Way back in this post, I asked you all if you’d be interested in tips on speeding up the process of cooking whole foods from scratch. Today, I’ll begin to answer that question. I realized there is so much to say on this topic that I’d need to split it up into two smaller posts. So today’s post covers the first four tips; come back next week for the rest of them!
If you cook 98% of your food from scratch as I do, it’s really just a basic survival strategy to find ways to speed up the process and make it easier. Below are some of the things that I’ve found helpful over the years. I’ve come to most of these ideas on my own over time, but have also found some useful information on blogs and sites I’ve read along the way. So thank you to all the lovely bloggers and writers whose words contributed to this post!
Note: A truly “from-scratch” meal would be made entirely on my own, without ANY help from food manufacturers. If most of the ingredients were fresh and/or cooked entirely by me, I consider that from-scratch. If I use a canned or packaged product that is basically a single ingredient and one I could also make at home (most common in this category would be canned diced tomatoes or natural nut butters, for instance, but I also do use packaged alternative milks), then I also consider that “from scratch.” Of course, you have to draw your own line where it feels comfortable to you.
[This post is part of an ongoing series of interviews with cookbook authors, bloggers, women entrepreneurs and home chefs whose work I enjoy and admire. If you've got someone in mind you'd like me to approach for an interview, please shoot me an email at dietdessertdogsATgmailDOTcom, or leave a comment here and let me know! And now, enjoy today's installment!]
It was almost 3 years ago that I first came across The Blissful Chef, aka Christy Morgan. I remember hearing quite a bit of buzz about this classically trained, macrobiotic-leaning vegan chef (who had received glowing reviews from her client, Alicia Silverstone!). Shortly thereafter, Christy and I somehow became friends on Facebook, and a dialogue began. I admired what she was doing and agreed to review one of her ebooks,Cooking with the Seasons: Summer. I recall being pleasantly surprised at how much the recipes focused on real, whole foods, unprocessed and without a lot of added oils or salt. I loved the dishes I tried and was happy to move on to a glowing review of Christy’s first cookbook, Blissful Bites,half a year later. That book remains one of my favorites to this day.
Today, I’m happy to share with you Christy’s latest venture: Wellness Reboot, a healthful, all-in-one online culinary and exercise program that will help you reboot your wellness goals. But Christy says it much better than I can, so take a gander at her answers to my questions, below! And don’t forget to check out the giveaway after the interview!
Q. Can you explain what Wellness Reboot is all about?
Wellness Reboot is a 28-day online wellness program. It’s an accumulation of all that I’ve learned both in culinary arts and in over 10 years in the health and wellness field. The program includes more than 15 videos on cooking techniques (stocking you kitchen and pantry, etc), a 28-day meal plan of delicious whole food plant-based recipes (no oil, no processed foods, no refined sugar, mostly gluten-free), a Getting Started Guide that explains everything one would need to know about eating healthfully and living a plant-based lifestyle, continual support from me through a private Facebook group, and bi-weekly conference calls. Not only does it have all of this, but I’ve partnered with an amazing vegan personal trainer, Chad Byers of Beyond Fit, to include a fitness element to the program, so you’ll get a workout that’s easy to do at home, along with workout videos. It’s unlike any other online program!
Q. Sounds very comprehensive, Christy! Who can benefit from taking this program?
This program is great for those who are ready to transition to a healthier way of eating and living. Whether you’ve made a New Year’s resolution to lose weight, or maybe you have a health condition you would like to treat naturally, or maybe you recently switched to a plant-based diet but need guidance, this program is for you. I have a lot of people email me who have watched Forks Over Knives or another documentary and they are ready to change their diet to plant-based. This program will hold your hand and show you the healthy way to transition. Wellness Reboot is endorsed by Forks Over Knives, Dr. Neal Barnard (of PCRM.org) and many more people in the health and wellness community.
It’s also for those who have already made the switch to a vegan diet but need help in the kitchen. Wellness Reboot is being dubbed as a “cooking boot camp” from participants. If you aren’t good in the kitchen you will be after this program. So be prepared to cook your butt off (literally and figuratively). Even after one week, our Rebooters are losing weight, no longer having sugar cravings, and controlling health issues like IBS. The power of plant-based food combined with a fitness program are unbelievable!
Q.What prompted you to include the fitness element? And who inspires you to be more fit?
I’m a strong believer that we need to eat healthfully AND move our bodies on a regular basis for optimal health. Studies show that those who exercise have better physical and mental health, have stronger bones, a better sex life, less instances of disease or common illness, and live longer. But you can’t out exercise a bad diet. You need both. My boyfriend is a good example. He is a bodybuilder and ultramarathon runner. He looks about 10 years younger than he is and continues to excel post-40. He and my trainer (and fitness coach for Wellness Reboot), Chad Byers, inspire me to become more every day. I’ve signed up for a triathlon in September and I’m ready to take my training to the next level! [Congrats!]
[Carrot Hummus--oil-free and flavor-packed!]
Q. Can you tell us which are your three favorite recipes from the program?
[Indian Chickpea Wraps from the program]
Honestly I’m kind of in love with all the recipes. I feel like it’s some of my best work because they are all very easy recipes packed full of flavor using whole food ingredients. If I had to choose just a few it would be: 1. Breakfast: Maple Pumpkin Seed Cereal Parfait, 2. Lunch: Indian Chickpea Wraps, 3. Snack: Edamame Guacamole Dip, 4. Dinner: Polenta Pesto Pizza and 5. Dessert: Chocolate Coconut Pecan Bites.
Q. You mentioned that the recipes are oil-free. For those who don’t follow an oil-free diet, can they include healthy oils and still benefit from the program?
The program is kind of like a cleanse so it’s nice to eliminate oil so you start to enjoy the taste of whole foods. We have become addicted to fat, and while some fat is better than others, we leave out oil for this program. There is plenty of whole food fat like coconut, avocado, and some nut butters. It’s not about deprivation but retraining our palates and creating new healthy habits in the kitchen.
Q. If someone has time for just one form of exercise, what would you recommend as the best thing that can be done daily?
I think High Intensity Interval Training (HIIT) is the way to go. I’ve been doing it for years and that is what the fitness program is based on. It’s exactly what it sounds like, a series of moves that use body weight (or other equipment) in fast, short bursts where you push yourself as hard as you can and take a small rest in-between each move. All the exercises in our program are shown in video and pdf form and we also have a LIVE workout class with our fitness coach, Chad Byers of Beyond Fit.
Thanks so much, Christy! I’ve really enjoyed learning more about this latest venture of yours.
And now. . . GIVEAWAY TIME!
This giveaway is now closed. Thanks to everyone who entered! We have a winner:
Congratulations, Jessica! Christy or I will contact you via email for more information.
Christy has also generously offered to give away a FREE spot in the next Wellness Reboot($350 value!) to one lucky winner! In addition, she’s offering FIVE spots in the program at a huge discount ($100 off) for the first 5 DDD readers to claim their places. All you need to do is contact Christy here if you’re interested in one of the five discounted spots–but remember, it’s first come, first served for the $100 discount!
(Note: This is NOT an affiliate product; I am receiving no monetary or other compensation for this review. I was, however, given access to the program materials and recipes so that I could review it for you all, and I thought it was a great program.).
Wellness Reboot is a comprehensive program that not only provides healthful recipes, but teaches you how to make them; and the video workout component is something I’ve not seen anywhere else.
