Category Archives: Food

Healthy Interest vs Obsession


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It’s finally June! I can’t believe the year is almost half over! If you haven’t taken a look at your New Year’s Intentions, this is probably a good time to do that in case you’ve forgotten about them. I find that the beginning of anything (months, seasons, etc.) is a good time to go back over my goal and evaluate my position.

Moving along, I know that health-minded folks make up a significant portion of my readership, but this post is for anyone who’s ever battled a vice that is healthy in theory but can become addictive. For me, this thing is studying health and nutrition and collecting recipes. I’m sure I’m not the only one with a stack of unused cookbooks that serve the same purpose as picture books. For you the habit may be exercise, experimenting with your diet, cleansing, etc.  Most of  us have heard of orthorexia by now, and we all know that we can have too much of a good thing.

To give you a little insight into my (often obsessive) interest, I love to learn about health and nutrition and I have hundreds of recipes though I rarely use them. The problem is, I often do these things when I’m stressed or when I’m avoiding something, like when I have writers block or another form of creative fear. I can sit and organize my unused recipes for hours, I can read stacks of books promoting one nutritional theory, and this usually translates into obsessive and/or compulsive eating because I feel either restricted or afraid on some level of what internal organ will fail if I don’t eat that way.

When I feel more balanced, I rarely cook and I don’t think much about health. I do believe that studying food and health does have it’s merits though, so I want to balance it in my life.

Yesterday I felt compelled to look through my recipes again and to pick some out that I’d like to try. In the past I’d go through and catergorize them according to whatever diet philosophy I was studying at the time, and even though I’ve given up dieting, it was still a very diet-like behavior, like orthorexia without the will-power. I got out my cookbooks, thumbed through them but kept close tabs on my feelings so I’d know when I started feeling obsessive and needed to stop. That feeling never came, and I found myself getting bored after just a little while. No staying up into the wee hours organizing, no pouring over article after article on the merits of X supplement or Y diet restrictions. I just didn’t need it anymore.

Do you struggle with any vices like this? Working out? Cleaning you house? Your healthy diet? If you’ve been told that you’re “obsessive”, or if you feel like you must do these things, you might want to consider the line between a healthy interest and an unhealthy obsession.

Where is that line? 

  • Do you feel frantic, like you can’t stop doing something or that you have to get to a certain point before you can stop?
  • How often do you think about it?
  • Does this activity make you feel peaceful, inspired and happy, or do you feel like you must, or that something bad will happen if you don’t?
As a person with strong obsessive tendencies around food and health, I constantly ask myself these questions when I read food or lifestyle blogs, books, when I make grocery lists, etc.
I believe the key to managing healthy obsessions is balance. Here are some tips for managing an otherwise healthy obsession:
  • Keep tabs on the time you spend engaged in or thinking about this activity. If necessary, set a time limit or stop completely for a little while.
  • Pay close attention to your thoughts and emotions as you workout/cook/read/etc. If they start to speed up or feel negative at all, find something else to do.
  • Give yourself adequate time for relaxation and reflection to develop a calmer attitude. 
Note: If you find that obsessive thoughts persist despite your efforts, you may want to speak to a counselor or holistic doctor to check on possible imbalances or underlying emotional issues.
Many of us health-conscious people, especially in the blogosphere I’ve noticed, have a history of obsessive tendencies, so we would do well to keep tabs on our habits, especially if we’re still in transition from a restrictive to a healthy lifestyle.
Have you ever struggled with over-doing a healthy habit? 
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Body Connection

“Learning to do back flips is so scary! Like when you can’t see the ground yet and you’re just up in the air…”

Most of my cousins are athletes. Runners, dancers, gymnasts, quarterbacks, you get the idea. I’m not. PE is a distant memory I’m still trying to erase and my nickname in grade school was “Slowpoke.” Didn’t bother me too much, I knew it was true.

