From Beads to Rivulets: Second (and Third) Bikram Class

So, I’ve been three for three. And since I’m now properly hydrated, the sweat is even more intense.

Something tells me that this is not going to get any easier – just deeper.

I didn’t think my heart could pound that much (says she who taught spinning for years).

And the monkey mind: Why are we here again? Why are we laying in 105 degree heat? Why are we moving in 105 degree heat? Why are we trying to tuck our fingers under our heels and pull our forehead to our shins? Why are we trying to grab our elbows when our arms are slick with sweat and we’re still in a room that’s, oh, 105 degrees?

So, like anything, getting there is the hardest part.

However, unlike most everything else I’ve ever done, staying (in the room) is a close second. (Did I mention that they call it hot yoga for a reason?)

On day two, I went at the same time, but there was a different teacher. She was heavily tattooed and no nonsense. Very technical. I liked her and I probably got more out of it because of her astounding attention to detail.

One day three (today), I went at 7:00 a.m., which means I got up at 5:00 to have half of a smoothie (and about a quart of water, more or less) before I left. Same teacher. The room was more crowded.

The 7:00 a.m. class, as I feared, was more hard core than the 9:00 a.m. class. Much more partial nudity. Many more men. And a lot of people who could actually do the poses in their “full expression.”

Me, I continue to struggle (and am happy about it).

I made the mistake of wearing a super light cotton top today; never again. I literally considered it whipping it off like everyone else, but I’m not quite ready to go there (at least not yet).

The one interesting thing that I didn’t really think would happen (based on the marketing) has. That you come to love your body (or at least appreciate it).

When I am sitting in the room looking in the mirror – sweating and cheeks flushed, I am actually quite attractive. And when I sit with my back straight and my shoulders back, I look quite regal. And I have lovely shoulders.

Yes, it’s also true that I have a knee (the left one) that won’t lock during standing half moon (or whatever it’s called), or standing bow for that matter, but I do have a left knee is that is getting stronger and will eventually lock during these things. So, that’s a start.

Ironically, I ran into my nutritionist – the one who recommended Bikram to me in the first place.

She’s 10 years older than me, was dressed in the tiniest pair of exercise shorts I’ve ever seen, and she’s as flexible as I don’t know what. She’s been practicing for three years. And she was, for lack of a better word, inspiring. Not because of her perfect body (which wasn’t), but by her absolute acceptance of what is.

Namaste.

First Bikram Class

Well, I attended my first Bikram class today.

It wasn’t as bad as I feared, which I suppose isn’t that ringing of an endorsement now that I actually see it on screen.

First things first: I was not the oldest person in the room, nor was I the biggest. I was also not the most overdressed person in the room, nor was I the most underdressed.

In fact, the only -est that could be used to describe me was the least flexible, which is promising.

There are definitely things that I couldn’t do and there were things that I didn’t even try to do (mainly those dealing with knees).

And there was something surprisingly interesting about watching the sweat bead on your skin (still trying to decide if “interesting” is code for fascinating or disgusting, but that’s neither here nor there).

It was hot. It was simultaneously hotter and not as hot as I imagined it would be. It was also easier and harder than I’d ever dreamed.

It’s probably fair to say that I had set my expectations low:

1) don’t throw up

2) don’t pass out

3) don’t fall over

1 & 3, no problem. There was one scary moment though, when I thought 2 was in the bag. I stayed in corpse while everyone else got up and did something knee related until the feeling passed (about 2 minutes).

When I finally got out of the room and peeled off my very technical top (no cotton, ever!), it literally slid out from between my fingers. And it landed with an honest to god “SPLAT”! I’d tell you about the sweat splatter that hit my ankle, but that seems like TMI – even for me.

I felt like a towel that had been wrung out (and potentially run over). And I had to stop on the way home for water.

Ever since I’ve turned 40, I’ve had a take it or leave it relationship with water. It’s pretty fair to say that I am probably chronically dehydrated on most days, weeks, months. Since I left the studio this morning at 10:30, I have had at least 4 quarts of water. Not to mention the 2 quarts I had before walking into the studio and the one that I had while I was there.

I’ve decided that even if the yoga does nothing, the greatest health benefit may come from the unintended consequences of drinking more water.

I’ll let you know how it goes tomorrow.

 

Mind Over Matter

I realized this morning when I stepped on the scale and saw that I was down another pound that what I was feeling wasn’t happiness or joy, but rather surprise and shock.

I took a step back and asked myself: why would it be surprising? You’re eating a lot less calories than you’re burning and you’ve cut out just about everything that makes you retain water (that is, sugar, milk, gluten, etc). So why are you surprised?

Well, I realized that I have been so focused on “How it’s impossible for me to lose weight,” that I had begun to believe it. I had been so sure that “My body doesn’t respond like it’s supposed to when it comes to weight loss,” the idea that I could potentially lose weight seemed about as likely as winning the lottery without buying a ticket (let alone when you’ve actually bought one).

I am a sociologist by trade – a social psychologist, in fact, with a deep abiding love for symbolic interaction.

According to this particular theoretical tradition, our reality is shaped by our thoughts and within interaction with other people. Language, in particular, is powerful, because it shapes our reality. If we don’t have words for something, we can’t do it, see it, feel it, or even conceive it.

When you tell yourself something over and over, it becomes part of your identity, your plan for action. It becomes part of your reality.

So, back to this morning, I realized that I didn’t believe that I could lose weight.

And I also realized that if didn’t believe that I could, then I wouldn’t.

So, this morning, while I was meditating, I focused on the following thought: With ease and grace, I allow my body to return to its natural state easily and effortlessly.

