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February, 2011

  1. Sabotage!

    February 26, 2011 by Laura

    Oh the parties, the potlucks, the dinners out! Alas the 12 hour shift! Life is conspiring to undo all my good work! Why? Why? WHYYY???

    Actually it’s not that bad. But man, we had four, FOUR birthday parties this week: three kiddie parties & one grown-up dinner. Plus a potluck dinner. And by “we” I really mean the household; no one of us has had to attend all of them. I’ve been quite the Nutritarian even under pressure, bowing only to the temptation of a pupusa with refried beans. It was a fundraiser, ok, and Maria Cañas is a difficult woman to turn down.

    Dale, however, spiralled waayy out. Check this out: Wednesday night, birthday party #1: lasagna! Princess cake! Thursday, dinner at Angeline’s: Hush Puppies! Crawfish etouffee! Chocolate cake! Beer! Friday night, potluck: A couple of chips & a pupusa–not such a big deal. But of course, it’s not what he ate, but what he didn’t– where was the kale, my dear? Where was the kale? Me? I’m just over here nibbling on some romaine & sipping some mineral water. No thank you, I’ll pass. Lalala.

    But boy, six hours into a 12 hour shift with nothing but a banana & cashew butter sandwich on board, I was wishing that I’d packed a better lunch (or any lunch). It’s like that stupid aphorism: Failing to plan is planning to fail. Who made that up? I want to smack that person. It’s so smug. So what if it’s true? It’s smug.

    There are a million ways to sabotage a good thing. The one we ran into frequently this week is the “Permission Giver.” You know, it’s the “friend” who sees you going for the deep fried Twinkie, and instead of saying, “Hey, those are not part of the plan!” says, “Go ahead, it’s not going to kill you.” Nice. If you were going to eat wood chips, wouldn’t you want someone to say, “Stop! That’s not good for you!” Ok, ok, it’s not anyone else’s problem, but if I didn’t think I needed a little support, I wouldn’t be out here asking you to hold me accountable, right? If you have always made the right choice and never looked back, never wished someone had been there to drag you back to the dorm before you drank just one more Fuzzy Navel, go read someone else’s blog, because you’re giving me the creeps. And to everyone whom I have ever encouraged to cheat a little, or do something they might regret later, sorry ’bout that. My bad too.

    The hardest part for me is some sense that I should be entitled to eat whatever I want and still be thin. I call this misplaced sense of entitlement the “J. Crew Catalog Phenomenon.” Some part of me long ago fell for the idea that those gangly, Madras shorts-wearing preppies, who are really only one stray bocce ball toss away from turning into Labrador Retrievers, are normal. It’s sick I know. But that part of me doesn’t understand that I’m not actually a leggy, blonde, trust-funder. That part of me is pretty sure that I am supposed to be at Squaw this weekend. That part of me is wondering how I missed spending every summer in Edgartown. I have to work for a living and exercise and I’m still short. Dammit. So, my delusion that eating an entire lobster bake is ok, is one form of sabotage.

    Distraction comes into play too. I get distracted by the idea that I’m not eating perfect food. Or that I’m eating some kind of food that is a poor sub for what I’d rather be eating. Must. Stay. Focused. I have to shut up the foodies in my head who are snickering about my abstinence from alcohol and cheese and bread and cake-y things. Just because a croissant is hand made with cultured butter, doesn’t make it healthy.

    In his book, The End of Overeating, David Kessler talks about “premium snacking” and the psychology behind getting us — us – to consume more food. There is a lot of research devoted to marketing food as entertainment; food as a reward for our busy lives; a “premium snack” as a treat we deserve, because, after all, we work hard & should be able to indulge ourselves now and again. The only problem is we, or I– I’ll speak for myself here– indulge now and again and again and again. And as food and grains have become cheaper and more available we have increased our consumption of some things dramatically. Take my favorite, cheese, as an example. According to the USDA we consumed something like 5 pounds of cheese per person annually 100 years ago. Today we are approaching 35 pounds per person per year. I feel personally responsible for that. Things should normalize now.

