Tuesday, January 24, 2012

31 Days to Better Health - Day 24

Happy Tuesday, I hope the week is still going well for you.  We managed to get through Monday without any drama or crisis which was extremely nice.  I could use a little dullness in my life for a while so that I can relax and recharge.  In fact I used my down time to get in a little meditation time. It was a very relaxing way to spend a cold, dreary and often rainy Monday.

(Luca looking innocent)

However Tuesday morning was not smooth sailing at my house. Sometimes I think if it weren’t for my cats I would have nothing to do.  Luca was in the kitchen with me this morning when I was making Dan’s smoothie. I headed to the freezer to stash his smoothies and just as walked by she swished her tail. I didn’t want to step on her and lost my balance dropping one the glasses of chocolate smoothie which smashed on the floor. She stood there looking at me indigently like “why did you do that”.  Then Luca decided that she wanted to leave the kitchen and go through the broken glass and chocolate.  *ugh*  I got the cat out of the kitchen without getting any chocolate on her and had to close all three cats in a room while I cleaned up the mess.  Poor Dan only got half his normal breakfast this morning and now my slippers are covered in chocolate.  By the time Dan had finished getting ready for work and had come downstairs for breakfast all evidence of the chaos had been removed.

(Nicco....under that white fuzz is a little brat, but we love him)

After I got his lunch packed I decided that a nice bath was in order to chill out.  I had planned on relaxing but Binky jumped up on the edge of the tub and slipped into the bath with me.  His back feet got wet as did the end of his tail. When I called for Dan Binky dripping wet tail and all ran out of the bathroom and met Dan in the hallway. Dan had to corner him and dry him off with one of my towels.  Yes this is what life is like at my house in the morning.  Who said life is calm and peaceful when you don’t have children in house?  Fortunately Masi was sound asleep in our bed because we had turned on the electric blanket for him. At least one of our cats wasn’t a problem this morning.  ;-)  It definitely pays to have a sense of humor at our house.

Now that you have a vivid picture of morning at my house let’s get back to the work of improving our health. 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
Day 23 – The Meaning and/or Purpose of Food

What did you think of yesterday’s post about the meaning and/or purpose of food?  Did you learn anything about yourself through the exercises?  If you don’t like how you view food and want to change it but don’t know how let me know either by posting a comment on the prior post or by sending me an email.  I changed how I view food and I know you can too.  Once you begin to view food as fuel everything else is easy.  J

Trigger Foods/Situations/People:

This idea was inspired by Christy’s comment about not being able to stop eating chocolate.  I remembered her comment yesterday when I was writing about my addiction to Italian comfort foods (bread, pasta and pizza).  However for some people it goes beyond specific foods and triggers also include particular situations and sometimes people.  I think most us have foods that we find difficult to control ourselves around.  Do you know what those foods are for you?  Do you know if you also have situations and people who are problematic for you?  Do you have strategies to handle these foods, situations and people?  That is what we are going to talk about today.

I am going to assume that you don’t know what foods you crave because I didn’t always know what those foods were for me. However there are some easy ways to figure it out but you will need to use the food journal that we set up yesterday.  Look at your journal and see if there were any foods that you ate when you weren’t hungry. If there were foods that you ate even though you had a hunger level of 0 it is a good bet those are your trigger foods.  If there were no foods that you ate yesterday when your hunger level was 0 either this isn’t an issue for you, or it shows up differently.  Were there any foods that you over ate while you were keeping the journals. These would have showed up as items you ate that resulted in your being full on the scale of 2 or 3.  Reaching the 2 scale may mean that you need to eat more consciously and slowly or it could be the result of consuming trigger foods.  If you reached a level 3 on the fullness scale I would say you have found your trigger foods.

The next question is do you have a problem one food or more than one?  My trigger foods all involve high carb items that are savory in nature.  I can easily pass up cookies or desserts but fresh baked bread is a killer for me.  I also have difficulty with pasta, pizza, potatoes, anything starchy as you can see. 

Now that we have identified the foods that trigger us to over eat what do we do about it?  For me the answer was very simple I take the easy way out and keep those items out of my house.  However I also know that I can have them in moderation when we are out and that is enough to satisfy me.  The problem comes when Dan wants pizza or bread.  Since I know that I have nearly zero self control around these things, but I don’t want him to be deprived due to my issue I make certain that he is home when I make them. I know myself well enough that I wouldn’t even consider preparing these during the week when he was at work.  Fortunately Dan and I talk about everything so he knows my weaknesses and understands that I need his help.  Can you do something similar with your trigger foods?  Maybe your family can have them when they go out, or they can be a special weekend meals instead.

