Monday, August 29, 2011

published!

One time in college, a friend said to me, "Sometimes I just get so caught up in what I'm doing that I forget to eat."

You just forget to eat?! I was reeling from this remark. I think about food all the time. Even when I'm concentrating really hard, no worries...good ol' stomach reminds when I've got to stop for some brain food.

So I didn't get it. At all. But this week, I had an experience that helped me understand, maybe, just a little teeny tiny bit, how one might forget something important when otherwise occupied.

A lot has happened since we got back from Mexico. My sister celebrated a birthday. I overprepared for Irene (positive thoughts to all those affected more than we were). And I took an exam I'd been preparing for all summer (whew). And so, for the past week, I totally forgot a big event that happened while we were gone...I was published!

Ok, it's only a book review. And it was published in an academic journal, not the New York Times. But still, it's published. And that means I now get to say, "I am a published author!" If you'd like to check it out, it's available online here.

And guess what else? J got his name on a paper too. We left for Mexico as two lowly grad students, and returned as famed authors! Or something like that...


But I didn't forget to eat. And it's easy to slip a mini celebration into busy days when you've got a recipe for a micro-cake!


~~~

The 5-minute mug cake is sort of an Internet phenomenon. It's such a great idea, but I was determined to give it a healthier twist. This recipe fills my little Pyrex bowls (pictured), but could be doubled, or even tripled, to better fit a mug. I like this little serving.

Micro-cake

Ingredients:
1 tbsp oat flour
1 tbsp almond meal
4 tsp cocoa powder
1/4 tsp baking powder
dash of salt
2 tbsp unsweetened vanilla almond milk
1 tsp coconut oil
20 drops vanilla stevia
1 tbsp nuts, chocolate chips, or cacao nibs (optional)
1 tbsp nut butter of choice (optional)

In a small bowl or mug, combine the first five (dry) ingredients. Then add the almond milk, oil and stevia. Be sure to add the milk first, as the oil makes the dry ingredients clump. Stir until well mixed. Then stir in any of your optional ingredients (I'm loving peanut butter and cacao nibs). Microwave for 1 minute.



You may need to adjust the cooking time for your microwave, and be careful...it's hot, delicious, and way too easy!


Friday, August 26, 2011

what i did during my vacation


I drank green juice for breakfast every morning.
I made myself sick on French toast stuffed with goat cheese, pecans, and caramel sauce.



I ate organic greens, lots of fish, and fresh tropical fruits.
I also drank coffee, ate dessert, and sipped champagne.



I worked out in a private gym with iced mint tea on tap.
I got a Swedish massage. Then I got a deep tissue massage.
I was subtly scolded for trying to pull out my own chair ("Please, Señorita.").
I had chocolate cake delivered to my room at 11:30 p.m.

I felt a dolphin's heart beat.
I saw herons, vultures, dolphins, lizards of all sizes, bugs, birds, and a cat.



I impersonated Lady Gaga on the stage of a pirate ship. I was mortified. I got a t-shirt.


I went into the Pacific Ocean for the first time in my life.
I traveled across the bay in a turbulent motor boat.


I drank piña coladas while sitting in a swimming pool.
I got a tan...sort of.


I laughed at some stuff.



I noticed so many things growing.


And I relaxed.


Wednesday, August 24, 2011

i'm very very very glad to volunteer

We are back from vacation. It went something like this:


Ok, maybe there was a little less singing and dancing. And I didn't get yellow flowers pirouetted up to my balcony window (though there was a balcony, and plenty of yellow flowers).

But we lived in the lap of luxury for 5 glorious days. It was hard to believe we managed to snag such a great vacation. J and I spent a lot of time staring at each other in disbelief.

On our last night, I got food poisoning. And in hindsight, it was a blessing. As I crawled back into bed at 2:00 a.m. to try to get a few hours of sleep before checking out, I sniffled a little and wanted nothing more than to be home with my warm little cat, nourishing kitchen, and my doctor on call, just in case. Otherwise, I might never have left.

Pictures soon.

Monday, August 15, 2011

healthy habits: eat less meat

I know I said we're about to leave for vacation. And we are. But I just couldn't stay away. Not when I had inspiration for another healthy change...

Remember this jingle?



Gotta love how catchy it is. But the ribs it promotes? I don't have as much love for those...without any sides, they pack a third of the daily caloric intake recommended for the average man, 49 grams of fat, and exceed the daily recommended sodium intake.

So I decided to change the tune a little bit.

I want my...

baby bok, baby bok, baby bok!

Yes, there is inspiration to be found in baby bok choy.


And it certainly makes it a lot easier to eat. less. meat.

The EWG's 2011 Meat Eater's Guide is a great explanation about why we should be critical of our meat. Meat can negatively affect our health when it leads to increased cholesterol and fat. It can negatively affect our health when it introduces hormones, antibiotics, antibiotic-resistant bacteria, and other unclean by-products into our bodies. And the production of meat has a seriously negative effect on the health of the planet.

But this is not new news. Just look at what a trend Meatless Mondays are becoming.


I was inspired to eat less meat when I started reflecting on what goes into the meat we had in our house. Nutritionally and ethically, I'm not opposed to eating meat (yet). But in my ideal world, all my meat would be raised on a farm and come from animals that had plenty of good food to eat and beautiful space to run around in until their untimely deaths. That meat would also be free of hormones, antibiotics, sodium injections, and anything else that got there through a needle. That meat exists. But it costs a pretty penny. So the simpler solution for me was to eat less meat.

In fact, I didn't eat any for about a month.

And I actually decided it wasn't for me...at least not at the moment. But it did feel good to talk to people about why I was passing on the pork. And when I finally caved to my omnivorous instincts, I was newly resolved to eat less meat so I could afford more of the quality stuff.

To manage this healthy change, you could...

1. Start a meatless Monday tradition in your house.
2. Switch your beef and pork purchases to chicken and eggs.
3. Switch your fatty meat purchases to lean cuts.
4. Buy more yogurt, eggs, cheese, soy, nuts, and legumes to enhance your protein intake.

And once you've made your home vegetarian-friendly and are wondering what to do with all that tofu, you could try this...

