Holiday Recovery

Its the 28th of November and I can still feel the effects of holiday grazing. Holidays are so rarely one day any more. They are entire weekends. Fourth of July weekend, Thanksgiving weekend... And, like most of us I grew up celebrating every one of them with special foods. Its a tradition I like and am unlikely to dispose of. But choices that I make and the extent to which I indulge are always a work in progress.

Brief summary: Red wine, pizza (night before a food holiday nobody cooks...), eggs, toast, coffee cake, coffee, ham sandwich, baked bree w/ orange fig spread, turkey, stuffing, red wine, mashed potato, sweet potatoes, apples, spinach and goat cheese salad, mince meat pie, ginger bread...leftovers...

The spiral downward usually starts this way. We have a big day, the next we are lethargic and there are leftovers so there is an encore presentation on an only slightly smaller scale and we still have no energy the next day to get chopping and fix ourselves a real meal. So we procrastinate and are "off the wagon" longer and longer.

Every holiday growing up I saw my aunt drink a Pepsi and grab a second piece of cake and say, "My diet starts Monday." And we would all laugh at the line we had heard 100,000 times. But its something we could all relate to. Thinking we'll get back to that diet the next day or the next day. I think there are a few ways I've learned to combat this downward spiral.
1. is to not diet in the first place. If the way I eat is on a continuum there is no starting place to put off. I try to eat well every day. Even on Thanksgiving survey the buffett and choose the most delicious foods that will make you feel good. Same as any other day.
2. is if its your event or you are charged with bringing a dish, make your contribution light and delicious to balance some of the heavier more traditional foods. My contribution to Thanksgiving was the spinach salad with dried cranberries, walnuts, a sprinkling of goat cheese and a very light apple cider vinegrette.
3. is to recognize these days are for celebration and don't beat your self up over a little indulgence. If we concentrate on the meaning of the holiday it is much easier to forgive, sure, but also to not spend as much time at the table or picking off the desert tray.

Giving Thanks for This Meal

Thanksgiving is sometimes downplayed these days. It is glossed over by Christmas decorations already in stores and football and turkey are certainly highlights. Even the parade was mostly cartoon balloons, teen heartthrobs and Rockettes as little Santa helpers.

Thanksgiving is about bringing together people you care about. Being thankful for their place in your life and the things we do have. Right before Christmas we think about all the things we want. But Thanksgiving reminds us what is important that we already have. For some its shelter, some its family and good friends, this season we could be lucky to have a job, and we need to stop and give thanks for those things. That we even have food on our table at all is a blessing and that we have the option to buy and eat it with our famlies. Other famlies around the world are not always blessed in this way and have very different things to be thankful for that we would most certainly take for granted.

I would like to give thanks for my ability to make my own choices. And thanks for my family that, although we have our share of challenges, was healthy enough to be together at my parents for our Thanksgiving meal this year. I can't be thankful enough for these gifts...


All Aboard the Radio Flyer

Its time I got back on the wagon with my writing. Its been a bit and I have a short stack of drafts I will share with you in the next couple weeks, but I wanted to interrupt the regular flow and give what I consider to be a highly significant update.

Testing 1 2

The journey I've been taking for the last few years in being comfortable in my skin underwent a test this month. I'd like to say I passed with flying colors but I can only say I learned a lot. This Halloween I was invited by someone special to me to a party at his friends' home. I was thrilled! I would meet people who were important to him and have a cocktail or two in the meantime. Although the typical adult female costume generally required adding the word "sexy" to just about any normal profession (nurse, pirate, baker, ...) I had perfected a cute 80s look last year and was convinced I would be the most comfy at the party in my purple high-tops.... thrilled!

Small Wrench

Its a themed murder mystery party. I was assigned a persona. Seriously?... I had just become comfortable playing myself. Now Olive Valderblat or whoever was stretching me. The thing I thought about Halloween was that you get to be a cooler, sexier, scarier version of yourself. Olive and I had nothing in common. She was a 60s school teacher. Nerdy, major math wiz and jealous of her moviestar sister (the hostess). And pretty upiddy about it from what I could tell from my character study on photocopied half-sheet.

