Replace Those Unhealthy “Health” Foods Part 2

So last time we met (for more than some dreadful food recall, that is) I had pointed out an article that highlights several “health” foods that we would all be healthier if we’d simply do without.  Bigg Sis and I are constantly surprised by the health claims of food manufacturers and their willingness to present their products in ways that suggest they’re good for you when, in fact, they simply are not.  To continue down a positive road in reaction to this info, I’d like to finish (part 1 here) replacing Buzzfeed’s list of 18 bogus health foods with real healthful suggestions.  On with the show. Continue reading

Baby Step 10: What’ll You Have?

My Southern grandmother’s way of asking if we wanted more was not, “Would you like some more?”  It was “What’ll you have?”

BabyStep10In other words, “Which of these delicious things will you have more of now?”  And it was hard, both physically and socially, to not promptly pick your personal favorite of her offerings.  For me it was her hot milk cake, her watermelon rind pickles, her homemade biscuits with homemade plum jelly or her sugar cookies.  Notice the sweet theme…. oh yes, I was a sugar hound!!  It was not only delicious but complimentary to have more.

Our culture has become very much about more.  If you have’t seen Super Size Me, I highly recommend it for an eye opener on serving sizes (and other outrageously egregious practices) in fast food restaurants.  The film has some rough language and frank talk about sex, so may not be appropriate for younger kids.

In the less is more and more is really more dichotomy of our culture that loves:
both skinny bodies and large breasts;
both many choices and extra large servings;
both designer names and cheap food;
both the most expensive health care system in the world and the 37th most effective health care system…
we are in a watermelon rind pickle indeed. Continue reading

You Deserve Real Food….. Baby Step #8

BabyStep8“Psssst!”

“Who me?”

“Yeah you.  The one who is being unkind and intolerant to someone.”

“I’m nice to other people, what are you talking about?”

“Everyone?”

“Well, I certainly try.”

“And what do you say to yourself when you look in the mirror?”

(silence)

“And what do you say to yourself when you make a mistake or slip up on a plan or intention?”

“Well that doesn’t count!…… Does it?”

What do you think?  Does it count?

When my students would pronounce themselves stupid or a jerk after making an academic or behavioral mistake I used to ask them what they would say to their best friend in the same circumstance.  They always had lovely encouraging things to say to their best friend.  But we don’t treat ourselves like a best friend.  And although the deep seated human condition from which our self-directed harshness and nastiness arises is beyond my expertise in terms of explanation (or understanding, as I do it too), I do have some suggestions for overcoming it.  I believe that a lot of our problems related to diet and food choices stem from the same kind of negative self-directed language as well as the language that advertisers have drummed into our heads. Continue reading

Don’t Say Diet

OR…

A Real Change for the New Year.

So here we go.  The New Year approaches and the diet chatter is increasing.  Everybody’s choosing plans, making resolutions and getting ready to start measuring their bits and counting their stuff.  If you are one of these folks, I’m going to ask you to reconsider.  I’m going to ask you to do something completely radical. I’m going to ask you NOT to go on a diet.

When we decide to go on a diet, we are committing to a temporary state of restriction, usually in an attempt to achieve some sort of numerical change – a smaller waistline, a lower reading on the scale, a smaller clothing size.  When we commit to a temporary state of restriction, we are admitting to the foregone conclusion that the results of that restriction – the number drop – will also be a temporary phenomenon.

You cannot return to the way you normally eat and maintain those lower numbers.  It doesn’t work.  If you’ve made this particular resolution in the past, you already know this is true.  Simply restricting what you eat also doesn’t guarantee that the food that you DO eat will actually nourish you.

BSNewYearWhen we decide to change the way that we eat, we are committing to a higher level of consciousness about what we eat in an attempt to eat food that is more healthful, that provides our bodies with more of what they require; a body that is getting what it needs is far less likely to torment us with the cravings that often drive us to eat unhealthy foods.

When we decide to change the way we eat, we are committing to caring for our bodies and our health, and are therefore also committing to caring for those around us who love us and cherish us.  When we decide to change the way that we eat, we open ourselves to the joy of living healthfully and the adventure of eating new and abundant real foods.  And so I ask you, on this auspicious occasion, NOT to diet, but to change the way you eat.  Eat Food, Real Food.

