Thursday, December 27, 2012

DAY 33

I'm hellbent on making a daily run hard wired into my life. Since reading the first chapter of  Spark by John Ratey, MD I've been getting out for a run after my first cup of coffee each day (today is day 33), which with the holiday, I'm finding hard. Something about a diet of cake and ham leftovers is making me less physically motivated. But I'm doing it! And here's the best thing I've found: it solves problems.

If you're not a painter you may find it hard to believe that a painting problem can cause the same sort of angst as any work-related issue: labor disputes, mean boss, declining sales, equipment malfunctions, you name it, it totally does not trump a failing piece of artwork (think Van Gogh's ear). When I have a painting on my easel that isn't going well I can barely tear myself away and when I wake up in the morning and remember my failure-in-process I get depressed. Really! I don't want to get up and face the fact that I wasted such a big canvas, so much paint, so much time and have no clue how to fix it.

This morning I got up feeling totally defeated. Then I forced myself out for my run

As I approached the park pangs of non-interest in exercise began to stir. I begrudgingly used that Nike slogan: "Just do it." Now that I'm totally into how my brain works I watch my thoughts almost as though they're someone else's. I see patterns and pitfalls and I coach myself: "Think how good you're going to feel when you finish..." and I don't listen to my own excuses.

I did feel good when I finished and as I was walking home the idea of how to fix the painting appeared to me like a vision -- REALLY! and I started to look forward to a day of working and I thought of one more ham recipe too. So all I have to say is YAY for RUNNING!!!!! and thank you John Ratey. Guess I'll be keeping my ear after all.

Before

TAKE THE BLUE LINE



Thursday, December 6, 2012

CHANGE YOUR MIND -- WITH EXERCISE

and also Every Brain
Perhaps you want to improve yourselflearn a new language, play an instrument, get a new job, cut back your drinking, give up sugar, improve your memory, improve your relationships, be more creative, feel more at peace, make an important decision.  Exercise can help!  Exercise stimulates new brain growthin everyone, no matter the age! When the brain grows, the new parts go to work on whatever you focus your attention. Your focus actually stimulates specific parts of your brain and the stimulation results in new synapse connections. Not only can you then learn more, you also retain more information. 

The best time to work on goals is immediately after you exercise. Or, if your issue is something like uncontrollable urges to eat, a 10-minute burst of exercise (a fast walk, a stationary bike ride, dancing vigorously, going up and down the stairs, jumping rope
anything that will get your heart rate up) can relieve the urge AND help to build new connections in your brain so that eventually the urge to eat will lose its strength and alternative activities will come to mind.

If you want to read about the studies that prove these benefits to exercise, read Spark by John Ratey, M.D., an associate clinical professor of psychiatry at Harvard Medical School.   (You can read the introduction and first chapter on Amazon by clicking the link.) 

My son Ben turned me on to the book, so I have him to thank for getting me running every morning first thing after my coffee. I start out walking for 15 minutes, then run a little over a mile, then walk home
about 40 minutes altogether. Since I've started, this is what I've noticed:  I'm a lot more productive during the day; I concentrate on my work for longer periods of time without getting distracted; and I feel calmer and happier. Thanks Ben!

When it starts to get dark, and the urge for a drink invades my consciousness, I go for a rapid walk with the dog. The length and time varies, but at least 10 minutes. I'm not saying that I don't pop open a beer or pour a little wine when I get home, because sometimes I do. But it's not to relieve anxiety, and that's a big difference. With anxiety already relieved, I drink more slowly and I drink less. For people with really out-of-control substance abuse problems, exercise can also definitely help, and there's a lot about how in the book.

Whatever your issue, if you or your life isn't perfect, give some heart pumping exercise a try and notice the results.

Here's Ratey lecturing at Bradley University. Since the book came out, more studies linking sedentary lifestyles to brain decay have come out and are discussed here.

Note: The Royal College of Psychiatrists recommends 40 minutes of exercise which gets you out of breath five times a week.

