Friday, January 20, 2012

31 Days to Better Health - Day 20

Happy Friday!  The weekend is upon us and I could not be happier about that!  I hope you have something fun planned for your weekend.  Our weather is predicted to be dreadful with freezing rain and snow which does not make for a fun weekend around here.  The picture above was taken just about this time last year.  Marylanders are true southerners when it comes to driving in frozen precipitation they are dreadful.  If you want to be safe around here it makes the most sense to stay off the road.  It looks like we will be sticking close to home all weekend due to the weather.  I hope Mother Nature will be treating you better this weekend.  What do you guys have planned for your weekend?  Yes I am asking because I want to live vicariously through your planned adventures.  ;-)

We have a really productive January together haven’t we?  I am very pleased with all the work we had done so far and hope that you are too.  Have the exercises helped you to get in touch with your feelings?  For those of you who are just joining us or here is the recap of what we have accomplished so far to remind us all of how much we have covered during the first 19 days of January:

Day 1 – Defined Success and What is/was Holding Us Back
Day 2 – Determined our Purpose and Looked at Passion
Day 3 – Listed Our Goals for January
Day 4 – Listed the Things We Have Needed to Work on for a While
Day 5 – Looked at Optimism vs. Pessimism and Fear vs. Intuition
Day 6 – Practiced Conscious Eating
Day 7 – Hara Hachi Bu
Day 8 – Taking the Stress Out of Meal Time
Day 9 – Acknowledgments
Day 10 – No Excuses, Do it Anyway
Day 11 – Is it True?
Day 12 – Have You Really Connected With Someone Today?
Day 13 – Motivation is a Decision
Day 14 - Successfully Navigating Dinner at an Unfamiliar Restaurant
Day 15 - What Do You Want, Have You Asked?
Day 16 – Treating Others as You Wish to be Treated
Day 17 – Food as a Budget
Day 18 – Silence Your Inner Critic
Day 19 – Replace I Have to With I Want to

What did you think of yesterday’s post about replacing I have to with I want to?  Do you think it will help you to change how you look at dietary changes?  Personally I view our lifestyle habits as life and health affirming and I believe that is why I am able to consistently make good choices.  I hope you get the same results that we are able to enjoy.  Remember if you have any questions about anything that I have written be sure to ask me. I am happy to help you any way that I can.

Identifying Your Rituals:

We all have rituals which we follow and most of them are unconscious.  Doing things by habit (on autopilot if you like) is how we are able to get many things done each day. We get up at the certain time, follow a particular pattern in the morning as we get our days started.  At our house the morning starts by reaching for my books to do my morning reading. After I finish reading I meditate and then I wake up Dan and make us both hot green and/or white tea and breakfast.  While he gets ready to leave for work I pack his lunch.  Each morning at my house starts exactly the same way (unless I am running to the hospital). Those are my morning rituals and I am sure you have rituals are your home too. I will be asking you to identify your rituals in the exercises today.  However I will be telling you about my prior and current rituals to give you some ideas of what your rituals may look like, or what you may want them to become.

When I worked outside the home I also had rituals that I did once I arrived at my office. I would grab a mug of coffee and if someone had picked up donuts or make cookies I would grab one of those to have with my coffee.   The sweets weren’t something that I picked up or ate consciously; it was something that I did because the food was there. I was eating on autopilot rather than eating out of hunger. This was definitely an unhealthy ritual and I still equate coffee with sweets today.  Isn’t it odd how our minds create connections that we usually don’t consciously recognize!  I know people who equate coffee with a morning cigarette and other people who have gotten into the habit of never eating breakfast (a bad habit and a sign that they probably overate at dinner the night before I might add).  Do you have any connections like this?   Being aware of your connections is necessary to make changes. 

Today my morning rituals are much healthier than they were in the past. Instead of grabbing coffee and something sweet I have an unsweetened hot green or white tea that I flavor with a little fresh citrus juice to enhance the absorption of the EGCG in the tea.  We don’t keep sweets in our house now.  I also don’t eat until I am hungry whether it is mealtime or not.  However I typically get hungry after I exercise and that is when I normally eat breakfast. 

