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  1. Dear Beer and Pizza, I still love you.

    May 2, 2011 by Laura

    Last week sort of sucked. In the middle of the suckiness of it all, I decided that I didn’t want to cook or eat another goddamned leaf. I sent Dale out to the snooty market up the road for a wood-fired oven-baked wild mushroom and smoked mozzarella pizza (to be more accurate, I asked him nicely if he would please go pick up said pizza). Oh my god it was good, especially with my beloved Lagunitas IPA. I love pizza. I love beer. Oddly enough, I did not gain 15 pounds. I am however stuck at my current weight. I am blaming the pizza and beer, rather than my lack of exercise.

    Rather than go on about all the healthy things I’ve eaten lately, I’ll tell you all the devil-incarnate snacks I’ve managed to turn down: Boston cream pie, chocolate peanut butter cupcake, everything else in the Starbucks case, chicharrones, Aussie bites, more pizza, more beer. Not that I’ve been keeping track.

    I think the intrusion of sucky life events and maybe the Giants’ slump has left me feeling a little blah. I don’t really feel like cooking. I feel like lying on my back in the middle of the yard with a beer. Doesn’t that sound awesome?

    Also, it’s time to get the garden going, and every year I look out at the beds and feel overcome with gopher anxiety. I literally dread putting seeds in the ground. If you have ever watched an entire cornstalk disappear into a hole or looked at a completely wilted chard plant that was perfectly perky 3 hours earlier, then you know what I’m talking about. I feel like I am consigning these poor innocent starts to death by rapacious rodent.

    So, I am trying to figure out what to cook for dinner tonight. It’s going to have to include spinach, because I bought too much last week. Salmon? Quinoa? Take out?

    Spinach pizza?




  2. Excruciatingly Weary

    April 26, 2011 by Laura

    I don’t mean to complain, but it’s been a heckuva week. My dad fell & broke his femur last week. This is for the second time in less than a year. Without going into too much detail, my dad is a generally unhealthy guy. Not in the way I usually describe–he’s not diabetic, obese, or suffering from heart or respiratory problems. All that is quite a miracle given that he has subsisted on Wendy’s (he seemed to have been on a first name basis with Dave), McDonald’s (probably knows the release dates of all the new sandwiches), and corned beef sandwiches. I can not ever recall him eating a vegetable, although he did teach me to make vegetable soup. So what does a sedentary life of processed animal consumption get you? In my dad’s case, kidney failure, which causes osteoporosis. Oy.

    With that in mind, I went back to the Eat Right America web site to see what it say about osteoporosis. Nutritarians eschew dairy products, which are touted as being an excellent source of dietary calcium. Here’s the Nutritarian take:

    Contrary to popular belief, you do not need dairy products to get sufficient calcium. Every natural food contains calcium. When you eat a healthy diet, rich in natural foods such as vegetables, beans, nuts, and seeds, it is impossible not to obtain sufficient calcium. In fact, the addition of more natural plant foods to the diet has been shown to have a powerful effect on increasing bone density and bone health. Researchers found that those who eat the most fruits and vegetables have denser bones. These researchers concluded that fruits and vegetables are not only rich in potassium, magnesium, calcium and other nutrients essential for bone health, but, because they are alkaline, not acid-producing, they do not induce urinary calcium loss. Green vegetables in particular have a powerful effect on reducing hip fractures, for they are rich not only in calcium but other nutrients as well, such a vitamin K, which is crucial for bone health.

    Green vegetables also have calcium absorption rates of over 50 percent, compared with about 32 percent for milk. And, since animal protein induces calcium excretion in the urine, compared to dairy, the calcium retention from vegetables is higher. All green vegetables are high in calcium.