I overhead two of my gymnast cousins talking about learning backflips, and these are the kind of kids whose bodies just seem to move effortlessly to their command.

“Not me.” I said. “If I’m going to do crazy things with my body, it’ll be on a yoga mat. Not flying through the air.” Then I realized, most of my life I never thought of doing anything with my body. I was just a brain riding around in my body, the idea of actually doing something with it, connecting to it in a way that comes so naturally to my cousins, was radical.

I thought about it for awhile. I used to be a couch potato but now I run (run/walk actually), do yoga, hike, and actually know how to feel my body; to live in it instead of just using it as a container for my brain. I’d learned to see it in a realistic way, but connecting to it was something else entirely. My body is actually a part of me. It’s not all me, it’s not my essence, but it’s part of me.

I’m sure I’m not the only one who feels this way. Many of us only really feel our bodies when they’re uncomfortable, like if we have a stomach aches or if we pulled a muscle. How often do we think to feel it when it’s just being? Or when it feels good? Learn what it feels like to be sated, slightly tired, or a little hungry. Know what your body feels when it needs exercise, or a certain food, or sunshine.

Try “body meditation”, just by sitting quietly and consciously occupying part of your body. Pay attention to your stomach, your legs, or your shoulders and really feel what’s going on there. Tune in a few times a day to get an idea of what’s going on in your body.

I’ve found that learning to occupy our bodies is a huge step towards a healthier body image as well as intuitive eating. How will we learn the subtleties of gentle hunger and fullness or nutritional needs if we can’t listen to our bodies? How will we love them if we practically forget they’re there?

How do you connect to your body?

 

Saturday Links I Love

I hope everyone’s week has been as awesome as mine! I spend the week unpacking, grocery shopping, arranging my new space and spending time with Sam. It’s been a week of emotional healing and reawakening creativity; I feel like myself again.

Anywho, I’d like to share some of the best things I’ve seen online this week; things that inspired me, made me laugh or that made me think.

  • Laura Hollick beautifully connects body and spirit in her “Soul Art”. I completely fell in love with this site. (Probably don’t view this at work or with teenage boys in the room.)
  • If you like colorful, whimsical photography, New York and cute kitties, check out Color Me Katie.
  • Check out Tara’s series on personal growth in one of my favorite authentic living blogs, The Organic Sister.
  • I loved this beautiful post and recipe by Gena of Choosing Raw.
  • If you’re struggling with emotional eating and anxiety, read this.
  • And finally, if you’re lagging on your self-care, it might be time to Refocus.

I’d like to start doing this every week, because I see so many amazing things on the web, in an out of the blogosphere and I’d love for everyone else to see them too. Enjoy the rest of your weekend!

Have you seen anything neat online this week? Leave me a link!

McKella

Lessons I’ve learned

I knew from the moment I graduated that the next year of my life would be different. I felt odd not starting school again in the fall and not to be freaking out over finals around Thanksgiving and Easter. I also feel odd not having the buoy of  next semester to excuse me from having to be a grown up. While you’re a student, you’re not expected to have a career or be powerful, you’re expected to live on rice and beans while spending every spare moment buried in the Norton Anthology, and that’s what I did.

Fast-forward tens months. I don’t have a career. I live in a room above my uncle’s garage and I nanny my six cousins for up to 13 hours a day. My novel is at a standstill, I’m constantly fighting off graduate depression and my compulsive eating, which has gotten gradually worse, has caused me to blossom up to a size 12, which is fine by itself but I know it’s too heavy for me and overeating makes me feel like a banana slug. I’ve been under a tremendous amount of stress and I’ve been getting through it with lots of prayers and a steady musical diet of Dave Matthews and Krishna Daas.

