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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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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Simple Tricks to a Healthier You

In this modern world of technology and medical advancement, staying healthy should be easier than ever before. But the fact is, the health of our world is declining. We are facing epidemics never seen, rising at alarming rates in both adults and children: Autism, obesity, diabetes, and cancers, to name but a few.

There are many factors on which we can place the blame: GMOs, processed foods, food colorings, an overabundance of vaccines, overuse of antibiotics, high fructose corn syrup, pollution, pesticides and herbicides, and the list goes on.

It sometimes feels as if we are doomed. Because, let’s face it, when it comes to what is sold in the marketplace, what is placed on crops, and what is given to society, it seems as if we don’t have a lot of say. Much of the control is placed in the hands of large corporations.

But believe it or not, corporations listen. They hear what you say every time you go to the store. When we buy foods with pesticides, we tell them it is okay. When we purchase a quick meal laced with food colorings and additives we can’t pronounce, we are giving them the go-ahead to make more.

It’s true that sometimes no matter what we do, no matter how healthy we eat or how great of shape we are in, we can still get sick. It is an imperfect world, after all. But while we’re on this earth, shouldn’t we do our best to take care of ourselves? If not for us, then for the ones who follow.

I encourage you to do one thing to change your health. To better the world. To make the world a better place for future generations.

You don’t have to do it all. Pick one, and see the changes in your health.

Pick One:

~ Buy organic. If you can’t purchase all organic, purchase produce from the Dirty Dozen.

~ Stop buying pre-made frozen meals and meals in a can.

~ Don’t buy factory-farm meat.

~ Don’t buy soda.

~ Refuse anything with food colorings and multiple (unknown) ingredients. (Thankfully, some of the problems with food colorings are getting cleaned up, and now more colorings are natural-based, such as beets being used for the color red.)

Pick one. Change your health. Your body will thank you.

I’d love to hear about the changes you are making for better health. Leave me a note below.

Have a simply lovely, and healthy, day!

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How Letting Go of Worry Made Me Courageous, and a Survivor

I come from a line of strong women, who faced courageous battles like single parenthood, and cancer. But the biggest battle I’d ever seen fought by a woman in our family, was the one my grandma fought nearly every day of her life.

Grandma was struck with polio at the age of eleven. Even though she never had use of her legs, she managed to have a great life. She celebrated childhood (from what I’ve been told), married, raised five children, and helped raise me.

Grandma was strength and courage, resilience and grace. She could bake, cook, pull herself across a floor, and even swim the length of a pool. Her physical abilities never ceased to amaze me. But what amazed me more than her powerful arms was her ability to stay courageous in the face of danger.

One summer day, my dad took our family on a drive. We stopped at a park, and as I played on the swings, my grandma sat in the front seat of the car, door open wide, legs dangling in the sun.

A large German shepherd bounded across the grass, headed straight towards Grandma. It was too late for her to lift her legs and pull the door closed. The German shepherd was upon her, grabbing her flesh between his teeth.

I remember Grandma’s face right before that bite, how surprised she looked. Surprised, but never scared.

Grandma’s courage showed up again a few years later. While my mom and dad were out for the night, wild winds blew through our small town. Hail pounded on the roof. The sky turned green.

I clung to Grandma’s fleshy arm as she held my little brother in her lap. I began to sob. “I’m scared,” I said.

“There’s nothing to worry about. This, too, will pass.” Grandma said in a calm, even tone.

The storm increased in intensity. Winds blew harder. Branches snapped. The lights went out. Grandma picked up a pillow and handed it to me.

“Take your brother to the basement,” she said.

I knew Grandma couldn’t go with us. Her legs couldn’t carry her, and I couldn’t help. But I also knew I could never leave her alone.

I looked into her deep, dark eyes, the ones that matched my own. She was brave and strong, nothing like me. But she was everything I wanted to be. I stood up tall, and for the first time, I defied her. “I’m staying with you,” I said.

She smiled, and pulled me close. I stood next to the wheelchair, arms wrapped around her neck, my brother’s head close to her chest. She sang and told stories as the storm whipped around us. The storm damaged a lot that night, but inside, we were safe, secure, in the arms of a grandma.

Grandma passed many years ago. I was with her as she took her last breath. As her eyes closed for the very last time, they met mine, and inside, I swear she held a secret.

I’d always wondered about her secret, how she stayed so strong, how she always seemed brave, and wondered why I couldn’t be the same way. I’d never asked her, and she never told me. I think it was one of those life lessons she wanted me to learn. One day I would.

Over the years, I faced many battles. Threatened with cancer, and been the victim of a brain injury. Because of my grandma, I am here. Because of her secrets.

I looked for those secrets for a long time, tried to find strength and courage, but it wasn’t until I had a brain injury that it began to make sense.

The injury caused me to worry, more than I ever had. I used to worry about others, but after the accident, I worried about me. I worried about never getting better, and getting better but not being the same. I worried about being reinjured, about my brain failing, and pains that never went away. I worried about every little scratch and ding on my body.

One day, in the throes of worry, I realized something. Worrying wasn’t making me better. In fact, it seemed to be making me worse. Over time, I began to let go of worry.

A funny thing happened as worry went away. I became stronger. And when I got stronger, confidence arrived. With confidence came less fear, and with less fear, I found courage.

And then I got it.

Courage wasn’t about fear. Courage was about not worrying. Courage was faith. And faith was something Grandma always had.

I guess Grandma had to learn a lot about faith when she was little, when a disease removed the use of her legs. She learned to trust others when she was carried from a burning building, and learned to have faith when wheeled across a busy street. Because she had faith, she didn’t worry, and because she didn’t worry, she was strong and courageous.

Worry was pointless. It was better to be brave.

Because of my grandma, I am here today. No longer a victim, only a survivor. I have let go of worry, and I can tell you, it has truly let go of me.

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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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