And as the morning progressed, and the old thoughts began to crowd their way into my consciousness (particularly those about how long it was going to take, it’s just water weight, it’s not going to last, etc.), I took a deep breath and repeated, as a mantra, as a prayer, as a wish, as a plan….

With Grace and Ease, I Allow My Body to Return to its Natural State Easily and Effortlessly.

Because, why not? Even though I’ve never been one to allow things to be easy (or to appreciate them if they were) what would it cost for me to let this happen with ease and grace? What would I have to lose – other than that which I would desperately love to let go of, forever?

 

Week One (of starting over)

So, last Saturday, I started over. (I also got my butt chewed by my long time diet and exercise partner, who read my last post and thought I was 1) being too hard on myself and 2) trying too many things at once.)

After assuring her that it really wasn’t seven distinct changes and that I hadn’t been planning on implementing them all at once, I proceeded to engage in one week of counting calories and limiting my calories to whatever my LoseIt.App says will result in a 1.5 weight loss per week.

My goal: to hit that number, regardless of exercise.

So no more kidding myself about “net calories.” (Notably when my endocrinologist told me that the idea of “net” calories was bogus, I was really pissed off, but I am beginning to see his point.)

So, how was it, you ask?

It was surprisingly not bad, though today I was starving.

I exercised 5 of the 6 days (and I will again tomorrow). And I hit the calorie mark that I was shooting for: 1,378.

And last time I checked, I was indeed down a pound and a half.

It really wasn’t bad. And, in fact, it felt pretty good. Because in addition to cutting calories, I also got really clear on why stopping by the office candy bowl is always a bad idea. I also started counting my almonds again. And I cut some meat out of my diet.

The upside: I feel better in my body. I have more energy. And it just feels like there’s more room in my system to process stuff – be it food, events, situations, challenges, or even emotions.

Now, as my exercise buddy/guru has pointed out, my desire to change just about everything to do with my routine coincides with a big change in my job – classes end next week.

This means that I can finally breathe again. And, as she so astutely pointed out, when I am breathing, I am actually pretty healthy. It’s just that over the last (well, year really) 20+ weeks, I really wasn’t breathing all that much. I had certainly stopped paying to attention to what I was eating and how I was feeling.

Now that the first week has been pretty much put to bed, the next thing on the list was the yoga.

I’ve got the clothes (which is what started all this to begin with), the microfiber super absorbent towel is on the way, and I am free in the evenings as of Thursday. So, trepidation aside, Bikram Yoga, here I come.

I figure three or so days of cardio in the morning and yoga almost every evening should do it.

Eventually the weights (free weights, that is) need to come back in, for the twin purposes of toning and refurbishing my deleted testosterone. But that can wait.

And, until then….

So far so good.

And She’s Back

It’s been a hellish year.

Bouts of insomnia. Unhelpful doctors, nutritionists, and dietitians. Just relax, you say? Right.

So here I am again. I hate to see how many times I’ve “started over” since I began this blog.

But I am back at the number that makes me cringe: 175.

Standing in front of the mirrors in Sam’s Outfitters trying on short yoga pants, and watching – with disgust – as my fat stomach rolled over the tops. Did I mention that these are X-Large yoga pants. Not surprising, since my new – relatively stable size – is 12.

How did this happen? And how did it happen so quickly?

Did I just stop paying attention? Apparently.

Did I just get lazy? Obviously.

So, yesterday, sitting in a trendy raw food restaurant in Brattleboro, VT, as I was waiting for my smoothie to arrive, I looked at my husband who was doing nothing but beaming love and support and I thought: I don’t want to be in this body anymore if I’m this fat.

Wow.

It’s not the first time that I’ve had that thought, but I had hoped that the time before last was the last time. Apparently I was overly optimistic.

Because despite what the tag line of this blog is, I have not learned shit about loving myself.

So, let’s begin again, shall we?

I looked back through my blog and I tracked down a number of things that had worked for me in the past, as regarding weight loss, not about loving.

Calorie counting (not in vogue, I realize)

Cardio, and lots of it (also not in vogue)

Less meat (also not in vogue, depending on with whom you talk)

And more raw (which may or may not still be “cool”, but is contraindicated for thyroid).

After looking at my diet, exercise, blood pressure (105:56), cholesterol panel (as perfect as you can get), and resting heart rate (56), my dietician only had two pieces of advice: 1) lower my calories to 1,200, which, she realizes, is not sustainable, and 2) try Bikram Yoga.

What?

The idea of counting calories is repulsive to me. I hate it already, which probably means that I should do it.

I hate the idea of taking a yoga class even more – especially one in a room heated to 105 degrees with a bunch of scantily class yogis.

To tell you the truth, I really can’t even believe that I am even considering, let alone buying new yoga pants (the last ones I had were size small), a sweat absorbing towel, mat cleaner, and a gym bag.

Despite that I live in the middle of nowhere, there is – believe it or not – a Bikram yoga studio not that far from my house. I logged on to check it out. Two things surprised me. 1) They want/expect you to practice 6 to 7 times a week during the first month, and 2) the letter to “New Students.”

i would like to believe that something as simple – or as difficult – as a yoga practice could change my life. I need a change. I cannot stand this place where I find myself when my thoughts run dark and dangerous. Importantly I know – at a deep level – that the negative stories, the recriminating talk, and the vicious narratives are just that.

I know it’s not true. I know that I really don’t hate my body. But it’s hard to remember, sometimes, in the day to day. In the crush of moments and deadlines and commitments….