Before you think “Yuck, what a whiner”, there’s a silver lining to this, I promise. It’s always the hard times that teach us the most, and this year has been a massive learning experience for me, and even though I feel completely burned out, discouraged and all but defeated, I know I’ll pick myself up eventually and go on living as a better person because of what I’ve discovered, so I’d like to share some of those lessons with you today:

  • Depression is a sign that something needs to change. Staying in bed all day and throwing yourself a pity party sure sounds nice when you’re miserable, but it won’t change a thing. If your life sucks, do something to change it. I’m currently looking for a different job that can help me progress in my writing career and a new place to live. I’m still struggling with the compulsive eating thing, but I know that eating intuitively is a whole lot easier when I don’t hate my life.
  • Speak up and protect your boundaries: Don’t let anyone take advantage of you, in any situation. You don’t deserve it and if you feel that caving in to someone is necessary to protect the relationship, the relationship needs either work or the boot. Remember, people who love you want the best for you.
  • Your body is smarter than you give it credit for: I always though I had a massive sweet tooth and that I craved sugar every single day. Once I tuned into my body, I realized those urges weren’t coming from it, but from my mind. Bad habits, the desire to escape the situation by eating, competition eating, etc. is the cause of my “cravings”. Even though I feel that I overeat regularly, I haven’t actually had a true craving in a long time. I rarely feel hungry. Most of the time I feel either no hunger or all-out fullness and the lovely sluggishness that comes with it. I’m still working on obeying my body’s signals, but I can certainly hear them. Once I develop the strength to follow them, my physical problems will probably take care of themselves.
  • Things are never as bad as they seem: Whenever I fly in a plane, it always surprises me that the sun is still shining above the clouds, even if from the ground, it looks completely overcast. Even on the worst days, remember the sun is always shining. Something good is happening somewhere. Happiness is a choice, though a very difficult one. I haven’t been a great example of this lately, but remembering and acknowledging the bright spots in your day helps everything.
  • Don’t try to be superwoman: The day is only 24 hours long, and I’d rather spend it doing things that are very important and/or that I enjoy. If I feel like I’m doing something to impress someone else or because I “should” think it’s a big deal, forget it. Learn to say no sometimes. Don’t take on more than you can handle. Your schedules should have gaps, or you’re heading for burnout.
  • If you have to, steal time for the things that feed you. I have to have time to do something creative every day, or I feel like a shriveled-up raisin by the end of the day. If you don’t take care of yourself, you won’t be able to take care of anything else. Tell someone no, let the floor go unmopped and do some yoga. Read a book. Actually eat your meal sitting down. It’s not self-indulgent, it’s an act of self-preservation.

I’m sure I have other lessons swimming around in the stew I call a brain, but I can’t think of any more and this post is starting to get long, and we all know I like to keep things short and sweet. These things are important, and I’m having to learn them the hard way. I think everyone does. It’s always the rough times that teach us the most, and that in itself may be the most important lesson of all, to appreciate trials because they’re the fire that shapes us.

A healthy passion

I’ll let you in on a secret of my dorkiness: When I have a question or a problem, I hop on my computer and analyze it, type whatever pops into my head and hope I get somewhere.

I’ve been known to obsess over food before, and lately I’ve been reading (and writing) a ton about food. What it does in the body, where it comes from, recipes, all kinds of things. I enjoy it. At least, I think I do. I wanted to find out if this is a healthy interest or if I’m back on the unhealthy obsession wagon. Here’s what I wrote:

What would I be doing if I weren’t studying food, recipes, nutrition, and food production? I’d probably be reading more novels, writing, maybe doing yoga or running more. Maybe I’d be playing Freecell, I don’t know. Watching more movies, practicing piano, spending more time with Sophie, learning something new, laying around doing nothing. I guess it doesn’t matter. I could be doing something practical or not.