I alluded to the situation that I have difficulty with above. I am much more likely to eat something that isn’t in my best interest when I am alone.  I think this is because being around people holds me accountable to myself.  My husband knows me as well and sometimes better than I know myself.  We talk about everything and he is always there to give me a gentle nudge when I need it.  Having a built in support system works very well for me.  What about you, do you know what types of situations are problematic for you?  I have talked to many people who have the same issue that I do eating things they shouldn’t when they are alone. However I have also heard from people who have difficult in the opposite situation. They are extremely disciplined when they are alone but you put them in a group and they feel like they need to fit in.  Other people have problems when they are eating where there is a buffet; parties are a common danger spot for people.  I have also talked to a few people who have difficulties staying on track when they go out to a bar. Apparently having alcohol reduces their discipline.  As varied as these situations all they all have solutions. The important thing is to identify what your specific issue is so that you can do something about it.

For example if being alone is a problem then keeping the trigger foods out of your house works well.  If you know that you have difficulty sticking to your plan when you go out due to peer pressure then you need develop phrases and strategies that you can use.  You could eat before you go so that you can honestly say you aren’t that hungry and salad is enough. Alternately you could explain that you are watching your weight (or are concerned about your cholesterol) and you need to stick with a salad.  In this situation all that is required is that you have thought about how you will handle things so you are prepared.  If you have difficulty with buffets at a party I have a few suggestions.  You can do what I do and scan the buffet before picking up a plate.  This way I know what looks healthy and what doesn’t.  Another tip that works well for me is to eat before these events so that I am not hungry when I arrive. I also like to carry a drink (usually club soda with lime) so that I don’t have a free hand. Most people are too busy doing their own thing to notice that you aren’t eating.  The last suggestion I have for buffets at parties is to go in telling yourself that you won’t get something until a certain time (near the end).  This way you have delayed eating and even if you get something that isn’t in your best interest there won’t be much of it.  If you problem is eating the wrong items when you are at a bar (or are drinking) this one is a little more tricky.  I could give you the obvious answer of don’t drink because it isn’t good for you but that probably isn’t what you want to hear.  The only thing I could think of for this was to eat before you go out. This will do two things, a full stomach will keep the alcohol from be absorbed as rapidly and that should help you make better choices. Also a full stomach will mean you have less room for unhealthy bar food.  If you have any other suggestions for this situation please share I would love to hear them.

The final area where I have heard people have difficulty with being around specific people.  I was surprised the first time I talked with someone and they told me that they make healthy choices all the time except when they are out with a specific person.  However after I heard this a few times I realized this was much more common than I expected.  The commonality in what people told me was that they had a specific friend where food was their bond. They would go out and eat unhealthy items like pizza, maybe they would go the bar and have beer and wings, or meet at Starbuck’s cappuccinos.  If you have this issue I have some suggestions.  You can find a restaurant that has both the healthy fare you want and things your friend will enjoy.  Our chef friend Ian fills this need beautifully for us.  I am sure there are places near you that can do the same.  Alternately you could get together at your home instead and that way you had complete control over the food.  What about meeting for a picnic and you both bring your own food?  My favorite idea is to get together for a non-food activity. You could meet an exercise class, a run or a walk.  What about a movie, or a concert?  There are many options here to get away from unhealthy food gatherings with this particular friend.  If they are a close friend you can confide in them that you are watching what you eat and ask them for their help.  Most people want to help and when you share something that you are struggling with usually they are more than happy to do what they can to be of assistance.

Today’s exercises are:

1.       We are going to return to the food journal that we started yesterday to identify the problem foods, situations and people.  You will need to keep track for a little while in order to identify the areas that you need to be aware of.  For some people a week may be enough time and others may need a month. After you have collected at least a week of data review your results. Does anything stand out as being a problem?  The important thing is to identify the things that are problems for you so that you can develop strategies to deal with them.  If nothing jumps out as a problem continue to keep the journal and come back to it in another week and look again.
2.       Once you have identified your problem foods, situations or people now it is time to brainstorm how you will handle these situations.  Write down as many possible solutions as you can think of.  Put these ideas into practice at each opportunity to determine which ones work best for you. 

Were you able to identify the situations that are problematic for you?  I hope that you were.  Knowing what the problem is in 90% of the battle.  Remember that everyone has things that they struggle with, you are not alone. Now that you know what you need to work on the rest is easy.  J 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 – Monday I took the day off to get a few other things accomplished. 

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 – Dan and I have been going for a walk each night after dinner. We are using this time to get away and talk as well as to add some movement and fresh air to our day.  Dan wants to get a little caught up at work but then we will be getting back to our date plan during the week.