Stressful. The 60s weren't my decade. I could fake 50s, 70s, 80s... but 60s schoolteacher was something even google had trouble conjuring up images of. Lucky for me this special guy was familiar with the area thrift stores and took me shopping. My heart hasn't beat that hard flipping through hangers since I was a size 18. How could I do this? How could I take this body that I had worked so hard to feel genuine and authentic in and dress it in hideousness? Hideousness that didn't fit, let alone flatter. I tried on a couple and held back tears.

I really need to master this. I need to separate the image in the mirror from who I am. Even after all that work bringing the two together.

I was so quiet. I took the "better" of the two dresses and quickly moved on. Man... I hope this guy is worth this... We matched it to a fabulous pair of red plastic and rhinestone cat-eye glasses and sprung from the store. Lets compare this briefly to what my date was searching for to wear as a moviestar shipwreck, think Gilligan heartthrob. Awesome.

Haunted Halloween

A few busy days later I left my house for work at 5am with a backpack full of hideous hoping for the best. After work I hopped a train to the 'burbs where the ultimate crime would take place. As if it wasn't enough torture, I spent an hour and a half stewing on the wrong train. How I longed for my purple high-tops... A little time to relax on the couch, a quick shower and it was time to transform.

Deep breaths... not too much make-up, center part, exhale... bad dress, red glasses. I was hoping no one would notice my pumps were black instead of blue like the dress. Lots of hoping associated with this event.

We were on our way.. In the car, all my insecurities that I had worked to put behind me rushed forward. Old boyfriends abandoning me at parties, would the girls accept me without my cute clothes, could I be enough of me to play Olive, with everyone playing characters how could I read the signals to direct me?

I overflowed. Through the deep breaths came sobs and I spilled my beans to this new boy. I told him I would have been more comfortable being naked at this party than what I was in. I considered that serious progress from where I had been. But I had no idea how far I apparently had to go. Being comfortable no matter what I was in or looked like. Whew... Exhausted to think I still have work to do.

This wonderful boy slowed my heart beat a bit by assuring me of his interest and connection to me and how really great the glasses were on me.

We walked in the font door and a lense popped out. Come On! Let me catch a Break! But a blessing maybe, since the remaining lense fogged up it was through the empty frame that I could be introduced around the room by my heartthrob. I could be introduced to all the rockstar guys and girls in go-go boots. Yup. All the other girls got to be typical 60s playthings with one appearence by the always stylish Jackie-O .. and then there was me. In my mismatched shoes, drappy polyester and lenseless glasses. The hostess had my back by apologizing for my assignment, but said I really looked great. Thanks dear. It was too much.

I really wish I could say that I straightened my spine, pushed my shoulders back and worked it. Knowing full well that it wasn't a reflection of me and all that mattered was that I knew me and I had a great date who was looking forward to learning more despite my hounds-tooth disaster. It didn't happen that way though.

I broke out in hives from the synthetics, drank too much red wine, too fast and fled to the bathroom. Sometime I will tell you all about this boy, my date, the heartthrob who quickly noticed my absence and came to rescue me. The one that held me, talked to me and ultimately got me out with the promise of a cigarette which I coughed all the way through. But for today the story ends there. Before long the game was over and I was offered a pair of Hudson's and Lulu Lemon to ease my troubled soul. And of course plenty more red wine.

The moral is, I guess, that the journey may never be over or at least when you think you have it covered the universe will offer a twist to move you to the next phase. Regardless of the costume, I'm still inside. As hard as I have worked to match the inside to the out... its really the inside that matters and my body is just the vessel. Not that I will stop dressing up the outside when I can, but its tailored perfection can't carry the importance it had been heaving.

The journey continues....


Cheesy Fries

So I’ve already mentioned that I used to eat things because I couldn’t hear through the static. I couldn’t hear my voice and my body through this wall. Admittedly there are times the static is preferable to the signals.