Big Sis and I have spent a lot of time this year talking about Baby Steps to Better Health.  Maybe you missed it; maybe you weren’t ready; maybe you already think you eat well and weren’t interested in making a change.  But now it’s coming – that resolution moment – that moment when so many of us get a little honest about our habits and find a little motivation to make some change.  If that’s you, and you’re ready, we’d like to invite you to join us taking Baby Steps to Better Health.

We’ll do a recap of the steps we’ve already covered.  We’ll get you started.  We’ll help you figure out what to eat and show you how to make it super yum.  If you’re ready, we’ll help you take those steps that will get you eating and feeling great in a way that works for YOU, with changes that YOU choose according to YOUR timeframe.

This is YOUR plan; it’s YOUR body.  YOU should be the one to decide what to put in it, thoughtfully and consciously, using ingredients that aren’t invented in a lab.  And you will find that the food you put in that body can be both succulent and healthful, both sublime and invigorating, both yummy and nourishing.  Because real food is delish and it does your body good.  Don’t diet; Eat Food, Real Food.

Baby Step 2: Be Fearless. Be Honest.

The Sis sisters want you to feel good, to eat well, and to enjoy your food.  We do not want you to go on a diet.  There are so many diets out there, so many plans that will tell you exactly what you will eat and will give you a variety of ways of measuring, quantifying, and analyzing your food so that you can be sure you’re staying on plan.  This is not what we’re about.

Baby Steps to Better Health is a way to learn how to eat real food, healthful food; to learn how to change your relationship with food and to move from a place of deprivation to a place of healthful and satisfying abundance.  So the first step asked you to make a switch, to find one unhealthy item in your diet and switch it out for something healthier.  Didn’t do it yet?  Didn’t go so well?  Went great?  It’s all good.  You can jump in where we are, start from the first step, whatever you like.  Any step you take towards healthier eating is a good one.  Today, we’re going to get started on Step 2: Be Fearless. Be Honest. Huh?

I used to teach and one of the things my colleagues and I constantly reminded ourselves was that you have to teach where the student is.  You have to figure out what they know if you want to teach them something new.  The same is true for any habit or change that we are trying to make, isn’t it?  If I want to build a table, I need to get real honest with myself about my carpentry skills; I have to see if I have the materials required; I (this is certainly true for me) would have to learn some very specific skills; then I would be ready to start building successfully, rather than making the kind of table I would make if I just started banging away with hammer and nails(and believe me I speak from experience here as I am a long-time bang away at the unknown kind of gal).

The next few baby steps are prep work, getting honest with ourselves about what we eat, investigating the materials we have on hand, and learning some new skills.  Rather than thrashing about and banging away at our food, our self-esteem, our bodies, and our nerves, it seems wise to take some time to gather our resources and suss out exactly where this road starts so we can get on with making it go somewhere healthy and delicious.

What I’m going to suggest here may put some of you off, and perhaps that’s why I’ve been jabbering (stalling) here.  I want to suggest that you keep a food journal… NONONONONO don’t click away.  I’m not talking about THAT kind of food journal.  I don’t want you to measure your stuff and write down how many calories are in things.  I don’t want you to assign numbers to your food.  I don’t want you to categorize your food and check things off.  I don’t want you to freak out about writing these things down.

I just want to suggest that you make a note of what you’re eating (including snacks).  Why?  So we can post them and judge each other?  I’m hoping you know us better than that, but in case you’re concerned, no, there will be no judging.  The Sis sisters both know from experience that a lot of eating is driven by habit and convenience.  A great deal of our munching is not really considered, it may be reflex, it may be habit, it may be a lot of things, but getting it on a piece of paper makes it really easy to look at our choices and find some places to begin, to set some goals for ourselves, to identify good candidates for the kinds of switches that we’ve suggested in Baby Step 1.

Be Fearless. Be Honest. Write It Down. 

A few months ago I realized that I was putting on a little weight and was feeling a bit lethargic, weighed down, a little slow and unmotivated.  I began to pay attention to, and to write down, what I was eating.  I realized that every day while I was making dinner, there was quite a bit of snacking going on.  The exact contents varied, but more often than not a fair amount of salt and fat worked their way in there.  Some days I nibbled so much that I wasn’t even hungry for the delicious, healthful meal I had prepared for my family.  It took my attention to identify that habit, to realize that I was letting myself get too hungry at that hour and to be sure to listen to the call of the wild stomach before I became a ravening beast.  I needed to see it to make the change.  Once I saw it, it was very easy to identify some changes that I could make.  I didn’t need anybody to tell me what to cut first – I knew it.  I could see it right there on the page.

