Friday, February 29, 2008

Celebratory Eating

I've spent most of my morning trying to change my header to look more Brady Bunch-ish. Crazy, complicated tricks out there and none of them worked right. I finally just uploaded what I wanted as a photo and it worked! It's sort of lop-sided, but it will have to be good for now :). So, ta da! I can write again.

Now about the eating. I was thinking this morning about all the foods we associate with celebrations. We have cake and ice cream for birthdays, hotdogs and hamburgers on the 4th of July, cookies baked and given at Christmas time and Valentine's Day. But I'm not even talking just about holidays -- it's the over all mind set of "Let's celebrate by eating!"

I used to do it every Friday afternoon (just about now, in fact). I'd pick up the kids from school at 3:00 and think, "What should we eat when we get home? It's time to celebrate the weekend is here!" We'd either stop at the store and buy ice cream, or go home and bake cookies. Or we'd order pizza every Friday because it was Friday night! When I started really trying to control my sugar intake, I found this habit very difficult to break. I would see it happening each week. But it's Friday!!!!!! I'd want to find SOMEthing sugary to sit and devour with my kids.

At school it's a tradition for kids to bring in cupcakes when it's their birthday. Everyone loves it (except for the teachers who have to deal with the "sugar high") and the birthday child feels special because he/she treated the rest.

We have parties or gatherings or even just meetings at church and people feel like there needs to be "refreshments." I completely understand the love of eating things laden with sugar, but it never was refreshing for my body. I don't know how we've gotten so far away from enjoying food together that's actually helping us instead of continuing to add more toxins to our bodies that are causing so many problems.

I don't want to sound like a party pooper in any way, but I've been trying to think of how to remedy this besides looking like a party pooper. I've gotten past the embarrassment of never eating what everyone else is celebrating with (I used to stress about this and think everyone would be mad at me if I didn't eat what they'd made). It would be nice if we were all celebrating in a healthier way -- whether with fresh fruits & vegetables (see, I even lost myself on that one -- as soon as I wrote "vegetables," I thought, "That doesn't sound like any fun :)).

Sure, there are many healthy desserts to make -- especially the raw ones (I'll post the mango pie recipe sometime soon). I'm just wondering if we'd feel as joyful inside celebrating without food nearby or if the definition of "treat" just changed.

I'm not sure how I got over my Friday habit -- how I stopped heaving that big *SIGH* that the week was over and we were sliding into the weekend -- time to celebrate! I do remember it being really difficult to fight the first month or two though. Now it's been a few years and I don't even think about it anymore. I haven't had birthday cake for myself in years, but that's probably mostly due to the fact that I don't really care for cake. I usually still buy ice cream for the kids who eat dairy and Soy Delicious for me and the ones who don't. It would just feel bland without even doing that. Maybe in a few more years, we'll be eating green smoothies together (I do love those more than the Soy Delicious, actually) and will think it's just fine. If I'm still blogging by then, I'll let you know.

Thursday, February 28, 2008

Raw Recipe -- Fudge!

I'll post some recipes from time to time since I'm sure I'll be mentioning them often. I'll try to post pics of them too, so you get an idea of what you're making. Sound good? Hope so :).

Here are my favorite fudge recipes:

Raw Walnut Fudge (tastes like chocolate caramels)
2 c. dates (not soaked)
2 c. walnuts
½ c. raw cacao powder

Blend up the dates in a food processor. (Even though the dates are pitted, occasionally the food processor will jam and there’s always a pit caught in the blade, that I just take out and then get it going again). Once blended well, add the walnuts. Blend until the mixture is creamy like a paste (amazing how smooth walnuts can become). Add in the raw cacao. Press into a pan (I usually use an oblong Tupperware container). You can also just make them into fudge balls if you'd like. That's easier for taking them in a ziploc bag wherever you go. I like them cut from a pan though. Feels like real fudge that way. Refrigerate. Enjoy!

Other options! -- I've also made these with raw pecans. They don't blend up as well as walnuts, but they are really tasty in combo with the walnuts -- 1/2 and 1/2 or even 2/3 pecans and 1/3 walnuts.  And I've tried it with raw cashews -- less grainy than the pecans, but make sure you soak them for a few hours first.  Walnuts are just amazing because they require no soaking and cream up just fine. PLUS they have omega 3 fats that everyone says are essential for heart health.

Note: You can make it with regular cocoa powder if you can’t find raw cacao (I’ve only seen it in one store). I like the taste of the raw cacao better though (and it’s packed with nutrients you can’t get in cocoa powder). The best price I’ve found for raw cacao is on from a company called Nivea’s Naturals. They sell 2 bags (a pound each) for $25 with free shipping. 

Almost Raw Peanut Butter Fudge

It’s extremely difficult to find raw peanut butter (and expensive -- $24.95 for a small jar only on one website). No stores sell it because I guess all but some jungle peanuts from the Amazon have some fungus in their shell and must be cooked before sold. So I used to make this fudge with raw almond butter. But I ran out once and made it with organic peanut butter instead and it’s MUCH tastier – quite heavenly actually (and less expensive). So when I’m not focusing on 100% raw, I eat this a LOT. It takes the place of all the cookies I used to eat and never makes me gain weight like cookies do.

1 c. soaked dates (pour out the water)

1 c. dates (not soaked)
1 c. peanut butter (I used to use Marantha, but now Costco sells a nice creamy organic peanut butter and I use it instead)
¾ c. raw cacao (I like it very chocolatey!)

Blend the dates first, then the peanut butter. The paste will be a bit thicker than with the walnut mixture in the other fudge recipe. Add in the cacao at the end.

Press dough into a container that seals. Store in the refrigerator. It tastes best cold and set. Sometimes when I want some right away, I’ll put it in the freezer for about ½ hour, eat some, then refrigerate it before it starts to freeze.

The Healing Power of Raw Food

I know I mentioned before that I think everyone needs to find what works best for their own bodies -- it's individual, I'm not trying to preach or convert or anything like that. But I do feel like a little lab rat at times (or is it the white mice who does all that?) because I'm testing what works for my body and if it can help anyone else to share, I'm thrilled to be able to do that.

When I first tried eating a raw food diet, I made a long list of what was ailing me. Some of it minor and just an irritation (eczema, gassy stomach), others life threatening (severe asthma), or somewhat debilitating (crazy, awful hayfever and pelvic floor problems/incontinence). There, I said it with the incontinence. It's no fun to talk about (well, actually, I have been known to tell people when they really want to know why on earth I'd eat an all raw or high raw diet), but all of my child-bearing years brought some stretching and stress to my pelvic floor muscle and I've had problems with it since my last baby was born. The problems were quite severe that first year and a half until I had pelvic floor repair surgery.

The surgery was only done after visiting several doctors (my first few wanted me to have a hysterectomy along with it and I wasn't game for that), reading several books on the topic, going to a Physical Therapist, and trying some pretty crazy contraptions on my own. Surgery helped quite a bit at first, but once my 3 month probation period of not lifting over 10 pounds was up and I got back to normal life, the leakage began again. It's never been as bad as it was before the surgery, but my OBGYN said that there is still some tilting or rotation going on that could be helped with a new method of surgery that they didn't have when I had mine.

When I was in recovery, I shared a room with a woman maybe 15-20 years older than I am. We did a lot of talking in those three days (funny, we never even saw each other's faces behind the curtain for the first two days -- it just didn't occur to us to have someone pull it back :)). But she had a surgery like mine by the same doctors just an hour after mine. We compared notes and she'd actually had the same surgery 10 years prior, but her problems came back. This time they had to secure her sling (that supports the pelvic floor) by drilling holes in her pelvic bones because she had too much scar tissue to work around from her first surgery. Like me, she said over time the leakage problems came back from lifting things.