~~~


Easy Vegetarian Stir Fry
*Hardly any wok!

Ingredients:
24 oz. firm tofu
10 oz. sweet potato noodles (available from Asian supermarkets)
1 tbsp coconut oil
1 large onion, diced
3 tbsp garlic, minced
10 oz carrots, julienned
1 bundle of bok choy (see picture), chopped
3 tbsp chunky peanut butter
3 tbsp soy sauce
2 tbsp apple cider vinegar
Tabasco, to taste
2 drops liquid stevia
chives or scallions, for garnish


Dice tofu and press moisture out using paper towels. The longer you leave the tofu to air dry, the firmer it will be when you cook it. As you can see, I'm not so great at waiting. Tastes good either way, but the firmer it is, the more it will mimic real meat.

In the meantime, bring a kettle of water to a boil. Put the noodles in a large bowl, and pour the boiling water over them. Let sit for about 20 minutes.

While the noodles are sitting, heat the oil in a large pot or wok over medium-high heat. Add the tofu, onions, and garlic, and stir occasionally. Once the tofu begins to brown, add the carrots. Continue to stir occasionally for about 5 minutes, then add the baby bok choy. Stir in the peanut butter, and then turn off the heat.

In a small bowl, combine the soy sauce, vinegar, Tabasco, and stevia. Drain the noodles and immediately add the sauce. Transfer into the stir fry, mix, and serve topped with chopped chives or scallions.


Sunday, August 14, 2011

oh happy week!

In the style of the übersweet frohlockend...









What made me happy this week:

1. A colorful new crochet project inspired by a blogger I love.
2. Farmers market flowers.
3. No sugar added fudge from another lovely lady.
4. A beautiful lunchtime walk to the post office.
5. A fun visit from J's brother M and his girlfriend M...yes, M&M...they're that cute.

I have a lot of food I want to share, but as we're headed off for vacation this week, I'll have to leave you with some food for thought instead. Here are two critical and positive perspectives on opportunities for America: in health and education. And as a follow-up to my last post, here's another critical look at advertising.

But don't think too hard on this sleepy Sunday...


Thursday, August 11, 2011

in appreciation of age

I suppose I am relatively underexposed to advertising. I have Netflix instead of cable, shop at the thrift store instead of the department store, and spend my commute with my nose in a book. Thank goodness for all that.

Because the other day at the gym, I watched a whole slew of commercials while running, and I couldn't believe what I saw...three commercials in a row that were either for make-up or for "anti-aging" products. The anti-aging products were really what got me. Because I realized all of a sudden what a sad obsession we are beginning to have with fighting our own faces, and especially our age.

Warren Buffett
source

I began to wonder how we came to be so youth-obsessed and what its implications are. The biggest implication I see? Unhappiness. Because we're all going to get older. Period. And I think most of us would rather shine with inner beauty as we age, than shine with silicone and botox. Even if we should choose to cling to the physical beauty of youth, we would be wiser to recognize that even outer beauty comes from within...from what we've put into our bodies during our lives, and not from the chemicals we've slathered on our faces.