Yet, when I went for a walk this morning, I watched the birds play in the field: red winged black birds bullying the robins and wood peckers pecking on anything from trees, to barns, and even painted metal mail boxes. I felt the cool morning breeze on my skin and I squinted against the golden sun. I smelled the lingering scent of fresh new grass, still damp from the morning dew.

All of that beauty – only available through my body.

I love my body and everything that it (she) allows me to experience when I take the time to appreciate it.

I don’t like the way she looks, however; nor do I appreciate how she feels as we trudge up and down the hills, out of breath for the first time in a long time.

So, today, I am starting over.

Again.

Sweet and Sour Savory Cabbage

I can’t believe that this is my new favorite recipe.

I was lamenting the ooh-gobs and ooh-gobs of cabbage that had come in the CSA, when I happened upon my Body Ecology eRecipe Cookbook.

Page 23 out of 36: Sweet and Sour Savory Cabbage.

I figured it was that or culture it and for some reason the culturing – at least for the moment – holds no appeal.

I made this last week and I had several meals of just cabbage. Not nutritiously complete, granted, but it was literally all I wanted. I found myself at work day dreaming about cabbage – how wrong is that?!

Last week I used two heads of red, though this week I stuck with the recipe. Here it goes.

Sweet and Sour Savor Cabbage

Ingredients:

1 head of cabbage, julienne

1 head of red cabbage, julienne

1 large vidalia onion, julienne

1 Tbs salted butter (or grass fed ghee with a pinch of salt)

1/2 tsp (or more to taste) coriander

1/2 tsp (or more to taste) cardamon

1/2 cup apple cider vinegar

1/4 tsp white stevia powder (or between 8 and 10 drops liquid stevia)

Directions:

  1. Peel off outer leaves from cabbage, cut in half and remove – core and julienne in 1/4″ slices. Prepare the onion in the same way.
  2. Heat stock pit over medium heat. Sauté onion in butter until translucent and lightly caramelized. Add cabbage and mix well.
  3. Mix stevia with apple cider vinegar and dissolve thoroughly.
  4. Add stevia and apple cider vinegar to vegetables. Season with dry spices.
  5. Cover and simmer over medium-low heat. Stir frequently until cabbage is soft and fragrant.

The book says it’s a great dish to add to salads or as a side dish to a meal. I ate it hot. I ate it cold. I ate is as a side and as the meal. LOVE IT.  And I am assuming – hoping – that it’s really good for you!

It’s Stew Season…

…and fortunately for Michael and I, our organic CSA share has been – for at least a couple of weeks – stew meat. So I decided to find a stew that didn’t over rely on white or yellow potatoes.

A couple of hours of on-line surfing revealed the winner.

Sweet, savory and deliciously complex. I knew that I would love it, just looking at the ingredients. That Michael also loved it was merely icing.

Beef and Sweet Potato Stew with Garlic and Apricot

Ingredients:

  • 1 pound lean beef boneless chuck or stew beef, cut in 1-inch cubes
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1/4 teaspoon pepper
  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • 3 cups peeled sweet potatoes, cut in 1-inch cubes
  • 2 garlic cloves, finely minced
  • dash ground allspice
  • 1 dried bay leaf
  • 1 cinnamon stick
  • 1 large onion, cut into chunks, or 12 frozen small white onions, thawed
  • 1 can (28 oz.) tomatoes, undrained
  • 8 dried apricots, cut in half
  • chopped fresh parsley

Preparation:

Trim any excess fat from beef; sprinkle with salt and pepper. Heat oil in 10-inch skillet over medium-high heat. Brown beef in the hot oil, stirring to brown all sides.In a 4 to 5-quart crockpot, combine browned beef with sweet potatoes, garlic, allspice, bay leaf, cinnamon stick, onion, and tomatoes. Cover and cook on LOW for 8 hours, or until beef is tender. Stir in apricots.

Cover and cook on low about 20 minutes or until apricots are softened. Discard bay leaf and cinnamon stick. Sprinkle a little fresh parsley over the stew just before serving.

This is going to be a staple in our household (no doubt about it).

Fall CSA: What to Do?

My husband and I have been traveling quite a bit this season and as a result we had fallen quite behind on eating the content of our weekly farm share.

As a result, our fridge was literally bursting with cauliflower, eggplant, brussels sprouts, butternut squash, beets, and the like.

Last week, I went on a broiling frenzy. I made containers and containers full of broiled veggies that were excellent, easy, and super fulfilling snacks, sides, etc. In the case of the cauliflower, which actually got a little crispy and developed this lovely smoky flavor, I would just eat it cold, straight out of the container. They also filled out the edges of packed lunches and late dinners after a long day at the office.

My broiling technique is pretty low key.

Preheat the oven to 500 (on baking)

Chop the veggies up (in the case of the butternut squash, I also peel it and seed it).

Toss them in olive oil.

Put them on the pan.

Switch the oven over to broil and let it go for anywhere between 15 and 20 minutes, depending on the veggies and the desired crispiness.

I also took several baby beets, washed them, wrapped them in foil, and cooked them until they were tender. Here, I waited until they were cooked and quasi-cool to remove the skin with my fingers.

I think today I am going to tackle the delicata (truly one of life’s pleasures), the celeriac.

Celeriac

What’s in your fridge? And more importantly, what do you plan to do with it?

Another Fall Recipe: Pumpkin Hummus

I was truly bummed to discover that my body is not nearly as fond of garbanzo beans as it used to be. Despite my disappointment, that meant that I had dramatically reduced my hummus intake.

However, I really like hummus, so I started searching for alternatives. I actually found this none on About.com.