This gave me a perspective that I could be a woman who gets surgery every decade (or sooner if I went now), which is no walk in the park. It was a pretty awful recovery. I could write a whole post just about the infection I got on my incision, which I'm sure no one wants to hear about. But I just thought after learning about the healing poer of raw food, if I could fix THAT with just my eating, that would be something I could manage myself for the rest of my life. I'm in my early 40's and hope to live like my grandpa well into my 90's or more. If I do, that would mean I could live my current life over again, but would that be fun with incontinence, asthma, allergies, etc. Not at all. In fact, it's really discouraging to battle any of those.

So I gave the raw food way a try. And I was dry within a few days. Whenever I've added in cooked food, I will stay dry if the food is whole -- like making soup from veggies or making my favorite spinach, salsa, & mushroom omelette. But if I eat even a little refined flour or sugar or even dairy, within an hour, I'll be leaking again and will have to wear as many as 6 or 7 pads a day. It's not a pretty picture. There are occasional times (like a recent Progressive Dinner I went to at Christmas time) when I have a huge leakage problem out of nowhere that, embarrassing enough, no pad can handle). I was starting to get to this point again a few weeks ago and once again, I'm dry as a bone. It's just wonderful. It's interesting because just going back to the raw/cooked/whole plan doesn't get me back to being dry again. It is fine for maintenance, but it takes the all raw approach to get my body back to where it should be.

I've shared this with my doctor on a few occasions and I'm not sure if he thinks I'm making it up or not, but he doesn't see why the results would be so drastic and so complete. He did say that if I could manage it with diet, that's a much better option than surgery (and I agree). But he gets this puzzled look on his face when I talk about it. My only explanation is that raw foods are not only packed with nutrients and enzymes for good cellular health, but they are also anti-inflammatory and maybe inflamation plays a part in my problems.

When I first explored raw eating, I saw online that famous people like Demi Moore or Woody Harrelson were raw foodists. I never found any proof of it, but enough people were saying it that I thought it might be true. Just a few weeks ago, I saw a video clip on-line of Woody Harrelson (from a raw food documentary) talking about raw food and his approach seemed to be more like mine. He said that when he or his kids get sick, they eat only raw foods for a few days to help their bodies heal. It didn't sound like he was 100% raw all the time, but I imagine he's High Raw. It's neat to hear that others are managing their own health and are finding the healing benefits too.

My kids are starting to do the same thing -- not always to the degree of all raw foods, but 3 of my kids have cut out dairy (which was my first step several years ago too). My 8 year old daughter is seeing her cheeks clear up (she was getting little bumps on them) and my oldest daughter is hoping to have a better allergy season this year. It's nice to be able to support them by not buying pizza and knowing how to make so many recipes that usually use dairy without it.

So that's it for now -- I just wanted to get that out there that there is hope for any of you dealing with this. I know there are millions. I've seen the commercials. I've seen Poise Pads (which hold more than the other pads, but I refused to buy because first of all, they're outragiously expensive, but secondly, that just signified surrendering in my eyes) and I know there's a growing market for many suffering in silence. I've really tried pretty much and read pretty much everything that's out there for incontinence and eating raw is the only thing that really works.

Wednesday, February 27, 2008

Sending in my Slim in 6 Story

About a year and a half ago, a Video Fitness friend e-mailed me with some information about a contest was having that she thought I might like to enter. It was for anyone who'd lost weight with Slim in 6 (or Slim Series) and the prize was $1000 and a trip to Hollywood to take a class with Debbie or something like that. I guess I looked at the e-mail quickly, but it certainly looked like fun. The Slim in 6 infomercial shows Debbie leading groups in classes and I thought that's what the prize was -- to go take a class with her, meet her, and hopefully tell her how much you've loved her workouts. There had been some news on Video Fitness about Debbie's new workouts and I thought we'd just get to try them out -- know what they were like before they were made or something.

The only hitch was that to enter, you had to video yourself doing 5 minutes of Burn It Up and I didn't have Burn It Up -- it was part of the original Slim in 6 set. I looked for it on the Firm Ya-Ya Swap and e-bay and couldn't find it so I kind of forgot about it for awhile. Somehow I got reminded of it with just a few weeks to go and decided to look for Burn It Up again. I found it on the swap and decided if it came in time, I'd enter.

Meanwhile, I was doing another Slim Training rotation to get my body to where it could handle Debbie's workouts just fine. I'd been sick the whole spring and part of the summer leading up to this with either asthma or allergies to the point of not sleeping well and not being able to keep up with my usual workouts. I was lucky if I could do yoga.

Allergy season had passed, I had a little time and was hoping to get my body strong again. Burn It Up came in the mail right away and I went to work on learning it well. We don't have a digital video camera so it was tricky getting the video made (but not archaic -- I'm not complaining -- it just took some enduring in the process). Actually, the taping of the workout was the easy part. I recorded it once (propped the video camera up on a shelf near the TV), saw that I looked a little bored and recorded it one more time, trying to look a bit more enthusiastic. I probably could have used another time with lots of smiling, once I knew that's how they like it on videos, but I didn't have much time. This was 2 days before the deadline.

Next I had to tape myself talking for 5 minutes about what the Slim Series has done for me. My husband works from home and I have one little one still not in school. So it was tricky finding a spot to do this in private so I didn't feel so silly doing it. And I wanted the background to look good and all that. I would tape it, play it back on TV and find all sorts of problems -- hesitations, ums, looking and sounding depressed, having the camera too far back, too close. I tried several shots in our family room. Then the kids came home from school. I locked myself into my bedroom and tried it many times there. That didn't quite work either. Finally the next day I locked myself in my daughters' bedroom while my son was taking a bath and used their bedspread as a background (since their room didn't have any good backdrops naturally). I decided to smile the whole time I talked so I didn't look depressed like the other ones.

Everything went just fine -- I even got to the point where I had the viewfinder pointing to me so I could see myself talk the whole time and would save time on running up to the TV to see how it looked. Then my little one came running down the stairs (as I could see that I was almost to the 5 minute mark) and sure enough, he came pounding on my door yelling, "Mom! . . . . . Mom!" I kept smiling and filming like I didn't hear it, but figured it would come through to the camera. And it did. It was cute, but a little frustrating. I didn't really have time to film again, so I wrapped him up in his towel, put him on my lap and introduced him to the Beachbody people, explaining who was behind all that knocking and "Mom!" yelling. I was hoping they'd like it.

I also had to send in "before" and "after" pictures which are always embarrassing. I usually don't save bad bigger pictures, but found one that kind of worked. I had my husband take the "afters" and I thought they could look better, but like before, now or never.

I took the whole packet to Kinkos and sent it overnight to Beachbody, hoping it would work out, but not thinking it really would. Beachbody is more of a company that shows their Success Stories in bikinis and I'm not a bikini girl. Never have been, never will. But it was worth a shot.

A week or two went by and I found a better "before"picture. I called Beachbody and asked if I could send it in. They said to send it to the same place as I did before. So I did.

A few weeks later, I got an e-mail from Erika Brule' at Beachbody thanking everyone who entered -- saying they'd had an overwhelming response, etc., etc. I thought, "Oh here's the form letter of 'thanks, but you didn't make it.'" I even forwarded it to a friend, saying, "Guess I didn't get it." It also mentioned that in the next few weeks they'd notify the 4 winners. That sounded odd to me that only 4 won if they were going to take a class. I was thinking it would be more of a group trip like with 20 people.

