mine.

That’s it! Healthy fudgy goodness. And it’s good for you, too!

Side notes: There are 48 teaspoons of sugar in one cup of honey. If you cut the chocolate into 48 bars, each one has one teaspoon. Depending on which site you read, we shouldn’t eat more than 6-9 teaspoons of sugar per day (the lower being for women or those who consume less calories, the higher for men). That doesn’t mean you should eat 6-9 of these, it means take it into consideration when adding this treat to your daily diet.

Enjoy! Let me know if you make this tasty treat, and what additions you added.

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The Minimal Refrigerator

I placed my containers of fruits and veggies in the fridge, barely able to fit them on the narrow shelves. Our fridge was stocked, filled from top to bottom, and there are only two of us in our home. We had more food than we needed. But our fridge was full, and I felt good.

It made me think about refrigerators from the past, and I wondered, when did they begin to change, and why?

In the 1950s, refrigerators were pretty pastels, round edges, and short in stature, much different than the boxy ones of the 1970s.

Refrigerators more than doubled in size since the 1950s, when a fridge in the typical American home was a mere 9 cubic feet. By 1980, refrigerators grew to 19.6 cubic feet, and in 2012, 22.5 (tested.com)

But let’s go back a bit. The first home refrigerators were in Indiana in 1911. In the 1920s, freezers were introduced. And by the 1940s, frozen food storage was popular. Refrigerators were small, not like the monsters of today.

Why, and how, did they become so big?

As our homes grew, nearly tripling in square footage since the 50s, so did our appliances. But there is more to it than that.

In the 50s, a larger percentage of moms stayed home and cooked for the family, making multiple trips to the store within a week, and placing whole foods on the table. Much of what was served was not what you see in today’s freezers and stocked on the grocery store shelves. (Though it did exist, and it was around this time frozen dinners came on the market.)

The Big Box Store

Today, in many families, both parents work. Time is short, convenience a necessity, shopping more than once a week is nearly impossible, and the desire (and thus perceived need) is for a larger refrigerator. But there is even more.

When families desired convenience, a few brilliant minds got into the game and created The Big Box Store.

The Big Box Store has everything, multiple boxes of tissues, dozens of batteries, packages with more flashlights than anyone knows what to do with, restaurant size mayonnaise containers, bags of beans larger than a small child, and almost anything one can imagine.

My husband and I have (more than once) fallen victim to the Big Box Store, purchasing large packages of tomatoes and sauce that went bad, and a huge bag of rice that ended up with bugs.

But this isn’t an article about the good, bad, or ugly of a big box store. This is about the size of our refrigerators.

With a large refrigerator comes a desire to fill it, much like the 2500 square foot home with empty space in the corner. Beverages are stuffed in the door, little pudding containers and multiple cheese sticks piled in drawers, and sauces and jams of every flavor are placed on the shelves.

All that food makes us feel rich, look prosperous and well-off, makes us well-fed, and ready for any type of disaster. But are these things true?

How Rich Are We?

Having a lot doesn’t mean richness. It might mean we’ve spent more than we needed to. According to feedingamerica.org and mercola.com, between 40 and 50 percent of food is thrown away. If all that food hadn’t been bought, think of the money that could have been saved. I think of that as I see all the food in my fridge, and wonder, did I need so much?

Looking Good

Prosperity is a goal many aspire to, the right clothes, the expensive car, great jewelry. Even a well-stocked fridge is a sign of being prosperous.

But trying to look good for others is deceitful and dishonest, if only to ourselves. We spend needless time and money impressing people. We often end up in debt because of it.

Well-Fed

As for being well-fed, sad to say, but stocked fridge and freezer is not necessarily the sign of a well-nourished family. Processed foods could mean malnourishment, disease, chemicals fed into growing bodies. Processed foods are not a healthier choice, and often, processed foods are expensive.

Being Prepared

If you want to be ready for a disaster, the fridge is not the way to go. Non-perishables, just the necessities, are your best bet. But be careful, because as I mentioned earlier, even non-perishables expire.

It’s hard to get away from an over-sized fridge. You’d be hard-pressed to find a small fridge in any new home today. But we can get away from the attitude associated with huge appliances. We don’t need to fill our fridge any more than we need to fill our home.

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The Circle of Healthy Living

They say what goes around comes around, or is it the other way around? I can never remember. In any case, it’s a circle. This is true in every area of our lives, how we treat others, good or bad, and even how we treat ourselves. And it is never truer than in our health. I recently discovered this in my own life.

I’ve always been a bit of a health nut, but lately, due to food and pollen allergies, I’ve pushed my healthy living up a few notches. I am determined to one day see my allergies disappear, or if nothing else, at least make them less severe. But even if they never totally go away, this healthy lifestyle is sure to benefit me. How do I know? Because of the circle.

Three weeks ago, after seeing the doctor, I tossed the remaining processed foods from our home. I made homemade tomato-less ketchup, nut and seed bread, chicken stock, and carob fudge. My eating became all clean, whole foods. And this is what happened. . .

I lost a few pounds. My husband lost some weight as well (because he is forced to eat whatever I eat, and being the good sport that he is, he does it without complaining). We are both sleeping better, feeling better, and waking up a bit more energized (often before the alarm goes off).

You know what? I love having energy. Because when I have energy, I exercise more. And when I exercise more, I want to eat healthier. And when I eat healthier, I have more energy. See how that works? A circle.

Jump on the circle with me. You’ll love the ride. Pick one thing to jumpstart your health. It doesn’t have to be big. Just one small change will lead to another, which leads to another, until soon, you will be on your own circle to a healthier life.

Here are a few ideas to get you started:

1. Drink more water.
2. Cut out processed foods.
3. Don’t eat out as often.
4. Add more veggies to your diet.
5. Walk daily.
6. Do push-ups, or sit-ups, or lift a few weights.
7. Do yoga.

Happy Healthy Living!

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