Shockingly easy and it combines two of my favorite flavors perfectly:

Pumpkin Hummus

  • 1 15-ounce canned pumpkin
  • 2 tablespoons tahini
  • 1 garlic clove, chopped
  • 1 tablespoon fresh parsley, finely chopped
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1 teaspoon olive oil
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground cumin
  • 1 tablespoon lemon juice
In a food processor, combine ingredients until smooth and creamy. If hummus is too thick (mine wasn’t), you can add 1 tablespoon of water at a time until desired consistency.
Serving Suggestion:
I served mine with roasted eggplant (another one of those items in my CSA that I struggle to use). Here I just sliced the eggplant into medallions, brushed a little olive oil, black pepper and sea salt, and then put them under the broiler. You have to watch them, because if you sliced them super thin they’l burn quickly. So, start getting twitchy around 6 minutes. Though it you sliced them thick, it may take a while. Again depending on thickness you may need to turn them. Broiled eggplant is definitely more art than science.
Enjoy.

Don’t Forget to Taste Your Mistakes – Eggplant…Sauce?

So, here I am, surrounded by my summer CSA.

I have more eggplant, zucchini, tomatoes, basil, and cucumbers than you can shake a stick at (whatever that means).

So, I thought that I’d try making a recipe that I saw somewhere online but was too lazy to look for. It was supposed to be Eggplant Caviar. What it turned into was sauce. What it’s going to turn into is topping for spiralized zucchini since none of the raw tomato sauces that I’ve tried this year (so far) have done anything for me.

Here it goes:

KJ’s Eggplant…Sauce

2 lbs of cooked and peeled eggplant (I tossed mine in the oven – poked full of holes and wrapped in aluminum foil – until they were soft).

4 cloves of garlic (could have been more)

1 tomato

a bunch of basil

1/2 tsp of sea salt

black pepper to taste (I used the pepper grinder)

1/4 cup of olive oil

I threw it all in the Blender and hit the Sauce, Paste, Dressing option (I have a Bled-tec).

I’m not going to lie to you. It’s not pretty – it’s sort of a boring beige.

But, boy, is it yummy. I’m definitely having some tomorrow over some zucchini noodles. It was great off a spoon straight out of the blender jar; I can only imagine how good it’s going to be after it sits overnight.

So, the short of the long of it: sometimes the mistakes are worth writing down (and making again).

Another Full Body Experiment

The one thing about learning to really love your body is that there is not a lot to talk about. It’s just like when you’re in a relationship with another person. When it’s shitty, you can’t shut up and there’s usually an audience for that. When it’s going great, you forget about it – not that any one wants to hear about it anyway.

But a few weeks (cough, months) ago, my sister sent me another email about the importance for weightlifting for women over 40. Since I’m 43 (and I read the same stuff that my sister does) this came as no surprise. Then, the very next day, just minutes after I said to my husband, ‘I really need to start doing something with weights…..” I opened my email and in my inbox was an info product ad.

It came through someone who I know (who is an online entrepreneur). And I trust this guy, so I thought, surely he wouldn’t be hocking junk. And then I clicked on the 30 minute marketing video while I was drinking my green smoothie. And within 5 minutes, I was hooked. (I know a little about marketing and let me just say that this guy did his homework). I had my credit card out before the water for my tea had boiled.

I won’t bore you with the details of the program. However, it was a 12 week weight workout (similar to, but not nearly as crazy as P90X, which I had done several times in my 30s), and an eating schedule. I say schedule, because you can eat whatever you want, but they want you to rotate your calories so that you confuse your metabolism. It goes like this: for the first two weeks, you eat “down” 5 days and then eat “up” on the sixth day and then you repeat the process.

My down days are 1,250 net calories and my up days are 1,885 calories.

The one thing I realized is that I have not been eating very much. My net calories are usually closer to 700 (or less). Because I love cardio (still!) hitting the down day numbers are hard for me. Which makes me think that I had probably crashed my metabolism without realizing it.

So, I’m on week three of this program. The exercises are getting harder (the reverse lunge with press is my current “favorite”). I haven’t really gained any weight, I’ve lost inches, and I’m eating like a PIG. It’s quite interesting. It’s also funny to be in the position of worrying about eating enough calories, as opposed to eating too much.

Additionally, I sort of went Paleo about the time that I started this program. I say sort of because I’m not doing the whole bacon as an appetizer, main course, and dessert thing that you see on line. But I have upped my egg intake and cut my carbs dramatically, though I’m still eating over 100 carbs a day in veggies and stuff. Insight: you don’t get hungry when you’re not eating carbs.

I’ve decided that the day before my next “up” day, I am going to eat a bunch of carbs before I go to bed so that I’ll be ravenous the next day. Actually, as I look at my calendar, that would be today!

The other thing that I really like about this program (which is really just counting calories and resistance training) is that the producers are really working hard at breaking the associations with “good” or “bad” foods. Here you can have anything – you just have to count (and account for) the calories.

I’ll keep you posted. So far, so good. Because in addition to the loss of inches, the pushups, planks, and the variety of lunges are getting easier. And, even though it feels totally counter intuitive, eating a lot of actually sort of fun.

Surprise Recipe of 2012: Garbanzo Bean Chocolate Cake

Last year I started trying a variety of new recipes and, in some cases, creating my own.

The one that was the weirdest on paper ended up being the biggest success. I served it at Thanksgiving and again at my parents’ 50th anniversary pre-party at their house for out-of-town friends and family, and once again at a holiday gathering for my office.

Each time people oohed and ahed over the texture and the taste. They inevitably asked for the recipe. I always deferred until everyone who was going to try it, had. Especially children (for whom it was – hands down – a major hit!)