Why do I study food? First of all, I find it fascinating. Food production in the context of history and sociology is incredible, and so is the way the human body processes nutrients. I love finding out where food really comes from, this necessity of life. No one can escape it and get out alive. So much is tied to food, not just calories and weight. Economics, relationships, tradition, human nature, history, sociology, science, the art of cooking, everything! It’s also a personal journey as I learn to nourish myself properly. I’m learning to listen to my body and to live in a way that helps the planet and other people. Food connects me to that. I feel like I’m onto something sometimes, but I’m not sure what it is. I just keep reading.

And yeah, I love the pleasure of food. The taste, smell, preparation, all the ritual. Finding the best foods is like a treasure hunt. A mystery. I love combing through grocery stores, the health food stores, farmer’s markets, and gardens for something special. Throwing things together to create something amazing, learning how foods work together. I love it all. I don’t think this is an unhealthy obsession like it used to be. I’d call it a passion, and hopefully it will lead me somewhere I’d want to be.

After writing this, I realized I’ve come a long way from hiding in my room with diet books and a  calculator. I think this is a interest I can trust.

 

Breakthrough moment

Well this weekend just whizzed by, didn’t it?

Something amazing happened last night and I thought I’d share it with you.

Two of my cousins/nanny kids attend a nearby charter school and last night I attended their fall fundraiser gala which included a silent and live auction and some amazing hor’devoures (Had to look that up for the spelling. Pew.) Had an awesome time, but here’s the amazing part.

I ate all I wanted, but I didn’t overeat and I didn’t feel guilty.

I bid on (and won!) a carriage ride for 6 and I didn’t freak out about money.

I didn’t feel awkward even though we were kind of under dressed.

You have to understand, this is a huge deal for me. A month ago, I would’ve had a miserable time because I’d be so focused on the food and stressing about money and I wouldn’t have bid on anything. Such an amazing feeling to feel normal and happy. I don’t know if it’s because I got my devil stick out or if I just got lucky, but there it is. I couldn’t believe it.

I also got to help harvest honey from my uncle’s bee boxes.
I hope everyone’s weekend was as awesome as mine, and have a great week!

McKella

Autumn Pumpkin-Pecan Bread and Attitude

I don’t feel like dedicating an entire post to my attitude today, so I’ll give you a quick summary of what I’ve worked on this week, plus a treat 🙂

For the past two weeks, I’ve been working on improving my attitude toward my job, my body, my limits, and my life by following these guidelines:

Dress nicely. And shower every day. It’s amazing what not feeling like a sweaty mess can do for your confidence and energy.

-Don’t let myself off the hook. Exercise anyway. Write every day. “I don’t feel like it” isn’t an excuse, and I’ll be glad I did later.

-Decide to have fun- Don’t be a party pooper, and don’t assume something is going to be lame just because it doesn’t sound amazing. Try it anyway.

Act the way I want to feel

The first week of this was inexplicably rough for some reason, but the past week was amazing. I had energy to do my job and I didn’t feel like I was going to faint by noon on Friday. I’ve been smiling more, laughing more, and worrying less. Attitude really is everything, more than anything I’ve done so far with my Happiness Project.

Ok, time for the goodies. Behold, the year’s first pumpkin delicacy:

To read my thoughts on real food, click here.

Autumn Pumpkin-Pecan Bread

1-3/4 C whole wheat or spelt flour

3/4 C sweetener of your choice. I used honey, but you could use maple syrup, rapadura, sugar, brown sugar, whatever floats your boat.

1-1/2 t cinnamon

1 t nutmeg

1/2 t baking soda

1/2 baking powder

1/2 t salt

sprinkle of cloves and ginger

2 eggs

1 C pumpkin

1/2 C oil (I used extra-virgin coconut oil, but you can use whatever you want.)

1/3 C milk or water

1/2 C chopped pecans, more or less to your liking

Preheat oven to 350. Mix the dry ingredients, add the wet ingredients and mix together, then add the pecans. Pour into a loaf pan and sprinkle more pecans on top for pretties. Bake for 45-50 minutes or until a knife comes out clean.

Devour.