We seem to have lost the great sense of respect for the signs that show how much we've learned and experienced, how much we have to share, how much we've laughed.

audrey-hepburn-old
source

I don't propose we devalue youth either. I propose we value age...whatever that age may be.

I have known babies that bring an immense amount of joy with a smile...
Toddlers who have asked deep questions with wide eyes...
Children who have extended kindness to a ladybug...
Teenagers who have worked to provide for their families...
Young adults who have brought beauty into the world...
Parents who have passed on the wisdom that comes with age, while adopting new habits...
Senior citizens who regularly skype...

source

I won't pretend it's always easy to look forward to aging. We're so inundated with messages that we should fight aging. So every chance I get, I remind myself how wonderful it is to be the age I am, and I look around and think about everything I have to look forward to. It's a wonderful life...all of it...so let's try to start ignoring anything that tells us otherwise.

Monday, August 8, 2011

healthy habits: stretch every night

Last summer, J played softball once a week on a recreational team. The first time I made it to a game, I was so excited to see him play. A few innings went by and the boy didn't disappoint. Towards the end of the game, things got exciting. He hit a great ball and went running for first base. And about halfway there...

...he crumpled to the ground.

I thought he was sliding.

Nope.

The verdict for him was a badly pulled hamstring. The verdict for me was a weekend of helping to wrap his leg with ice packs and go out and buy groceries for him. I felt so bad that I didn't mind helping out.

The second time I made it to a game, he performed equally well. In the outfield, he caught every ball. Until he had to sprint for one...and then he crumpled to the ground. Seriously. He pulled his hamstring again.

We couldn't decide if it was bad luck for me to attend the games or if he was just showing off for me and overextending himself. (You be the judge...just keep in mind how awesome I am.) Either way, a weekend of playing nurse did not sound so fun the second time around. I had been stretching nightly as a way to relax before bed, and J decided to adopt the habit. We've both been nearly nightly stretchers ever since. And guess what? J made it through the whole season this year with all muscles intact.

~~~

Flexibility is a good thing. You can show it off for your friends. It helps your muscles recover and perform better. And stretching helps your muscles release toxins and stress (ideal before a restful night).

This habit is a really easy one too. It takes only about 5 minutes of your evening, and I often do it while watching tv, since it doesn't require much thought.

My favorite sites are here and here...mostly just because the pictures are really awesome. Okay...only because the pictures are really awesome. Actually, I've never been on them before tonight. But just enjoy, okay?

So I'll just leave you with these...and remember...stretch.

Back
back stretch

Triceps and Waist
person holding elbow and stretching to one side

Shins
shin stretch

Hips and Hamstrings
person doing floor exercises

Wednesday, August 3, 2011

healthy habits: drink less coffee

Oh, how I love coffee. I love the taste, the smell, the routine, the ritual.


But oh, how dependent I've become. After we moved in together, J quickly learned that it was better not to speak to me until I had a cup in front of me and a few sips down the pipe. And that's on half-strength coffee! While coffee has some healthy advantages (hello, antioxidants), its disadvantages can outweigh them over time. The most obvious disadvantage is the caffeine.

~~~

What makes caffeine so terrible?

First, whatever your tolerance level, caffeine affects sleep. Caffeine molecules are similar to a chemical called adenosine, which tells our brains that we're tired. When we consume caffeine, it binds to the adenosine receptors, but doesn't send the same signals that adenosine does. So essentially, we're blocking those fatigue signals. Our bodies may need rest, but caffeine doesn't allow it. And sleep is important for our health in innumerable ways.

Second, great minds in alternative medicine believe long-term caffeine consumption leads to adrenal fatigue. Basically, that means you've kept your body revved up for too long, and your adrenal glands suffer. Hormones get out-of-whack, and you feel tired and weak.

And finally, caffeine is addictive. Like most addictions, it starts out fun ("Omg...i haf 2g2 Starbux!"), but quickly affects relationships ("Don't talk to me...I need coffee."). If we're addicted to caffeine, going without it leads us down the inevitable path of moodiness and headaches. Most of us do everything we can to make sure we don't have to go through that withdrawal, but isn't that a crippling way to live?

~~~

How will I get through withdrawal?

Fear not, dear readers. The solution is simple. Buy yourself some decaf coffee. Every day, replace a little of your regular with decaf. You could easily manage to wean yourself off the caffeine in a week or two.

Problem solved, right?

Wrong. Unfortunately, coffee, regular or decaf, also promotes an acidic environment in the body, which is exactly the environment that our body is constantly combating, and also the environment in which cancer thrives. (Thanks for the info, Mom!)

But now, unfortunately, you're addicted to decaf coffee. There must be a step two, you insist!

Indeed there is!