Be Fearless. Be Honest. Write It Down.

So what should this food journal look like?  You know what I’m going to say, right?  I don’t care what it looks like.  I don’t care what you write it on.  I don’t care if you use shorthand.  I don’t care if you write it with a crayon with your toes.  My only recommendation is that you put it together in such a way that you will be able to look at a whole week or so without a lot of effort – so writing each day on the back of a receipt that is in your wallet full of receipts from the last 4 months (is this just me?) is probably not the way to go.  Beyond that knock yourself out.  Write it wherever, however, this is YOUR exercise.  You are finding the real starting point for YOUR road to healthier eating.  No numbers, no measuring, just a log of what you are doing.  No judgment, no fear, no recrimination.  You can do this.  Just take a step, with a pen (or a crayon) and a piece of paper.  We’ll take it with you.  We can be fearless and honest together.  Okay, GO!

Baby Step #1 : The Old Switcheroo

Easing the progress of any change is the confidence that you can handle change.  You CAN handle the truth, right?  Unfortunately, for most of us, part of any change is remembering the times we failed to complete the intended change.  We all fail and we all sabotage future success by focusing, highlighting, dwelling on, gnawing over, and losing sleep over, our failures.  One reason the Sis sisters came up with our Baby Steps plan was to provide do-able changes that will not only reward you with the outcome of the change, but will provide you with a success.  And it doesn’t need to be a total smashing success, because food choices are not permanent.  We have many opportunities to get it right… everyday. Continue reading

Chocoholics Rejoice!!


I’ve long suspected that those of us who love chocolate are simply better off than those who do not – are experiencing the fullness of what the world has to offer rather than merely a bland and narrow subset of the world of culinary delights, but I heard this morning (thank you radio for allowing me to HEAR the news without having to WATCH the news) that chocolate lovers are also, for the most part, leaner than those who do not eat chocolate….  WAHOOTIE!  I have a dream meal planned for just such a revelation.  I’ll have a…. and a…. and then we’ll have a….  Okay, it’s not that simple.  It is still good news, however, and after re-reading a few times, it seems to me that there are two very important takeaways from Beatrice Golomb’s (UCSD) chocolate study.

The first lesson: moderate and regular consumption of chocolate may actually prove healthful rather than harmful for the body.  Chocolate contains polyphenols and as Joshua Lambert (of Penn State – alumni high five here) explained on NPR, polyphenols may actually help to prevent the body from digesting fat.  I’m going to say that again.  Chocolate may actually help prevent fat.  That may well be one of the most awesome sentences I have ever written.  It is important to note that this research does not distinguish which KIND of chocolate is most highly correlated with leanness.  I would imagine that dark chocolate (which is MORE CHOCOLATE!!) and that has fewer other ingredients would be a healthier choice overall, particularly as it allows you take advantage of the other benefits that dark chocolate has to offer (lower blood pressure, antioxidants). So, go ahead break off a couple of squares of that gorgeous chocolate bar. Eat them and breathe deep. So good.

The second lesson – and while I love chocolate, this is the one that is really exciting to see more people talking about: all calories are NOT created equal. While a piece of chocolate may have the same calorie count as say a couple of chips, the chocolate seems to contain compounds that are HELPFUL to your body. They don’t just fill the space in your stomach or provide emotional euphoria (although chocolate may well do that); they help your body to function well. Did everyone hear that? I know you know this on a deep, semi-conscious level, but there are enormous and well-funded groups of calorie counting individuals who would have you believe otherwise. It really does matter which food item you choose. You can count calories until the cows come home, stay within your magic “number” and be completely and utterly malnourished. Or be just malnourished enough to feel like bleh. I acknowledge that I am stretching this conclusion out as far as it can go, but it helps to illustrate the point, right?  There are calories that help you and calories that do not.  Could it be that the calorie is not a useful measure for health?

There is SO much we don’t know about what our bodies do with food; we do seem to be getting the message, repeatedly, that all calories (even when analyzed for all the bits that you see on the nutrition label) are NOT created equal. Today’s news says we do seem to know that a little chocolate does the body good. I know what I’m having for desert.