The very next day I got another e-mail saying "Congratulations! You're in the top 10!" I jumped from the masses to 10 that fast! I was so excited. They still would have to narrow it down to 4, but wanted me to call Anna Eriksson to let her know if I was available within a few weeks of when they thought it would be possibe to shoot. I wasn't sure what that meant, but I called her (outside in the front yard so my kids couldn't interrupt).

The weeks worked out just perfectly before my oldest daughter's ear surgery and just after something else we had going on. I was so happy to be free. Anna kept telling me that they loved how I smiled so much and seemed so happy and energetic amidst having 6 children. She told me that Debbie had just been in her office and thought I had really good form. She started saying something about the 4 people and that she was pretty sure I would be in those 4, but had to go talk to someone to verify and hoped to be contacting me in the next few days to let me know for sure. I was puzzled about the 4 number and asked why so few and she told me that there are 4 new workouts and Debbie always has 2 cast members behind her in her workouts. I said, "Wait, you mean we're actually going to be IN the workouts?" I thought we were just trying them out before the videos were made -- like a sneak preview.

Debbie wanted real, regular people who used her program to be in the workouts this time -- not dancers or professional fitness people. What a blessing for me -- I'm about as real and regular as they get. When Anna kept mentioning Debbie said this or that, it seemed so surreal that someone who was in my family room for so many mornings could actually be talking and walking and seeing me on the TV? Too fun.

The very next day, I got an e-mail from Anna telling me that I was indeed one of the 4 selected. If I thought it was fun to find out I'd made it, it was just the tip of the iceberg because from that point on, it was a complete and total blast.

*to be continued*

Monday, February 25, 2008

My Slim in 6 Story

I actually had to look at my "To Do List" post to see what I should write about tonight. *roll eyes* :) I have so much to get on paper (or screen) that sometimes I just don't know where to begin. But this is a story that I'll definitely enjoy sharing. I don't know if I'll finish it all in one night (especially since it's 4 minutes till 11:00 and I'd planned to be in bed at 11:00). But I'll at least start and do that fun thing from old TV shows "to be continued" (Can you believe we just watched FOUR "I Dream of Jeannie" shows that were "to be continued" -- Jeannie was stuck in a safe that was supposed to go to the moon and it took Major Nelson and Major Healey THAT long to get her out -- so boring because Jeannie is the best part and she was stuck!)

Anyway, let me tell you about Debbie Siebers and Slim in 6. When I had my last baby, I was 38 years old and was not losing the pregnancy weight as quickly as I did with my others (in fact, I was gaining at times). I had a plethora of workouts, much like I do now and was doing great rotations of the toughest ones (many Cathe's) and just wasn't getting results. Yes, I was eating around the clock, but I did try to watch it at times and still wasn't losing. I saw a Slim in 6 commercial and thought, "If they can do it, why can't I?" But did I buy Slim in 6? Nope. I decided to use the great workouts that I had and make up a new and improved rotation and call it "Renee's Great in 8" plan. I even wrote it on my calendar (and one of my friends laughed about it later -- my sweet friends :)). Eight weeks went by and I still didn't lose weight.

Some more time passed and one of my Video Fitness friends (remember the VF website to the right?) wrote to me and told me I should try Debbie's Sieber's new Slim Series. They were really tough low weight/high rep workouts that were giving amazing results. It was more advanced than Slim in 6 (although I did later find out that one of the Slim in 6 workouts -- Burn It Up -- is advanced too). I didn't want to spend the $60 or whatever it was for the set, but it was a pretty good deal with 6 dvds and had a money back guarantee. I decided if I didn't like them or get the results I was hoping for, that I'd send them back and just be out the shipping.
When I got the package, I read the whole booklet that came with the dvds, trying to figure out exactly what they were like and which rotation was the best one for me. I took on the hardest one called Slim Training and began that next Monday. You basically do 5 endurance (low weight/high rep) workouts with some cardio thrown in here there plus a day of stretching (I later added in yoga here) and a day of rest.

I found other women on VF ( who were starting the same time as I was. We all started to come down with colds/sore throats after about 4 days. We could see that it was tougher than we'd thought and we were probably overtraining. So we took that into consideration from that point on (to throw in a lighter day workout if needed like Keep It Up, which is a shorter Slim in 6). I also learned not to do Shape It Up and Firm It Up back to back like recommended in the Slim Training rotation because it was overworking my lower body back to back.

After the second week, my body was strong enough to do all 5 workouts in a week with the stretch day. I was losing inches like I'd never seen before. I measured myself the first day and would measure each Monday morning. It was a good plan because it kept me from eating too much on the weekends. I wasn't as knowledgable about healthy eating then, but I was trying to cut out sugar and not eat flour after the kids came home from school.

Every Monday morning was like Christmas morning to me. I was so excited to measure and see how many inches I'd lost. Sometimes it was 1/2 inch in one area. Often it was a whole inch. And once it was almost 2!

I've been a Slim Series lover and believer ever since. It brought me through a plateau after having 6 kids, approaching my 40s, when I was beginning to wonder if the weight would ever budge. It was wonderful. And Debbie was a joy and a pleasure to work out with. She would make me laugh and make me say "Ugh!!!!!!!" in those final reps. I really enjoyed the whole process.

I did those workouts many times after that initial rotation -- thrown in with other workouts or every once in awhile as the Slim Training rotation again. My favorites are Shape It Up and Tone It Up. I've found that each of those really strengthen the muscles around my knee (I injured my knee after my youngest was born too, so I've been struggling with that since). Debbie's approach to lower body work helps my knee better than any other fitness program and genre (yoga, Pilates, etc.)
So I was anxious to tell anyone wondering if they should try Slim in 6 or the Slim Series to definitely give it a try. Through some small miracle, I got that opportunity!
"to be continued" :)

Friday, February 22, 2008

The Health Food Mom (& Dr. Oz)

I was just something pondering today while making a bunch of raw foods in the kitchen (trying out a blueberry bread recipe of Alissa Cohen's with just sprouted wheat, dates, and berries plus made some pesto for stuffed mushrooms or just with flax crackers). I was also in the middle of making popcorn for my children and some of their friends who came over to play. The youngest friend first said that she didn't want popcorn because they have that at their house all the time. But when I told her ours might taste different since I don't buy microwave popcorn (just use the air popper and some Earth Balance butter), and that she might have fun eating it out of a huge bowl with the other kids instead of a bag, she brightened up and thought that would be great.

So I started wondering if I'm known as "the Health Food Mom" to any other kids. I remember a mom when I was growing up who always had strange concoctions that were made with natural ingredients. If we went to a birthday party for one of her kids, the cake weighed 10x as much as a regular cake and had carob and whole grains (and who knows what else) in it. We'd take a bite, cough a bit, then take another. At church potlucks, her dishes were always filled with whole grains we usually didn't see (or in darker colors) and we weren't sure if we wanted to try it or not. We knew that whatever she made would be a far cry from what we got in our homes. We knew she was the Health Food Mom.

I'm thinking that health food now is a little more approachable than it was 30+ years ago. Obviously, the apple and orange hasn't changed much. But there seems to be much more information and help out there for really tasty dishes and treats that may be different from what most kids get in their homes, but aren't so far across the bridge that the kids don't want to cross.

I juiced up some apples, lemons, cucumbers and greens tonight and my 5 year old son asked about it (we were out of store juice -- they were desperate :)). After taking a closer look, he decided to pass. I told him it was like lemonade and my 11 year old son said, "I'll try it." He had 2 refills! I was excited to see him drink that kale, chard, and parsley and think it was yummy.

