Monday, January 23, 2012

31 Days to Better Health - Day 23

Happy Monday, assuming there is such a thing as a happy Monday that is.  I hope the week has started off well at your place.  As always I wish it were still the weekend, but I am trying to make the best of it.  While it has warmed up here it has been raining and/or dreary all day.  There is nothing like a yucky grey day to keep me inside where it is warm and dry.  ;-)  On the bright side I have gotten a lot done because I wasn’t able to spend as much time outside as I would like.  As I always say there is an upside to everything in life if you just look for it.

 Don’t you just love that the days are getting longer?  *woo hoo* It will be spring and then summer before we know it.  *happy dance*  I am seriously looking forward to spending spring, summer and fall on the boat.  There is nothing more relaxing to me than hanging out on the boat.  I can feel the boat gently bobbing now.  ;-)  Come on spring!  I would rather be looking at the scenery in the picture above then at the cold, dreary rain that is outside now.

I am happy that you guys are starting to speak up a little even though most of the comments and questions are coming by email.  Thanks to everyone who wrote.  It is much easier for me to know what to write each day when I know a little about what you are interested in, what you are trying to accomplish and where you are in making healthy changes.  For those of you who are just joining us here is the recap of what we have accomplished so far to remind us all of how much we have covered during the first 22 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
Day 20 – Identifying Your Rituals
Day 21 – Face Your Fears
Day 22 – Give Up the Diet Mentality

What did you think of yesterday’s post about ditching the diet mentality?  Do you think that there is any validity to my comments? Was there something in that post which you are going to try to apply to your life?  I really would like to hear your thoughts if you aren’t too shy to comment.

The Meaning and/or Purpose of Food:

It came to me this morning that what food means to any of us is the crux of what happens in terms of health.  What does food to mean to you?  Why do you eat?  What need are you trying to satisfy with food?  Sounds like simple questions right?  However I can almost guarantee that there are many answers to this question because I would have answered this differently at various stages of my life.

What do you think, what does food mean to you?  At this stage in my life food is the fuel that I use to nourish my body.  Food is what I use to provide my body with all the macro and micronutrients that it needs to be as healthy as possible given my life conditions.  I know that the food which I eat is broken down into the building blocks that become me.  Literally this means I believe that I am what I eat.  This is why I am able to decide to eat savory oatmeal, green smoothies or seaweed.  It is also why I reach for green tea instead of coffee, or fresh vegetable juice instead of a V8.  I know that my body needs as much nutrition as I can possibly cram into it to hopefully eventually offset the horrible ways I treated my body in the past.

In the past food had many different meanings, none of which were good (healthy) and I will share those now in case your see yourself in any of these examples.

Food can be seen as entertainment.  In the past Dan and I loved to get together with friends and go out to dinner.  We would order the wildest thing on the menu because we wanted the experience.  Some of the things we have eaten in the past were “way out there” to say the least.  We have had things like vanilla cotton candy wrapped smoked eel, and grilled baby octopus with bacon air.  As you can see I wasn’t kidding when I said we wanted to be entertained and experience life to the fullest.  Given that we both loved fancy restaurant food you can guess the rest I imagine. We ate too many calories and we both carried too much weight. Viewing food as entertainment is not good for anyone’s health and we were a testament to that. The funny thing is that we thought we were happy, right up the crisis that is.

Food can also be used to numb feelings.  This is something that I hear a lot when I talk to people.  They tell me that they eat when they are sad, angry or just about any other feeling.  In the past when I was sad or upset I would also reach for “comfort food” which in my case was anything made with flour like pasta, warm bread out of the oven, pizza, etc.  I equated Italian carbs with love and when I felt sad or upset I instinctively reached for those foods.  I still do this but now I recognize what is happening so that I can stop myself before I eat too much whole wheat pasta, vegan pizza or hot warm bread.  It isn’t that my cravings for these foods disappeared but rather that now I understand why I am craving them and that makes it much easier to not over do.