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 – Monday 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:

When we went for our evening walk last night we got on the topic of meditation. I told Dan how much I have been enjoying the meditation course from The Great Courses and how surprised I am that I feel somehow connected to Buddhism.  It is very strange for me since I was never interested in Asian religions in the past.  If you have read any books on Buddhism that you would recommend please share.  I would appreciate any suggestions you wish to share.

Another topic that we discussed during our walk was not sweating the small stuff.  It always surprises me how often someone will tell me about seeing one of my recipes on someone else’s site without any credit back to me.  The funny thing is that I could really care less about this.  I know that anything that I put on the web basically fair game for plagiarism. I share my recipes freely to help others to cook more healthfully with the hope that they will be able to improve their health.  Is it annoying that people will blatantly rip off my work?  Of course it is.  However in the larger scheme of life it is not significant.  If they can live with the idea that they stole there is nothing that my anger will do to them.  This is something else that I have learned from meditation.  The only thing that any of us can change is our behavior. We can give others information but in the end they are the ones that need to want to change. In the case of someone blatantly stealing they are obviously not concerned with what other people think. There is no reason to waste my time being upset.  Is there anything that upsets you that maybe you need to let go of? 

Speaking of recipes I noticed this weekend that my vegan mayo has over well over 10,000 hits now.  You have no idea how much this bothers me. When I figured out how to make this I was very pleased and wanted to share it with everyone.  About 6 months later I stopped using oil and haven’t made it since.  I really wish that people weren’t going to this so often because it makes me feel like I am contributing to their unhealthiness. I considered taking it down for that reason but decided that I shouldn’t since it is a least a tiny bit better than regular mayo. I have a question for you; if I can come up with something similar without oil would you be interested?  How many of you still use mayo with oil but would like a no-oil product?  I haven’t used mayo is so long that I don’t miss it but if there is a need for a healthy product I would be happy to work on a recipe.  Just let me know what you think by commenting here or emailing.

How many of you were surprised by some of the things we used to eat?  I thought twice about writing that but realized that most people haven’t been vegan their entire life and it is part of who I am.  There are many things that I have consumed in my past that I wish I could undo.  However I choose to view those as learning experiences rather than mistakes. I hope that you are starting to understand more about the experiences that shaped who I am.  As I have told you many times before I have not been healthy all my life, or even most of my life.  I truly believe that if I can get healthy anyone can do it.


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:

·         It was nice to spend a little time in the kitchen on Monday.  It felt good knowing that I had a jar of bean soup in the refrigerator for lunches.  I love having cooked beans in the house because I feel so much healthier when I eat them every day.

·         Monday was a little busy and I almost didn’t make a batch of lasagna for Dan.  However since he hardly ever asks for anything I stopped studying and got the lasagna prepped and into the oven at about 6pm.  When Dan was enjoying his lasagna I was very happy that I make it for him.  He liked it so much that he had one and half servings.  When I see him enjoying it that much I am reminded that one of the reason I like to cook is that it makes Dan happy to eat.  It is wonderful knowing that I can make healthy food that he loves enough to have an extra helping.

·         It felt wonderful to have a little time to listen to another two lessons on the meditation DVDs.  So far this is definitely my favorite DVD from The Great Courses.


There was no exciting food on Monday, sorry to disappoint you. I had my Asian savory oatmeal for breakfast. You have seen it so many times that I didn’t bother to photograph it.  The picture above is one of my prior ones.

My lunch was what was leftover of the kale and walnut sauce.  It was still delicious even as a leftover.

Dinner was Dan’s favorite lasagna the one that I posted here.

I also made a big pot of the French market bean soup which I documented here. The version I made today did not include any seitan sausage.

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:

·         I get excited each time we add a new follower to the blog. Since January 1 when we started the 31 Days to Better Health series we have picked up 24 new followers in 23 days.  *woo hoo*   Thank you to all of you who take the time to read.  If you ever have any questions or suggestions please let me know.  I am happy to share any tips or tricks I have learned with you and I love it when you share your tips with me.  It is my goal that we all change our health for the better.  I want all of us to end 2012 healthier than it started.  Each of us is stronger together than we are alone.  J

·         It is 5:20pm as I am writing this and the sun is just staring to set, and it is still 54 degrees I might add.  *woo hoo*  I can remember not long ago when it was completely dark before 5pm.  I love that the days are getting longer. Come on spring, hurry up and get here I have a sailboat calling my name.

·         Tomorrow is the first teleclass for RMT which should be fun.  I am looking forward to getting started with the next round of training. Thankfully I can do training through my smart phone since the class ends just about the time we are due at a doctor appointment.  Isn’t technology wonderful?  What did we do before we had mobile technology?  Sadly I am old enough to remember life without PCs if you can imagine.  LOL

·         Our weather has been lovely today. The temperatures were back up in the mid-50s, the rain disappeared last night and all the snow from the weekend is gone.  It definitely felt and looked a lot more like spring today.  The weather people are predicting this warm spell will stick around through at least Saturday.  Nice!