    Despite the debate surrounding milk and osteoporosis and how much calcium is ideal, one thing is clear: adequate calcium is important for reducing the risk of osteoporosis. And when women supplement their diet with extra calcium, hip fractures do decrease. A combination supplement containing 800 IU of Vitamin D along with calcium has been shown to reduce both bone loss and hip fractures. 
Calcium should not be taken in excessive doses and I recommend that, if supplemented, calcium should be in the 400 – 600 mg range, not the 1000 – 2000 mg range. In conclusion, a modest increase in calcium via supplementation is appropriate for most people, but real food should supply a good percentage of your calcium intake to achieve the right balance of supportive nutrients to maximize bone health.

    Wait, here’s more from the Physicians Committee for Responsible Medicine web site (bias: these are doctors who want you to be vegetarian):

    The loss of bone mineral probably results from a combination of genetics and dietary and lifestyle factors, particularly the intake of animal protein, salt, and possibly caffeine, along with tobacco use, physical inactivity, and lack of sun exposure.

    Animal protein tends to leach calcium from the bones, leading to its excretion in the urine. Animal proteins are high in sulfur-containing amino acids, especially cystine and methionine. Sulfur is converted to sulfate, which tends to acidify the blood. During the process of neutralizing this acid, bone dissolves into the bloodstream and filters through the kidneys into the urine. Meats and eggs contain two to five times more of these sulfur-containing amino acids than are found in plant foods.3

    International comparisons show a strong positive relationship between animal protein intake and fracture rates. Such comparisons generally do not take other lifestyle factors, such as exercise, into account. Nonetheless, their findings are supported by clinical studies showing that high protein intakes aggravate calcium losses. A 1994 report in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition showed that when animal proteins were eliminated from the diet, calcium losses were cut in half.4 Patients can easily get adequate protein from grains, beans, vegetables, and fruits.


    So yes, I am kidding myself when I think a lump of triple creme St. Andre is a calcium boost. Dammit.

    As far as my own eating habits are concerned, I’m still pretty veg-centric, although the grains are creeping up to a higher proportion than is recommended. It is just too easy to slather hummus on toast. Also, I am relying on eggs quite a bit, because I love them so. Still, I am down almost, almost 25 pounds. I even had to buy a new little black dress for an event the other night. Pics to follow soon, I promise.


  3. Are Omega-3 Enriched Foods Worth The Extra $$$? | Fooducate

    April 18, 2011 by Laura

    Are Omega-3 Enriched Foods Worth The Extra $$$? | Fooducate.

    I often wonder about this. I just buy regular eggs (while I wait for my 9 lovely pullets to start laying).

  4. Habits

    April 14, 2011 by Laura

    Lately I’ve had that “old habits die hard” feeling. I find myself snacking more. I’m not snacking on anything especially unhealthy, but just mindlessly munching on almonds or apples or those “Mary’s Gone Crackers” crackers. Those are really good, by the way. The Nutritarian Way is to eliminate snacking as much as possible and rest the digestive tract between meals. It’s hard. Also, it’s baseball season, which is beer and grill season in my world. I have not had a beer since January. I really love beer…

    Back in February I joined the Y. I thought I should have lost 10 pounds just for joining and remain disappointed that it doesn’t work that way. I like the Y because the facilities are decent, the childcare inexpensive, and the members are a genuine cross section of the community. I frequently run into other RNs, physicians, people who work at the stores where I shop, parents of Amos’s classmates. I went today to do my 30 minutes on the treadmill (not a habit, yet), and I’m glad I went. Just when I was starting to think, “Well, I’ve proven my point, I’m going to eat some chips,” my visit reinvigorated my commitment to Health.

    Ok, I have gained weight in my life. At times quite a bit. But today I saw several people who were really, really fat. And this is not a judgment about their character, they were fat. Among them was a mom and her two ENORMOUS sons. They were 12 years old at most and HUGE. Have I impressed upon you the LARGENESS of these boys? A very graphic word I can think of: CORPULENT. Think  Jabba the Hut. Ok, get this: one was eating Jack in the Box and the other Mickey D’s.