Let me tell you a little story about Cheesy Fries. Over the last three days I have been a little emotional. Pack a late sister’s birthday, a message from the boy who broke my heart and a perceived comment on my seemingly flailing career into three days and I tend to get that way. And today the cure was going to be cheesy fries. I wanted nothing more than hot melted cheese running over crispy, steaming fries. That was going to make me feel cozy and loved.

My first thought as I put away my logo T and matching hat from my day job was where could I find fries like this. I’ve been eating only high-quality cuisine for so long I didn’t know where to begin. I thought of the basic chains that serve terrible food; TGIFriday topped my list. Trouble is I honestly couldn’t even bring myself to walk into one. I just couldn’t do it.

My second thought was that anyone could dump fries in a fryer and slap cheese on top. My options were endless. So I would go back to my favorite downtown, after-work hangout. Trouble with that? I’d already told the manager about my blog and would be way too embarrassed to make that special request. I blog about healthy living. Shit! Again I just couldn’t do it.

So I spent the next 20 minutes walking around the Loop in Chicago trying to find the perfect place to grab my dirty cure. Oooo Hotel Bar! People there would think I was a tourist and not remember me if they saw me on the street. Well that one was closed for a private party. I so dislike eating in chain restaurants that I decided that was my only choice. The staff wouldn’t know me because I wouldn’t come back and no one I know would bother walking in with all the great local grub around. A ha! Elephant and Castle. They won out. Lucky them after the way I have been talking, eh? I sat at a table near the bar, ordered the house Cab and made my special request with an unapologetic giggle. After all I had put a lot of thought into this. Done.

The steaming pile came out quicker then I could hope for. A sip of my Cab and in I dived. The first fry tasted great! Everything I had dreamed of. I should have stopped there. The rest far missed their mark. They couldn’t possibly have lived up to my expectations. They were going to fix me up. Erase the last few days and put me back to normal. That is quite a load for a plate of potatoes and cheddar to bear. I should have known better. I do know better.

Clearly I have learned one lesson over the years, I didn’t finish my plate. I definitely ate way more than I needed to given their failure to make my day… but I did stop, let my bottom lip droop a little with disappointment and had my server take away the rejects. The Cab, though, may never fail.

Its amazing how much time I wasted, and energy and thought. I could have enjoyed a rejuvenating meal at one my favorite places. The odds are I may relapse again at some point and forget about food's inability to cure my moods. The best I can hope for is that I continue to remember faster then 2/3rds of the way through a plate of Cheesy Fries.

Give and Take

Breakfast: Coffee, Perfect Bagel w/ reduced fat cream cheese and salmon
Lunch: Cheesy Fries
Yoga: One Full Forward Bend

What a day!


Me and Mine

For as many different people as there are in the world, there is an equal number of ways that people view their bodies. That number increases too, when you take into account the changes we go through as we age and grow.

My relationship with my body now is a very loving partnership. It’s grounded in teamwork and equality. It wasn’t always like that for me. At my largest I didn’t feel particularly fat. I wore bigger sizes (my wedding dress was an 18) and I knew it wasn’t healthy…. Hence all the dieting… But ultimately it wasn’t until I saw what I could be; the clothes, the energy, that I really began to be sad and disappointed by my body. I cried in dressing rooms when the clothes I wanted to wear didn’t fit me the way they did other people. It struck me that they could judge who I was by my weight. I remember looking in the mirror after I had lost weight and thinking that I had never put so much thought into that judgment when I was at my biggest. And in some ways that was a blessing.

But I am not one of those that believe ignorance is bliss. Ignorance is just denial. So often we are smart and aware enough to know the truth. We are just fooling ourselves. I may not have needed to feel judged to lose weight, but I did need to feel healthy and H. I told a friend recently that I may not be the smallest I have ever been, but I am the Happiest I have ever been. I haven’t weighed myself in a lot of years but I wear the clothes I want to wear and they feel good. It comes from the confidence and knowledge that I am making great choices to help me live a long and strong life. It makes me feel beautiful.