Chocolate Cake with Garbanzo Beans

2 cans of garbanzo beans, drained and rinsed

1 1/2 cups of semi-sweet chocolate chips, melted

3/4 cup of sugar (I used coconut palm sugar, because it feels less refined and supposedly has a lower glycemic hit index)

4 eggs

1/2 tsp baking powder

1/2 to 1 tsp cinnamon (optional)

1 tbs confectioners sugar

  1. Preheat oven to 350 F (175 degrees C)
  2. Grease (I used coconut oil) a 9 inch round cake pan)
  3. Place all of the ingredients (except the confectioners sugar) into a high speed blender and blend until smooth and batter-like.
  4. Pour batter into cake pan and bake for 40 minutes.
  5. Remove cake (check for doneness with a toothpick) and place the pan on a wire cooling rack. The original recipe says let cool for 10 minutes, but I have found that it needs to cool for a lot longer than that to come out unscathed).
  6. When the bottom of the pan is cool to touch, flip cake out on a cake plate.
  7. Dust with confectioner’s sugar (and a little cinnamon, assuming you didn’t put it all in the cake – or even if you did, if you like cinnamon).
  8. Enjoy.

What I really like about this cake is as follows: there is quite a bit of protein in it, as well as fiber. Additionally, it stays moist for a a really long time. It’s also simple and delicious. Oh yeah, it’s also gluten-free!

So far, I have only served this alone, though I am sure that it would go equally well with ice cream, be it dairy or coconut based.

Whenever I decide to add a little sugar back into my life, this may be the carrier. Something tells me it’s going to make a fine birthday cake.

Servings: 12

Nutrition: 229 calories, 8.5 g fat; 36.8 g carbohydrates; 3.2 g fiber; 5.2 g protein.

What is the deal with sugar (and well intentioned gifters)?

Before I start pointing fingers, I am just as guilty as everyone else, so if you resemble any of the depictions in this post or if I actually cite you verbatim, don’t be offended. I’ve done it too. What I hope to do, by putting this in writing, is to stop doing it.

Let’s start at the beginning: a few weeks ago, my husband asked me why it is that people celebrate with things that they know are bad for them. In this case, I think this may have been on the eve of my parents’ 50th wedding anniversary, which was complete with cake (two cakes, actually, one of which was gluten-free [and gorgeous]), alcohol, bar-be-que and, generally, more food that you can shake a stick at.

However, it could have been in response to the Thanksgiving that most people in the U.S. celebrated just a few weeks before. Or it could have been in response to the literal trough of food that was brought into my office, starting in October, which involved cookies, candy, brownies, cakes, and chocolate. (I rue the day I told my administrator that I am gluten-intolerant, because now she makes gluten-free stuff that I actually feel compelled to eat – which is so totally messed up, it’s hard to go there….)

Regardless of the precipitating event, it’s a good question: why DO we stuff ourselves, not to mention those we love the most, with things that are bad for them? Namely, why in heaven’s name, did sugar become the celebratory drug of choice for most people?

It get’s better.

A few weeks ago, I was talking to a friend of mine and she was telling me about the Great Cookie Caper that she engages in every Christmas. Essentially, she loves to bake (which, I admit, I do to) and every year she makes cookies and mails them out to family and delivers them to friends. And I’m not talking the simple sugar cookies that I used to decorate every Christmas with my mom, but serious, gourmet cookies with pistachios, real chocolate, almonds, walnuts, and about 10 lbs – when all is said in done – of pure, unadulterated butter.

And let’s, of course, not forget corresponding 10 – 15 lbs of sugar.

As she was telling me about her upcoming cookie making weekend, she relayed to me how her mother – her own mother – told her not to send them to her. She didn’t want them. She didn’t even want them in the house. Do. Not. Send. Them.

(Ironically, I was thinking something similar, albeit with an odd twist: 1) Thank God I’m gluten-intolerant and 2) I want to bake some cookies! Sick, Kathryn. Sick.)

My friend’s response: tough, that’s just what I do.

A few days ago, my friend (the same one) was telling me that she had made 17 types of cookies. The process had extended to a week, eating up the majority of her vacation time, and it looked like she was going to be spending the last two days of 2012 sending out her wares.

I figure, that’s cool, she loves to make cookies. Go her.

And then she said it: “You know, I never eat that stuff. I don’t like it. I don’t like it in my body. I don’t like the way it makes me feel, but you know what, I’ve been eating it and now I’m like completely…..” She may have said wired, she may have said jittery, she may have said that she was over it. She may have said that she felt better than she ever had in her entire life.

I truly have no idea, because at that point my brain had fitzed out – not because of all of the sugar (I’d been sugar-free for about ten days at that point), but because I couldn’t believe what I was hearing.

She doesn’t want it. She doesn’t eat it. She doesn’t like the way it makes her feel….

Yet, she gives it to everyone she loves, out of love.

And as I was sitting there pointing my finger at her (covertly of course), not to mention all of the people who left bags of homemade almond rocca in in my box at work, I realized that I do it too.

I didn’t make, but I bought, everyone in my office dark chocolate caramels with sea salt or (truth be told) the best damn caramels I’ve ever had in my entire life. When I go to the store, I buy my husband cinnamon buns and ice-cream. I usually don’t do it unless he asks, but sometimes I just do it to “be nice.”

The conversation with my friend (shortly on the heels of that relatively off-the-cuff question from with my husband) was an eye opener. Everyone I know struggles with their weight or their digestion in some way shape or form. No one in my life actually goes out of their way to eat more sugar. Even my husband, who has quite the sweet tooth, is trying to cut back. But there I am, buying sweets. Sweets that I don’t eat. Sweets that, if I could actually eat them without having debilitating stomach pains and a migraine, I wouldn’t even want in the house…. Sound familiar?