    Now, if I were a judgmental sort (which we’ll assume for the moment that I’m not), I would have thought something like, “WTF is wrong with you???” But regarding my estimation of this woman’s situation, there are a few mitigating factors. First, I’m highly trained in Interdisciplinary Cognitive Arts. Which is to say that I went to a fancy-schmancy liberal arts college (several, actually!) where we learned to approach a situation from multiple angles. So here’s my thought process:

    This woman works at the Y. I’m thinking this is not a high-paying job. She’s got two boys approaching adolescence, the caloric demands of whom are no doubt intimidating. Parenting alone? Statistically speaking it’s a safe bet, but even if she’s married/partnered, I’m going to guess said partner is not the one who is primarily responsible for meal prep. I’m trying to paint the picture of a working-poor, exhausted, single mom, get it? I have all the time in the world (not really) and professional food service training, and even I don’t like prepping kale. What I’m trying to say is that it takes A LOT of work against The System to maintain a truly healthy diet. Healthy calories are hard, easy calories are crap. And not that cheap.

    I’m not going on about their lack of personal responsibility because these people were at the YMCA. They want to be healthy. They may even know the basics of what it takes to be healthy. They may even think they are healthy. They may not know why they are so big. I know this, because I’ve been there (well, not physically, but psychologically). And being HUGE is not that unusual anymore. It’s the New Normal.

    I’m ranting about this because I am genuinely afraid that my kid is going to come home from 9th grade one day and tell me one of his classmates dropped dead from a heart attack. This is not a far-fetched idea. But I’m not going to go on a childhood obesity tangent here. I’m going to go on a Recommended Reading tangent:

    The End of Overeating by David Kessler, MD a fascinating read by the former head of the FDA about the forces conspiring to sell us cheap calories.

    Switch: How to Change Things When Change is Hard by Chip and Dan Heath. This is a very accessible book on how to change habits. It’s geared toward corporate settings, but also contains useful information on personal habit formation. Interesting to anyone wanting to change long held habits, but especially interesting if you want to make workplace changes.

    This morning at 4am, Dale told me I had to take the bag of tortilla chips to work with me and give them away.


  5. OPP (Other People’s Plates)

    March 24, 2011 by Laura

    Now that I’m on a health kick, I really notice what other people are eating. Last night we went out on a date (!) to hear some live music (!!), and the guy sitting next to us was having steak and potatoes and gravy. He was a big guy. It was when he got the ice cream for dessert that I went into one of those critical care nurse reveries of him becoming diaphoretic and clutching his chest, and me needing to yell, “YOU! Call 9-1-1 and get the AED!!” and then going through the whole CPR thing. As it turned out he survived the show. I can’t tell you how relieved I was. Nothing can ruin a date like an MI.

    And maybe it’s none of my business, right? It’s not like he was smoking and blowing it my way. Besides, my nose is so stuffy I couldn’t smell the steak. Why would I care? Because he’s the guy I take care of after the CPR keeps him going long enough to get to the ICU. And he’s the guy driving up the cost of health care with his MI and subsequent years of compromised cardiovascular health. OK, that sounds really cynical. I don’t really look at my patients and think, “Oh great, there go my premiums!” I see my patients and their families as people who are suffering. What’s sadder, is that they often accept that suffering (and it is considerable) as their fate.

    Not all of the illness I see is avoidable, but much of it is. I tell you this, and simultaneously remind myself, because we have a tendency to blithely follow our habits as though we are powerless to do otherwise. I want to tell you that as long as you are on this side of the hospital bed, you are not powerless.

    Last week I had a patient who was in terrible pain because his left foot was dead; that is, no blood supply to it. His peripheral arteries were so blocked, that he was awaiting the amputation of his foot. Arterial disease is about inflammation, and smoking causes inflammation. When I reminded him of this, he told me to quit nagging. When I told him he still had one foot left to save, he rolled his eyes. He would rather lose his legs that lose the cigarettes. Sound crazy? I don’t know. I don’t know how to assimilate that in a way that does justice to an entire person, rather than just throwing around catchy phrases about personal responsibility. I like to believe that we’re all doing the best we can with what we’re given, while still believing that there’s always room to grow.