Wednesday, November 21, 2012

NARRAGANSETT TURKEY AND SWEET POTATOES

I wanted to paint a turkey for Thanksgiving and googled some images on-line. Now I'm a total heritage turkey devotee and next time I'm going to paint a life-sized bird. There are some really interesting varieties! And people love their birds! There are also a remarkable number of sweet potato varieties. I think people get less emotionally attached to those although Mark Bittman seems pretty impressed by them in his Thanksgiving NYT's article.

There's only one kind of cranberry.


Tuesday, October 16, 2012

PEEING PINK, ALL THINGS BEETS

I was cooking for a sick friend recently who got a hankering for beets. So I cooked up a bunch -- I love beets too -- and served them various way. Suddenly it was as though the universe (aka my friends) started directing all things beets my way, so I decided to start collecting them here:

A beet/strawberry smoothie held together w/citrus and apple: http://elementalfitrecipes.blogspot.mx/2012/03/just-beet-it-smoothie.htm

Borscht with a difference (the difference is dill ;-)
http://realfoodforlife.com/borscht-recipe/

8 benefits of eating beets -- there are some pretty compelling reasons here plus the explanation of why your pee turns pink:
http://www.care2.com/greenliving/8-beet-benefits-aphrodisiac-brain-booster-more.html?page=1

                               

BEET PUREE (this looks beautiful on the table)

3 to4 lbs beets
2 sticks unsalted butter
1 1/2 cups diced onions
1/2 cup cider vinegar
1 tbs sugar
2tsp ground coriander
1 tsp salt

cook beets ;drain, skin, cut into 1 inch pieces.
melt butter in saucepan, cook onions, add everything else
process 'til smooth

New Basics via Bunny
_____________________________________________________________________________________________

My sister-in-law (a vegetarian) sent me this article about the importance of flushing our systems adequately to avoid breast cancer. Beets are a way to measure your mouth to toilet speed. http://www.care2.com/greenliving/stool-size-and-breast-cancer-risk.html






Wednesday, September 26, 2012

A TALE OF TWO PARTIES

In August I went to a party where I didn't know anyone but soon ran into a chatty young woman --

Me: What do you do?

Her: I just went back to school and got my nursing degree. Now I'm looking for a job in cardio care.

Me: Really. Why cardio?
   
Her: Heart disease is on the rise, so I know I'll always have a job. Heart disease and diabetes are huge growth areas.

Me: Don't you think that's sad?

Her: It is sad, but it's good news for me.

I asked her if she'd studied the effects of sugar on obesity and heart disease in school. No, the sugar/obesity connection hadn't come up. I thought that was interesting.

Last weekend I went to a party and ran into a friend who I didn't recognize at first because he'd lost 84 lbs.!

Me: Wow! How'd you do it?

Him: I gave up sugar and started walking. 

My partner ate so many sweets, and I used to keep him company. But after he died, I quit, and I started walking up the hill outside my house every day. I couldn't go very far at first, but I'd put a rock at the point where I had to turn around, and every few days I'd move the rock a little further. Now I can walk that hill five times a day if I want. But I started very slowly. 

I am a true believer in this method. It is nothing new of course, but quitting sugar and adding exercise, lots of it, is the key, in my opinion, to success in creating and restoring health.

Now if I could just have a party where that friend meets the woman becoming a nurse. Of course, if she filled patients in on the sugar thing she might screw up her job security. It's a tough problem.






Tuesday, September 18, 2012

A SUGARY LETTER

Just got this nice letter from one of my friends who gets my health lover emails:

Cyndie, 
I wanted to let you know that after I read your email about sugar, I decided to take sugar out of my diet to try and lose those extra pounds that I always blamed on menopause. Well the sugar got me reading labels. I was shocked to find that sugar was in everything. So that led me to taking wheat out of my diet.(Have you read Wheat Belly? Really interesting.) 