To enter the giveaway, simply leave a comment below telling me which aspect of the program you’re most interested in: cooking classes, recipes, or workout videos, or something else! You can also gain extra entries by doing any of the following (then come back and leave an additional comment telling me that you did):
THIS GIVEAWAY IS NOW CLOSED. THANKS TO EVERYONE WHO ENTERED!
This giveaway is open worldwide. You can enter until midnight EST on Wednesday, January 30th, after which I’ll choose a winner at random. Good luck, all!
Christy also shared this recipe for Carrot Hummus from the program, as well as one participant’s comment about it: “I took the Carrot Hummus to work and shared with a coworker. She *loved* it and the wrap I made with it today was awesome! It was the perfect portable lunch for work. I can’t believe how much my meat-eating husband is loving all the recipes too.” I have to say, the HH also enjoyed this hummus, and I gobbled up my serving. No need for oil in this one–totally delicious!
No-Fat Carrot Hummus
Reprinted with Permission from Christy Morgan.
Who says you have to use chickpeas to make a hummus dip?! You are going to flip for this white bean version that has added carrots for extra vitamins.
2 cups (480 ml) carrots, large dice
2 cups (480 ml or one 15 ounce can) cooked white beans
2 tablespoons nutritional yeast [I'm still avoiding nooch so used 1 Tbsp/15 ml light miso and it worked beautifully]
2 Tbsp (30 ml) fresh lemon juice
1 Tbsp (15 ml) tamari soy sauce [I used Braggs]
1 tsp (5 ml) apple cider vinegar
1/2 tsp (2.5 ml) garlic powder
1/2 tsp (2.5 ml) cumin
1/2 tsp (2.5 ml) corianderBoil carrots until tender. Drain and place in blender or food processor with remaining ingredients. Blend until well combined and no chunks remain. Add more seasoning to taste. Makes 3-5 servings.
Some Personal Sharing: My Detox Experience on the ACD
Recently, a few readers have asked me to detail a bit more about my own experience on the ACD. While I’ve written quite extensively about the diet itself, how difficult it was to follow in the beginning, and where to find information, I haven’t written very much about my own physical symptoms, reactions to the diet, or treatments. Partly, it’s because I can’t imagine that anyone would be interested. Partly, it’s because I am actually a fairly private person, and I wasn’t all that comfortable sharing (I know, you’re thinking, But you tell us all about your arguments discussions with the HH! And you tell us about how you and your pal Sterlin were total nerds in high school! And you tell us about your resentment of Rocker Guy (he of the black leather pants)–what do you MEAN, you’re a “fairly private person”–ha, ha, don’t make me laugh!).
No, I haven’t forgotten the definition of “private”; it’s just that those events are all in the past, so I don’t feel particular bashfulness or emotional protectiveness of them any more. The ACD, on the other hand, is very much with me in the present, and that feels a little. . . revealing.
When I thought about it for half a minute, I realized that, back at the beginning of the process, I would have been elated to find a post about someone else’s experience, just so I’d know I wasn’t alone (and that you can come out of it, intact, at the other end). And what if someone out there is going through the same thing? So, if this post can help even a single person, I’ll feel it was worth revealing (and let’s face it, it’s not as if I’m entering a wet T shirt contest or anything here).
A while back on the Candida FAQ page, Megyn asked: “And are you taking any supplements? I was put on undecenoic acid. The first few days were okay, but then my intestines starting really hurting as well as some other “symptoms of die off”. . . . Is there a place where I can read more about your experiences with this?”
When I was first diagnosed and put on the diet (back in January, 1999), there were at least 20 years (okay, more like 30) of the worst possible eating habits behind me. Mine wasn’t simply a case of following the SAD (Standard American Diet), oh no; more like the S-SAD (Sub-Standard American Diet). Case in point: throughout my undergraduate years living in residence, my weekend menu alternated between birthday cake (which my roomie and I bought from the local supermarket each Friday and would eat for breakfast, lunch and dinner) and raw chocolate chip cookie dough mix (which we ate the rest of the time). I kid you not.
[At my all-time heaviest weight, Summer 2008. No wonder I'm not really smiling.]
I had decided to go to the Naturopathic College’s clinic to see an Intern there (since her fee was much lower than that of a practising naturopath). In retrospect, I realize that was probably the worst possible way to approach a detox for the first time. The overzealous, neophyte ND prescribed the strictest of diets along with the most potent herbal decoctions available, simultaneously neglecting to prepare me by either easing into dietary changes first or warning me in any way about ”die-off,” or a “detox reaction.”
I started detox on a Monday in February. The following evening I had dinner plans with a good friend. “No problem,” he said, when I suggested we eat at the only vegan restaurant I knew at the time, where I could order plain brown rice with steamed veggies. About halfway through the meal, I began to feel a bit queasy. “Hmm. . . probably not the veggies,” I mused. “I must be coming down with the flu.” Within 15 minutes, I was shaking, sweating, feeling downright dizzy and just about ready to vomit. “Um, I think I need to get home,” I apologized, and my friend ushered me to my car.
I’m still not sure how I drove home that evening, concentrating with all my might on the lines on the road,barely visible between the curtain of snow that had begun to fall. I was determined to just make it home without swerving into the shoulder. My head began to pound, I began to see flashing lights (and not from the oncoming cars) and my body trembled from my shoulders down to my fingertips (which were gripping so tightly to the steering wheel that it took a moment to unfurl them at home). Outside, the snow floated down in silent accumulation, and I was petrified I’d have an accident.
When I finally did get home, I so weak that the HH had to help me up the stairs; I have a vague recollection of him pulling off my boots and tucking me into bed, still fully clothed. The next thing I remember, it was morning. The HH brought me a glass of water and was reluctant to leave for work. By the time he returned, I was feeling better; the room had stopped spinning and the nausea was leaving.
Was it a strange, 48-hour flu? No. Was it something I ate? In a way, yes: I had experienced a severe–and unusual–detox reaction, also known as a healing crisis, also known as “die-off.” Because of the sudden, harsh change in my diet combined with powerful herbal remedies, I had begun to detox too quickly; with all the accumulated toxins in my body suddenly ducking for cover and high-tailing it out of there, my system wasn’t able to cope–and I felt sick. Really sick.
[What a difference 18 months makes: at my lowest post-ACD weight, February 2010--so much healthier!]
Part II: How to Detox–The Right Way
For most people, detox isn’t that dramatic. They may feel slightly under the weather, or experience flu-like muscle weakness for a day or two; then it passes, and they feel incredible for the rest of the detox. In my case, because I had not been correctly prepared for the change in diet and the additional supplements, and because my body had built up so many awful toxins over so many years, it became a worst case scenario. That’s not how you want to do it.
In fact, when I returned to the ACD again in 2009, my detox reaction was so minimal that I don’t even remember it today. Of course, there had been much less time for toxins to build up (I’d been eating a whole foods, healthy, sugar-free and vegan diet for over 10 years by then, minus the four months I fell off the wagon). And, more importantly, I eased myself into it properly, taking a week or two before I switched to the stricter ACD itself.
Part III: I’m About to Do it All Again!
Even though I haven’t veered from the ACD since I started it, I’ve been feeling recently that it’s time to go through another detox.