    What I do know is that our bodies are, in general, extremely resilient. We have built-in healing processes that we can enhance in myriad ways. The best methods do not require us to seek specialized practitioners, expensive  supplements, or exotic treatment plans. Eat right (and by “right” I mean tons of vegetables), exercise daily, enjoy quality time with people you like and have a hobby. The tricky thing here is that all of these require us to assume some measure of control over our own health and lives. We can’t look to the medication or the herb or the retreat or the trainer to save us from ourselves. We have to trust that we can provide for ourselves adequately. I presume that just about my entire audience is capable of this. If you grew up eating nothing but convenience store foods and have no idea what to do with broccoli well, welcome! I hope I can help.

    I hope we can all help each other, actually.


  6. The dual burden of being overweight and undernourished

    March 24, 2011 by Laura

    The dual burden of being overweight and undernourished.

    Editorial in the Seattle PI illustrating some of the larger social and economic forces affecting how we eat. Please discuss.


  7. Downward Trend

    March 23, 2011 by Laura

    Sometimes, it’s hard to take your own advice. Like when I tell myself, “Don’t let the numbers on the scale dictate your mood for the day.” That doesn’t always work out. On the days when I step on the scale, and it says I’m TWENTY POUNDS LIGHTER than I was a few months ago, you’re damn right I’m gonna be in pretty good mood. Woohoooooo! It’s doesn’t even matter that I have a wicked cold, my lips are all chapped up, and my knees hurt. So I’m not excruciatingly healthy, I’m thinner! Oh what? I’m getting off message? So sue me. No, it’s not twenty pounds from when I started eating like a cockatiel, but let’s say since Thanksgiving. And what is more satisfying than getting into new jeans? Getting into old ones. Oh yeah…

    It remains relatively easy for me to continue to eat healthy foods and eschew foods that I know I love, but are unhealthy. And I wonder why that is. I have often flipped open magazines to the inspiring stories of successful weight loss, you know, the ones with the before and after pictures of a woman who went from being a size 22w to being a personal trainer and triathlete. They all say, “If I could do it, anyone can.” I always wondered why I couldn’t. But I am here to tell you, if I can do this, anyone can. What I have come to believe is that being overweight is the same as being unhealthy. If you try to lose weight by cutting calories and substituting Splenda for sugar, it’s not going to happen. But if you embrace the beauty of vegetables and real food, and you acknowledge that sugar and butter and white flour are basically harmful, you will start to get healthier.

    To my foodie pro friends, here’s how I see it: You know how the food you make tastes, you don’t need to keep eating it every day. Imagine the mess I’d be in if I tried every pill I passed out. I just trust that they work. I’m serious. There was a time when steaks and cakes were luxuries to be eaten rarely and savored. Meanwhile, I can’t make you eat your vegetables, but I wish you would. I worry about you.




  8. Why be healthy? (Updated)

    March 15, 2011 by Laura

    Ok, I promise after this post, I’ll move on to recipes, but I had to get this down on… LCD?

    In my first post, I addressed the question, “What am I doing?”  But I didn’t say why. I mentioned that I want to look good in my brother’s wedding, and that is motivating, but in the past I have had plenty of other equally compelling reasons to lose weight, and none of them ever resulted in permanent results. What’s different this time?

    For most of my life I have struggled with body image or weight or both. I have had periods of time being in great shape, but always feeling as though I could stand to lose a little more, or else feeling as though every morsel was potentially ruinous. I’ve lost weight by means that were far from healthy. As a teenager I thought, “I’d rather be dead than fat.” Cruel, no? I wish every minute that every teenage girl — and grown woman for that matter — spent worrying about what her body looked like could be given back to her for more useful pursuits. It’s a tragic waste of time and brain power.

    But we don’t get that time back. Nor does all the worrying, complaining and bargaining make us thinner or healthier. At a certain point, wanting to be thin is not a good enough reason. A friend of mine likes to say, “Nothing tastes as good as being thin feels.” I agree that being thin, and fitting into those jeans with the t-shirt tucked in, is enormously satisfying to those of us for whom it is elusive. But it can’t be enough. We get thin, we get un-thin again. Perhaps because in the end, vanity alone is not sustaining or sustainable.