So now what to eat!? And you know how much I love to eat and cook. I had an old copy of Eating Well, a pretty good healthy cooking magazine. In it was an article about green soups. The gist of the article was about how important green vegetables were to our diets; and how easy it was to create green healthy soups by going to you farmers' market and gathering whatever was in season. I clearly made a green soup and will be eating it every night this week. Next week I will make another one and I'll keep going until I've tried them all. All this eating healthy got me thinking about you and how much I appreciate your healthy tips. So keep them coming . Also I thought you might want to add a recipe or two to your emails. It is hard to always come up with what to eat that is healthy and interesting to eat.  The magazine has some great helpful tips. Like baking corn tortillas to make a healthier snack and that salsa made with fresh ingredients has practically no calories. OK I've gotten a bit obsessed, but I feel so much better ( a bit hungry) but better and I may have lost some weight. Anyway thanks and keep the emails coming. 
XXXX Lisa

NOTE: Since receiving this letter I've had a friend come live with me while she recovers from emergency surgery. She LOVES the green soups! Lisa turned me on to them just in time! It's green smoothie for breakfast and green soup for lunch here at Hospital Cyndie. The patient is recovering nicely! Thank you Lisa!!!

Monday, September 10, 2012

YOU AND THE MOO


Have you ever wondered why some people are lactose intolerant and others aren’t? I have. So I was grateful to come across Harold McGee’s On Food and Cooking, the Science and Lore of the Kitchen with a great explanation. Here’s a slightly paraphrased excerpt:

People who drink milk after infancy are the exception within the human species (no other mammals drink milk as adults). The obstacle is the milk sugar lactose, which can’t be absorbed and used by the body as is; it must first be broken down by the digestive enzyme lactase in the small intestine. 

Lactase reaches its maximum level in the human body shortly after birth and then slowly declines to a minimum level at between two and five years of age -- probably because It’s a waste for the body to produce an enzyme when it’s no longer needed and, once weaned, most mammals never encounter lactose again. 

If your body doesn’t produce lactase and you consume a lot of lactose, the lactose will pass through the small intestine and reach the large intestine where bacteria will metabolize it and in the process produce carbon dioxide, hydrogen, and methane, causing a bloated feeling or diarrhea. 

Low lactase activity and its symptoms are called lactose intolerance.

Lactose intolerance is the rule for adults, not the exception. However, several thousand years ago, peoples in northern Europe and a few other regions underwent a genetic change that allowed them to produce the enzyme lactase throughout life, probably because milk was an exceptionally important resource in colder climates. 

About 98% of Scandinavians are lactose-tolerant, 90% of French and Germans, but only 50% of southern Europeans and North Africans, and 30% of Aftrican Americans. 

Fortunately, even lactase-less adults can consume about a cup of milk per day without severe symptoms, and even more of other dairy products. Cheese contains little or no lactose (most of it is drawn off in the whey, and what little remains in the curd is fermented by bacteria and molds), and the bacteria in yogurt generate lactose-digesting enzymes that remain active in the small intestine and work for us there. 

Wondering about the calcium-from-milk-for-bone-health issue? McGee has an answer for that too.

Various aspects of modern eating increase calcium excretion. A high intake of salt is one, and another is a high intake of animal protein, the metabolism of which acidifies our urine and pulls calcium salts from bone. The best insurance against osteoporosis appears to be frequent exercise of the bones we want to keep strong and a diet moderate in salt and meat but rich in dried beans, nuts, corn tortillas  and tofu (both processed with calcium salts), and several greens -- kale, collards, mustard greens.

These days I’m exercising my bones  carrying my huge copy of On Food and Cooking around. It’s just too fascinating to put down!

You can find Harold McGee at www.curiouscook.com

12/28/12 update: Just found this new article about how lactose tolerance came about: http://www.npr.org/blogs/thesalt/2012/12/27/168144785/an-evolutionary-whodunit-how-did-humans-develop-lactose-tolerance

Monday, August 27, 2012

ARE YOU TELLING YOUR BODY TO STORE FAT?

Guess what. Researchers have identified something that ramps up appetite, slows down metabolism, and is addictive! Guess what else. You’ll probably be eating it today. It’s fructose!

Researchers at the University of Colorado believe fructose is responsible for many modern ailments: obesity, type 2 diabetes, hypertension, heart disease, and possibly some cancers. They’ve been doing loads of experiments that prove this. You can read about their discovery process in the book The Fat Switch.

You can also listen to an interview with the author and research leader Dr. Richard Johnson, Professor of Medicine at the University of Colorado. Here’s my brief summary of what he says: 

Fructose is a sugar commonly found in nature, in fruit for example, where it’s bound up with lots of minerals, nutrients, and fiber so it’s released slowly into the body (less slowly if the fruit has been dried or made into juice).