~~~

What will I drink instead?


Okay, this is the most fun part of the whole process and integral to making it stick. Turns out, you don't have to replace your coffee with some bland, herbal tea that you sip with a wrinkled nose while saying, "mmm" to convince yourself you love it. You could:

-Find an herbal tea you like. (Here's my favorite.) Liven it up with some honey and almond milk. There are vanilla-, chocolate-, and nut-flavored teas too!
-Try Teeccino. (And let me know if it's good!)
-Try yerba maté or kombucha. They're not caffeine free, but have less than coffee and pack powerfully healthy punches.

Or, you could wake up to a more chocolate-y morning...

~~~


Hot Morning Joe-Coa

Ingredients:
1 1/2 to 2 1/2 tbsp unsweetened cocoa powder or raw cacao powder
8 drops liquid vanilla stevia (or other sweetener, to taste)
1/4 cup almond milk
boiling water

*Note: This is very much a "to taste" recipe. Play around with how much of the three ingredients you love; I guarantee there's a perfect, delicious balance for everyone!

Put a kettle of water on to boil. Add cocoa or cacao powder to a mug. When the water is boiling, add to the mug, leaving enough room for almond milk. Stir in your sweetener and milk.


~~~

I've been completely "off" coffee for just a few days, and while I'm not feeling very different yet, I feel good knowing that I've made what I really believe is a healthy choice. Of course I plan on indulging in coffee every once in awhile. But, like my relationship with sugar, those special opportunities will be that much more enjoyable when they arise.

And I'll be honest. So far I'm liking this better than coffee. The best part of waking up, is chocolate in my cup!

Monday, August 1, 2011

the big-ish reveal

Yesterday I posted about how much I love making changes...in the blog-o-sphere, at least.

And then I got maybe a little too excited about my new project.

Are you ready for it?

~~~

100 Habits for Health and Happiness!

Let me start by reassuring you that I did not, unbeknownst to you, get my M.D. in my spare time. Nor have I become an acclaimed philosopher. What I have done, is start to play around with a lot of health recommendations. It started when I cut out refined sugar, and I felt so good (and happy) after that, I started wondering what other healthy changes might make me feel so good that I'd want to stick with them permanently.

So this project is definitely not coming from the professional sphere. It's coming from the experimental sphere. 

I'd like to take 100 recommendations...from doctors, philosophers, nutritionists, authors...and try them on for size. I've already got a few under my belt. The goal is not to see what fundamentally works or doesn't work, because I believe that the health habits of every person should fit them individually. The goal is to share, share, share, and see where it takes us.

The idea struck me when I was walking to work one day and found that I felt really, really happy. And I realized that it was partially because I'd gotten a good night's sleep, partially because I'd eaten a good breakfast, partially because the sun was shining and campus was beautiful. It was all of those things and more. I felt happy and healthy, and it was because of my entire experience.

Just as doctors often fail to treat the body as a whole, I think we often fail to consider our entire physical and emotional well-being from a holistic perspective. With that in mind, I'll be categorizing my habits into four spheres.

~~~

1. The Mind-Body Sphere

If you're stressed, your body feels it. If you're eating nothing but fast food, that will translate into lethargy and negative emotions. The connection between your mental and physical states is not a difficult one to fathom. So habits in this category will focus on getting our minds in the right place so our bodies can follow suit.

2. The Body Sphere

This category deals with what we do with our bodies, pure and simple. Obviously, a lot of this will have to do with movement and exercise, but there are certainly many other things our bodies do, and I hope to include more than just the basics.

3. The Input-Body Sphere

The Input-Body sphere is all about what goes into our bodies. Naturally, this includes food. But it also includes the things that touch our skin and the air that we breathe.

4. The Environment-Body Sphere

This category is all about interactions. It's about how we interact with other people, with our surroundings, with animals and plants. These interactions can have both physical and mental effects, and therefore, are just as large a part of our health as anything else.

~~~

I'm sure some of these habits will fit into a couple of categories. I'm sure a couple of them will contradict each other. But let's remember, we're not trying to save the world or achieve perfection. We're just trying some stuff on for size, and it doesn't have to fit every single time.

I hope to start sharing soon.

Are you ready? I am!