A while back, I wrote about the weight beginning to creep up once more. And in recent months since my Dad’s heart attack, I’ve been experiencing a whole host of stressors that have triggered my sugar cravings. Now, don’t worry–as I said, I haven’t actually eaten the Dreaded White Crystals Of Death, but I sure do crave sweets. And it’s possible to overdo it, even if your cake, cookies, or chocolate are sweetened with coconut sugar, yacon, agave or stevia (trust me on this one).
So when Nutritionist and Holistic Health Counselor Andrea Nakayama asked if I’d like to work with her to create a sugar detox program, I jumped at the chance. As it turned out, Andrea and I had an instant rapport from that first telephone conversation and immediately decided to work together. Not only do I think Andrea is an amazing nutritionist–I mean, this woman really, really knows her stuff–she also exhibits the kind of personal empathy and professional integrity that I admire and to which I aspire. And, she’s loads of fun, to boot! Immediately, I had a selfish thought: “hey, I can work through the program myself while it’s being offered!” And that, dear readeres, is exactly what I’m going to do.
I’m truly thrilled to be part of Sweet Victory, a two-week homestudy detox program. The course kicks off with a live teleseminar (also available as an audio file you can listen to at any time) and includes an array of course materials, recipes and–my favorite part–two weeks of online support from both of us, via message board! Andrea and I will both be available throughout the entire course to respond to your queries and comments, share experiences and offer feedback. And since I’ll be detoxing, too, I’ll be right there along with all of you!
I should note that Sweet Victoryis not strictly an anti-candida detox; it’s actually for anyone looking to conquer sugar cravings and permanently change their relationship with sugar. I wish I had found something like this before I allowed my sugar addiction to become as bad as it did in 2008–ultimately, leading to my more serious problems with candida. Now that the candida is in check, it’s time to tackle those pesky cravings!
[Last month at my dad's 90th birthday party--time for a little refresher to clear out the cravings once more!]
In the next ACD update, I’ll talk about my candida symptoms and where things stand with them today.
Have you ever undergone a detox? How long was it? What was the experience like for you?
[Soy-Free, Sugar-Free, Gluten-Free Chocolate Buttercream Frosting from Sweet Freedom]
Okay, let’s get to the dessert first (really, we should all eat a meal that way at least once): I received my cookbook’s (paper) proof in the mail today (the sample that I must approve before production can begin) and I’m thrilled! Now that the publisher has the approval, they can swing into action and the book should be ready by May 25th (the date by which they’ve promised it will be available). On that date, you’ll be able to purchase it directly from the publisher or (for those in the Toronto area) from me! The book will be available through amazon.com about a month after that. I’m also hoping to offer an e-book version at a lower price, so stay tuned! In the meantime, if you need a reminder of what types of goodies will be represented, take a peek at the cookbook blog.
As always, thanks for your patience–and thanks for indulging me by allowing me to blather on about this on DDD! I’ll be providing all the specifics about how to order, cost, etc. as soon as I know them.
And next, our “diet” update: This week marks the end of Phase I (six weeks!) of my anti-candida diet.
Having spent the last six weeks without the company of any fruit, baked goods, desserts, sweeteners of any kind (save stevia) or any other foods that could feed candida, I’m happy to say that I do feel I’ve made progress. In a nutshell, over the past six weeks:
The overweening lethargy and muscle heaviness I’d been experiencing has lifted; I now find it easier to walk around, easier to walk up the stairs, easier to complete my workouts at the club (hey, septuagenarian couple with the matching T-shirts! Howdy, punky chick with the spiky hair! Nice to see ya, burly guy with the black ankle socks!), and have even extended my time on the treadmill a bit.
Many of my sinus problems and much of my nasal congestion have evaporated. I’d estimate that my sinuses are about 70% better than when I began the cleanse.
I’ve lost about 12 pounds. I say “about” because I wasn’t certain of my exact weight the day I started the cleanse–but I do know it was an all-time high. I’m now at the lowest weight I’ve been since I started this blog in October, 2007 (yikes! Has it been that long?)
On the other hand:
Many of my original symptoms remain. I’m still experiencing other rather unpleasant side effects of excessive yeast, such as absentmindedness, “foggy thinking,” rashes and absentmindedness (oh, wait, did I say that one already?–ah, you see what I mean).
And so, what’s next?
Well, according to most ACD sites and experts, one should remain on the diet until all symptoms have abated, or at least six months, whichever is shorter. Six months?? Honestly, as much as I may be keen on quinoa, think tofu is tops, am enamoured of arame, or even cherish chia, I can’t see living without fruit or most whole grains for that long. On the other hand (seems I’ve got several hands, here), it’s become abundantly clear to me that I feel better physically, have more energy, and am able to lose weight when I follow a very “clean” and healthy diet such as this. As long as my system is overrun with that scourge, candida, I’ll be drawn back again and again to unhealthy eating.
And believe me, the irony of the situation isn’t lost on me: I’m about to publish a desserts cookbook, yet I suffer from an overabundance of candida–typically caused by too many desserts. And while the bulk of my diet is composed of incredibly healthy foods–ones I truly enjoy–that’s not to say that those wholesome, healthful foods are the only ones I eat. My weakness is chocolate, and more than once I’ve been hoist by my own Lindt 70%. (I’ve probably ingested enough of it over the past year, in fact, to supply all of Switzerland on Valentine’s Day). Add to that my own baked goods and treats–albeit healthy–and you’ve got too much of a good thing, as they say.
And so, I’ve decided to forge ahead with the next phase of the cleanse (which allows a wee bit more variety in the diet) and keep at it as long as I can. The basic approach on the blog will remain the same, and I’m going to attempt to include desserts in moderation (even if I won’t be eating them as much). I’m still determined to achieve that elusive ”normalcy” I wrote about way back when the major focus of the blog was the “Diet” in “Diet, Dessert and Dogs”–to be able to eat like a “normal” eater , consuming a wide variety of foods and courses (including dessert) in moderation–to kick this sweets addiction once and for all! (Or, at least, keep trying).
And when I do reach that goal, promoting a dessert cookbook–even baking all the samples that will go along with it–will be not only possible, but enjoyable.
Because really, never having dessert again would surely suck all the sweetness out of life.
“Um, Mum, while we understand that your book and your diet are important to you and everything, forget about blog updates–how about dog updates? We have some exciting developments going on, too, you know. What about my new white hairs on my muzzle–or how Chaser managed to catch that Frisbee over the fence yesterday? ”
[Totally tangential rant: When I woke up this morning, I was sure my eyes were playing tricks on me--it is snowing outside! Snowing. BIG snow. As in, "little white flakes that fly across your field of vision." As in, "icy and slushy and boots weather." As in, "everything is coated with rime and appears opaque and goes crunch when you walk on it." As in, "turn the heat back on and pull those sweaters out of storage again." As in, IF I SEE ONE MORE DAY OF WINTER I AM GOING TO LEAP UP AND DOWN AND FLAIL MY ARMS LIKE A CRAZED FLAMINGO AND SCREAM BLOODY MURDER AND WEEP LIKE A CONTESTANT ON THE BIGGEST LOSER AND THEN DISSOLVE IN A PUDDLE LIKE THE WICKED WITCH OF THE WEST. Okay, maybe not really. But I will not be very happy, let me tell you.]
I’m sure we’ve all heard it before, but I’m here to reiterate: diets don’t work. In fact, I’m living proof of that axiom.