Honestly during the sad times, I would look in the mirror and say, “At least I have a pretty face”. It sounds a bit sad but it really helped me to concentrate on all those things I had. Not the things I couldn’t do or fit into. Gradually as I saw the beauty in the small things I had… I respected and loved myself more. I wanted to take better care of myself because I deserved it… I had a pretty face and I could say that there were a few people who loved me. And they were important people to me and I loved them too. If they thought I was worth loving.. I was. I was taking better care of myself and starting to feel better. Its amazing how getting regular haircuts and having my nails or lashes done, made me feel pretty. There is no reason we can’t all feel beautiful all the time. Its optimism and it works for me.

Decent Exposure

I mentioned my blog to a friend recently and he shared a story with me. It made me realize that not all of our relationships with our bodies have to do with weight. My friend talked to me about his conservative upbringing. Growing up your body is a very private thing. The sentiment was instilled in most of us, but it made an impression on him so deep that he was only ever naked during sex and in the shower. Nudity made him nervous and uncomfortable to the point that he had never seen himself naked. So he made a New Year’s resolution. He was going to break out of this mold and visit a nudist resort. Leading up to his scheduled appointment he was anxious and edgy. Exploring dozens of questions repeatedly in his mind…. Will they judge me? Will I become aroused? Do I measure up?

The night before the big visit he decided that he should see what everyone else was about to see. He took a picture. That was the first time he’d really looked at himself. The next day was full of anxiety, but once he got up the gumption to disrobe and step on campus, he quickly settled in. Feeling more at ease in this setting than fully clothed in a place with familiar people. His questions about his body were answered. No they would not judge him. No he would not become aroused because it wasn’t about that. And would he measure up was a non-issue. There was no measuring. Now he wishes he had always felt this comfortable in his skin.

You and Yours

This friend has found the connection between him and his body and it has nothing to do with the food he puts in it. On the flip side, there are people who can’t quite connect their body with who they are. Another friend of mine is constantly surprised by her reflection. When she catches herself in the mirror, does not believe that the beauty and emotions she feels on the inside are accurately reflected in her outer appearance. She is at a different point in her journey…
Where are you in yours?

Give and Take

Breakfast: Coffee, Fiber Plus Bar
Lunch: A concoction made by a friend at Protein Bar
Dinner: Grilled Cheese Wrap, Red Wine

Yoga: 20 minutes of energizing stretches

Fiber Plus Bar: Great source of fiber to jump start my day. Even on-the-go breakfast is important to turn on your metabolism.
Lunch Concoction included: Granola – high calorie source of whole grains, high in protein and fiber, Greek yogurt – a non-fat food that has 3 times the protein of regular yogurt, Acai – a Brazilian berry stacked with antioxidants that an infomercial would say “reduces the signs of aging” which really means it blocks the absorption of the toxins our body and systems are exposed to. A very trendy berry right now, Banana – high in potassium, good for eyes and bones
Grilled cheese: Pepper jack cheese – spicy foods raise metabolism, cheese in moderation gives your body calcium, whole wheat wrap - less carbs and less filling then bread.
Red wine – the only alcohol that could even think of claiming health benefits, its similar to coffee in that the research goes back and forth, but essentially the verdict is in moderation is can show benefits for your heart.



A quick note about why any of this matters. About why I care if my body is on my team. Why I care if we communicate well and back each other up.

I eat well to nourish my team. I nourish my team to help us communicate. I communicate clearly so we can move forward. I move forward in order to contribute, to leave the world better than I how I found it. I leave the world better to return the gift God (or whoever put me on this earth) gave me to experience all the amazing things the world offers. I believe in God because it gives me context.

At some point I think we all question why we are here and what we should be doing about it. I think I am here because God put me here.. You may have a different answer when you ask yourself. And as far as what I should be doing about it.. That is always a work in progress.. but I feel like the more centered I am and the more I can feel of the world around me, the closer I am to discovering the answer. When you listen to your body so closely you can feel your heart and you can hear the way it is asking you to go.

Simplified yes, but those are the basics. Giving me purpose is one thing. Keeping it on track is a whole challenge in and of itself. Baby steps….