Additionally I know that each morning that I must make time to exercise.  Some days this is as simple as doing crunches, pushups, and squats. Other days it is a longer more formal workout.  However I know that no matter how much time I have I do some form of exercise even if it only 10 minutes.  I don’t allow myself to use being busy as an excuse to avoid exercise.  Knowing how important exercise is to good health I work it into my day every day.

When I worked in healthcare I stopped working and had lunch when it was lunchtime whether I was hungry or not and now I know this is not a healthy ritual.  However it was what I did everyday and I didn’t know any better during that time.  Now I eat when I am hungry not because it is the traditional time to eat.  This simple change of not eating until I am hungry has made a big difference in my life.  It has taught me to trust my instincts and to eat less at each meal.  I know that if I have a big breakfast that I won’t be hungry for lunch. Alternately if I have a big dinner I am not hungry for breakfast in the morning.  Over time I have learned to eat less (hara hachi bu) and this works well for me.

In my less than healthy days I needed little excuse to sit on my butt. I spent far too much time watching TV and not enough time being active.  I would come home from work extremely late, exhausted and hungry. It was not uncommon for me to pick up dinner and eat it on the sofa while watching TV.  This was an extremely unhealthy ritual on a number of levels which I am sure you can identify too.  Now I make it a point to prepare homemade food for dinner most nights of the week.

Additionally I monitor my steps and when I don’t like the total I pull out the aerobic step that I keep in the family room and I will use that while I watch TV, listen to podcasts, or watching a DVD.  I now know it is very easy to get an additional 5,000 steps in the evening and I do that whenever I need to.  This is one of the benefits of having the Body Bugg but you can just as easily use a pedometer for the same purpose.

Speaking of making dinner when I cook dinner I always prepare extra food so that I have something for Dan and I for lunch the following day.  Once you get in the habit of doing this I think you will find that this habit will serve you very well.

I am still amazed by how easy it was for me to add healthy rituals to my life.  Just 10 years ago I didn’t do most of these.  However that is probably also why I feel better now at 49 years old than I did at 39 and possibly at 29 years of age.  Developing healthy habits made a big difference in how I feel and they will do the same for you.

I have other rituals that I do that are not always daily activities but I wanted to mention them in case they give you ideas for things you can add to your day:

·         When it is nice outside I go for a long walk/jog in the morning.  I always have my phone with me and I stop to take pictures when I see something that I want to share with you or Dan.  Also I make it a point to smile or say hello to everyone that I pass on the sidewalk.

·         If I am feeling down I turn on some quiet jazz and sip tea while curled up in my favorite chair. When it is cold I find it comforting to wrap up in my favorite throw while I sip the tea and listen to music.  This act of listening to music I enjoy while having tea is very comforting to me.

·         I make time to stay up-to-date on what is happening in health and nutrition.  With as rapidly as nutrition changes I think it is important to know what the current wisdom is on the topic.

·         I connect with at least one friend each day either by text, email, phone or in person.  This is something that I do because I believe that having good relationships is important to our emotional and physical well being.

·         I try to eat a big salad each day. Most days I make this happen but some days I don’t.  However I continue to try my best and remind myself that we all need to eat more raw veggies especially the green leafy ones.

·         I made a big pot of soup at least once a week to add to our meals for days. In the winter this is typically a bean soup because those are very comforting, filling and IMO perfect cold weather food.

·         When I need a few things from the grocery store I always walk there.  This isn’t a possibility for everyone but you can add variations of this to your day.  However you could make it a habit to park as far away from the store door as possible.  Alternately you can change things are work to get in more steps.   Instead of sending a colleague an email you could walk to their office to have a conversation.  You could even have a walking meeting instead of sitting on your tush in the conference room. The possibilities to add movement to your day are really endless.

·         When we are out of the house I look for the stairs so that I can get in additional movement.  This is difficult at first but you will be surprised by how much activity you can add to your day with this simple ritual.

·         Our house has 4 stories and I will intentionally make multiple trips up and down the steps. Instead of carrying everything at one time I will grab one or two things knowing that it will mean more flights of steps later in the day.

·         I got us a PO box at our local post office and do go there by car to get the mail. This forces me to get additional steps in during the day.  All these little things add up.