I embarked on my first bona fide “diet” at age thirteen (thirteen! there oughta be a law) because, at the cusp of adolescence, I entered a new school and was, for the first time, startled to discover that there were boys–and they had somehow become appealing overnight!–out there. And that my friends whose mammaries had developed the previous summer seemed to attract the boys more than I did. And that maybe, if I lost twenty pounds, I might be the object of male hormonal affections, too.
And so, the beginning of a lifetime of serial dieting was born.
That initial diet was called the Stillman Quick Weight Loss Diet (a precursor to the later Atkins fiasco) and it allowed NO fruits or vegetables, NO grains and, basically, nothing but protein. For three months or so, I dutifully ate hardboiled egg for breakfast, tuna fish (no mayo) for lunch, and some kind of cooked meat (likely chicken) for dinner. And yes, the pounds did drop. Unfortunately, so did my IQ, my heart rate, and several of my friendships.
Before long, it wasn’t just boys who paid attention to me, but my parents and teachers, too, as my skin became pallid and wan; my clothes bagged in decidedly unattractive ripples across my chest, waist and hips; my hair lost its luster, hanging scraggly and thin; and my basic demeanor shifted from formerly sweet, pleasant, and interested in academics to introverted and skittish, eyes flitting from one point to another without ever focusing, like a kleptomaniac hiding a pair of shoes in her purse as she crosses the electronic detectors at the Bloomingdale’s exit. Needless to say, my parents convinced me to abandon the Stillman diet.
Subsequently, in my 30s during a “heavy” cycle, my world changed for a time when I met Dean. He didn’t mind that I was chubby; in fact, he welcomed it.
Dean, you see, was Dean Ornish, author of the diet plan called Eat More, Weigh Less. I loved the book immediately and bought it based on the title alone (you know that myth about how every twenty-something guy dreams of being locked in a room with two sexy, randy lesbians? Well, every dieter dreams of being able to pig out uncontrollably without limits, yet still lose weight).** I didn’t care about the actual diet, no sir; all I cared about was that title–I could eat more, and weigh less! Yessss!
Little did I know that Ornish was a medical doctor–a cardiologist, no less–and his book was based on years of extensive study. In fact, Ornish was the first (and only, if my sources are correct) medical professional to prove in scientific, double blind studies that you can actually reverse heart disease with diet alone. That’s right; reverse, not just diminish; and diet alone–no pills, no medications! His original idea has now blossomed into a full-fledged industry, including an institute that practises what he preached. It’s called the Preventive Medicine Research Institute and people go there to recover from (and reverse) their heart disease. How cool is that?
The first edition of the diet, however, was incredibly stringent, allowing no more than 10% of calories from fat (from all food sources combined). Clearly, well-marbled steaks, chicken with skin, or whipping cream are not on the menu. It was a radical notion back then: a vegan diet, and one with a very low fat content (Happy Herbivore, rejoice!). Best of all, the book included recipes.
Following the Ornish plan, I never felt better. I see now that the menus were fairly grain-heavy, but at the time, I was happy to cook up the recipes, pile my plate as high as I could, and methodically shove one forkful after another into my mouth, chewing away. At times it took me the better part of half an hour to polish off a plate, but I never worried that I was eating too much–I was eating MORE so I could weigh LESS!
Ornish’s Seven Grain Dirty Rice and Beans was my first encounter with this spicy Cajun favorite and also my first foray into the world of cooking dried beans from scratch. The dish is a variation on the classic combination, with corn for chewiness, and a spirited spice mix. The result is a satisfying, multi-textured meal. The beans and rice pair up to offer a complete protein. As a single woman living on my own, it was also a godsend to be able to create meals from basic, inexpensive ingredients that would last a few days (theoretically, I’m sure, the recipes were intended for 6 or more servings, which would have lasted much longer than a few days, but I really was piling my plates pretty high).
I achieved the desired weight loss on the Ornish plan and even managed to maintain it for several years, until I moved to Toronto and began teaching at the college where I still work today. And then, I met my starter husband, we got married, and I ballooned once again, the cycle repeating itself. Did my weight gain play a role in our split? No. But our split played a role in my weight. . . after I dumped the guy, the weight began to recede as well, which led to my current relationship with the HH, after which I gained back all the weight and more. . . which is why I now need this ACD to clear out the toxins and, ideally, lose more weight. . . .
Do we detect a pattern here? Diets don’t work!
Nevertheless, I still love this dish. And I’ll always have a soft spot (well, right now, several soft spots, most of which are located between waist and hip areas) for Dr. Dean.
**Oh, dear me. I can just imagine the blog searches that will lead people here now. Especially since this dish has the word “dirty” in its title. Groan.
I have no idea why this is called “SEVEN” Grain Dirty Rice (unless I’m missing something, aren’t the rice and corn the only grains in this?). Whatever the reason, it’s a slightly spicy, very flavorful and hearty dish, one that’s easy to prepare–and it won’t break the bank.
2 cups (480 ml) dry brown rice (I used basmati)
1-1/2 cups (360 ml) chopped red onion
3 cloves garlic, minced
1 cup (240 ml) finely diced carrots
1/2 cup (120 ml) finely diced celery
1 small jalapeno pepper, minced (remove seeds for less heat)
1 Tbsp (15 ml) ground cumin
1 Tbsp (15 ml) ground coriander
2 tsp (10 ml) chili powder
1/4 tsp (1 ml) fine sea salt
3-3/4 cups (900 ml) vegetable stock or broth
1 bay leaf
1-1/2 cups (360 ml) chopped tomatoes (I used a large can of diced tomatoes)
1-1/2 cups (360 ml) cooked red beans (I used kidney; any firm bean will do)
1/2 cup (120 ml) fresh or frozen corn kernels
3-4 Tbsp (45-60 ml.) fresh chopped parsley
3-4 Tbsp (45-60 ml) fresh chopped cilantro
Preheat oven to 350F (180C). Spray a large casserole dish (one with a cover) and set aside.
In a fairly large, heavy-bottomed pot, heat the rice, onion, garlic, carrots, celery, jalapeno, cumin, coriander and chili powder over medium heat, stirring constantly, for about 5 minutes, until lightly browned.
Add the salt, stock, bay leaf and tomatoes, and stir to combine. Cover, lower heat and simmer for 15 minutes.
Add the beans, corn, parsley and cilantro. Turn the mixture into the casserole dish, cover and bake for another 30-40 minutes, until the liquid is absorbed and the rice is cooked. If necessary, add a bit more stock and continue cooking until the rice is sufficiently soft. Garnish with more chopped herbs, if desired. Makes 6-8 servings. May be frozen.
NOTE: The original recipe suggests cooking the entire dish in your pot on the stovetop. I found, however, that the rice never really absorbed the liquid that way, and it remained hard even after an hour of simmering. If the stovetop method works for you, however, go ahead and use it–you’ll save yourself some dishes to wash that way.
[UPDATE, JUNE 2010: In March, 2009, I began a much more serious (and much more restrictive) candida diet after suffering from myriad candida symptoms for more than 6 months. Finally, with a raging rash taking over my torso, I had to succumb and begin the diet afresh. After 15 months (so far) I'm 90% better, lost 45 pounds, and feel terrific. To read from the beginning of my "new" candida journey, see this post.]