    Anyway, all this is to say that the way we eat has so many subtle and external influences. Even for someone as media deprived as me (no TV commercials) who has not given McD’s any money since 1987 (no, really). I won’t eat anything that smacks of fast food, but tell me it’s local and read me its pedigree, and I’ll bite. I’m such a sucker…

    Oh, I’m down 10 pounds!


  2. Guess who went to the gym today?

    February 22, 2011 by Laura

    Woohoooo! I did it: I joined the Y. I also signed the boys up for swim lessons on Saturdays, which means I’ll have to show up there on the weekends too.

    Thanks to Donna for the moral support. I spent 20 full minutes on the elliptical; did some quad and hamstring Nautilus stuff; stretched and did something ouchy under my left scapula. It’s better now. More pats on the back, please…

    I promised a recipe so here it is. It’s a tofu-based dressing I whipped up and poured over broccoli slaw tonight:

    • 1 block soft, silken tofu
    • 2 scallions/green onions chopped
    • 1/2 roasted red pepper (I used one from a jar)
    • 1 Tbsp Dijon mustard
    • 1 Tbsp nutritional yeast
    • generous shake of spike or other salt-free seasoning
    • squirt lemon juice
    • splash rice wine vinegar
    • various & sundry dried and fresh herbs such as thyme, oregano, parsley, dill
    • 1 clove garlic chopped

    Blend it all up until smooth & creamy, taste and modify as desired. Pour over salad or use as a dip. As you can see, I’m not much for measuring, so my recipes are more like suggestions that worked out well for me. Try it and let me know how it goes.

    I’m a salad fanatic. I think it’s a California thing, although I remember inventing salad dressings when I lived in Vermont. There was this creamy buttermilk Gorgonzola with dill… I’ll have to figure out a way to do it without Gorgonzola. Sigh.


  3. 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.


  4. Incredible abundance (and moderation)

    February 16, 2011 by Laura

    Tonight’s dinner was soup & salad. Again. But lest you think I am living a life of asceticism, let’s compare and contrast what I might have eaten for dinner 2 months ago. A very typical dinner for us was roasted chicken. When done well it is undoubtedly one of the more delicious foods out there. The meal might have consisted of salad, chicken, brown rice or roasted potatoes, and broccoli or green beans. That sounds healthy, right? I think so too. I can eat half a chicken, no prob. Most of my calories would have come from the chicken. The potatoes and green veggie would probably have been seasoned with garlic, lemon, salt & pepper, or something similarly simple. They would have been side dishes, meaning the obligatory other things on the plate so that we don’t look like animals. Add in a glass of wine, and there would seem to be a decent variety of, you know, stuff. Animal, vegetable, mineral, the food groups well represented.

    Tonight we had vegetable bean soup & green salad. I took inventory of the meal’s components while admiring the colors on the plate. Represented were no fewer than 6 lettuces plus arugula; 3 members of the allium genus (leeks, garlic & red onion); 2 umbellifers (carrot & parsnip); 2 brassicas (cabbage & kale); 2 solanaceae (red peppers & tomatoes); 1 legume; avocados, flax seeds, sunflower seeds, cashews, figs, mustard seeds & balsamic vinegar. Wow! How unbelievably lucky am I– are we– to have access to all this? And clean water too… it’s all a gift. I’m starting to feel like a Cafe Gratitude menu.

    Recently I was confronted with what I thought was a rather cynical rebuttal to my groovy meal plan: It’s just not possible for everyone in the world to eat this (good, organic) food all the time. The implication being that it’s not worth bothering, since it’s impractical on a global scale. We may be well past that tipping point where organic agriculture is capable of sustaining the Earth’s population. Is that a good argument to continue to pursue gluttony? Should I therefore consume greater quantities of less nutritious calories? I was also confronted by someone who said, “I could make a case that veganism isn’t all that healthy.” Sure, but not as great a case as I could make that what they’re likely eating is less healthy. And for crying out loud, I’M NOT A VEGAN!