Thank You

I wanted to take this post to quickly say thank you. I am grateful for the loyal reading of this blog by friends and friends of friends and as of today... even strangers. And slightly amazed at how many of you can find something in my text that strikes a cord with you. To me that shows how so many of us are in this together. How many of us feel against our bodies at times and want to feel better. As you read if you come up with anything you would like to share or have questions about, please email me. (sskvarla@gmail.com) The type of discussion that would follow is infinitely valuable to me. Also feel free to comment on a post.


My Blog Is Late

I said I would post Mondays and here it is Tuesday afternoon. I made a conscience decision last night to go to sleep instead of publishing my post. Turns out the choice was pretty appropriate. I wanted to talk about another thing we need to give our bodies in addition to the healthy fuel and careful, deliberate movement.


Every person needs 6.5 to 7.5 hours of sleep per night. Our bodies use that uninterrupted time so effectively and we don’t even have to participate. That is our reboot time. After we enter the famous REM sleep, after about 90 minutes, we get to work calming all our systems and getting them back in rhythm.

There might be more impact in saying how Not getting that much sleep is detrimental to your team. One of the things your body does during good sleep is secrete a substance that tells your body you are full. Ever wonder why you can go 8-10 hours without eating overnight, but not as long during the day? If your body doesn’t have a chance to release that because you don’t sleep long enough or soundly enough the more likely you are to overeat during the day. Also more likely to be too tired to make good choices for your team that might feel like more work to a tired body.

In the day following a lack of sleep, we are more likely to use sugar and soda containing high-fructose corn syrup to get us through the day. Those block this secretion too and we tend to eat more. Double Whammy!

Perfect Example

I got a total of 8 hours of sleep, evenly split between Saturday and Sunday nights this weekend. It was infinitely harder to give myself the things my body needs on that amount of sleep. I didn’t have the energy to do more than a total of 25 minutes of yoga over the two days and I woke up hungry both Sunday and Monday mornings. Resulting in poor choices in the food department which of course causes a ripple effect of not feeling on top of things. I believe there may have even been a stop at Dunkin for an egg and cheese croissant. Not only that but the pure mental capacity was limited. I had this general feeling of being off center, a little fuzzy and unable to connect the dots that I can on a day centered by sleep and natural fuel.

So last night I decided to end the cycle. Go to bed. Get a good night’s sleep and post a day later. You all got a better post for it. I hate to think what I would have put out there last night.

Sometimes we make “sacrifices” to do well by our team. It’s a strong word to describe the choices we make, but whatever the emphasis on the things we give up, our team needs to come first.

Give and Take

After 2 days of subpar giving, today we are back on the right track.

Breakfast: All Bran Cereal w/ skim milk
Lunch: Market Salad at the Sidebar Grille
Water, Cranberry Juice

Sidebar Grille is one of my favorite after-work cocktail spots in Chicago. Big salad menu which I love. (Order your dressing on the side for more control. True anywhere.) The Market Salad is fantastic. So many great, fresh veggies that may not make their way into your routine otherwise. Including…

Avocado - helps keep cholesterol in check, decreasing the bad kind and increasing the good!
Cucumbers -your body burns more calories digesting them than they contain, “negative calories”
Hearts of palm - great source of protein, iron and calcium
Tomatoes - contain the folate that helps prevent cancer
Fresh greens. Yum!


Food Training

The longer we have been on opposite teams with our bodies the more training we need to get up to speed. Sometimes training takes persistence. When you replace foods that don’t do your team any favors with those that will you might miss the tastes. We have been over-stimulating our buds with excessive amounts of salt and sugar. Usually added to foods that have lost their natural flavors through processing. At first foods might taste bland or just different. Trust and training will open you up to a much wider variety of flavors as you taste each food for what it is, not merely salty or sweet.

When I first started “Fat Flush”ing in 2002, I was used to fairly high sodium foods and sweetened sodas and desserts. (I didn’t necessarily recognize that the foods I was eating were so enhanced until I started eating new, more natural foods. The retraining started with unsweetened cranberry juice. It can be pretty intense both in taste and function so generally it’s diluted with water. To offset the tartness I also stirred in a packet of stevia. It’s a natural sweetener made from the stevia plant. Its pure form is actually sweeter than white sugar. Eventually I stopped adding stevia as well.