Food can be used to celebrate.  When I was growing up we went out to dinner to celebrate birthdays, holidays, graduations, etc. Food was the way that we communicated as a family.  I am not sure if this is an Italian thing but all festivities revolved around food. We had the feast of the seven fishes for Christmas Eve, cassata cake on New Years, panettone for Christmas and Easter, you get the idea. If there was a holiday we had a food (or more than one food) that we used to celebrate it.  Everyone got to choose where we went out to dinner to celebrate their birthday. Food was an integral part of our family life, mind you most of this food was eaten out of the house, but food was how we connected as a family.

Food can also be seen as love.  I separated this from the emotions above because I think it is a little different and I didn’t want it to get lost when you were reading. You can see food as love in two ways:  either preparing food as a way of showing love to others, or as a way to give yourself love that you don’t feel you are getting enough.  I grew up in a home where my mother did not cook. My mom still hates to cook to this day so she doesn’t do it.   We ate out a lot, my father picked up food on his way home (lots of reheated restaurant meals), and sometimes my dad would cook.  I always felt that my mom didn’t “love me enough” to cook dinner and this was probably because my grandmother was an amazing cook. I loved spending my summers with her and we would shop for food and cook together every day.  That always felt like the way the world should be to me.  When I was about 10 I started cooked at home.  My father loved having real food in the house and my mother enjoyed not having to think about food.  Cooking became the way that I showed people that I loved them.  However giving food this meaning can be healthy or not healthy depending on how you do it.  If you prepare the unhealthy foods that your family wants are you really giving them love?  I would contend that while they are happy now they won’t be later when they suffer from cancer, heart disease or diabetes.  I still equate food with love but I use healthy food to show love now.

Food can also be seen as a necessity.  This description may sound similar to food as fuel but it was different for me.  In the past when my career was my priority food during the week was required but I didn’t give much more thought to it than that. I would grab anything that satisfied my hunger, it could have been Chinese carry out (too much sodium and fat), pizza (bad on so many levels), or burgers.  Literally the only function food served during this stage of my life was to stop my stomach from growling and I didn’t think about it any further than that.  In retrospect I can’t believe that I ever thought this way about food, but I did.

I am sure there are other meanings for food; these are just the ones that it has had for me in the past.  Now I am going to ask you to think about what food means to you.  I have designed a series of questions to help you to figure it out in case you don’t know immediately.

Today’s exercises are:

1.       Do you think you know what food means to you?  If you do write it down in the journal. We will come back to this later after you have done the exercises.

2.       For today write down everything that you eat.  This includes things like coffee (even black), candy from the office candy bowl, if you consume right it down.   You don’t need to measure or weigh the food that doesn’t matter. But I want you to write down the following information:

·         What time you got out of bed

·         What were you thinking or feeling before you ate?

·         Time of day you ate

·         How hungry were you before you ate (0-neutral neither hungry nor full, 1-a little hungry, 2-very hungry, 3-starved)

·         What you ate (describe the food)

·         Who was with you when you ate (were you alone or with friends)

·         Where were you (at home, at work, at the restaurant, etc.)

·         What were you thinking as you were eating?

·         What were you thinking of feeling immediately after you finished eating?

·         How full were you after you ate (0-netural neither hungry nor full, 1-satisfied, 2-uncomfortably full,3-Thanksgiving full miserable)

·         What time did you get into bed

3.       Look at the list you complied in item two above.  Does anything stand out for you?  Did you eat immediately upon waking up or was lunch your first meal?  Do you wait until you are hungry to eat?   It is common for people to feel sad, angry, frustrated, lonely, bored, happy or tired before eating.  Does this describe you or was there another emotion that was coming up for you?  Did you eat all day long, or did you eat most of your calories at the end of the day?  Eating a lot at night often leads to not eating breakfast which then sets up the cycle to eat a lot at night the next day.  Just write down anything you notice by looking at your list.  Maybe you were frustrated at work and grabbed some chips.  People who are angry do tend to reach for crunchy food.  The benefit of keeping a log for a few days is that you will start to see the patterns around your eating. Remember we can’t change what we don’t identify!

4.       Now look at your feelings after you ate.  Did your feelings change? Did the change last or was the feeling back before the next meal. Did eating make you feel worse and not better?  In the past I felt good when I was eating but after I ate I would feel guilty because I knew that I had eaten food that I should not  have consumed.  Also how full were you after eating? If you went further than level 1 (satisfied) you should go back and reread day 7.