My kids have seen the changes in our eating over the years and they seem to be happy about it for the most part. They explain to their friends how what we have is a little different than the average whatever. I even put little signs on food I bring to a church potluck or refreshment table at a school function that say "made with unrefined sugar and flour," "non-dairy," or "no hydrogenated oils -- just blended walnuts." I don't know if that scares people away from even trying it, but it shouldn't. I'm hoping someone who is trying to change how they eat will think "Oh good, this is something I can eat!" One time I brought a quart jar full of that juice I made today for a teacher who was fully pregnant at the parent/teacher conference. She seems health conscious and I thought she might appreciate having that energy boost to her afternoon filled with talking to parents. I think she did like it, but the Resource Specialist who also joined us looked pretty frightened by the whole thing. She kept saying things like, "I know this is meant to be a wonderful gesture -- I can see that you really like it, but I don't think I'd want any." I didn't take any offense to it at all -- she was really nice about it.

In the past 3 or 4 years, I've revamped how I cook for my kids. I buy way more produce than we have room in our refrigerator for, so we fill up big bowls on the counter of whatever is least likely to rot first. I cook with whole grain pasta now, brown rice instead of anything white. Our sugar is darker than before, the maple syrup (this is their biggest complaint) is not as thick, the flour is fresh ground and makes things a bit crunchier. But it's fun to see that they actually like much of it better. They think the crunchier cookies taste better (and they're right!) They eat my wheat bread fresh out of the oven and don't ask why we don't make the white anymore. They used to say "Ooooh, why did you buy 'organic?'" like it was a nasty thing. It didn't take long for them to realize that "organic" was tastier and (if they believe everything I say) healthier.

They do mourn the days of Mrs. Butterworth syrup whenever we make waffles or pancakes. (I have a great all wheat waffle recipe that's light and fluffy -- I'm shocked every time that they turn out so well). Maybe someday they'll appreciate (doesn't every mom say that at some point :)) that I paid probably 10x the amount for the real maple syrup. I just can't feed my kids straight high fructose syrup since I saw the Oprah show with Dr. Mehmet Oz.

I should list his top 5 ingredients to avoid (if they're in the top 5 listed on the label -- I tend to reject the food if they're anywhere in the label). It's a great place to start if you want to shop (and feed) healthier in your home.

  • Top 5 Ingredients to AVOID – Read the labels before buying for yourself or family

    Learning how to read food labels is like looking at a prescription for your health and your life. Dr. Mehmet Oz says to look for red-flag ingredients—if they're listed among the top five ingredients overall, steer clear!
  1. Sugar - When you eat or drink sugar, Dr. Oz says the sudden energy surge your body experiences is followed by an insulin surge that rapidly drops the blood sugar level—so two hours later, you feel famished and tired. To keep an even keel, Dr. Oz says to replace simple carbohydrates with complex ones so the absorption is more controlled and you experience long-term satiety. "Sugar is supposed to be eaten, of course," says Dr. Oz, "but it should come together with fat or some element like fiber—as you would find in fruit—so you can absorb it a bit more slowly."
  2. High fructose corn syrup - Although they taste sweet, Dr. Oz says food products that contain high fructose corn syrup should be avoided. Dr. Oz says the body processes the sugar in high-fructose corn syrup differently than it does old-fashioned cane or beet sugar, which in turn alters your body's natural ability to regulate appetite. "It blocks the ability of a chemical called leptin, which is the way your fat tells your brain it's there," says Dr. Oz. "It's not so much the 150 calories in the soda pop—it's the fact at that same meal you will normally consume an extra hundred calories of food than you would have."
  3. Enriched wheat flour (white flour) - Contrary to what its name suggests, Dr. Oz says enriched flour is actually poor in nutrition because most of the grain's nutrients are destroyed in the refining process. "The reason they enrich it is because they already stripped out anything that was worth a darn in it, and they add a little bit back so it doesn't look so bad," says Dr. Oz. Instead, he says to look for whole grains and whole grain flours. "It has its kernels, it has its B vitamins—all the things you want to be in there," says Dr. Oz.
  4. Saturated fat - Found mainly in animal products, Dr. Oz says to avoid saturated fats that are solid at room temperature, like lard. "You can actually use this kind of material for furniture polish—lots of fun things—but don't put it in you," he says.
  5. Hydrogenated oil - To increase their shelf life, Dr. Oz says certain oils are hydrogenated. This process turns the oil into a solid at room temperature, but it also makes the oil unhealthy. "This stuff is great because it doesn't go bad, but it's very bad for you," says Dr. Oz. Avoid food products that contain hydrogenated oil, often labeled as "trans fats."

Tuesday, February 19, 2008

The Cost of Healthy Eating

It's hard for a lot of people to start buying health foods because it seems so much more expensive. Organic is most always more than conventional food. Natural food seem to total up more quickly than traditional groceries. But it's not always what it seems once you get shopping.

I've learned a few things along the way:

1) Shop the sales. Don't pay full price if you can help it. An example -- If you use almond milk, and see the brand you like on sale, buy a dozen of them. I've found when I buy the sales in bulk, they last until it goes on sale again. I usually walk around the health food store looking for those sale signs and stock up.

2) Keep your eye out at discount stores like Costco or regular grocery stores for organic or natural foods. More people are buying them and the costs are spiraling down. I can actually buy organic bananas for less (79 cents a pound) at Safeway than I can at the Health Food store. Even Target is selling health food (and their prices are great!  And Trader Joe's manufactures much of what they sell, so they are able to keep their prices low, as well!  If you're fortunate enough to have a Farmer's Market or corner fruit stand nearby, take advantage of it.  Not only can you find good prices, but the produce will be much fresher than what you would find in the store.

3) Don't forget the bulk bins! Health food stores most always have bulk bins for things like nuts, seeds, grains, and sugar. I look for the sales stickers on the bulk bins too, but love to fill up those clear bags and put a twistie tie a the top (yeah, it's a bit of a pain to find the pen and write the bin number, but we all live through it). If you haven't tried raw cashews yet, you're missing out. Buy the broken ones (they're cheaper) and you'll discover a whole new delicacy.

4) When you eat healthier, you don't desire as much food. Imagine that: Buying (and EATing) less food, which may cost a bit more to start with, but it ends up being cheaper. This happens for me all the time. I also find that when I buy something cheaper, I buy more, more, more and use it up like crazy. I think twice about making cookies for my kids when the non-dairy butter and evaporated cane juice (sugar) costs more. I used to make cookies a few times a week (tripling the recipe). Now it's more like once a month.

5) When fruit becomes your dessert, you're not spending as much money on junk you used to buy. You also don't eat out as much because you start to doubt how much they value your health when they prepare your food. I prefer food from my house much more than much anything I can find in a restaurant (although it IS nice to be waited on every once in awhile!)

6) An ounce of prevention = saved $$$ at the doctor and pharmacy. When I first started eating raw, I was spending more money on nuts and other things that seemed pretty pricey at first. But I'd look at that extra $5 as my co-pay on a prescription I wasn't needing anymore. Or that extra $20 on not even having to step in the doctor's office for another asthma management check-up. I relished in the opportunity to spend more on feeding my body just what it needed instead of medicating it with something that wasn't quite enough after all that suffering after all. (Not to sound too dramatic with the word "suffering," but if you were my husband, you'd know what I've been through with both allergies and asthma year after year and it would be quite an appropriate word).

7) There's always the big picture down the road too. What kind of future am I building for myself and my children (and my husband) if I'm feeding them low quality, low nutrient-dense food? Will they suffer more, will I be taking care of my husband's ailments, will they be taking care of mine? I'm not saying I can carve out my future completely, but I can certainly do my best to give us the best chance at a healthy life. I sure hope to do that anyway.