 

Real Food

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I’m going to postpone my update on my Happiness Project: Attitude for another week. I won’t go into it, but I bombed, so I’m going to give myself another shot. If at first you don’t succeed, right?

Instead, I want to talk about something essential to authentic living: Real food.

First of all, what is real food? I currently live with and work for my uncle, who is the CEO and founder of Real Foods Market, so real food is something I hear about a lot. He’s very passionate about what he does and every food, personal care item, and pamphlet in his store is the result of extensive research on his part. He manages to keep a wonderful organic garden despite rough growing conditions and he has several bee boxes in the backyard. He’s even established his own farm in Redmond, Utah to raise raw milk, grass-fed beef and truly free-range eggs.  I strongly urge you to visit the store’s website to read about real food.

His definition of Real Food, and the one I’ve come to accept is this: “Real food is nothing more or less than food created by Mother Nature and eaten in its natural, unadulterated, pure and nutrient rich state. In theory, if you cannot pick it, gather it, milk it, or hunt it – it is not real food.”

I don’t subscribe to any particular diet philosophy; vegan, vegetarian, macro, raw, omnivore, locavore, low-carb, high-protein, etc, because every body is different and what makes me feel good may not work for you. The one thing I do think is right for everyone though, is real food.

The problem is, real food is sometimes difficult to find. Visit a regular grocery store, and most of what find is processed, chemical laden food. While there’s nothing morally wrong about eating these foods, they’re not doing your body or the environment any favors. I don’t believe in “bad foods”-believe me, I’m not above the occasional Twix or bag of Cheetos- you don’t want this in your body very often.

If you shop around the outside of the store like health experts recommend, you’re still getting mostly denatured food. Most of the produce in produce section has been sprayed with pesticides, covered with wax to look shiny and may be genetically modified.

Animals products are even worse. That chicken you just bought for $1.25 a pound was most likely a drugged, diseased, tortured and mutated animal who lived an awful life an died a horrible death. That gallon of milk most likely came from a cow who spent her days being artificially inseminated, carry and birthing babies only to have them taken away, destined either for a life like hers or  the veal crate. That cow was pumped full of hormones to increase her milk production and drugs to survive her awful living conditions, fed an unnatural diet and then slaughtered to make ground beef in the next aisle over. Even some organic brand in stores are actually factory farms, feeding cows on “dry lots”, fed an organic yet still unnatural diet and hooked up to milk machines three time a day.

This is why I spent most of this year experimenting with veganism. I read plenty of books and studies, spent a lot of time watching videos like “Meet your meat” and played around with cooking without animal products and occasionally sampling vegan substitutes such as Boca Burgers and Earth Balance. I felt virtuous because I knew I was doing something good for the planet and keeping that bad stuff out of my body, but after even more research I learned that all animal products aren’t created equal. Properly raised animals (ie, grass-fed, free-range, etc.) make much healthier products than those raised in factory farms. Meat, dairy and eggs from pastured animals contain many essential fatty acids and other nutrients absent in conventional animals. Through further reading, I realized that most studies exploring the negative effects of animals products on humans used poorly produced, overcooked and often highly-processed meats, eggs and dairy instead of healthy grass-fed meat and raw dairy or truly free-range chickens and eggs (I specify “truly free-range” because many produces claim their chickens are free-range when they actually live in similar conditions to conventional chickens, just without cages). Remember: healthy food can’t come from unhealthy animals.

I started eating more real meats, eggs and dairy along with my usual produce, raw nuts and whole grains and I can tell my body loves it. This may not be the case for you, but it is for me. As a person deeply concerned about how food is produced and what goes into my body (even though I still eat junk sometimes) it’s important for me to know what’s in my food, where it comes from and how it was produced. I’m still learning about food and how to find real food on my own (right now room and board is part of my job benefits) and I feel I’ve found another big piece of the puzzle. Eating this way is good for me, and eating real food is good for everyone.

How do you feel about real food?