5.       After reflecting on what was going on for you around food today do you still agree with what your wrote in item one about what food means to you?  Maybe you still don’t know what food means to you.  That is okay because this is a tough question for a lot of people. Just continue the steps above for a few days and see if what comes up for you.  I suspect that many of you will need to do this for a while to figure it out.  If you had asked me twenty years ago what food meant to me I would have thought that was a ridiculous question and probably would have said something like “food is food.”  Yes, I was in denial for a long time. As I often say, if I can figure this stuff out for me I know you can do it because I was one tough nut to crack. ;-)

Were you able to figure out what food means to you?  Do you like your answer or do you think that you need to change your relationship with food now.  Did I explain this in a way that makes sense?  I hope that I did.  Like always if anything that I wrote is unclear or you think that it requires clarification please don’t hesitate to let me know either by commenting or sending me an email.

Progress on my goals:

1.     Newsletters – Sunday I took the day off from working on the newsletters. Sometimes we all need a little break from work.

2.     Body Bugg – I continue to wear my bugg and I have gotten back into using it 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.  With the weather we have stayed fairly close to home but we can have fun anywhere home or out.  ;-)

4.      Measuring calorie dense food – I am making a little progress on this but I really need to focus on it with every veggie meal to help my body absorb the fat soluble vitamins.

5.     Working on my business – Sunday I took the day off from working on the business.  The January posts are taking me many more hours to write than usual. As much as I love these posts I will be happy to see February arrive since I really need a little time back to work on other things, the business being one of them.

How are you feeling about your progress so far?  I hope you feel like you have made a few lasting changes this month.  J

Random Thoughts:

Writing this month about the emotional side of health has definitely been a labor of love me.  I believe that anyone who has ever struggled to lose weight knows that there is more to the issue than calories in and calories out.  If the weight loss equation were that simple very few people would struggle as they do to lose weight.  Additionally anyone who has ever tried to give up cheese knows that there is “something” intoxicating about it.  I also know that most men and many women don’t understand that the problem of eating healthy is more mental than anything else.  When I thought about this series I realized that there was a chance that many people would think I had lost my mind. However I also knew that I had to stay true to what I believe without regard to how people reacted.  The funny thing about this is that while I wasn’t sure about writing this series now I am very glad that I did.  It feels wonderful knowing that I stayed true to what I believe in no matter how people react to it.  J 

Do you take time to smell the roses?  Of course this is a figurative question since there are no roses in bloom now but I think you know what I mean.  ;-)  There were many years of my life that I was so busy running between my home and office that I didn’t notice much of anything that happened around me.  It wasn’t until I left healthcare that I began to actually see things.  I do this by slowing down and taking in everything that happens.  I realize now that this is the opposite of how I used to live.  The funny thing about slowing down is that you realize that there is as much joy in seeing the light spark on the ice which formed on a branch as there ever was in getting a raise or a promotion.  There are beautiful things around all of us every day.  Please slow down for at least 5 minutes each day and take time to “smell the roses”.


Have you made any progress writing acknowledgements?  I hope you 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:

·         While the house looks empty without the Christmas stuff it was nice to get it all down and put away over the weekend. Typically I put the stuff up and Dan takes it down but we worked as a team this time and got it finished much more quickly.  Everything goes faster when you work together, a good thing for all of us to remember.

·         We have gotten into the habit of going for a walk after dinner. It reminds me of being in Italy since everyone seems to walk after dinner; in fact it is so common there is a word for it, la passeggiata.  I loved the tradition of it when we were in Italy so I have decided to try to add it to our life at home too.  For now Dan is going along with me on this.  Let’s hope he doesn’t start working too late for this to be an option.

·         Some days things just come together and this was one of those days.  The dinner I made was out of this world delicious.  I love it when I get just the right combination of ingredients.  I have been trying to encourage all of you to trust your instincts and to cook without a recipe which is why you haven’t been seeing many recipes from me lately.  Anyone can follow a recipe but when you learn to cook without a recipe then you can feed yourself no matter what you have in the house. I think this is going to be an upcoming series on the blog. What do you think of the idea?