Okay, enough of my sales pitch. I just wanted to show anyone who may be shying away from shopping and eating healthier for financial reasons that it doesn't have to cost that much. You can even pick blackberries and pick apples (if you live where I do) and find food in your own back yard without it costing a cent. You can shop the sales or stop buying so much. Drink water and savor what you eat. I know I'm so much happier when I do.

top photo courtesy of Steven Depolo
bulk bin photo courtesy of bcmom
fruit photo courtesy of darylsid

Saturday, February 16, 2008

Eating Dreams

I'm doing it -- somehow I'm doing it! I've just completed day two of eating all raw. I'm keeping a journal of that on my other blog (just posted a link to it on the right), but I just wanted to say that it's wonderful to know that I can stick with something when I really put my mind to it. I can set a goal one night and not turn away from it the next morning.

One indication I've always had with my determination to stick with my eating plan is my sugar nightmares. Long ago before I even knew much about nutrition, but did recognize that I had a sugar addiction and would often set "No Sugar" goals. I knew I was going to do well with it when I'd have a dream that I was eating a big plate of cookies, a giant ice cream cone, and once even a stack of about 20 pancakes dripping with syrup only to realize that I'd made a goal not to eat sugar anymore and Eeeek! I was eating sugar! Then I'd wake up, find it was only a dream, and would sigh with relief that I was still doing well with my plan. This has been going on for at least a decade if you can believe it.

Well, this week I'm not sure if it was because I evaluated my goal-setting dilemnas on this blog or what, but I had the eating dream before I even started my plan. How cool is that? I dreamed that I was eating some homemade bread and several bites into it, realized that I had challenged myself to eat raw for the next 2 weeks. I didn't want to blow it right from the start! I started spitting out the bread, but realized that it was only a dream. So nice. And interesting that I had the dream before it even began. I guess I was really determined.

Thursday, February 14, 2008

What is it with Goal Setting?

It's just about dark and I'm turning my thoughts to tomorrow -- how I want my day to be, what I should do about my eating. I'm somewhat obsessed with eating, if you haven't noticed. I think about it far too much. I've never been bulimic or anorexic, but I definitely have some eating problem because I evaluate it constantly. The best way I've found to relieve my mind of food thoughts is to eat raw food, but I'm never able to keep up with it for good. The nice thing about eating raw is that as long as you're eating raw, you feel good, you're so in tune with what your body needs, that the if and what and when's just don't matter. I compare it to the way a toddler eats. They know when they're hungry. They know when to stop. And they'll eat healthy if that's what's given to them all the time.

Back to goal setting, I was just wondering why it's so much easier to set strong goals on a Sunday for what I'll start that Monday or on New Year's Eve for what I'll do that year or late one night for what will be the next day. Why don't I set a goal at 2:43 p.m. on whatever day and start it one minute later on 2:44? It just doesn't work that way.

And why am I never waking up some morning thinking, "I need to plan my workout" -- I can't do it that morning. I have to think it through at LEAST the night before. I like to know what I'm doing before I go to bed. And I like to plan, plan, PLAN what to do the next day, the next week, the next holiday far in advance.

That doesn't mean that I don't wake up the next morning with a new plan. It's more of a plan un-doing or plan rebellion. Sometimes the gumption is still there. Sometimes it's long gone.

I've had many a morning (and it's usually if I've eaten something sugary the day before -- see, it call comes back to food in my mind :)) where I lie in bed thinking "No, I'm not getting up for that workout." "No, I don't want to do that workout either." It doesn't help that I have over a hundred workouts to roll through my mind. But I can usually knock out a genre in a second. I can think, "No cardio today; No way" when I have my step all set up in the next room, dvd on the shelf, exercise clothes lying on the floor with cardio in mind. It's easy to undo what I've done the night before. Truthfully, though, I do it much more with eating goals than with exercise. I tell myself how I'll eat the next day and don't always follow through.

If, however, I can force myself to comply for 2 or 3 days, I'm on a roll and can do really well. It's just getting those habits (don't know if it's a rebelling habit I'm breaking or a food I'm trying to detox) out of my system, I do pretty well. My actions are more congruent with my goals.

I'm writing all this only because yes, I'm setting some food goals for the latter part of this month. I'm mindful of March and what that means to my allergies. I can't let my health decline like it typically does that time of year, so I have to get some raw eating in my regime for about 2 weeks to cleanse and be ready for what will be blooming and blowing in the air. The only real hurdle I see is when we travel. Maybe I'll high raw/whole food it for those days and return to raw when I get back home. See how complicated it can get? I know there are raw foodists who do fine when they travel and I have in the past, but it takes a LOT of work. So we shall see.

I have another blog that I started about a year ago that's sort of an Eating Log for my raw eating. It was called Raw Food Rambling, (I later switched the name to Renee on Raw Food ) I really didn't want to tell anyone about that blog. I was going to "shut 'er dowwwwwn!" But I think I still need it and maybe it will help me stick with it if I think someone might be reading it. I'm excited to see how I do with it. It's helped me so much in the past. See how positively I think about my goals at night time? :) Let's see what song I'm singing tomorrow morning. TTFN!

Valentines -- Sweet Tradition

Valentine's Day is such a fun one at school. I'm about to leave for the school to bring treats for my daughter's class party. Long ago, I used to bring things like super soft sugar heart cookies all decorated so pretty. But now I sign up for fresh fruit. I'm bringing cut-up apples. The kids always seem to like having something healthy to go along with the sugar fest. For the Halloween party, I usually bring a big bag of apples, fresh from the local apple farm. The kids take turns using the twisty slicer and we throw all the apples into the crock pot with cinnamon & cloves and end up with yummy apple sauce by the end of the school day. Today, I'll just bring apples. They're not even ruby red to mimic a Valentine. Oh well. It's nice to simplify.

I'm not sure if my boys are having parties in their classes too. They're in 6th and 8th grades and don't seem to have as many parties as the younger graders, but since they're boys (Sorry to those who don't like to stereotype, but the boys are different than the girls in our family), they don't really know what's happening with their classes or if they do, they tell me what they need to bring the morning of. They were making Valentine's cards last night though, so there must be some celebrating going on.

The Valentine's Card is such a sweet tradition. There's a simple joy in opening a card with your name on it even if it only has two words written on it -- your name and their's. Even if you know they mass-wrote cards for everyone else in the class too. It still makes kids feel special to know someone gave them a card. I love watching the children open their cards in class. They look across the room at the person who gave it to them and yell out a "thanks." There are many smiles, whether candy is attached to the card or not. Some teachers don't even allow candy or treats to help the kids focus on the tradition of the card exchange (and they know they can control the kids better without all that sugar running through their veins :)).

This morning I volunteered at the annual Valentine's Sale that the school has in the morning, lunch break, and after school each year. The sale is full of donated items from the family and community (from recycled stuffed animals and baked goods to fresh flowers from the local bulb farm that actually supplies Everything is priced low so children can go in and shop for their friends and family. It was sweet to watch the kids think of the person they were shopping for, especially when the dads came in with their children to pick out some flowers. I kept wanting to take home some tulips for myself, but thought I should give others the opportunity to buy them first. Tulips are just stunning. I guess I shouldn't try to waste words on them. A picture won't even be enough. They're best experienced in real life. But I do need a photo for today's post, so this will have to do for my Valentine's Wish to you. Happy Valentine's Day!