Next year, no baking for me, unless of course, I figure out a way to reduce the sugar, or to eliminate it all together. And next time I go to the store? Let’s just say Michael J is on his own when it comes to sugary treats.

Does that mean no gift-giving?

No, it means learning to celebrate in ways that don’t put other people’s goals and desires at risk or put my own (to be seen as nice or for the simple act of baking) in front of theirs (to be healthy, happy, and sugar-free).

Because after all, I wouldn’t give alcohol to an alcoholic would I?

Rutabaga and Celeriac Soup

So, I have been stockpiling rutabaga’s like nobody’s business – gotta love those Winter CSA shares.

After perusing a number of websites for potential uses for rutabaga, I decided to smash a couple of soup recipes together and make my own.

This soup is hearty on its own, but I’ve been eating with along side a serving of my signature kale dish or a couple of slices of low carb, gluten free bread. Enjoy.

Rutabaga and Celeriac Soup

1 tbs oil (olive or coconut)
1 yellow onion, sliced (or diced)
6 cloves of garlic (peeled and diced)
1 large (or 2 medium) rutabaga (peeled and diced)
1 celeriac root (peeled and diced)
6 – 8 cups of broth (I used vegetable broth because I was in a hurry, but I’m sure homemade chicken broth would work just as well, if not better)
3 bay leaves
1 piece of Kombu
Sea Salt (to taste)
Black pepper (to taste)
Paprika (to taste and for decoration)
Parsley (for decoration)
4 Tablespoons Greek Yogurt (optional)

In a large soup pan (or stock pot) sauté the onion and garlic in the oil until translucent. Then add the rutabaga and the celeriac root.

Add enough broth to cover the vegetables. Bring to a boil, then lower heat to a nice simmer. Cook for 20 minutes (or until veggies are tender).

Remove bay leaves.

In small batches, run the soup through a high speed blender (or mash with a potato masher). Put pureed soup back into the pot and then use sea salt and black pepper for seasoning.

Serve in individual bowls (serves 4 to 8), decorate each serving with paprika and fresh parsley. Add a dollop of yogurt (optional).

Putting a Bow on 2012

This year wasn’t great for blogging, but it has been amazing for the tag-line (“Learning to Love and Cherish My Body From the Inside Out”).

And it’s probably fair to say that it wasn’t a great year for the waistline, either; but that’s beside the point. Because I’m not caring about that as much as I did in, well, every year in my entire life up until now.

Last June, I was a wreck. I hated my job. I hated my body. I was tired and grumpy. I was not in a good place.

I started reading all kinds of books about people who had finally kicked their bad relationships with food – people who were in way worse shape than I was (or ever had been) who had learned to trust their bodies, to really tune in, and, eventually, with seemingly little effort, get down to their ideal weight by eating not whatever they wanted, but whatever their bodies wanted.

I had tried this before and I had never quite gotten out of my head.

This year has been more about inner game than counting calories.

I’ve spent way more time learning how to be present, how to actually listen to the inner wisdom of my body, to trust myself, to forgive myself…. To love myself.

It’s getting better, but it’s not perfect. I still have shitty days and, notably, those days are all more poignant because now I have something – something good, something calm, and something serene – with which to compare them. The discrepancies are more real, but the downward spirals are shorter. I still fall off the wagon, but the damage that I inflict on myself (my body) – what one of my coaches refers to as “self-torture” (she doesn’t pull any punches, does she?) – doesn’t last nearly as long. It’s progress.

Do I still look in the mirror and cringe?

Maybe.

Sometimes.

Not all that often. Well, at least not anymore…..

However, when it does  happens, I look deep into my eyes and realize that there really is something more to me than the numbers on the scale (that I no longer look at), the size of my jeans (which still have the ability – at least for a few moments – to cause tears), or the shape of my now middle aged body.

I’ve also realized that age is just as insidious an opponent as weight. In fact, it’s the age I’m feeling more than the weight these days, even though I appreciate that they are close sisters (and twin topics for another post at a later date).

For the most part, I am grateful that I am alive. I am grateful that I live in this body that – with the exception of a faulty thyroid and an exhausted set of adrenals (but then again, whose fault is that?) – functions pretty darn well given the circumstances.

I’ve surrendered, finally. Mainly because I realized that surrendering is not the same as giving up. It’s not the same as giving in.

It’s about letting go.

It’s about learning to fall in love with the process of being skinny (or at my ideal healthy weight) without getting attached to the outcome.

It’s about putting a ham hock in the split pea soup if my body feels like it. It’s about finally appreciating the fact that my body really doesn’t like sugar. I thought she did, but that was my brain. Because after three weeks on sugar, followed by three days off, it is clear to me what people have always said, but that I didn’t want to believe: Sugar is a drug.

Perhaps my biggest insight of 2012: Sugar makes me crazy; it makes me paranoid; it makes me compulsive; it interferes with my ability to think, to write, and to function. Sugar, now, is in the same category as gluten (which gives me migraines) and alcohol (which can, in amounts of more than a glass or two [and I’m talking wine, not liquor]) leave me down for the count for a matter of days. Sugar won’t kill me – not like the gluten – but it is something not to be toyed with or taken lightly. It’s a drug; period.

It’s about dancing with my body instead of trying to beat her into submission. It’s about drawing her outline on a piece of butcher paper and seeing her, for the first time ever, as a work of art as opposed to a work in progress.