It certainly took some getting used to the taste, but the effects made me never want to go back. Cranberries are a natural diuretic meaning eating them cleanses the liver and keeps things moving along the same lines as the ever popular fiber. I dropped a bit of water weight right away, but mostly I Felt thinner. A bit like getting an oil change for your Mazda keeps your gas mileage in check, a clean liver keeps digestion efficient and your weight down. Having those toxins out of my liver makes me less bloated which means even that special time of the month is so much more comfortable. Bonus!

You don’t get the same effect with sweetened cranberry juice (found in all major grocery stores) or dried cranberries due to the sugar content. The sensitivities that most of us have to sugar counteract all the benefits of the cran. Back to basics. Natural is better here. (By the way… you can find the unsweetened cranberry juice at Trader Joe’s and the stevia is now available widely under the brand Truvia. Two cups of juice in a two quart pitcher. Fill it with water and add a packet. Done.)

I started cutting out sugar other places too. Stopped buying cookies and chips that took my taste buds to extremes. I could never leave chocolate behind entirely, but switched to the darkest I could find.

Its at this point when you need to listen to your body and trust its messages. Listen to how it reacts when you consume the healthy fare. At first my body craved the really salty/sweet stuff, but training through those cravings or replacing say… a soda with sparkling water and lemon squeeze got me through. Before long not only did my cravings subside, when I did eat the rich stuff I could feel my body react. Always undesirably. Over time I learned that in order to feel good all the time, I had to avoid that sugar all together and stick with what genuinely felt good. It didn’t happen over night, but I really do love that McD’s fries, Diet Coke and Oreos don’t even sound appealing. My standards for dessert have gone through the roof and only the highest quality darkest chocolate tastes good anymore. And anything less doesn’t satisfy anything, emotional or otherwise.

Replacing Not Depleting

This is not about deprivation! It’s not about cutting out calories just to “train” yourself to eat less. It doesn’t work and there is no health in that. Depletion is not the kind of training your body needs. It just needs to be rebooted so you can enjoy the healthy foods for what they offer. (more on "portion control" another day...)

Give and Take

Breakfast: Coffee, Michigan Ave-alanche (from Protein Bar)
Lunch: All Bran Cereal with Skim milk

Water and cranberry juice all day

Yoga: 90 minutes of lower body stretches, backbends and spine loosening postures

Protein Bar is a great quick-service restaurant in the West Loop in Chicago. Among all the yummy and good-for-you things they offer, their specialty is high-protein blended drinks and bowls. You will hear that I eat at Protein Bar quite a bit. The Michigan Ave-alanche is my favorite of their drinks. It’s loaded with protein and good fats from almonds and granola. Protein is key because it can raise your metabolism by 25% and gets your liver detoxifying. (Sidebar: One reason why eggs help cure a hangover. The protein kicks the liver into gear to get rid of all the toxins we clog it up with while boozing.)

All Bran Cereal is chuck full of fiber which moves everything along and milk does your body good. It’s a natural food with calcium and skim limits my fat intake.

Trust. Train. You’ll see…


Real Food

It’s important to eat real, whole food as often as absolutely possible. We will never be able to know exactly what every food or combination of nutrients does for or against us. Nature works in complex ways. And because none of these nutrients exist in a bubble we can’t definitively test them.

Eggs are a perfect example. Science found the cholesterol in them, we all freaked out labeling them as artery clogging and birthing the egg white omelet and then … lo and behold we found the nutrient it contains to solve that issue. Naturally. It’s not an exact science we need to trust that we were built to work in harmony with the earth we were put on. The more we mess with that intension the greater risk we face of knocking our bodies out of sync. (Since the beginning of the Low-fat “health” craze, health disease statistics have actually risen. .. fyi)

By the same token, Fresh is mostly best. Holds the integrity of the food and everything in it. Frozen, similar concept.