    A note on moderation: If I could do moderation, I wouldn’t be writing this blog. It’s like those potato chips that came out a few years back that were basically indigestible and caused really embarrassing side effects. They suggested that you only eat a few. If I could eat only a few potato chips, I wouldn’t be buying fat-free ones now, would I? Jesus… (By the way, I never bought those potato chips.) So for now, I won’t be eating any of the things that I said I wouldn’t be eating.

    Tomorrow I will go back to work after a 6 week hiatus. I’m looking forward to it. I work with great people, both my colleagues and patients. Most of our patients come to us as a result of cardiac or vascular disease, diabetes, or chronic respiratory conditions. In other words, problems that were likely preventable. Often our patients are very grateful for our care and thank us with boxes of See’s Candy. To be honest, I think it’s overrated, but I generally eat about 4 pieces per shift. No, really, that’s why there’s hardly any left by the end of the shift. Sorry. And I know, it was probably meant for you hotshot “Heart Nurses”, not for little ol’ me.  Don’t worry. From now on if someone comes in with a box of See’s or doughnuts, I’ll just look at them, smile sweetly and then say, “What the f#ck is wrong with you?! Are you trying to kill us?? Take this poison that likely got you into the mess you were in and throw it right in that red bin there– the one marked ‘Biohazard!'”

    Just kidding.


  5. 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!


  6. Eat Real Food.

    February 11, 2011 by Laura

    Just thought I’d pass along this essay from cookbook author and New York Times writer Mark Bittman. It illuminates some of the forces at work determining what is a “healthy diet” message.

    http://opinionator.blogs.nytimes.com/2011/02/08/is-eat-real-food-unthinkable/

    If you are not an obsessive foodie, but your interest is piqued, I suggest the following two books: The End of Overeating by Dr. David Kessler, the former head of the FDA; and The Omnivore’s Dilemma by Michael Pollan.


  7. Who Cut the Cheese?

    February 11, 2011 by Laura

    You might be wondering: So Laura, how do you feel following this new regimen? Do you have more energy? Well, it’s a little too soon to say. But I expect that I will, because Lord knows I have MORE GAS!! Hahahaha! It’s a good thing I’m not a smoker.

    And speaking of cutting the cheese, cheese is one of the things– along with barbecue, processed meats, white flour & white sugar– that is consumed zero times per week when practicing Nutritarianism. Allow me to impress upon you just how much I love cheese: In the not too distant past, cheese was my raison d’être. I was the Cheesegirl at Whole Foods. I had a gig consulting for a Michelin starred restaurant to design their cheese plates. I made cheese. I became a nurse so that I could afford to make more cheese. In eighth grade, I re-wrote “Cinderella” as “Mozzarella.” I own dairy goats. Get it? I love cheeses, praise Gouda, gimme a Hallelujah!

    In an effort to approximate cheese in my menu, I did try 2 dairy-free, cheese-like products. The first, Daiya shreds, is surprisingly cheese-like, but not delicious. It has a kind of movie popcorn “buttery topping” flavor going on. It’s edible though, and if you go without cheese long enough to forget what it tastes like, Daiya will suffice. Lisanatti Foods Almond Mozzarella and Cheddar, both of which contain casein (milk protein) and are not vegan, are also surprisingly cheesy & melted well on our veggie burgers. I rather liked them. They failed Amos’s taste test, however, and he has never turned cheese down. So much for getting those sponsorships.

    Is it worth it? Well, I’m down 5 pounds in two weeks, so I’m sticking to it.

    Oh, don’t look at me, it was the dog.


  8. Babies are gross.

    February 9, 2011 by Laura

    You were hoping for a nice food blog — PSYCH! You’ll have to get through my morning first.