These days, I can’t think of a single person I know who isn’t stressed. I mean, with all our modern amenities, our time-saving devices, our plugged-in technology, most of us are still plagued with a constant sense ”never enough” or “not up to snuff.” And I’m not too proud to admit that I myself am probably preternaturally sensitive to stressors in my life. In fact, it’s possible that I react just a wee bit more forcefully to stress than the average person. Truth be told, I find it downright impossible to cope some days. Oh, all right, fine; I admit it: I’m basically a slobbering mass of quivering kanten who’s totally incapable of coping with excess pressure. (I mean, do you know anyone else who had to quit meditation because it was too stressful?)
It’s not as if most of us can just take off for a few weeks to our spectacular retreat in New Zealand when we feel overwhelmed by life’s little curve balls (how lovely for you that you could, though, Shania). Some, like the HH, play records (as opposed to CDs) to de-stress; others play with their home décor, wardrobe or hairstyle. Some play the clarinet. And then there are those who simply play around.
Me, I like to play in the kitchen.
Throughout my recent hiatus from the blog, I kept encountering interesting recipes or ideas for baked goods and my hands would itch to get back to cooking. There’s something immensely soothing about swishing a wooden spoon over and over through a clear, fragrant broth, or chopping mindlessly as carrots are transformed into mounds of tiny, uniform cubes on the cutting board.
But what to cook? As I mentioned last time, I’ve embarked once again on an anti-candida diet for a few weeks, which means my diversions in the kitchen will have to comply with the guidelines of that eating plan. For those who aren’t familiar with it, the anti-candida diet is basically a nutritional means to reduce the candida albicansyeast that’s present in and around us all the time, but which occasionally multiplies out of control in certain people (those with compromised immune systems, those with blood sugar issues, those with hormonal imbalances, etc.) My personal weakness is an addiction to sweets; sugar is the number one preferred vittle for those microscopic opportunists.
In order to reduce the number of candida organisms down to a “normal” level, the anti-candida program (I’ll just call it ACD from now on) commonly recommends cutting out any foods that could potentially feed the yeast or encourage it to grow. In its most stringent form, the diet would eliminate:
anything containing any kind of sugar (cane, high fructose corn syrup, brown sugar, maple syrup, honey, brown rice syrup, etc.–plus fruits, fresh and dried);
simple carbohydrates, which convert to glucose very quickly (flours, pasta, bread, muffins, cakes, cookies, pies, tarts, biscuits, crackers, cornstarch and similar starches, and any other baked goods of any kind; candies, chocolate, ice cream, pudding, anything candy-like; white potatoes, white rice and any other white grains)
foods that contain mold or fungus or encourage it to grow (yeast is a fungus, after all): mushrooms, peanuts, cashews, melons, cheeses;
the most common allergens or foods that could cause allergic responses (which trigger the yeast): dairy, eggs, shellfish, peanuts, tree nuts, and soy foods;
foods that are fermented or might encourage fermentation (on which yeast feeds): alcohol, vinegars, all condiments (no ketchup, sorry); soy sauce, etc.
anything artificial, processed, containing chemicals or additives, imitation or artificial seasonings and flavorings and colorings;
pop, fruit juice, presweetened drinks, coffee, tea.
Right about now, you may be wondering, “what the heck CAN you eat??” Good question. The basic list of “permitted” foods is actually shorter than those that are prohibited. Still, there’s quite a bit left that’s both tasty and nourishing:
all vegetables except very high-glycemic ones (such as white potatoes, corn, etc.)
stevia (a natural herbal sweetener that doesn’t affect blood sugar levels)
I was leafing through the book that became my ACD Bible when I was first on the diet about 10 years ago (called The Complete Candida Yeast Guidebook), and I have to admit I began to despair a little. Life without pancakes on Sunday mornings? Life devoid of fresh, juicy fruits? Life sans a little tipple on occasion? How would I cope? What could I eat when the HH and I went out to dinner? What would I do when my friends invited me to Starbucks to catch up? It was starting to feel mighty stressful around here. So I exhibited my usual reaction when I’m feeling stessed: I got into the kitchen when I couldn’t stand the yeast.
After consulting with a few classmates currently practising as holistic nutritionists, I was reassured that the ACD diet had been revised in recent years. Considered unduly restrictive (you think??) it’s since been amended to better reflect current trends in the fields of nutrition and scientific research. Apparently, some sweet foods can now be included as long as they’re low on the glycemic index or GI (which means they don’t raise blood sugar levels very quickly). A low GI denies the yeast its main source of nutrition–glucose. In other words, this time round, I can include most nontropical fruits (such as apples, some pears, berries, or peaches) in my menus, as well as minute amounts of agave nectar, a natural sweetener that’s also low-glycemic.
Scanning the ingredients of my refrigerator for inspiration, the first thought that occurred to me was to cook up some kitchari. This Ayurvedic cleansing stew is a flexible recipe that always features rice, mung beans, and certain spices; beyond that, anything goes. It seemed perfect for that little flock of cauliflower florets waiting patiently to make themselves useful. There was also a lone sweet potato perched on the counter (the only survivor of the Sweet Potato and Ginger salad I made the other day), so those were my veggie choices, but you can use whatever you like or have on hand. The HH thinks this dish bears an unfortunate resemblance to Klingon gach, but I love its mushy, nubby base and nourishing, comforting broth.
The stew simmers gently for almost an hour, infusing your entire home with the fragrant, soothing aromas of Indian spices as it bubbles. It may have been intended as a cleansing stew, but that doesn’t mean it’s devoid of flavor. One serving of this, and your stress will evaporate, right into the swirling plumes of steam emanating from your bowl.
[UPDATE, JUNE 2010: In March, 2009, I began a much more serious (and much more restrictive) candida diet after suffering from myriad candida symptoms for more than 6 months. Finally, with a raging rash taking over my torso, I had to succumb and begin the diet afresh. After 15 months (so far) I'm 90% better, lost 45 pounds, and feel terrific. To read from the beginning of my "new" candida journey, see this post.]
Kitchen Sink Kitchari (loosely adapted from this recipe)
I soaked the rice and beans overnight before cooking, but that step is optional. If you don’t soak your beans overnight, use the quick-soak method: cover with boiling water, bring to the boil, and let sit, covered, for an hour. Then drain and cook as you would pre-soaked beans.
1 cup (240 ml.) brown basmati rice
3/4 cup (180 ml.) mung beans
2 Tbsp. (30 ml.) coconut oil
1 large onion, chopped
2 cloves garlic, minced
1-inch (2.5 cm.) piece ginger, peeled and grated fine
1/4 tsp. (1 ml.) ground cloves
1/4 tsp. (1 ml.) ground fennel
1/2 tsp. (2.5 ml.) turmeric
1 tsp. (5 ml.) cinnamon
1/3 cup (80 ml.) fresh cilantro, chopped
2 Tbsp. (30 ml.) finely grated coconut
7-8 mint leaves, chopped
3 cups (720 ml.) water
1 tsp. (5 ml.) sea salt
2 cups (480 ml.) chopped cauliflower florets
1 medium sweet potato, peeled and diced
Soak the mung beans and rice in a pot of room temperature water, covered, overnight. Drain.
In a large pot or dutch oven, sauté the onion and garlic in the coconut butter. Add the ginger and spices and continue to cook for another minute.
