Posted in about me, food, know better do better, mindset, motivation, physical health

The journey begins with a single step

When I graduated from college in 1999, I was pretty heavy — over 200 pounds on my 5-foot-4-inch frame.

Near the end of my first year living on my own, I decided that something needed to change, so I made a new rule:

I will eat ice cream no more than once per day.

If this sounds silly to you, it’s because you have no idea my love affair with ice cream. I ate it by the pint. Literally.

There was a great little place called Halo Farms right near college, and they made their own ice cream on site. Sold pints for $1. It was fantastic.

In the dorm, there wasn’t a freezer that would accommodate a pint-sized container (those little fridges have even smaller freezers) and I couldn’t waste it, could I? (Well, eventually I lived in a dorm that had a communal freezer, but I didn’t want someone else to eat my precious Halo!)

Campus dining room: soft serve in place of milk in my morning cereal. The best with Cap’n Crunch.

It doesn’t take a genius to figure out where the Freshman 15 (and Sophomore 15 … and Junior 15 … and Senior 15…) came from. I’m not a drinker—it wasn’t from beer.

When I lived on my own, I would keep a half gallon in the freezer. Ice cream for (or with) breakfast remained on the menu. Ice cream after dinner is what ice cream is for. And sometimes, on days when I wasn’t working, there might be a third (or fourth…) serving in between.

Once a day was no easy feat.

It caused me to be thoughtful and to plan a little. If I knew I was going out for ice cream later with a friend, I couldn’t have ice cream for breakfast. Which brought me to the realization that perhaps I shouldn’t keep it in the freezer.

It worked. In the 14 years since then, I have had ice cream twice in one day very few times, and they have been closer to now than then.

I still don’t buy it to keep at home—that helps the most—though by this point I don’t usually crave it. When I do eat ice cream, I can almost always eat a fairly small amount and be content. (Even if I eat too much now, it’s still substantially less than what used to be a serving.) It was hard for a while to stop at “content” and not at “but this is good so I’m just going to keep eating anyway.” It took time, but it worked. 

And it was worth it. Because ice cream is good, but it doesn’t taste as good as being healthy feels. (Yeah, I know that sounds hokey, but I just don’t feel as good or have as much energy when I eat sugary foods. You don’t realize it until you cut them out. False friends, all of them!)

You know what was harder than limiting consumption? Being OK with dropping the “ice cream lover” label. It was part of who I was. One of my badges. Everyone who knew me at all knew I loved ice cream.

The problem wasn’t even that people didn’t change with me. I just had to let my brain catch up to my habits. Not stand in the way of myself.

I do still enjoy ice cream, but I don’t think it would be in the top five ways friends would describe me at this point. Definitely not in my top five for myself.

So. Pick a thing and go with it. It will be hard, but it will be worth it.

Posted in food, physical health

Healthy, frozen summer treat

There are a lot of recipes circulating that claim to be healthy “treat” food. (If we’d stop using language like that, it would take away some of their power.)

Unfortunately, all of the ones I’ve seen and/or tried are either not actually healthy or not actually tasty. Sure, I can make cookies out of oats and applesauce, but the results are unpalatable.

This recipe, however, is different! It is healthy! And it is delicious! (Unless you hate or are allergic to bananas…)

The Safeway near us occasionally has “overripe” bananas for cheap. At least half of the bananas in the bag are at their peak of ripeness — not crunchy, not mushy. Perfect. But the skins have brown spots on them, so people won’t buy them. (People, you are foolish!)

Your folly is my gain! I get a bunch of ripe bananas cheap.

Some of the bananas are a bit past their prime. And by the next day, maybe two, they’re really not delicious to eat any more.

What do you do with overripe bananas? Well, you can make banana bread, but anything with that much sugar in it isn’t really bread—it’s dessert. And while banana bread is delicious, it’s not how I want to spend my calories.

Peel the bananas, break them into pieces, lay them on a plate or a cookie sheet and put them in the freezer. No need to cut out minor flaws. After a couple of hours, they’ll be frozen, and you can put them in your storage container of choice. (We’re a glass family here, so no plastic bags.)

In buying a watermelon recently, our eyes were bigger than our stomachs. We ate some; the rest we chopped up to eat later.

When later came, we decided to turn it into ice cream. Or a smoothie. Whatever you want to call it.

We put about two frozen bananas and maybe two or three cups of watermelon pieces in the Vitamix, turned it on, and voila! Delicious frozen treat!

Cold, creamy, sweet, perfection!

We did it again a day or two later (these things are a staple in the summer around here), but instead of watermelon, we used peaches. (Organic, please—peaches are on the dirty dozen.)

Actually, we’ve done this one with a variable—with room temperature peaches and with frozen peaches. Frozen peaches win. I was surprised at how different they tasted.

Went to the store, bought two peaches, cut them into chunks, stuck them in the freezer for a couple of hours. (You could also just buy frozen peaches.) Put the peaches and two frozen bananas in the Vitamix. I added a couple of spoonfuls of plain yogurt and a bit of water. With fresh fruit, water isn’t necessary, but if everything in there is frozen, maybe a quarter cup of liquid gets the job done. I would have liked to try almond milk, but we didn’t have any. 

I sometimes will throw in some spinach. If you put in just a handful, it turns the whole thing green, but it doesn’t taste spinach-y. I find that the blender chops frozen spinach more efficiently than fresh. So even when we have fresh, I put it in the freezer. (It freezes really quickly!)