Today’s exercises are:

1.       As you go about your normal day identify your rituals. Write them down in your journal.  You may need to do this on both a week day and weekend day as your rituals may change.

2.       Look over your rituals which you listed in item 1 above, are you happy with all of them?  Do they serve you or do they harm you?  If they are harmful now you have the ability to change them into healthy rituals.

3.       Develop a list of healthy rituals you can use to replace your unhealthy rituals.

4.       Work on one habit/ritual at a time and replace it with the healthy alternatives that you developed in item 3 above.  Don’t try to change too many things in your life at one time.  Concentrate on one (or at most two) item at the time and once that habit has been replaced with a healthy habit work on changing another unhealthy habit.

Did reading about my prior and current rituals help you to figure out what yours are and give you some ideas for developing new healthy rituals?  One thing I know is that once you develop healthy habits your overall physical condition improves automatically and that happens much more quickly than most of us expect.

Progress on my goals:

1.       Newsletters – Thursday was another productive day for me which feels great.  I love being able to see the progress that I am making.  *woo hoo*

2.       Body Bugg – I continue to wear my bugg and I have gotten back into using the way I had intended when I purchased it.  Go me!  J

3.       Date with Dan – The hubby and I have spent a lot of time together this week.  I am always surprised that after more than 2 decades we never run out of things to talk about.

4.        Measuring calorie dense food – I have not been eating seeds and nuts again. I seem to have a mental block with this, probably growing up the “low fat” era.  However I will continue to work on this.

5.       Working on my business – I spent an hour on a webinar yesterday and picked up a few more things to talk with you about.  It still amazes me that there are always things to learn.

How are you feeling about your progress so far?  If you are happy with your progress wonderful, don’t change a thing!  However if you think you should have made more progress now you need to decide if a) you are being too much like me and are expecting yourself to be superhuman, or b) you have been slacking off and need to pick up the pace. Only you know the answer to this question.

Random Thoughts:

I have been very surprised by the firestorm of commentary about Paula Deen in the popular press.  I found the entire situation to be infuriating but I did not expect most people would be as annoyed as I was by it.  However I was very surprised in a good way to read that Time and the Washington Post were also critical of Paul Deen.   Maybe people in this country are starting to wake up, at least I hope that is what happening.  Two vegan medical doctors have also weighed in on Paul Deen and I thought you might be curious to see what they have to say on the topic.  Follow the links here to read what Dr. Greger and Dr. Barnard have to say about the situation.


Have you made any progress writing acknowledgements?  I hope are working on this exercise. I find that it helps me stay positive and recognize the things that I do every day.  Here are my acknowledgements:

·         It was good to get back to my daily morning reading which was on hold during our Hopkins experience.  I didn’t realize how much I missed it until was able to do it again for a few days. 

·         Being home more and eating my own cooking has had a tremendous impact on my mood and my GI system.  I didn’t realize how much things with me were out of whack until they returned to normal. Even though I wasn’t eating unhealthy during the hospital time by most people’s standards it was enough for me to feel the difference.  I am very happy to be back to my healthy habits/rituals.  *woo hoo*  I wish that all of you could feel how I feel living this way.  If you could it might be enough to get you to try living like this for a month.  I believe you would be surprised by how much of a difference this type of eating has on your body and your mood.

·         My Dan and Dan Jr. made plans to get together for lunch on Friday. As much as I wanted to go with my Dan to lunch I decided that he doesn’t really get much time to spend with Dan Jr. and that they need boy time so that they can just hang out together and do whatever men do when women aren’t there.    I used the time by myself to do some additional exercise and to work on the blog.  It made me feel good to do that little thing for my husband.

·         While Dan was out for lunch with Dan Jr. I pulled out the pressure cooker and make a pot of split pea soup with mushrooms.  Given the freezing rain that is predicted for Friday evening and Saturday I felt like a thick pot of split pea soup would be wonderful to have in the refrigerator.  Is there anything better than bean soup when it is cold outside?


 Breakfast for Dan was oatmeal with blueberries, goji berries, cinnamon, powdered ginger, stevia, walnuts, hempseeds and raw pumpkin seeds.