Fructose is also in table sugar (sucrose). Sucrose is made from sugar cane or sugar beets. It’s one molecule of fructose joined to one molecule of glucose. 

Glucose is the body’s main source of energy and is metabolized immediately by our cells. Fructose, on the other hand, is metabolized first by the liver. The liver turns fructose into glucose but releases it only if the body needs glucose, otherwise it turns the newly created glucose into triglycerides (fat) and stores it for later. For some of us, however, later never comes because we keep throwing fructose in faster than our bodies can use it. 

Evolution has taught our bodies that fat stores are important for a rainy day -- or a blizzard -- or a drought -- when we’ll be stuck without food indefinitely. In other words, our bodies are designed similarly to the bodies of bears and squirrels and birds -- to stock our fat cells for use later.  When we trip the fat switch by eating too much fructose, our bodies go into store-fat-and-conserve-it mode thinking they’re doing us a favor.

Enter high fructose corn syrup. High fructose corn syrup (HFCS)  was introduced to the food industry in the 70’s and has become its favorite for sweetening just about everything --  soft drinks, condiments, cereals, baked goods, meats, yogurt, soups, you name it. The problem it presents for us as consumers is that because the fructose in HFCS is not bound to the glucose, it gets into our systems Really Fast, overwhelming our livers, and triggering fat build up, constant hunger, and energy conservation (laziness). After a while the fat build-up leads to disease, because our bodies weren’t meant to store all that fat indefinitely. 

So if you’re in fat storage mode, how do you get out of it? 

1) Stop consuming high fructose corn syrup.

2) Limit your consumption of table sugar.

3) Eat fruit, but avoid juice and dried fruit.

4) Stay away from refined carbohydrates -- breads/pasta/cereals. Your body converts them to glucose very quickly and if you’re in fat storage mode, the liver can and will convert that glucose to fat. 

5) Eat more nutrient-dense foods like vegetables, meat, eggs, fish, seeds & nuts. The body will feel nourished and, hopefully, stop preparing for famine.
  
6) Stretch out the time between your last meal of the day and your first meal of the next day -- the longer you can “fast” in between, the more likely you are to start burning fat.

7) If you have enough energy, try to do some exercise in the morning on an empty stomach, further triggering fat burning.  If you don’t have the energy to do this though, you may just trigger an extra big appetite, so be cautious.

8) Once you’ve changed your eating habits, look in the mirror, smile,  and tell your body: “Good news! The blizzard is over!” 

Actually, Dr. Johnson does not cover #8. Also, he does not discuss artificial sweeteners in his interview. However, there’s lots of evidence that artificial sweeteners induce hunger and fat build up around the waist, so if you’re in fat storage mode, avoid them.


Thursday, August 16, 2012

WHAT ARE YOU BURNING TODAY?

Early fall in New Hampshire means pickups on the road delivering cords of wood. They bring back fond memories of the years I heated an old house with a wood burning stove.  I loved the completeness of it -- doing everything from contacting the guy who cut the wood, to handling each piece as I stacked it, to filling my arms with logs when I came in the house, to rekindling the fire in the mornings so the kitchen would be warm when the kids got up. It was a lot of work, but I felt such a strong connection backward in time and to cultures all around the globe that it was worth it. It’s a feeling I also get by cooking local foods from scratch, and lately it’s occured to me that feeding a body is very similar to feeding a wood stove. 

If you own a wood stove in NH you’re on the lookout for vendors of maple, beech, or oak. Those are trees that grow slowly so their cells are small and tight making them burn long and slow as opposed to pine which grows fast, burns fast, and gums up your chimney with sap. Burning good wood is very similar to eating nutrient-dense whole foods. I think of this when I eat the organic vegetables I buy at the farmers’ market. It’s easy to imagine while eating carrots and eggplant how minerals and nutrients pulled from the soil are being transferred to my body. They’re like good wood in my stove, giving me energy and producing a clean burn.