    Dale amended the phrase to “Nothing tastes as good as being healthy feels.” I think a lot of us have forgotten what it means to feel truly healthy. I know I have. I usually think of myself as being in “very good” health. And yet, I have come to accept things like loss of strength and flexibility as par for the course. But lately, looking at my patients who are unbelievably sick at 60 or 50 years old, or a pack of thirteen year olds who are so big that any one of them would have been mercilessly teased for being “the fat kid” when I was in school (not that I think that’s okay), I see my own state of well being differently. Pursuing health and promoting my ability to enjoy living in my body is sustainable and sustaining. Nourishing, even, where trying to be being skinny is emotionally and physically draining.

    I owe much of this shift in attitude to my sister-in-law, Diane. Diane died in January at age 51 from breast cancer. We will probably never know why Diane had to get breast cancer. She was thin, athletic, and even funnier than me. Diane loved her life and hated being sick. She loved being in her body. She hiked, biked, walked, swam. In 2009, at 48 years old and two years after a mastectomy, she still rocked a bikini. When I visited with her in January, shortly before she died, she was very thin, and I was fat. It struck me that my body image problems were pretty meaningless. She had spent months trying to gain weight, trying to keep up her energy to do the things she loved, like going on walks. I had spent months complaining about not being able to lose the baby weight, all the while spending much of my time on my butt.

    Thus I continue on the path to being “excruciatingly healthy,” rather than just “thin.”

  9. Sleep, sloth and exercise

    February 21, 2011 by Laura

    I’m tired, but in the words of Connie Z., my dear Mother-in-law, “Nobody gives a shit if you’re tired.” So I try not to complain. Last night I went to bed early, around 9 pm. I was a little shocked, because I am NEVER in bed by 9, and now I see why. At some point I awoke, looked at the clock, decided it was close enough to 5am, and I might as well get up now before the alarm went off. I told Dale I was going to get the baby to nurse him and he said, “WHY?”

    “Because it’s almost 5 o’clock.”

    “No it’s not, it’s 12:30!”

    Ah HAH, no wonder I didn’t feel all that well-rested. Next time I’ll put my glasses on before I make any big decisions. I continued to wake up every 90 minutes until I got the 5am phone call telling me that the unit was over-staffed today & would I please be on-call. Finally I got a little sleep…

    But sleep is not really my problem. My problem is more like sloth. Of all the lifestyles I may enjoy — Northern California, Wine Country, Middle Class, Festivarian, Nutritarian — the Sedentary Lifestyle is the one that comes up on most health questionnaires. Does anyone else go to bed with a very clear vision of what health promoting activity she will do tomorrow only to have tomorrow go by without so much as an elevated heart rate, let alone 75% of VO2 max?

    It wasn’t always like this. Waaaaayyyy back in 1999, I rode my bike around Lake Tahoe. In 2003 I was in the best shape of my life. I could wear a little bikini. I could run about 5 miles; swim about 2; and bike 50 with no problem. Not all in the same day, but I was working toward that. I had promised myself that I would have a daily exercise habit by the time I was 35. Having accomplished that, I failed to maintain it. Nursing school started, and my daily exercise habit fell like ice cream off a cone. So I have to make that same promise all over again, only this time I have to turn 43. No big deal, I was going to turn 43 anyway. They say that exercise is very good for you. They say you feel all kinds of nice things when you exercise regularly. I simply remember feeling superior to people like the current me. Maybe that’s motivating enough!

    Here are some of my ideas for making this happen:

    1. Join the Y

    2. Commit to iWalk Sonoma and walk up my road every day.

    3. Use up my class credits at Tone

    4. All of the above?

    Any suggestions for one who needs to get over the inertia hump? Don’t tell me to “Just do it,” because I’ll just want to punch you in the nose. But seriously, I’m going to start doing SOMETHING soon. Very soon. Maybe even tomorrow.