Monday, February 11, 2008

My Website List

I thought maybe I should give some more information on the Websites I've listed to the side. I'm not known for giving brief answers or recommendations to anything. If someone asks, "How are you?" I'm apt to tell them. If they complement me on my skirt, I can't just stop it with just a "thank you." I have to tell them what I like about it to or where I found it (with the story behind it). So it makes sense that I wouldn't want to just say "Here are some good websites" without telling you just why I like them so much and how you can get use out of them.

Alissa Cohen's Raw Food Forum: Alissa Cohen is an expert on Raw Food. She has a huge and wonderful book called "Living on Live Food" and a dvd set where she demonstrates many of her recipes for a few friends (while talking about her history with raw food too). She is a proponent of 100% raw eating and has seen tremendous benefits in herself and her friends and clients from going all raw. She has a Forum for discussion and learning about eating raw. It's full of recipes, motivation and support. The only downside to it is they aren't that open to eating any cooked foods, so if you're struggling with either the idea or ability to eat all raw, they won't really want to hear about that approach. But it's still a great website. I've used it quite a bit. I learned how to sprout from Alissa and have gained most of my raw basics from her.

Cathe Friedrich: Cathe has been dubbed the queen of step, but in the past several years, she has spent more of her energy in creating great strength training workout systems. She's currently working on a project (STS or Shock Training System) that is a 12 week program with 3 mesocycles for shocking the muscles for maximum results. She never stops with producting outstanding workouts. Her website includes video clips of her workouts so you can see just what you're getting. She also has a forum for discussions, monthly rotation suggestions, and an area for Cathe to answer your questions. There's also a link for her blog that gives the latest info on her productions.

Collage Video: Collage is a video fitness company that I discovered about 11 years ago in a Fitness Magazine ad. It was a catalog company then that sold hundreds of exercise videos. Many of their videos are not available in stores and they had a information about each that you couldn't get on the back cover if you even could find one of them in the store. They tell you the intensity, complexity, exact time spent on each area (cardio, upper body, stretch, etc.) Their customer service has always been outstanding too. The delivery time is quick and if you weren't satisfied with a workout after trying it, they'll exchange it for another one. They also have Success Stories on the cover and inside that are fun to read about. I've actually been in there twice. Once in the Yoga section after my 4th baby was born. And again after my 5th (I figured it was worth trying to submit again since it was a whole new batch of weight to lose :)). The second time, I made the cover and got double the credit for purchasing ($200) which was really fun. Now they have a really great website with the same info plus video clips and reviews. Check it out.

Deep Discount: This is my favorite website for buying dvds. It was first called Deep Discount DVD and only sold DVDs. Now they've added on CDs, books, audiotapes, video games and a few other things I've never bought (movie posters come to mind). There prices are almost always lower than Costco, Target, or Amazon, and they have free shipping on everything. The delivery is fast. I've ordered from them for several years and have never had a problem. Twice a year (November and maybe May?) they have a 20% off sale on all their dvds. They have several coupon codes and you can order more than once during the sale if you use a different code. I usually find mine on the VF Forum in the section about bargains.

Eat to Live: Dr. Joel Fuhrman is the author of Eat to Live (probably my favorite book on nutrition and eating) and Disease Proof Your Children. You need to read the ETL book to understand my respect for him. It is the most logical, well researched book on nutrition I've seen. He's coming out with a 2 book set in April called Eat Right America that is an approach to help people change their eating habits more gradually than many are able to do with ETL. He also has a newsletter called Healthy Times Newsletter that has well-researched articles on nutrition by him and other doctors. In fact, I think that's how I discovered Dr. Fuhrman. When I was still breastfeeding my youngest son, a friend of mine sent me a huge stack of those newsletters passed along to her from her mom. I read them whenever I could and learned more about nutrition in those minutes set aside than I ever had before. Dr. Fuhrman's forum is not free. He has a Member Center that gives you access to his newsletter and archives on-line as well as an e-book of ETL. It also includes access to his forum, where you can talk to other members and ask him any question you want in the Ask the Doctor section. He answered one of mine within days, so I know it's pretty active.

FIRM Ya-Yas -- This website was started by a bunch of women who used to be on the FIRM (as in The FIRM workout videos) website forum years ago. The FIRM was started by two sisters (Anna and Cynthia Benson) in North Carolina many years ago. They produced videos for women using weights with cardio (which was revolutionary at that time) and were quite successful with their first 6 volumes. I guess I could do a whole post about the FIRM, so I'll save the rest for later. But after making probably 30+ videos, they ran into financial trouble and sold their company to Goodtimes. GT changed the format of their video productions (no more mansion sets, not quite the formality in instructors, not nearly as good of music) and changed how the marketing too. They started charging for their forum, which had a good following. Many, if not most, of the forum members decided to just start their own forum on ezboard.

There were 2 things that the FIRM forum had to offer that Video Fitness didn't. On VF, it's against the rules to ever talk diet. On the FIRM forum, you could. While VF has a great trade exchange, you can't sell or offer to buy any videos from there. On the FIRM Swap, you could. (The only drawback I've found on the Ya-Ya board is that women seem to argue more there. It's not moderated as strictly as VF, which somehow contributes to more fighting, especially in Open Chatter. -- I mainly use the Swap and the Check-ins).

So all the women (maybe a few men) went to ezboard and resumed. They asked for ideas on the name and someone (I think it was my friend Fitdoc) suggested FIRM Ya-Yas since that Ya-Ya Sisterhood movie had just come out. That was the one chosen. The link was always hard for people to remember because the person who started it called it firmbelivers (typo of no "e") instead of firmbelievers (a commonly used word for FIRM video users). Last year, they transfered from ezboard to Yuku and it's a bit different look, but basically the same. And ever since it broke away from the FIRM, it became not as FIRM-ish -- the "firm" name was used more to describe Fit women instead of mainly FIRM video users. Whew! That was a long explanation! :)

Swap-a-DVD: I don't know if you've ever heard of bookswap or, but they were started before this website to help people exchange paperback books or cds. I heard about this dvd swap on VF and just love it. It's easier to use than the VF exchange because you don't have to write and offer a trade to anyone or write up the address or anything. You just list the dvds you have to trade into the computer by bar code. If someone has requested it, you get an e-mail, say you'll mail it within 2 days and are given a print out for the recipient as well as a mailing label. It's that simple. Then you get credits for each dvd received and can choose from what's available on the website (or put in a request on the Wish List and they'll send you an e-mail when it's available). Pretty fun.

Video Fitness: is the most comprehensive site I know of dedicated to fitness videos. The features I use most are the Video Reviews and Reader Forum. The reviews can be accessed from the home page either by instructor or by category. You can also access the New Reviews page from the top of the category page. It has the reviews that have recently been submitted, but have not yet been put into the system. The best way to find those is to use Control-F to find a review you're seeking.

The Reader Forum (or VF Forum) is the place for Video Fitness Members to come and discuss anything fitness related. There are a few restrictions for discussion. You're not allowed to discuss dieting or anything not fitness related (politics/religion/entertainment). You're also not supposed to talk about fitness instructor's bodies, criticizing them, evaluating, etc. This keeps the topics more elevated and less gossipy, demeaning, or argumentative (as many forums can be).

I really love the VF forum. I've been an active VFer (or vidiot as many like to call themselves) for several years. I mostly like to participate in the General Discussion topics, be a part of the Challenges
and Check-ins, find or announce a good bargain on Bargain Watch, or find the Index to DVD Chaptering in the section that is too long for me to ever remember -- it starts with Combinations. :) I also love to frequent the Video Exchange. In the olden days, this used to only be available through an e-mail digest, which I'd read through to see what everyone had to offer every day. Now it's set up just like the forum and I can see from the titles if someone is offering or looking for something I want or have. I've had numerous successful trades on VF. I've also received or given away free items with just a SASE (self addressed stamped envelope). People are really generous and it's fun to find something that you've wanted for free at times.