There’s also homemade coffee cake at the farmers’ market. Cake is made from refined flour. Refined flour is to wheat as paper is to trees. Paper is made from trees, but it burns way too fast to be good fuel. Refined foods (cereals, breads, pastas) are the same. Because our bodies need to do very little to break them down, their nutrient value -- what little there is -- is quickly absorbed and then they are just waste for our bodies to get rid of -- like ash in our stoves. Too much ash is always a bad thing -- any wood stove owner will get mad if you start burning a bunch of paper in her stove!  

Sugar is also a very refined food and in liquid form (soft drink or juice)  it’s like lighter fluid -- a little goes a long way. Drinking a 20 oz. Coke is like standing in front of a fire and squirting a long stream of lighter fluid at it -- sure it’s fun, but it serves no useful purpose -- and don’t try it in anyone’s wood stove or you’ll be hauled off to the wood SHED.  

Then there’s packaged junk food and artificial sweeteners. They too have an analogy in the fire building metaphor. They would be called trash. When you put trash in a fire all kinds of things happen -- the flame changes color and jumps erratically; there’s nasty smoke; and it stinks. The waste it leaves behind is a molten glop.  Similar things happen to us when we eat non-food things (read some labels and you’ll see lots of ingredients you can’t call food). We get heartburn, agitation, allergies, insomnia, lethargy, or even more undesirable conditions such as chronic or life-threatening illnesses.

Just as you would replace pine and paper with maple, beech and oak for a clean and healthy-burning fire, if you suffer from any health problems, big or small, try replacing the sugar, refined foods, and artificial ingredients in your diet with whole foods from good sources. I assure you, you’ll notice a glowing improvement!

Thursday, June 14, 2012

ENCOURAGING WORDS

Are you critical of yourself when you look in the mirror or when you exercise? How about when you can't remember something? 

Recently I heard someone say that if we spoke to ourselves in the third person, we'd realize how abusive we are. Many of us are meaner to ourselves than we are to anyone else. I know I fit in this category sometimes, even though I know that being mean is a lousy way to encourage anyone to be better, including my self. Plus it's ridiculous considering how amazing we all are.

Consider for a moment our eyes -- not how well they see or if they're bloodshot or itchy or have circles or crow's feet, but how our eyeballs function, how they let us see colors and recognize people and allow us to drive and read a computer screen. Pretty cool, right? What about our tongues, the tips of our fingers, our sex organs, our digestive systems, the muscles in our legs, our hearts, our BRAINS!  Admit it, our bodies are remarkable in countless ways. They do so much without our even asking, so we should be thankful, right? We should praise our bodies. They want to be healthy. They were made to be. If we abuse them by consuming artificial ingredients, sodas, too much alcohol, by smoking cigarettes or doing illicit drugs, or if we push them too hard without resting, why should they look or function any better than they do? 

We all know on some level that if we give our bodies good food, exercise, rest, and fresh air they'll function and look better. So what are we waiting for? Maybe we're waiting for our bodies to cooperate. That's why we want to give them encouraging words.

This week when we see our image in the mirror let's say something positive and then give our bodies a reward for being so amazing. For example, I'll say, "Hey Cyn, you are doing incredibly well for a hot day. I don't see how you even manage to function when it's so hot, and here you are getting so many things done. How would you like a big glass of water? How about TWO big glasses of water, because I really appreciate your fine work and I know you need water to function well."

or--

"Well don't you look good this morning considering what time we went to bed and all the wine I gave you. May I say, you're quite the dancer! How about two big glasses of water and some eggs with chopped peppers, tomatoes, and onions. Later we'll go for a walk and tonight I promise we'll go to bed at 10:00...I love your hair, by the way."

I know our bodies will respond to this positive talk by looking and functioning better. It's been proven! 


Wednesday, June 6, 2012

BEER BELLY, MEET COLA GUT

Perhaps the most important news in nutrition these days is the focus on sugar as the main culprit behind the obesity epidemic. "Sugar causes fat" are the words of Dr. Robert Lustig of the University of California SF, pediatric endocrinologist. His message is taking hold --  sodas larger than 16 oz. will soon be banned at NYC restaurants, theatres, ball parks, and street carts.  