    Speaking of tomorrow, I plan to put together a couple of recipes & maybe pictures. Stay tuned.

  10. What’s a nice vegan like you…

    February 15, 2011 by Laura

    Ok, I’m not really a vegan. I feel like such a poser. This is what happens when Nutritarian meets wanna-be farmer. I have longed for a chicken coop and chickens for years now. I had a pet chicken a few years ago: Dixie Chicken. She was a lovely Black Star chicken who slept in a waxed produce box in my studio apartment by night, and roamed around the property by day. Besides providing me with a large, brown egg daily, her most endearing quality was her insatiable appetite for potato bugs. I loved that chicken. One fateful night, she refused to get in her box and decided to bed down in the goat shed. She was a sitting duck, er cluck. The next morning I found two eggs and… well, it wasn’t pretty.

    As a Nutritarian, I am allowed four animal products per week. Eggs score a paltry 27 on the ANDI scale, but a kale omelet? That’s gotta be worth something. And just how much do I love eggs? I have an egg cup collection. I once wanted to open a store devoted to eggs & egg-y things. I pictured a boutique in Soho with Peeps and caviar and, you know, Fabergé eggs. Necessities, really.

    So far my endeavor is going quite well. I am down 7 (!) pounds since I started about 3 weeks ago. I’m eating about a pound of veggies per day. Zero dairy, zero white flour, very little in the way of refined sweeteners (there’s some in the soy milk), no red meat. My chicken & fish intake is down to nearly nothing also. And just ask Dale, we probably ate 10 pounds of chicken a week around here.

    My biggest challenge is trying not to invent some rationalization to eat some gorgeous, locally produced bread, cheese, bacon, duck confit, what-have-you. I feel personally responsible for keeping small agricultural producers going. After all, they’ve probably felt the drop in business since I stopped eating cheese.

    My methods these days to keep myself on track are 1) picture my current self in a beige dress; 2) picture my future self in a beige dress; and 3) ask myself this question before I eat: Will this make me healthier or not? Not “Would this be so bad in the context of an otherwise very healthy diet?” or “Is this food ok in moderation?” or “Is THIS really the cookie that will put me over the edge?” But rather, if I eat this thing right here that I think I want– Michel Cluizel chocolate, Wild Flour Bread fougasse, fresh Dungeness crab cake, apple-smoked BLT with avocado, Bear Republic Racer 5… will I be healthier? And if the answer is no, the answer is no, right? Actually, it’s what I do to Amos 25 times a day.

    Mind you, I am no longer even bothering to remember that I was once a professional food person. Now I’m a “busy working mom trying to throw down a healthy meal for my family in 20 minutes or less!” Imagine pert smile here. Here’s what we ate for dinner:

    A big plate of salad with oil-free, roasted red pepper dressing (I forget what I put in it). A “pizza” as follows:
    For 4 servings

    • 4 “Ezekiel 4:9” Sprouted Grain Tortillas
    • 1/4 cup marinara sauce
    • your favorite shredded cheez (I used a combo of the previously reviewed products)
    • 1/4 red onion sliced thinly
    • 1 clove garlic chopped
    • big handful of baby spinach leaves
    • about 12 frozen artichoke hearts (I think they’re quartered)
    • sliced roasted red pepper (I used the jarred kind)

    Preheat your oven to at least 450, hotter if it goes hotter. Lay the tortillas on a baking sheet or 2 and divide the sauce among them. Cover the sauce with the cheez so it resembles an actual pizza. In a large pan or wok saute the onions & garlic using either a very brief spray of cooking spray, or a bit of hot water. You don’t need to cook them for long, as they will further cook in the oven. Add the spinach & artichoke hearts and cook until the spinach is wilted and the artichoke hearts are no longer frozen. Add in the red pepper strips. Divide this mixture among the peetsas — it should be heaped a little. Put them in the oven for 10 minutes or so. The tortillas should crisp up a bit. Sprinkle with fresh or dried herbs, red pepper flakes, and some kind of shaky cheez. Enjoy!