I've met many friends through VF. I've arranged and attended gatherings in Salt Lake City, Utah and in San Francisco with women I've met on VF. The first time we met for lunch in Salt Lake, there were over a dozen of us and we talked so much that the waiters and waitresses just stood there, yes, waiting for us to stop. We finally realized what was happening and took a break to order. Great fun to find friends who share the same passion for home fitness.

Sunday, February 10, 2008

NonDairy Cooking

I guess I should share how I cook without dairy since I brought it up. Some of it is easy and some takes creativity and experimentation.

The easy part for recipes I already have that take milk or butter is to substitute soy milk or almond milk for milk and non-dairy butter for butter (make sure it's non-hydrogenated while you're at it). For milk, I use vanilla if it's something that may taste good sweetened a bit (like french toast -- really good with vanilla soy, eggs, and a few shakes of cinnamon). If it's something savory or more bland, I just use plain soy or almond milk. You have to be careful with non-dairy butter because even though most of the ingredients look non-dairy, it may contain whey or casein further down the list, which are both components of milk. The ones I use most are Earth Balance and Canoleo. I like Earth Balance the best because it melts well for popcorn and bakes well in cookies, but it's firm when it comes out of the fridge and takes awhile to soften up. Canoleo is a little less expensive and I like to keep some on hand for mornings when we need to butter toast quickly and smoothly.

Cooking gets a little trickier when cheese comes into play. Many Mexican and Italian dishes that usually use cheese aren't that great without it. Pizza is an exception. It's still outstanding with a whole wheat crust, lots of sauce, and plenty of veggies piled up high. I just pass up things like lasagna and raviolis. But any whole grain pasta with great sauce and yummy veggies tastes wonderful. As for Mexican, I don't really enjoy going to Mexican restaurants much anymore. I don't want to order anything w/meat and that leaves many things with cheese. The other day I ordered a tostada with beans, no cheese, salsa, and tons of lettuce. I should have ordered some guacamole too. It was pretty good. What I've found with Mexican food is to increase the salsa (even add some other veggies like mushrooms) and it will make up for the lack of cheese.

The best nondairy cookbooks I've found are actually vegan cookbooks. My favorite is probably the "McDougall Quick & Easy Cookbook." Everything in it can be made in under 10 minutes. It has great recipes that have taught me how to use spices and vegetables to flavor my food. "Vegan Planet" has a ton of recipes that take a little more time. Mollie Katzen's vegetarian cookbooks are great too. She usually has soymilk options for milk and optional cheese. I probably use her "The New Moosewood Cookbook" and "Enchanted Broccoli Forest" the most. She handwrote and illustrated each of those books. It's as much fun to see her artistic style as it is to make her recipes.

I stay away from milk chocolate and look for vegan options. I usually make my own chocolate recipes from scratch -- like brownies or raw fudge. There are some options in the store, like all the Clif bar products, which contain no milk products and are made with unrefined sugar. My favorite Luna Bar is the Nuts over Chocolate (tasted like a rice krispie treat with chocolate on top), my favorite Clif bar is either the Peanut Butter or Chocolate Peanut Crunch. The Clif Builder Bars are great – Target sells the Chocolate and Peanut Butter ones for $1.39 (and they have 20 g. protein – they’re usually 1.95). The absolute best one is the Chocolate Mint, but unless they’re on sale, I don’t buy them. Safeway had them last week 4 for $5. Clif also makes bars for kids called Z Bars that usually come in a box. They sell at Health Food stores and at Target (6 for a little under $4) – The Z Bars are probably the healthiest of all the Clif bars because they’re more of a whole grain bar and not a soy-protein isolate bar like the others, which gives more protein, but is refined in the process. I recently read that the Z Bar is the only cnack that passed the California school nutritional requirements. I try not to buy them that often because they add up and aren't as good for me as whole foods, but they are good for traveling.

There are a few options for vegan chocolate chips -- Tropical Source and Sunspire. The Sunspire ones are easier to find, but are just awful. They don't taste much like chocolate and don't bake well (they sort of crumble). The Tropical Source ones are really yummy and cook just like regular chocolate chips (they are a bit smaller though). So occasionally I still make chocolate chip cookies for my kids, only I use Tropical Source chips, Earth Balance butter, evaporated cane juice (and sometimes Sucanat) for the sugar, and whole wheat flour instead of white flour. It may sound complicated, but feels pretty natural after awhile. My kids actually like my cookies better now than the ones I used to make.

Saturday, February 9, 2008

NonDairy Queen

Mary Engelbreit has those drawings saying "Queen of Quite-a-lot" or "Queen of Everything" and as much as I love Mary Engelbreit, I have never identified with any of that. I'd rather call myself the NonDairy Queen -- never out loud or anything, but I thought if there's a Dairy Queen out there, I'm pretty much the opposite (although technically that might be the Non-Dairy Peasant girl :)). I just don't depend on dairy anymore. Like I mentioned before, I used to question anyone who didn't eat or drink dairy products. It seemed like such a leap to cut out a whole food group like that -- especially one that I'd been brought up on. Remember the slogan, "Milk: It does a body good!" and "Milk has something for EVERYbody." We drank whole milk practically with every meal. I loved "washing down" my dinner, or especially COOKIES with a big cold glass of milk.

Ice cream was another food I couldn't imagine living without. If I eat a High Raw diet now, I think I ate a High Ice Cream diet for many years. I remember, especially, the time I was pregnant with my second daughter. I would buy 2-4 gallons of ice cream a week (and really only my husband and I were eating it). My plan was to have 2 of each flavor so they could be one in front of the over in the freezer (hiding the other like-flavors behind) so if I ate a whole carton in one day, it wouldn't look like I did because the other would end up in its place. Deceitful, I know!

I used to eat the ice cream in a variety of ways each day -- in a bowl, in a cone, with fruit on top, or chocolate syrup on top, as a shake, as a float, in between some cookies or graham crackers. I really loved my ice cream.

Even years later when we had more children, we'd get the kids to bed and would eat ice cream while watching TV. It was such a relaxing way to end the day. You're going to think I'm psycho if I admit to this, but I even remember many times, over a period of years, needing some space from my children, and making a huge bowl of ice cream without them seeing, then locking myself in the bathroom to eat it in peace. One bathroom that comes to mind was so small if you sat down on the only obvious sitting place that bathrooms always have, if either door opened, it would hit me in the knee. But it was a haven. The house we live in now has a huge attic room above the garage, only accessed by a 12 foot ladder. There's a freezer out in the garage that I've kept ice cream in in the past. I remember having a bowl and spoon out there and repeatingly going down the ladder to eat ice cream "in peace" high up above in that storage room.

So giving up ice cream never seemed likely to me. Pizza is a similar love. I think I stated once that I could eat pizza every day and be happy (I said the same thing once about Taco Bell -- ugh!)

But a few years ago when I hit a low with my allergies and asthma, I knew I couldn't go on living like this. I used to cry in the winter when I knew allergy season was just around the corner again. We'd talked about moving for a few years just to get me out of this green place, but that didn't happen (and when I researched to see where the allergy-free place in this country was, it seemed like it didn't exist). I fasted and prayed and tried to figure out how to help my allergies. I got the idea to look into giving up dairy.

I went to the library with the memory of Marilu Henner on a talk show discussing nondairy eating. I found a book of hers and a few others and started reading. I found that dairy products are mucus forming, that they contribute to allergies. I learned a lot of things about dairy that grossed me out, but the thought of pizza and ice cream seemed to cancel that out if I really compared the two.