So here are the things that I’ve been working with and that will be kept moving forward in 2013:

  1. Get up every morning and have a cup of lemon water.
  2. Write a morning journal entry setting my intention for the day (and bookending that with a similar entry every night).
  3. Do some form of physical activity (including going for a walk outside for at least  15 minutes) everyday.
  4. Eat what my body wants to eat and feed my mind what it really wants – which are ideas and other forms of stimulation than food.
  5. Listen to my cravings; greet them, if you will, and understand that they (like my emotions) are trying to tell my something about myself.
  6. Experience my emotions; witness them and then let them go.
  7. Only eat things that I absolutely love.
  8. Slow down (this is still one that I struggle with, but there are signs of improvement).
  9. Be in touch with my body; when something’s no longer working (whether it’s food or exercise or pleasure), do something else.
  10. Quiet my mind at least once a day.
  11. Do yoga.
  12. Drink more water.
  13. Breathe – consciously and with intention.
  14. Acknowledge the things around me that can’t be seen.
  15. Pray.
  16. Learn to connect without food; even if that means reaching out to someone who I think may have better things to do than to keep me from feeling lonely.
  17. Mix things up – on all levels, as often as possible; experience the unexpected.
  18. Embody my own vision of love, which means being both expansive and forgiving.
  19. Practice gratitude.
  20. And, the most difficult and important obligation of all: to love myself, regardless.

These are not New Year’s resolutions – destined to be forgotten before Valentine’s Day. These are the steps that I’ve been incorporating into my life on a daily basis already. (So, you can see why I haven’t had all that much time for the blog.) These twenty – plus a few others that I have probably forgotten about – are the things that I’ve tried that are currently working for me. They may stop working at any moment – and if they do, it’s up to me to change that. But they also may not stop working – and if they don’t (stop, that is) it’s also up to me to keep doing them, for better or worse, in sickness and in health…. Even if I’m teaching and exhausted.

Next year, I come first. I am my number one priority. Come hell or high water I am putting my own mask on first. Selfish?

Maybe, but not really.

Because if I can take care of myself, I can take care of others. And spare those around me from the nightmare that was my emotional life last March and, let’s face it, every month between then and June. If I love myself first and foremost, I will be able to love others fully and without reservation.

A friend recently reminded me that Westerners like to cite the Golden Rule – do unto others as you would have them do unto you. However, they/we/I rarely appreciate the flip side of that: Do unto yourself as you would do unto others.

As I let those words sink in, I realized (not for the first time) that I would never abuse or neglect someone else the way I have abused and neglected myself over the years. That – more than anything else – has been the hardest lesson to learn and the one, if truly embodied, will undoubtedly make the biggest difference not only to my body, but to my entire being.

So, that said, what are my New Year’s Resolutions (ones that hopefully will not be forgotten by Valentine’s Day)?

  1. Take better care of myself (and all that entails).
  2. Blog more.
  3. Write a book (I’m thinking a cookbook for starters).
  4. Be happier more of the time.
  5. Love.

Happy New Year.

Melt in Your Mouth Shin Stew

In keeping with the recent chronicling of the contents of our Winter CSA, Michael and I were faced with a dilemma: Shin steak?

Unlike previous years, where we just did veggies (and on occasion wild flowers), this year we did the omnivore option, which means that every week we also get some combination of organic grass fed beef or chicken, locally made sausage, cage free eggs, honey, or, on the weeks Michael’s out of town, Shitaki mushrooms.

Not realizing that shin steak is one of the toughest cuts of beef there is, I assumed that we could just grill it. Wrong!

Luckily, I did a little investigation before hand and we ended with with this recipe from British Chef, Jamie Oliver.

It was very British, very hearty, and super filling. And it really did melt in your mouth. But it was also very un-British in the sense that it was tasty, flavorful, and a little on the spicy side.

I followed the recipe pretty much word for word, though I added a couple extra cloves of garlic (which is per normal for me) and omitted the mushrooms (which is per normal for Michael). I used garbanzo/fava bean flour in order to keep it gluten free.

We also didn’t have a bottle of Chianti on hand, so we went for the cheapest ($8.00) bottle of red we could find.

Michael pointed out the recipe calls for 2/3 a bottle, probably with the assumption that you’ll still have two glasses left over for dinner. Well, maybe with a different bottle of wine that might work, but with this one not so much.

So if you find yourself with a pound or more of shin steak, knock yourself out. Though I’m sure it would work just as well with regular old stew meat.

My Love for You is…Skin Deep?

I had an epiphany the other day, one that I think is worth sharing, because there was someone there with me, who had a similar insight.

Setting: Burke Williams Day Spa in Santa Monica, CA.
Activity: Getting a facial.

The attendant, whose name was Laura was asking me a slew of questions as she did wonderful things to my face. (It was sort of like drinking a water after a particularly long drought. I didn’t realize how dry my skin was until I gave it something to drink).

She started off by asking about what kind of moisturizer I use.

Simple: I don’t.

That didn’t phase her.

Toner?

I frowned beneath her talented hands: I don’t do anything for my face. I wash it in the shower, without any sort of cleanser, and that’s about it.

She paused and asked, “How old are you?”

I told her.

“Wow,” she said, and proceeded to tell me all of the reasons that a woman my age, especially one who isn’t living in beautiful southern California should be taking care of her skin. At least to the point of cleansing, toning, and moisturizing.

As she went on and on and on, I realized something.

I had always coded facials and skin care products as optional, as luxurious, as uber-expensive, and overly feminine. I had always believed that women who took care of their skin (using product after product) were vain and, let’s be honest, shallow. (I realize that these are some of the stereotypes that I used to hold about skinny women as well, but that’s another post). I had essentially coded facials and skin care as not me.