    The sun was not yet round the bend when I heard the sweet yammerings of my older son, Amos, as he attempted to pacify his baby brother,”NOOOOOO Guthrie! Don’t do that! Stop that crying!”  Dale was already awake and downstairs meditating (I kid you not), so it was up to me to deal with my own children at 6:45 b.c. (before coffee).

    I gathered up my warm bundles of boys for a morning snuggle and nurse in the big bed. Ah maternal bliss… there’s nothing like having two icy feet in the small of your back while the babe at the breast is hauling on your hair like there was a tarpon on the other end. That lasted about 15 minutes at which point Amos wandered off.

    When Guthrie finished his breakfast, I stood him up on my soon-to-be-rock-hard abs and he burped. Out of his mouth and all over me spewed a fountain of barely digested breast milk. Gross, but all in day’s work, right moms? So I get up, clean up, and start to change his diaper. Oops, all the clean dipes are downstairs. I put the cute, naked Guthrie on the floor while I run downstairs to grab a diaper. In the 1 minute I’ve left him, he has taken a huge dump on the carpet. Not sweet baby poop either, but guess-who-ate-half-an-avocado-yesterday poop. All this before 7:30 and coffee. Shoot me now.

    Back to breakfast. Breakfast in Nutritaria goes something like this: Fruit smoothie or oatmeal with stuff in it. I’ll gladly eat either and choose a smoothie this morning. Here is the recipe for a smoothie with a high ANDI score (use organic as much as possible):

    Serves 2 or 3

    Into a blender put:

    1 banana

    1 handful of spinach or kale leaves

    1 cup frozen blueberries

    frozen mango chunks

    1 tablespoon or so of ground flax seeds

    pomegranate juice and/or soy milk until the consistency is where you want it.

    Blend & drink.

    Yummy, right?


  9. What am I doing?

    February 4, 2011 by Laura

    You came here to read about getting healthy, right? Or to read about my “journey” to vibrant health, perhaps? You might get some of that. But you’ll be wading through my ramblings about life, kids, politics, pets, and my neuroses.

    My name is Laura, and I am a foodie. I’m also a nurse, mom, wife, Subaru-driving, farmer’s-market-shopping, Huff Post reading, Quaker, card carrying member of the ACLU-type. If you don’t think you’re going to like me, you are free to leave. More about me on the “About me” page.

    So I started this about the same time I decided to change my eating habits and style from your basic “reasonably healthy” to UNreasonably healthy. Ridiculously healthy. Because I want that GLOW, goddammit. The creepy vegan glow, yes, oh yes, it will be mine. I want to be the person that causes me to roll my eyes at my own flaxseed consumption.

    And let’s face it: this is about vanity & fear of the inevitable. Here’s the current status: 3 1/2 years ago, at age 38, I gave birth to Amos. 6 months ago I had boy number 2, aka Guthrie. Advanced Maternal Age does not lend itself to the swift recovery of a flat stomach & a size 6 low-rise ass, especially if you are not possessed of those qualities prior to getting pregnant. But I have a wedding to attend in July. Not just any wedding, but my brother’s wedding. And I am a bridesmaid. And by God, I will NOT be photographed in beige in my current condition.

    Just how bad has it gotten? Pretty bad. Without going into specifics, my BMI is in the “overweight” range. I get out of breath running up the stairs, and today I was asked if I was my baby’s grandmother. Hmph!

    “So, Chubby, whatcha gonna do now?” you ask. Attention Whole Foods Shoppers! Have you ever seen those ANDI scores on the veggies at Whole Foods? Well, I did, and I wondered, “What are those things?” Through the magic of the Interwebs, I found this. And being a person given to dogma and extremism, I decided right then to become a “nutritarian.”

    More to come, including sexy food photos, recipes, and sugar withdrawal induced ravings. Stay tuned…