Has soda been singled out unfairly, as the American Beverage Assn is claiming? Not when you consider the compelling formulas that make them so easy to consume in large amounts in a matter of minutes. If you drink just a 12 oz. Coke, that's 9 teaspoons of sugar that has to be immediately processed by your liver. (The liver processes sugar as well as alcohol.) Humans weren't designed to metabolize that much sugar so fast and to cope the liver stores the sugar as fat. That's why people who habitually consume more sugar (or alcohol) than their bodies can use get "beer bellies" or what my daughter calls cola guts.  A bulging tummy is the hallmark of a toxic liver. Limiting cup sizes on soda is an attempt to stop some of the fastest flowing sugar to the livers of the population at large. Remember, we have laws to prevent kids from consuming alcohol, but there's nothing to stop them from drinking giant sodas. Soda might not impair them mentally, but the consequences to their health could  last a lifetime.

The Beverage Assn is calling the link between sugar and obesity "false science" repeating the old, now disproved adage: "a calorie is a calorie." I can't help but be reminded of the tobacco companies when scientists first linked smoking to lung cancer. 

Below is one of Dr. Lustig's videos (12 min.) about how sugar works. I hope you'll watch. It's a critical concept to understand. Even if you don't eat too much sugar yourself, it's a global health issue you'll be hearing a lot about into the future. 

Note: 4.2 grams sugar = 1 tsp. 

Saturday, May 5, 2012

WHAT'S WEIGHT GOT TO DO WITH IT?

Sometimes I think if I see one more article about losing weight I'll scream. I have no idea what I weigh and I don't care. I tossed our scale in a dumpster a long time ago because whenever I weighed less than I expected I rewarded myself with sweets, and whenever I weighed more it wrecked my morning.

I have other measures to tell me how to eat and I think they're more valid. Do my joints ache? Is my stomach sticking out a lot? Do I have bags under my eyes? Is my head stuffed up? Am I constipated? Did I sleep poorly? Do I have a pain anywhere?

Am I unmotivated? Am I having trouble concentrating? Am I  anxious? Am I impatient with my husband? Is my house a mess? Do I feel like lying down?

Do I think my artwork stinks? Or my parenting? Or my friendships?

Do I crave sweets? Alcohol? Bread?

Do I dislike how I look in the mirror?

Those are my scales. Yes answers can mean I need a change in diet. That's the beauty of knowing the effects of different foods on my body and moods. I'm not saying it's a one to one thing like more spinach = more loving attitude toward spouse (though it helps), but I have figured out that too much wheat makes my joints ache; that a headache may mean I need a little meat; and if my stomach's sticking out too far I'm eating too much sugar or drinking too much wine, and I better cut it out.

It's a relief to know that so many aspects of my life can be helped with food. And feeling good means looking good no matter how many pounds I weigh.

I wish I'd figured food out sooner, like when I was a teenager or at least before I had children. But do I spend a lot of time regretting the past? Usually not. When I do it means I need to eat a salad and go for a walk.

Friday, April 27, 2012

GENTLEMEN, START YOUR ENGINES

8/27/2012 -- I've rethought this post since listening to an interview with Dr. Richard Johnson... (see ARE YOU TELLING YOUR BODY TO STORE FAT?) Now I think s-t-r-e-t-c-h-i-n-g the time between dinner and my first bite of breakfast might be a good way to burn fat... 

GENTLEMEN, START YOUR ENGINES

I'm not a race fan, but I did live in Indianapolis back in the 70's. Maybe that's why "Gentlemen, start your engines" are the words that come to mind when I wake up each morning. They remind me to eat something and drink some water before I head to the coffee pot.

I'm not hungry first thing in the morning so I used to start the day with coffee and wait to eat  until around 10 at which point I might think, "Gee, I've already burned a bunch of calories this morning, a muffin can't hurt me.."

Wrongo!  If you haven't eaten since the night before, by 10 a.m. your body has essentially been fasting for 12-18 hours. A fasting body doesn't burn fat, it conserves it. (Think sumo wrestlers... they limit themselves to two meals a day to trick their bodies into conserving as much fat as possible.) If you give your fasting body a sugary treat, it'll burn through it immediately and you'll be hungry again right away.

I still don't want a big breakfast the minute I get up, so I have a snack  --  a few stalks of asparagus left from dinner or a few almonds and some dried apricots. I drink at least one large glass of water. The food starts my metabolism, the water hydrates me so I can process the food efficiently. (Remember, coffee dehydrates.)