Breakfast for both of us was a cocoa, cherry, banana, kale and walnut smoothie. These things really are like drinking dessert for breakfast.  Since I typically only make them for Dan I forget how much they are like candy. No wonder Mr. Sweet Tooth asks for them so often.  LOL

Between breakfast and lunch we worked on packing up the end of the Christmas decorations. Binky was a big help dismantling Christmas for anyone who is curious. That little guy gets into everything at our house.  He is a cat after all and he knows that we have to be supervised otherwise we would never get any job done correctly.  It is a good thing that we love that little fuzzy man because he can be a handful.

Lunch today was the end of the split pea soup with smoky ‘shrooms.  Since we try to eat beans each day I asked Dan what he wanted me to make next.  He almost never has an opinion but suggested something made with 16 beans.  Perfect!  French Market Bean soup will be on the menu tomorrow. I have been soaking my beans overnight with a little baking soda after Dr. Greger confirmed that this does reduce the raffinose thereby reducing the gassiness.  Thanks again for sharing the recipe Sue!

Dinner was something that I whipped together and it far exceeded my expectations. Dan told me to write it down before I forgot what I had done.  Of course I didn’t measure but I will explain the concept.  I cooked some quinoa and while that got started sliced an onion so it could stand for 10 minutes before cooking (it enhances the nutrition which you are probably tired of hearing from me).  Then I “water sautéed the onion in water, a splash of red wine vinegar and pinch of stevia).   When the onion was soft I turned it off to finish once the quinoa was resting.  While the quinoa finished I shredded a bunch of kale to add to the onion.  The kale only cooked for about two minutes, I only wanted it to soften slightly.  The entire meal was:  quinoa topped with the sweet and sour wilted kale and onions, smoky ‘shrooms, walnut sauce with sriracha and finished with sesame seeds. Darn was this good!  I can assure you that I will be making this again and measuring because yes, it was that good.   That walnut sauce with sriracha is delicious on just about anything I have decided.  LOL

I also have dried mushrooms and almonds soaking in the refrigerator.  I plan to make some flavored mushrooms for salad and some vegan mozzarella if I can find the time on Monday.  *fingers crossed*  Dan has asked me to make some of my whole wheat pizza dough since we haven’t had any in probably a year.   Since he asked so sweetly I couldn’t say no.  Now I need to buy flour and yeast so Dan can have pizza at home.

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.   As always there are so many things to be thankful for that I almost don’t know where to start. Here are my happy thoughts:

·         We went for a nice walk Sunday evening. The sidewalks were icy but the scenery was fantastic.  I love to see the street lights shine on the ice covered bare branches. I am sorry that I haven’t been able to get any decent pictures for you.  The light was dancing on the ice and it was a bit like walking in a fairyland.  What a wonderful way to end the day.  I never get tired of going for a walk after dinner.  J

·         I had the epiphany today about the meaning of food. As soon as it popped into my head I couldn’t believe that it took me so long to look at it that way.  How any of us view food is huge in terms of what it means for our overall health.  I am so glad I finally made the connection so that I could share it with you.

·         It was great to have time to watch two episodes of the meditation DVD from The Great Courses. I have almost finished all the DVDS.  I want to watch it twice before I review it for you. But as you can probably guess I am really enjoying it.  These DVDs definitely made me think about my reaction to things and I love that.

·         We have bean soup in the refrigerator again.  *woo hoo*  I know that this wouldn’t make many people happy but I love it.  Beans are such a healthy food and I feel so much better when I eat them every day.  If you haven’t tried eating beans daily I hope you will.  They don’t agree with everyone’s gastrointestinal system but if they agree with yours you will miss them when you don’ teat them.   

Signing Out:

Life Monday returned to normal at our house.  Dan returned to work and I went back to my usual routine.  I even managed to find time to get back to the meditation DVDs from The Great Courses.  There was also a little time in the kitchen, though not as much as I had hoped for.  There really never seems to be enough time in the day to get everything accomplished.

The emails about IIN continue to come in.  I certainly had no idea so many of you had even heard about this let alone that you were interested.  If you have specific questions email at please don’t be shy I promise that I don’t mind answering any questions that you have. 

I hope your week started well and that you have some nice things to look forward to this week.  At the very least take time to enjoy the little things in life.  J  Talk with you again soon!

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