But then I realized something. And it seems so simple that it’s almost too embarrassing to write, but here it goes.

The skin is the largest organ in the body. It protects me from the environment. It is literally the layer that keeps out the toxins and filters the internal toxins out through sweat, etc. My skin is part of my body.

My entire life, up until that moment, my idea of loving my body – or at the very least, taking care of it – was limited to diet and exercise. Everything else, including skin care, was optional. Read: unimportant.

Laying on the table with steam blowing on my face and a near scalding towel around my neck, I recoded skin care and body care and since then, I have integrated a new routine into my self-care.

Now, skin care products are still expensive, but it’s amazing how much better I feel now that I am loving that part of my body as well. Not only is my skin softer and more supple, I feel ridiculously loved and cosseted.

And now that I am totally and completely addicted to skin care, I have to ask myself: Was it the skin care itself that I wasn’t willing to accept into my life, or was it the feelings that the skin care provided?

Sugar Free Chocolate Thin Mints? Seriously?

For the last several months, I have been working with a phenomenal women’s coach, Tara Marino. I have worked with a lot of people in the past and I must admit that she is one of the best and – if you’re a woman and you’re interested in living a more elegant life – you should definitely check her out at her website, Elegant Femme.

One of the things that Tara does so well is help you set daily rituals; in fact, she calls them your “Daily Requirements.” Some of these requirements tap into your spiritual side, some of them tap into your intellectual side, whereas others tap into your more sensual or more physical side.

I’ve been very good about all of them – which tells you something about how good Tara is if you’ve ever heard me rail about not being able to ritualize my routines – all of them, that is, except one.

The one that I’m having the most trouble with is to eat raw chocolate at least once a day.

Wow, Tara’s a real slave driver, isn’t she?

Okay, so what’s up with me not eating raw chocolate, especially when I’ve been given permission to do so? Heck, not only permission, but a strongly, yet elegantly worded recommendation?

  1. I don’t live in California (yet), so I actually don’t have easy access to raw chocolate unless I make it.
  2. I am really sensitive to sugar, so even though raw chocolate is raw, I’m a little leery about desserts with sugar – even agave – in them, to the degree that it could potentially be a slippery slope.
  3. I actually have a hard time indulging myself this way when it comes to food.

Okay, so yesterday, I was going to all of my favorite food blogs, looking for gluten-free recipes for Thanksgiving (these include two mostly raw food blogs Rawmazing and PurelyTwins (used to be Pure2Raw), both of whom I’ve called out before).

Well, as it turns out, PurelyTwins has a recipe – a very simple and delicious recipe – for Sugar Free Chocolate Thin Mints that are made primarily out of hemp powder and coconut oil. Not only are hemp and coconut oil an important part of my diet already, they also reduce hunger and promote thyroid health. And, more importantly – they’re sugar free!

So, I tried these last night and I must say, Daily Requirements, Here I Come.

The entire process took about 10 minutes (and that was the first time through the recipe). These are going to become a (daily) staple.

p.s. It is worth noting that mine were a little “hempy,” but I think that’s a matter of the hemp powder I used. I have a another brand which is a little more mellow. As they note in the video, each protein powder is different, so it’s worth some experimentation.

Beet and Carrot Slaw: Recipe

A friend of mine just sent an email requesting my Beet and Carrot Slaw recipe. I immediately went to the blog to send her a link. After searching for about ten minutes, I realized that I talk about this all the time, but I had yet to choke up the recipe.

This recipe is so easy and so delicious. And even my husband, who has never been much of a beet eater, goes through periods where he eats this everyday. It’s also gorgeous and would be a welcome, uh, cleansing addition to any Thanksgiving meal. Next time I make it – which will probably be in a couple of days since I just added it to my own Thanksgiving menu – I’ll be sure to take a picture!

Beet and Carrot Slaw

Ingredients

Equal numbers of beets and carrots, peeled and grated finely (or run through a processor); I usually do about 4 medium to large or 6 small. It depends on how much you want to make.

1/2 bunch of parsley, cleaned and minced.

2 tablespoons (more or less) of extra virgin olive oil

juice of 1 lemon AND 1 lime

1 tablespoon cinnamon

1 tablespoon turmeric

1 tablespoon of cumin

Directions

1) Add all of the ingredients except the spice in a large metal bowl and toss well.

2) Then sprinkle the spices while continuing to toss (to avoid clumping).

3) Adjust seasoning and oil to taste.

4) Enjoy!

A picture’s worth a thousand words

Now, my winter farm share is not all about the squash, the rutabaga and the celeriac. It’s also about the kale. Kale, without a doubt, is one of my favorite foods. And also buried in there are leeks (as well as brussels, carrots, garlic, lettuce, and beets). My favorite kale recipe – at least for this year – is also quite simple and is excellent any time of day (including breakfast).

KJ’s Easy Kale Recipe (2012)

1 tablespoon Coconut Oil (or Olive)
1 (or 2) leeks, cleaned and sliced
6 cloves of garlic, peeled and diced
cumin, to taste
1 stalk of kale (ours comes on a stalk, but basically a bunch), washed, chopped, stems removed
Sea salt
The juice of a half a lemon

  1. In a wok or frying pan, saute the leeks and the garlic in the oil.
  2. Add cumin and stir for about a minute
  3. Toss in the kale, continue to stir
  4. Add the salt and top it off with the lemon juice

I like my kale to still have some shape to it, but it’s a matter of taste. Once you start cooking, it really should only take a few minutes from start to finish. I always cut everything up first to make sure that nothing gets overcooked.