Add the rice and beans with the water and cook for 30 minutes, until rice is soft. Add the vegetables and continue to cook until the sweet potato is soft, about 20 more minutes. Season with salt to taste. Makes 6-8 servings. May be frozen.
[I thought it would be fun to run a little series over here at DDD: I'll profile one one of my favorite foods, or a food that I've recently discovered and enjoyed, over several days. For this third entry, I'm focusing on Avocados. The series is presented on an occasional (and entirely arbitrary) basis, before I move on to the next lucky comestible. Today's avocado-based recipe also happens to be quick and incredibly easy, the criteria for my Flash in the Pan recipes--so it straddles both categories!]
Think smooth and creamy. Think easy and delicious. Think sandwich spread, base for sandwich fillings, foundation for dips or savory pâtés. Think avocado mayonnaise!
This incredibly quick and equally irresistible recipe comes from the wondrous Dr. Ben Kim’s Natural Health website. A chiropractor and acupuncturist based in Barrie, Ontario, Dr. Kim is also a fount of information on all things holistic, and he offers incredible material about healthy eating–all for free through his newsletter, of which I am an avid fan (and no, I’ve never actually met the man, just in case you think there’s a little nepotism going on here–I just really think his info is great!).
I whipped up this mayo and enjoyed a daub on some steamed artichokes, but by the time I’d finished eating them, I knew I was hooked. I plopped some over ripe, juicy slices of beefsteak tomato for a lunch appetizer and was enthralled. After the first taste, I wanted to scoop this out of the bowl with a spoon (come to think of it, I did scoop this out of the bowl with a spoon).
You can use this as you would any other mayo, in sandwiches, wraps, salads (it would be heavenly thinned out just a little over field greens–turns out the recipe is very much like the avocado pesto salad dressing I posted about last March).
For those of you who read my blog regularly, you know that I’m on a cleansing diet this week, an outgrowth of the Total Health course I’ve been taking for the past month and a half. Well, I hadn’t intended to post yet another non-recipe entry this week, but since I’ve received quite a few questions about why I’ve chosen this particular cleanse and how it works, I thought it might be useful to share a bit about cleansing in general and my own choice for this week in particular. I’ll warn you, though: what follows is a fairly long post (word count: 2443). If you’re simply interested in the food I’ve been eating, I’ll post that later–so feel free to come back then!
[Please note: This is a condensed and somewhat simplified account of the process, based on what I learned while studying to become a nutritionist, my own reading on the topic, and my personal experience with cleanses over the past five years. It is by no means intended as any kind of medical or professional advice and is purely my own perspective on the topic, presented for informational purposes only. ]
Q: Why Detox at All?
Whether you use the term “fast,” “cleanse” or “detox diet,” the process focuses on a single goal: detoxifying and rebalancing the body’s internal operating systems, primarily the digestive tract (but also the liver, respiratory system, urinary system and lymphatic system). Given the environmental factors, lifestyle, and eating habits of most of us in the modern world, I believe that everyone, no matter how thin, active or deemed “healthy,” could benefit from a cleanse once in a while. Even the instructor for our course (who has been following a strict regimen of ultra-healthy eating coupled with cardiovascular exercise, strength training exercise, yoga, dance, nia, sports, and a daily spiritual practise for over 20 years) undergoes a cleanse twice a year.
As denizens of the modern, industrial world, we are exposed to myriad toxins daily, both from within and without. Just by virtue of living near the great and wonderful metropolis of Toronto, I have the pleasure of inhaling highly polluted air most days of the week. For the first two months that we lived in this house, I could smell the distinct aroma of fresh paint gases (courtesy of the landlord, who was actually attempting to do us a favor) every time I entered the house. I ingest all kinds of unsavory substances that leach through plastic water bottles, the plastic containers I use to transport my lunches to work, the dyed and bleached clothing I wear, or the cleansers I use (though I’ve tried to eliminate as many of those as I can).
And that’s only the exogenous toxins. We also take in toxins from the food we eat, whether hydrogenated oils from junk food, artificial colors or flavors, or “milk” shakes at McDonald’s or Burger King. Because these substances are not made in nature and our bodies weren’t designed to process them, the liver works overtime to detoxify them out of the body (as much as possible) to keep us healthy.
When your liver is on overdrive neutralizing toxins that you take in, free radicals are formed. Free radicals are basically cell-killers, and they can result in cancer and chronic diseases that are often connected to inflammation (such as arthritis, heart disease, etc.). Those of us with weak immunity or overworked filtering systems (such as myself) suffer the consequences and wander around with stuffed noses, digestive distress, joint inflammation, or other chronic conditions that are so often attributed to “aging” or simply “life in general.”
One of my natural health practitioners put it this way: imagine a pile of bricks that’s being built into a little tower, one brick at a time. Each brick is a different toxin that your body has to deal with and try to eliminate. As with a pile of bricks, you can add quite a few to the pile without any dire consequences at all; in fact, observed from the outside, everything appears hunky-dory, stable and unchanged. One would even infer that the extra weight being piled on top is doing no harm, making no difference whatsoever.
But then you reach the point where the pile can no longer support even one more brick. You place that last brick at the top of the pile and–BAM! (not to quote Emeril in such grave matters, or anything)–the pile completely collapses. Your body works the same way. When you were younger (or healthier), you may have been able to tolerate a huge number of toxic “bricks” in your system. But tax the system long enough and then, suddenly, it appears as if everything breaks down at once.
That’s what happened to me several years ago. After assuming all was well for years (even though I drank up to a liter (quart) of aspartame-sweetened pop a day, had 3-5 coffees a day, imbibed wine and spirits on weekends and consumed whatever junk food, candy, cookies, cakes, or other garbage I desired on a regular basis), everything came crashing down. I spent about a year suffering from symptoms of irritable bowel syndrome, endured multiple recurrent sinus infections (one so serious that it required four–FOUR!–courses of antibiotics to eradicate), and suffered almost continuous yeast infections, coupled with fatigue, depression, and general feelings of “lousy.” At that point, I really needed a cleanse.
All this to say, if there’ are any actions we can regularly take to diminish our load of toxic “bricks,” we should do so.
Q: What Is a Cleansing or Detox Diet?
Basically, cleansing means “cleaning up the diet (and, ideally, environment) to allow the body to rest from fighting off and eliminating toxins for a while, so that it can repair and rejuvenate.”
There are many levels of detox, depending on where you find yourself to begin with. It’s recommended that people start at a level just one echelon away from (less toxic than) where they are now, because detoxing encourages the toxins to exit the body quickly (through elimination and sweating, primarily), and if too many to escape too fast, you’ll end up feeling sort of like a deflated baloon in a mud puddle–or one really sick puppy (this effect is called a “healing crisis“).
The very first time I went on a detox diet, my naturopath–only two months into her practice–didn’t think to warn me what could happen if I changed my eating habits too drastically. She prescribed what is essentially a NAG diet, but without any animal products. After one day of the diet, I was felled by my body’s extreme healing crisis (I describe the event here). Luckily, it passed in a couple of days.
By starting “slowly”–that is, without altering too many aspects of your diet or life at once–you avoid a severe healing crisis. Most people feel a little bit tired or sleepy; some experience mild flu-like symptoms such as a sore throat, but these ususally disappear in a day or two.
Q: How Do You Know What to Eat and What to Eliminate on a Cleanse?