 I opted for savory oatmeal with mushrooms, kale, fresh ginger, fresh garlic, cilantro and sesame seeds for my breakfast.

 Lunch was the vegan chocolate mousse recipe I am working on which Dan thinks has great promise. I am trying to make my original version (which Dan loves) much healthier.  So far I think this experiment is going well. Dan wanted me to let you know that he doesn’t mind suffering through all the versions for you.  LOL

Our dinner was an Asian inspired salad which included:  spinach, broccoli, carrots, walnut/sriracha dressing, cilantro and sesame seeds.  I used the same walnut sauce from the prior night but stirred in the sriracha. The sauce itself is very easy. For anyone who wants to make it you put walnuts and water in  your Vitamix and puree until the sauce is completely creamy, adjusting the amount of water to get the thickness you want. I also added raw peeled garlic, minced fresh ginger and five spice powder to taste.  This keeps well in the refrigerator for days and can be used hot or cold. It would also be good on “zucchini pasta” or as a summer roll dipping sauce.

Happy thoughts:

Have you gotten into the habit of writing your happy thoughts?  I find it helpful to remind myself how often things go well and that I shouldn’t take these things for granted.  Here are my happy thoughts:

·         Dan’s temperature is still normal and he continues to feel more like himself.    It is wonderful that things are going well enough that he will be heading back to work on Monday.  I hate the idea of spending less time with him but I am very happy that he is feeling that well.

·         We have discovered that a triple earl grey green with fresh orange juice is something that we both enjoy. 

·         Dan brought me home veggie sushi from the restaurant today for lunch without my having to ask for it.  I have a very sweet husband.  J

·         I mentioned that I signed up for new training and so far I am enjoying it. However it is very different from what I have done in the past so it may take me a while to comprehend it completely.  But since I like a good challenge this is something that makes me happy.

·         While I am not looking forward to the wintery mix that is heading our way I am happy that the refrigerator is full and that we have homemade split pea soup on hand to keep us warm.  Sometimes it is the little things in life really do matter more than anything else.

·         The fur children have been enjoying time with their father this week. I love to see them curl up with him in the family room.  It is so sweet to see how much they love him; it just makes me melt to see them together. This morning I got up before Dan and when I went to wake him up Massimo was snuggled up next to him as tight as he could get.  Our fur babies can be very sweet.  I am happy that they allowed us to bring them home.  You did realize that the cats are in charge here right?  ;-)

Signing Out:

Friday has been good for us so far and I hope it has been the same for you.  Dan had a great lunch with Dan Jr. and I was able to be productive while he was gone, it was a win-win for all concerned.    The split pea and barley soup I made is pretty darn tasty if I do say so myself. I can’t wait to taste it with the smoky mushrooms I am making now to put on top of the soup.

Enjoy the remainder of your evening and I hope that you have some fun planned for the weekend. Since we will be stuck at home please have fun for us too.  Talk with you again tomorrow.  J


  1. Hi Alicia,
    I'm readind your blog for a long long time but never let a comment .
    I'm French and living in Paris. Your blog is very inspiring to me even if I'm not vegan.
    We share te same Italian roots as my grandmother was even if born in Tunisia. We love vegetables at our house and I'm cooking a lot with but as we are Jewish we canot be totaly vegetarians .
    Very glad to see Dan is feeling better and hope you wil share good time together.
    To make you feel better, we also have a rainy, grey and cold week end here in Paris.

    1. Hello Eliza,

      Nice to meet you, and happy you decided to comment. I love hearing who is reading the blog and why. You are in good company being a "non-vegan" I have many readers who are which still fascinates me. I tell myself they are people like I was looking for information to improve their health. Is that why you read?

      My father's father was Jewish as well so we have even more in common than the Italian side of the family. I am a huge fan of Jewish Italian cooking and love visiting Trastevere when in Rome. Would love to hear about some of your favorite recipes. :-)

      Dan is feeling much better. He may have finally "caught up" on all the sleep his missed while in the hospital. ;-)

      We woke up to snow this morning but not much. Our yard looks about like the picture I posted last night. Sorry to hear about your weather. But on the bright side at least we know it will pass.

      Enjoy what is left of your Sunday,


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