·         I got a nice email from Lauren at Hopkins early this morning.  We are going to try to get together next week. We thought lunch would be nice and I want to introduce her to Ian. He will want to kill me I am sure since he claims he doesn’t do vegan.  Oh well he will get over being mad I am sure, well at least I think he will.  Wish me luck, I may need it.  You know how temperamental artistic people can be.   LOL

Signing Out:

Tuesday was another busy day for me.  I still marvel at how many things I have on my to-do list given that I don’t work “outside” the home.  How did we ever get things accomplished when I did?  *scratches head*

The emails about IIN continue to come in daily.  I certainly had no idea so many of you had even heard about the program let alone that you were interested.  If you have specific questions email at veganepicurean@gmail.com 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!


  1. You're 3/4 of the way through the month, congrats! I don't know how you keep it up, but it's all good!

    My worse eating happens when I'm either very emotional or I'm very hungry in combination with having unhealthy food at hand (which I try not to do). I also struggle with snacks that turn into meals, ruining my appetite for my next healthy meal.

    I'm surprised that more people aren't using this comment section, which would probably make your correspondence easier (you wouldn't have to repeat yourself as much). I'm curious about what others have to say. However, I do find the comments to be a bit difficult to navigate...for example, if I want to check your response to my comment...especially if I can't remember the date I posted! It takes a lot of scrolling and clicking.

    Oh and please give a link to your walnut sauce with sriracha, or tell me how to search for it. Do I need to include the word "recipe" in the search box? Thanks!

    1. Laura,

      If it makes you feel any better I am just barely getting it done. This series is chewing up a ton of my time. But it is worth it if what I write is helping people. I never can tell without the comments which is why I always encourage them.

      Emotional eating is a killer for me too, that is when I run off the rails myself. I can't keep unhealthy stuff in the house, it doesn't last long when I do. LOL

      I agree comments here would be easier for me since I wouldn't need to repeat myself as often LOL. However not everyone is comfortable commenting in the open I guess. ;-) You can "subscribe" to the comments and then they show up in your email box automatically. That is what I do when I comment on other people's blogs.

      The walnut sauce is extremely easy, and of course I don't measure. In your Vitamix add about a cup of walnuts, a clove of peeled garlic, about 1/4 inch of fresh ginger, and a splash of water. Process this until smooth. Add water as necessary to get the consistency you want. Now add sriracha to taste. That is it, nothing to it.

      No you don't need to use the word recipe in the search box.

      talk with you later,

    2. Thanks, I didn't know about the "subscribe" option! And thanks for the recipe.

    3. Laura,

      I hope the subscribe option resolves the issue for you. :-)

      Enjoy the walnut sauce.


  2. Thank you for the post, Ali! Where did you get the idea for savory oatmeals? I had never heard of them before I started reading your blog. Too funny about the cats this morning. I find myself calling my dogs my , "Fur Babies" now.

    1. Christy,

      Thank you for reading and commenting! :-)

      The concept of savory oats came to me from my vegan RD friend Courtney. I am not sure where she got the idea. The specific "concoctions" are all me so if you don't like the flavors that isn't Courtney's fault LOL.

      My cats were "very helpful" this morning. NOT! It is amazing how often my little ones get into things, knock stuff over, etc. They are very lively considering they are all 10 years old. They are definitely living up to their breed characteristics. BTW, I love that you have fur babies too. ;-)

      enjoy what is left of your evening,

  3. I know I don't comment much but I could easily say the same thing to every post- thank you so so much for sharing your passion, knowledge and recipes. You've made eating well so more do-able for me. Thank you :)
    I make a silken tofu based mayo based on the happy herbivore recipe- perhaps you could come up with a version that uses tofu instead of oil & soy milk?
    All the best xxx

    1. Good Morning Claire,

      Thank you very much for letting me know that seeing what we eat makes it easier for you. I am very happy to hear that. :-)

      I don't know the recipe that you mention from happy herbivore. Is it on her website? Also did you manage to find a silken tofu that is organic and doesn't contain soy protein isolates? I tried to find one but couldn't. If you did I would love to know what the brand is. Do me a big favor please, send me an email at veganepicurean@gmail.com so that we can discuss this in more detail. I did make a tofu and pine mayo recipe over a year ago. Did you see that one? I need to go back and look it because I don't remember it well myself. There was also a pine nut recipe which I don't think has oil. Again I need to look at that too.

      talk with you later,

    2. I am way behind in my blog reading, but yes, I'd love a no-oil, vegan mayo recipe!


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