The diet you choose should depend on the diet you eat regularly before the cleanse. If someone enjoying a SAD (Standard American Diet) decided to embark on a water fast, it would likely spark a full-scale healing crisis and the person would feel rather sick. So decide where you are now, then move in baby steps toward a full-scale cleanse.
There are basically five or six levels of cleansing diet. Ideally, you would work your way up to the most challenging level as you clean up your diet over the years.
Level One: Basic non-toxic diet for everyone. (from Elson Haas, The Detox Diet)
Level one is what I often refer to as the NAG diet, the diet that, if followed regularly, should allow your body to exist with minimum toxic intake and to keep you pretty healthy. (Other versions are Anne Marie Colbin’s diet in Food and Healing, Tosca Reno’s The Eat Clean Diet; or Elson Haas’ diet in Staying Healthy with Nutrition.). If you’re not already on this type of diet, it would be the first step. Try this for a week and see how you feel. You could theoretically stay on this diet for the rest of your life.
Rotate foods [ie, eat each of these no more than once every four days or so], especially common allergens such as milk products, eggs, wheat, and yeasted foods.
Practice food combining.
Eat a natural, seasonal cuisine.
Include fruits, vegetables, whole grains, legumes, nuts, seeds, and, for omnivarians, some low or non-fat dairy products, fresh fish (not shellfish) and organic poultry.
Cook in iron, stainless steel, glass, or porcelain cookware.
Avoid or minimize red meats, cured meats, organ meats, refined foods, canned foods, sugar, salt, saturated fats, coffee, alcohol, and nicotine.
And while it’s not stated in this list, Haas also prohibits anything processed or made with chemicals or artificial colorings–this should go without saying.
["Sounds good, Mum, but do we have to do the part about avoiding meat?"]
Level Two: (this and later levels from Caroline Dupont,Enlightened Eating).
Level two is a step beyond level one, as “it eliminates all animal products and glutenous grains.” As Dupont points out, this can be a lifelong diet rather than a detox diet if mostly organic foods are eaten and sources of protein and vitamin B12 (which can only be acquired naturally through animal products) are carefully monitored.
For those who already eat a Level One diet as their regular fare, Level Two would be considered a mild cleanse.
Level Three: Living Foods Only
This level kicks it up a notch (seriously, WHAT is Emeril doing in this discussion?) by allowing only raw foods, effectively eliminating grains (except for sprouted grains). People at this level eat raw fruits, vegetables, nuts, seeds, freshly pressed juices, sprouts, and possibly raw dairy.
Q: Why Is Raw Supposedly Better? Why Are There No Grains? Isn’t That a Lot of Fruit–Why is All That Sugar in the Fruit Acceptable?
RAW: A raw diet provides the body with readily available digestive enzymes in raw, but not cooked, foods; these would otherwise need to be generated courtesy of your saliva, stomach, and pancreas. For that reason, it is much easier to digest raw versus cooked food; raw foods give the body a bit of a break so it can concentrate on other functions, such as detoxifying, maintaining, and repairing. People on all-raw diets have experienced incredible boosts in energy as well as healing effects.
GRAINS: Unsprouted grains (the kind we normally eat) are more difficult to digest than raw foods. There is nothing inherently wrong with eating grains, especially if your digestive system is in tip-top condition; but for those of us with digestive issues, or when cleansing the system, grains are just a bit too challenging.
FRUIT SUGARS: It’s true that a raw diet provides a large number of fruits, and fruits do contain natural sugars. But please don’t confuse naturally-occurring sugars with refined white sugar (or even honey or maple syrup, which are both concentrated sugars). When you eat something refined, the sugar is converted to glucose (a monosaccharide–the smallest sugar molecule, as it’s broken down by the body and passed into the bloodstream) extremely quickly, because it’s already practically in the form of glucose when you eat it.
With fruits, the sugars are bound up with fibre and other nutrients, and the body must work to extract the different elements in the fruit and to convert the sugars to glucose in the body. This means you won’t get the same kind of spike in blood sugar levels from eating a fresh fruit as you will from eating a piece of cake or even cup of coffee with sugar in it. Sugar in fruits is healthy and doesn’t generate toxins in the body. (Think of diabetics, for instance–they’re allowed most fruits). Fruits with extremely high sugar levels could be eaten in smaller quantities, but even then, they are still healthy foods. And fruits are digested very quickly and easily in the body–they are the easiest foods for your body to break down, so they don’t tax the system.
["Give us more fruits is what I say, Mum!']
Level Four: Blended Foods, Smoothies and Soups
By blending foods, you render them yet more easily digestible. Dupont suggests incorporating some of these foods into a raw foods diet; furthermore, this level is presented as an excellent “introduction to fasting for people with hypoglycemia, bowel disorders [or] constipation.”
Level Five: Juice Fast And/Or Master Cleanse
At this level, you’re basically removing the need for your bowel to process any fibre and are providing very nutrient-rich clear liquids that are processed very easily by the digestive tract. At level five, a person consumes only freshly squeezed or pressed fruit and vegetable juices, or the Master Cleanse, a mixture of filtered water, lemon juice, maple syrup and a pinch of cayenne pepper.
Level Six: Water Fast
At this point, only those who have already gone through the other five phases should attempt a water fast; drinking only pure filtered water gives the body’s internal organs the ultimate work break. According to Dupont, no one should even attempt a water fast who has not first “established a consistently healthy diet for at least 6 months first.”
["Yes, pure water is definitely good, Mum. Especially in summer."]
Q:Why Did You Choose the Cleanse You Did?
When I was in nutrition school, after spending a full year following the NAG diet and trying out most of the other diets we learned about, I felt ready to complete a Level Five (Master Cleanse) diet for almost a full week. At that point, my “regular” diet was so non-toxic that the Master Cleanse was a good step. I felt great while on it and did reap the benefits of better digestion and more energy.
These days, however, my regular diet is more like Level Two, above. I already don’t eat meat; I already don’t eat refined foods; I already don’t eat most gluten grains on a daily basis. When I examined the next level–all raw–I realized that would be too challenging for me, and I was afraid I’d slip if I tried to limit myself to raw foods alone. As a compromise, I chose a diet that still eliminated the grains, but retained some cooked foods. I’m happy with the compromise and am feeling some pretty good results so far.
Maybe next time, I’ll be ready for another raw-go-round.
Q: Readers: What Do You Think?
If you’ve made it this far, I’d love to know: how many of you have tried detox diets or cleanses? What was your experience? What worked, and what would you warn against?
I simply can’t believe it–it snowed yet again yesterday. Will this accursed winter never end? The drifts on the driveway (oh, lord, another few hours of shoveling!) have already enveloped my car in a duvet of white, and little tempests are performing pirouettes in our back yard, propelled along by the wind.
The newscast today said that we’ve already received 72 cm. of snow this season (that’s about 33 inches), when the average for a Toronto winter is around 20 cm. That’s more thantriple the snow we usually have–pretty much a new record!! That’s more snow than I can remember in the last decade! That’s more snow than any human should reasonably be asked to shovel or trudge through or brush off their coats or blink against as they stumble through the assault of bitter cold flakes! That’s just TOO. . . MUCH. . . . SNOW!!!!!!!