The possibilities and combinations for this are nearly endless. Fruits, vegetables, nuts and nut butters, seeds and seed butters, milks, maybe even a dash of cinnamon or cocoa powder. (Cocoa powder is bitter, so use sparingly.) As long as what you put in it is unsweetened and not highly processed, you should end up with a delicious healthy treat!

You can also take this and pour it into popsicle molds. Yum!

Posted in food, know better do better, mindset, motivation, physical health

Food doesn’t have to be amazing

People eat a lot.

Depending on your schedule, you could eat six or seven (or more) times a day.

Quantities aren’t generally small (or moderate) either.

All of those meals and snacks? They don’t have to be amazing.

Many people eat junk often enough that isn’t all that tasty because it’s handy or “should be” tasty or some emotional drive is instigating the eating but there’s very little tasting going on at all… but then won’t eat a salad because it’s not very tasty.

Same coin: finishing off a cake or a pizza because one doesn’t want to waste food while throwing out produce weekly.

The concern isn’t really about wasting food, and the concern isn’t really about food tasting good.

There’s just resistance.

I’m not entirely sure why. I have thoughts that would explain bits, but I don’t have a full hypothesis in place. (Emotional eating. Brain chemicals. “Good/bad” dichotomy. Lack of exposure in formative years. Less convenience/shelf life.)

But even as a relatively healthy eater all of the time, and a very healthy eater some of the time, if I’m looking in the fridge and the pantry for the fourth time in 20 minutes, I want chips or cookies or a whole brick of cheese, not an apple or a banana or some almonds. Or if I’m really hungry, I rarely am wanting a big salad. (Not never, but close.)

It’s OK to eat mediocre food just because it’s good for your body and you need it for good health.

(We make fun of picky toddlers, but are we really much better? Fewer Goldfish crackers, fewer tantrums … but that’s only because we’re in control of what we get.)

And if you insist that you require food to be amazing every time, then 1-stop eating crap that is less than amazing; and 2-find ways to dress up “obligatory” food. (I had no idea how many flavors could be in such simple dishes until I started eating a vegetarian, plant-based diet. I don’t believe that’s a requirement—it just helped because I had to step significantly outside of what I was used to.)

Posted in food, gifts, know better do better, thoughtfulness

Pretend it’s Thanksgiving

Every winter, there are countless holiday food drives. I’ve donated to some of them. I suspect many of you have as well.

But now is actually the time of year when they need more.

Why?

School is out. (Or it’s getting close.)

Many impoverished kids get two of their daily meals at school. Others get their only two meals at school.

With schools closed, food banks become more necessary to those communities.

I’m not sure if it’s the lack of feel-good or what that has prevented “school’s out” food drives, but I’ve never seen one.

While we’re here and talking about it… I’ve read that donating money to food banks leads to more food availability than donating food itself. The explanation I saw said that because they can buy in bulk or otherwise have cheaper-per-unit powers, giving $1 buys more food than donating a $1 can of something.

There are also issues of fit with the community, of health issues within the community, and of people just plain being jerks and donating expired food.

It’s not an opportunity to clean out your pantry.

So. If you’re a food donating kind of person, take a few bucks to your local food bank and help out your neighborhood youth. They’ll be grateful.

Posted in food, gratitude, mindset, socializing

Trying new foods

When I moved to Arizona 16 years ago, I was a pretty conservative food consumer. I didn’t eat many foreign foods (Americanized or not). Some Polish (see: weird last name heritage), some Italian (see: married to the Pole), Chinese as long as it came in one of those highly-recognizable paper boxes. Tacos.

In grad school, I had friends whose palates were more adventurous than mine. They took me to many types of ethnic* restaurants: Ethiopian, Thai, Korean, Vietnamese, Mexican, Lebanese, Indian, Greek.

My world expanded incredibly in those two years. I distinctly remember the first time I had a piece of avocado, now a delicious and luxurious staple in my diet. (I also remember going back East once, going to a grocery store, and asking an employee if they carried guacamole. “That’s that green stuff?”)

In the years since then, despite my options becoming limited through vegetarianism, I’ve continued to be introduced to new foods (and am more adventurous with what I’ll cook at home as well).

And I’ve paid forward “come with me to this amazing restaurant and I’ll teach you what I know about their menu and food.”

Walking alone into a restaurant serving an entirely unknown cuisine is much more intimidating than going with someone who knows what they’re doing. (Except that I can’t help with the meat dishes.)

I’ve introduced many friends to Ethiopian (Cafe Lalibela), Thai (Thai Basil), and Indian at an assortment of places. We’re lucky to be in a region with so many amazing foods. I’m grateful to have friends who will come with me to places they’ve never been to eat food they’ve never tried.

These foods are so good. Very different if you’re a meat-and-potatoes kind of person. But tasty.

Beyond seemingly endless restaurant options, there are also a few phenomenal Asian markets, a giant Indian market (with a restaurant inside), a huge Middle Eastern market (with counter service inside) and several smaller Middle Eastern/Mediterranean places that are half and half.

And these are only the places I happen to know about within a 10-ish-mile radius of my house.

So glad to have had my world opened by friends. So fun to open others’.

 

*I don’t like describing restaurants serving foreign food—Americanized or not—as “ethnic.” Everything is ethnic. Those places are simply foreign. I used the word ethnic there just to be able to make this footnote.