In Defense of Food by Michael Pollan

I have recently finished reading a book that talks to this topic directly. Michael Pollan is a journalist with very distinct opinions about the position of traditional American agriculture and its influence on the way we eat. In Defense of Food speaks to this point of “nutritionism”, which Pollan defines as “the widely shared but unexamined assumption” that “foods are essentially the sum of their nutrient parts.” He is concerned that the more we try to pinpoint each nutrient and chemical in our natural foods and recreate it in our processed foods, the more we miss the point. Pollan seems to believe that the more we mess with nature the unhealthier we actually become.

I think that makes a lot of sense in part because I believe in the context in which I live. The environment that surrounds me and I are deeply intertwined. We were all intended to work together and as we progress through scientific breakthroughs for disease we need to continually take responsibility for our natural part in the equation. We have gotten lazy and tried to take the short cut to health relying on pills and supplements to nourish us.

Pollan speaks briefly to our culture of eating and compares it to others around the world. The French and Italians savor their meals and eat the same foods they have made for centuries. They are a healthier people for it. Somewhere along the lines the majority of Americans have gotten to appreciate food only when rich and glutinous. All along missing the joy in simple flavors brought together in beautiful harmony to form delicious meals.

There are so many factors that surround eating and Pollan touches on them with his personal style of political annoyance et al. The amount of time we spend eating, the effort and money we put into feeding ourselves and our move away from mealtime as family time and how all of this effects the changes in our diet and ultimately our health.

Personal “Nutritionism”

Certainly while I was dropping pounds I read all about which trendy miracle nutrient could make all my dreams come true. Fiber, B12, Omega-3s. All of them are essential and for years we didn’t think about them because we ate food where those things appeared naturally. We think about them so much more now because we have to add them back in our foods. We make meals practically out of thin air (mostly corn and soybeans as Pollan educates.) and so in order to try and meet the needs of our bodies we stick nutrients in things they don’t naturally appear in. Fiber in cereal bars, calcium in oj, omega-3 fats in bread.

I have to say eating those things was a great beginning for me. Jump started my efforts without changing my lifestyle of non-cooking too much. And as I continue my balancing act, I will have a place in my diet for some of those nutrients outside the foods they originated in. We are lucky to that point. We are able to take control of our diets with the knowledge of years of research and intellectual brain power. Always keeping in mind that it is not an exact science.

But now that I have grasp on the important things my body needs I am changing the way I get those things. It really is a lifestyle change to eat so many fruits and vegetables, but its important for my team. They take time to prepare, they cost money and they require a certain bit if creativity at times. But when I am filling up on such a variety of foods, my body and my psyche line up.

Give and Take

Breakfast: 2 eggs, some hashbrowns with Tabasco, rye toast with jam… coffee.
There is nothing too interesting about hashbrowns. Judging by the Norwood’s Café’s motif (including a signed and autographed picture of George W. sitting in the both behind me in late September 2001), I am guessing these used to be frozen, but are essentially real potatoes. I appreciate their lack of flavor. Potatoes don’t have much on their own so I know they haven’t been salted and are very lightly fried. Spicy foods raise your metabolism hence the Tabasco. Again there is plenty of sugar in the jam.. So moderation is key here.

Yoga: 30 minutes concentrating on stretches for comfort during meditation, shoulder stretches and brief spine loosening movements.


On Guard

Our bodies talk to us all the time. We can hear the signals when we listen. I had an uneasy conversation with a friend today. We had some truths we needed to share. The moment he asked if he could be honest with me my body got warm. It started in that spot in my sternum and spread. I definitely felt it there. It was the anticipation and the shield I put up protecting me from the things he might say. Since I felt this guard, I could hear him from a safe place. I was able to receive his words and meaning without absorbing them. I could make choices on what I would take to heart and how I would react.

Afterward I told this story to a friend. She said she recognized the warm feeling, but to her it meant dread. It made her tense and shut down. How was it that two people with the same physiological sensation interpret it so differently? I think it comes down to journeys and choices.

I Choose My Choice

By now I hope I have let you in on the closeness of my body and I. Through the years of dieting woes, sexual development and maturity, we have grown toward one another. And after those experiences, and the listening I’ve done regarding food, it came down to a choice. A choice about healing. About choosing to heal the relationship with myself, my body.