But since that would have sounded totally juvenile and excessively emotional over, well, snow, I decided not to start my entry that way. And so, instead, I will start it like this:
One of the things I enjoy about blogging is the ongoing discovery of new blogs I like to read, and, of course, learning about the people behind the blogs. Comments are great for this (and I never cease to be delighted–and always a bit amazed–each time I receive a new comment on any post). Memes are also useful this way, as they provide more information about the authors as well.
And so it was particularly rewarding (pun intended!) when I discovered that a blogger I’ve recently “met,” and one whose blog I regularly enjoy, presented me with an “Excellent Blogger” award. Whoo-hoo! Thanks so much, Romina! I’m very honored and extremely delighted. What a great way to enter into the weekend. (“We are so proud of you, Mum! Um, so is this a reward of food, Mum?“)
Part of my responsibility as a recipient is to pass along the award to others. I’ll take a few days to mull it over before posting about it (I take my duties very seriously!). In the meantime, I’ve been thinking about some other weighty issues.
While driving to meet with my book club cohorts the other night, I heard an interesting interview on the radio, and one that got me thinking.
[Short pause forpuerile rant: the book we were discussing was Eat, Pray, Love by Elizabeth Gilbert. As I mentioned in an earlier post, I thoroughly enjoyed the book, even though I wasn't entirely enamoured of the author's own portrayal of her personality during the year she spent hedonistically chowing down, assiduously seeking spiritual nirvana, or unintentionally attaining true love. I found her writing to be evocative and entirely engaging, frequently burning with a hard, gem-like flame of well-crafted prose, yet still highly accessible and firmly rooted in the world of the mundane.
And so, you can only imagine the depths of my dismay when, while surfing the net in preparation for our discussion, I came across this piece of information. Can you imagine a better way to ruin a perfectly good book?? The irony is palpable. Ah, well, there goes another movie I'll never see. *SIGH*].
Ahem. Sorry about that. Back to the radio interview: the host was chatting with Rick Gallup, the man who popularized the concept of the Glycemic Index, in his book The GI Diet. Now, rather than being just another diet guru, Gallup is extremely well equipped to discuss such issues as blood sugar levels, lipids and hormones, as he was the past president of the Heart and Stroke Foundation of Ontario.
Surprisingly quick-witted (not to imply that doctors can’t be funny, or anything), Gallup offered a wealth of information about the diet itself, and how to lose weight by eating whole grains, fresh fruits and vegetables, and healthy protein sources. Basically, he was advocating a NAG-friendly diet. That much, I already knew. It’s how to stick with that diet that I find inordinately difficult.
Well, the interview provided one more item in my endless search for weight loss motivation, which I thought I’d share here. Gallup suggested to people in his diet clinic that they keep a bag, box, basket, or any other container in the bathroom alongside their scale. Then, as they lost weight, he said, they should place an item of equal weight into the container. In other words, if you lost a pound, put a one-pound can (or box, or bag) of something into the bag. The following week, if you lost 3/4 pound, add something of equal weight to the bag. Eventually, you’ll have a bag that weighs quite a bit–just as much as you’ve lost (just be sure the items are non-perishable, or you’ll end up with a compost bin in your bathroom).
This seemed a brilliant idea to me, and I’m determined to try it out. Imagine, if you lost 10 pounds, how heavy that bag would be! In my case, if I were to lose my desired 40 pounds, the bag would actually be too heavy for me to lift! Quite a sobering thought, as I am obviously already carrying that much weight around with me right now.
I’d love to add this tip to my (far too short) list of “What Actually Works,” but will wait until I’ve tried it out for a while. Of course, this presupposes that one actually loses weight. Another sigh.
*Or, “Everything I Know About Eating, I Learned From My Dogs”
As we all know, dogs are great role models for living in the moment. And boy, do they love their food. In fact, sometimes I think I’m nothing but a food dispenser for my Furry Girls. (“That’s so unfair of you, Mum, really. Don’t you know that we also rely on you for shelter and walks?).
From what I’ve observed living with two dogs, this is how they eat:
Be Willing To Eat Anything. In other words, if it’s organic (I mean that in the “derived from living organisms” sense, not the “no-pesticide” sense), they will eat it. In Chaser’s case, she’ll even occasionally eat something that isn’t food at all, such as thrown-out tissues (“But they were in the garbage beside the food, Mum.”). Lesson for People: Go out on a limb and be willing to try new foods once in a while. My HH is totally open when it comes to anything made of animal parts, for example (such as organ meats or more exotic forms of sushi), but has become less willing in recent months to try some of the vegan ingredients that I love (such as teff, or a sprinkling of nutritional yeast over pasta).
Eat fast. Dogs just hoover up that chow as quickly as they can; no mindful eating here, no taking time to appreciate the subtle flavors of the P-Nuttier biscuit versus the Freshwater Trout one. After all, you never know when another cur will drop in and want what’s in your bowl, so better be sure there’s nothing left for them when they arrive. Lesson for People: If you live with dogs, you’ve surely been exposed to the various smells associated with that kind of guzzling and its effects on digestive systems. Do yourself a favor: avoid the same rumbling, bloating and eau du flatulence by chewing food properly and eating more slowly.
Eat it all. No leftovers with these Girls. Since you never know when you’ll next be fed, better eat it all now. This rule may not apply as much for domesticated dogs, as my Girls seem to be keenly aware of dinnertime. I can always tell when it’s 4:30 PM, more or less, from the rhythmic poking by a gentle wet nose against my thigh as I sit at my computer around that time of day (“Well, we’re just being helpful, Mum, just in case you forget.”) Lesson for People: Since we have the advantage of being able to tell time and we can head to the cupboard any time we please, it’s better for our health to stop when full, rather than continue eating until stuffed. (Reminder to self: Must. Work. On. This. One.)
Eat with Gusto. Dogs put their all into dinnertime, as if every bowl is the last meal they’ll ever ever eat. They focus entirely on the food, and attack it with enthusiasm. Lesson for People: Here’s where we can definitely learn something of great value from our canine companions. Eating with alacrity and paying attention to all those wonderful sensations we experience while feasting is the perfect way to appreciate our food.
I recently read something somewhere (sorry, I’ve forgotten where, but I’m pretty sure it wasn’t on Holidailies ) that linked binge eating to anxiety. In other words, bingeing can be interpreted an outlet for the anxiety, and one that occurs due to fears about whether we’ll have sufficient food in the future. On some level, this theory does make sense to me; if you’re subconsciously worried that the universe will be insufficient to provide for your needs–emotional or otherwise–you may be inclined to use bingeing as a release (and a way to “stock up” in case you’re bereft later).
Since dogs don’t have control over when or what they eat, for the most part, and since they aren’t aware of our (humans’) reliability as food dispensers, could it be that they eat that way to allay their own anxiety about foods?
Possibly; but I doubt it. Even when my dogs are calm, submissive, and totally anxiety-free, they are apt to gorge themselves on whatever is around. They just want to eat, and eat, and eat. Take Chaser, for instance, who was rushed to our vet’s one afternoon a few weeks ago after consuming the entire contents of our mini-composting bin in the kitchen, which, on that day, contained the remains of some chocolate birthday cake I’d made for a customer, blue frosting and all. Agave-based or not, that called for immediate action. I whisked her to the vet’s and they did whatever was necessary to void her little tummy.
Luckily, I had caught her in the act, and, apart from a few moments of whining, she was back to normal in no time. (“Oh, right, Mum. I also forgot to mention earlier that we rely on you to save our lives whenever we do something stupid, too“).