Later in the morning, after I've done some work or exercise, I'm ready for a real breakfast which I try to make 1 part protein, 1 part grain, 2 parts fruits and vegetables. (Ex: eggs, corn tortilla, and a green smoothie.) That's fuel my engine can run on smoothly for hours.

Other posts about breakfast: RETHINKING BREAKFAST, GREEN SMOOTHIES,


Thursday, April 19, 2012

VEGGIES CAN SET YOU FREE

Here's me a couple of years ago: I go to a restaurant and practically have to sit on my hands to avoid consuming all the bread in the basket before dinner comes. My wine glass is the first to be empty and it's all I can do to stop pouring from the bottle before my friends are ready. I wonder how others seem so much more restrained in the face of these temptations. I consider myself weak. I'm looking forward to the desert menu, hoping there's a good chocolate choice.

Enter vegetables. I'd always eaten them. I enjoyed salads, and I made sure there was something green on my family's dinner plate each night. But in July of 2010 I went to a nutrition lecture where the speaker said, "If you want to live a long life and avoid major diseases, do this..." She drew a circle on the board and divided it in half, half she divided in half again. "Make all your meals with these proportions:" In the big half she wrote fruits and vegetables, and she told us "the more variety, and the darker the colors, the better." Also, "potatoes don't count."

In one of the quarters she wrote protein, in the other, grains. But I was still thinking about the half part of the plate, the one filled with fruits and vegetables. For some reason I couldn't wait to go home and fix my first meal with this new proportion in mind.

At first I just added some extra vegetables to the types of meals I was already making and made the meat and pasta portions a little smaller. A fruit side dish  got added to breakfast, a piece of fruit to every snack, and a salad had to go with a sandwich at lunch. But then, as I started to research vegetable recipes, a whole world of tasty vegetable dishes opened up to me. Mark Bittman's How to Cook Everything Vegetarian became my favorite book.

I started to LOVE vegetables. Not just the taste of them, but the looks of them, the cutting up of them, the display of them. I researched their nutritional values. I even started to paint them. I started this blog! I craved vegetables in every way. I'd cook up a bunch of spinach and devour it directly from the pot. How had I never realized how wonderful vegetables were? Bad PR! Vegetables were always the thing you HAD to eat, they were never introduced to me as the centerpiece of a meal. But once I made them that, my cravings went away. Not immediately, but it happened.

I can't tell you the last time I've had more than half a roll before dinner, even during the longest restaurant waits. Wine? Sometimes I'll surprise myself and not finish even a first glass. Chocolate? It still tastes good, but really, I can take it or leave it. Whatever my body was starving for that I hoped bread, wine, and chocolate would provide has been given to me by vegetables. Sounds nuts, right? Well maybe nuts have something to do with it. I add nuts and seeds to a lot of vegetable dishes.

So if you suffer from cravings or an insatiable appetite, my advice:  increase the vegetables. There's so much nutrition in that choice, your body will start to respond in a positive way very quickly and vegetables will begin to crowd out other foods. Plus your body will begin to make the connection between healthy food and feeling good. Making more healthy choices gets easier from there.

Make sure those veggies taste as good as possible. Use butter, olive oil, garlic, salt, pepper, herbs, parmesan cheese, seeds, nuts, whatever it takes to make them palatable to you and your family. Don't worry at first if these extra ingredients are "bad" for you. Vegetables are so GOOD for you, I'm convinced you'll fall in love with them. If it takes a little dressing up to get you hooked, that's fine.

Friday, January 20, 2012

FOOD ADDICTION

Last May I wrote a post about food addiction in my family. Today I ran across Michael Prager and his  book Fat Boy, Thin Man, the website, and this video. I know food addiction is real, but I understand it's a difficult concept for many people to accept.  This little video is for them. (It's 7 minutes.)

And here's an article from the NYTimes talking about what non-natural food products that are "hyperpalatable" do to the brain (the same things drugs do). http://well.blogs.nytimes.com/2012/09/20/craving-an-ice-cream-fix/?nl=health&emc=edit_hh_20120925