I bought a few more books of Marilu's (Total Health Makeover being the key one) and even joined her paid forum Bootcamps a few times. I was able to give up dairy for the most part and saw huge improvements. Every once in awhile, I'd cave to just a little pizza or just ice cream this time and would suffer greatly as a result. The sneeze attacks would happen within the hour, many times within 20 minutes.

The longer I go without dairy, the less I care about it. I started out trying to substitute my favorite dairy products with soy or whatever is on the market. I found that if I had too many soy products, I had digestive problems. Now I mainly use soy milk for recipes (pancakes and waffles mostly) and use Blue Diamond original Almond Milk if I eat cereal. I bought soy cheese once and that was enough to make me never want to buy it again -- it's pretty awful stuff (and much of it actually contains casein, which is a milk product). Most soy ice creams have a horrid aftertaste and some of them have refined sugars in them (I don't eat refined sugar or flour anymore either). The only soy ice cream I think is okay (but I rarely buy it) is Soy Delicious. Their chocolate is pretty tasty.

An interesting thing I found after being away from cheese for awhile is that the smell becomes much stronger that I ever noticed before. When someone's cooking lasagna or even when pizza comes out of the oven, it's strong enough to make me want to throw up (sorry for the visual) -- but it isn't a pleasant smell. Nice to know that things can change.
I knew I'd really changed a few years ago when I was at a family pizza night gathering. We were all making our own pizzas and I was putting veggies right on top of my marinara sauce (skipping the cheese). A friend was watching me and said, "I'm so sorry you can't have dairy." He was well-meaning, I'm sure, but it seemed so odd that he would feel sorry for such a joyous healthy discovery in my life. My whole quality of life for 3/4 the months of the year had improved TREMENDOUSLY because I'd found that dairy was contributing to it (for whatever reason -- I'm not sure). I thought this was more of a reason to celebrate than to feel sorry for someone. I told him that I didn't mind at all -- I was glad to know that by cutting out dairy, my allergies weren't near the problem they'd been for so long. I realized afterwards that I'd hit a point of maturity with my eating -- I could take it or leave it with knowledge in hand. Knowledge truly is power.

If you're looking for information on why it's healthier to give up dairy than to eat it, there's a plethora of information on the internet and in books, but my favorite resource is from Steve Ross's book "Happy Yoga." He's the yogi who teaches on the Oxygen Network's show called "Inhale." He's really fun and has great music with his yoga (I have them all recorded onto dvd). But his book is amazingly insightful on many aspects and is pretty convincing with the research given on dairy products. My husband and most of my children still eat dairy, but I only buy organic for them now because I learned what's in the regular. And since my youngest son tested allergic to milk a few years ago, everyone's cut back on how much dairy they consume. I used to buy 8 gallons of milk a week and now it's probably more like 4. I don't buy cheese much because my youngest son misses it too much and it's hard for him to see. We do still buy pizza though. And I'm able to pass it up just fine. I do have my curious moments a few times a year like I wonder if my body will all of the sudden accept it with open arms. But it never does.

Thursday, February 7, 2008

Food Glorious Food

I've been taking pictures the past few days of some of the glorious (and even healthy) food concoctions I love to eat. I plan to share recipes and tips on how to make them work just right. Instead of posting those pictures and recipes now, I'll just post a photo of my all time favorite food (love those pomegranates!)

I want to explain my way of eating (or WOE as some affectionately call it on the internet. I've never been able to find an adequate label for my WOE. I guess I could be called a raw foodist most of the time(eating only uncooked foods in their natural state -- and optimally eating living foods, which means that nuts, seeds, and grains are sprouted to be able to bring their nutrients out of dormancy and create the optimum amount of nutrients). But some raw foodists are so militant about having to be 100% raw or you're not really raw, I haven't adopted that label. I usually only eat 100% raw for a few days at a time. The longest I've gone all raw was 17 days.

Another label that I could fall under is High Raw. That's when you eat at least 75% raw foods. I probably hit that most of the time. (And the given with High Raw is that the remaining cooked foods are whole, unprocessed, healthy as can be). And I could be called a Vegan 90% of the time -- so maybe I'm a High Vegan? :) But I do like to eat brown eggs from time to time. I pack so many vegetables into my favorite egg concoction that it's super yummy and a great way to get more veggies into my day. (Yes, I'll write up that recipe too). And on really rare occasions, I might have some chicken in soup or something, but I don't really enjoy any meat anymore. The longer I'm away from it, the worse it tastes.

My favorite book on eating is "Eat to Live," by Dr. Joel Fuhrman. He advocates a diet of lots of raw fruits and vegetables, cooked veggies, grains, and legumes, and limited amounts of nuts and seeds. He gives the most scientific support for his WOE than any other book I've read. And it's solid. He also wrote a book called "Disease Proof your Children," which I've read most of and am using as I keep morphing the way my kids eat. My oldest and my youngest have a host of allergies (and asthma) so I'm really mindful of what food I buy for them. I don't want to contribute to their problems.

I also like a book written by Victoria Boutenko, who is a well-known raw foodist from Oregon. She's written several books, but I particularly like "Green for Life." After eating only raw foods (along with her husband and two teenagers) for several years (6 or 7), she started having immense cravings and wondered what was wrong. She sought out the most nutritious food and compared every natural food she could think of and the greens came up far ahead of everything else. She had a hard time eating her greens (and she was probably doing better at that than I do -- I really am not a huge salad fan unless I can sweeten it up somehow with mangos or berries). So she observed monkeys who eat greens throughout the day and found that they would often sandwich a banana pr something sweet between some leaves. So she tried blending up some greens with bananas (after trying to eat a whole bunch of greens in one sitting and failing) and was able to drink them just fine. So she went on to start a green smoothie habit in her life and in the lives of others. So this is primarily how I get my greens now too.

More than anything, eating a lot of raw foods has worked for me because it's the only way I can eat and live medication-free during allergy season without symptoms. Otherwise, I'm a miserable mess. And I'm on medication that doesn't help enough and gives me new problems. So it's a huge boost to my health. Eliminating dairy was the first step and wasn't nearly as hard as I thought it would be.

I'll talk about all this later on, I'm sure, but I just wanted to give the basis for where I am and why I'm there before sharing recipes for things you might wonder why I make when I could just go out and buy something similar from the store. I never thought I'd be into natural foods. In fact, I used to make statements about non-dairy people like "How could they ever live without milk?" (or ice cream, or pizza, just insert your favorite dairy product :)) But since allergy season in this lush part of the land where I live is 5 months in the so-called spring and 2 months in the fall, I had to take charge of my health and do something.

Every body is different and I don't ever tell anyone else they should eat like I do, but I would advise everyone to evaluate how they eat and to recognize that what we eat determines our health in a huge way. It's so intriguing to me that most people don't make that connection. "They" seem to think that diseases come and go, health problems are afflictions that fall from the sky, but we know if we put water into the gas tank, the car won't run well. I think it's up to each of us to recognize how our bodies react to foods and when we find that perfect balance, stick with it the best you can. It's not always easy because much of our society eats what many call SAD or the Standard American Diet, which is devoid of nutrients and full of harmful refined foods. I've walked around stores many times, stunned at how little "I can" buy anymore. There's a lot of junk marketed to the masses. But I really can only fit so much food into my basket or into my mouth each day anyway -- and truly, there's a ton of yummy, healthy food that I can eat if I just release myself from old habits. It's the positive approach to eating that helps me forget the old.