Most everyone can agree we get one life on this earth in human form. One relatively short window of opportunity to enjoy and make the most of this gift of life. Somewhere on my journey, through rants and raves and tears and meditation, I made a choice. I made the choice to view life as an opportunity from a perspective of optimism and find the best way to live in H. It really only takes the question to be asked once and bluntly, “Do you choose H or do you choose misery?” It seems to me like an obvious answer. So I chose H and have dedicated all my decisions thereafter to be in line with that original answer.

So today I chose that feeling to be one of protection. Because that choice allowed me peace and strength. Those feelings are much more useful to me on my quest of H than dread and fearfulness.

Together Forever

After the honest conversation, I felt calm and reflective and proud knowing I had a teammate in my body and we faced it together. That was another choice I made. To see my body as my teammate, on my side. Certainly I could have chosen to resent the signals my body sent. Thinking they were obstacles to the things I wanted. But again I chose. The question was, “Would you prefer to go through life alone and rely only on the whims of other people for support? Or would you like to have something that is with you 100% of the time and is always on your side?” Again, it seemed like a no-brainer. It is nice to know that in the whole world there is at least one thing there for me 100% of the time. All I have to do is love it back and communicate.

Give and Take

Every time I make an entry I will also share what I gave my teammate that day. (Not a journal, I didn’t think anyone would want to know everything little thing I eat every day… But certainly correct me if I’m wrong. I’m more than happy to fill you in.) But if I don’t keep up my end of the bargain with my body, I cannot expect the protection and safety it gave me today.

Upon waking: An apple spread w/ raw almond butter
Lunch: Egg salad sandwich

Yoga: 45 minutes focusing on shoulders, brain balancing, back strength and breathing

Also as I introduce new foods in my log, I will tell you why I eat them and you can decide if you want to feel those effects.

The Foods I Eat:
Apple: Fiber – cleanses and makes me fuller longer, natural sugars give me energy without the crash of processed sugars
Coffee, black: I love the taste of coffee. The jury is out on its health benefits or detriments… Some say cancer fighting, some say liver clogging… I drink 2 cups/day for the taste, comfort factor and the jumpstart. Any more than that and my body voices its distaste. I get jittery and my heart pumps and then a crash. None of which are things I want to be feeling. (Static – keeps me from getting other signals.)
Almond-butter: Nuts provide protein (energy, muscle repair) and fat. We need fat in our diets. Unsaturated is the good kind. AB does not have the high sugar content that regular peanut butter does. Replace it and feel the difference after you eat it.

Eggs: More protein. Also vit A. Don’t skip the yolk… that is where all the good stuff is. And yes there is cholesterol in eggs, but nature made them complete by packing in a nutrient that prevents it from oxidizing in your liver and arteries.
Mayo: Artificial, fatty and not good for you. J but it has a taste I can’t get away from. So moderation. Small amounts.
Garlic: natural metabolism booster
Chives: Tasty! Little bit of Vit A and C, but mostly just tasty.
Sprouted 7- grain Bread: Ooo yikes bread carbs! Chill out. So much of the bloated lethargic feeling you get after eating bread is a reaction most of us have to gluten. Sprouted grains do not contain as much guten and do contain more calcium and iron then processed grains. Also moderation. One slice of this bread provides plenty of substance but won’t stuff you.

And of course, H2O: Lubricates your insides, helps you digest food by helping your liver do its job. Oddly hydrating your body with water also reassures it that it will get more of water. If we don’t continually feed it water, it stores (retains) water and causes bloat. Your body needs to be shown it can depend on you.


First Things First

I have to feel my body in order to feel that spot. I have to connect the line of communication and clear away the static. As we all have heard, good communication comes from honesty and trust. We have to be on the same team with our bodies.

During my first semester in college (12.5 years ago), I didn’t know anything about the cause and effect relationship with my body. I was missing friends from home, had a pregnant roommate and generally didn’t know what to make of this new life I was supposed to be building. Eating filled some void it seemed and I built up a lot of static. (50 lbs worth in the first semester and another 20 over the next three years of dieting). I didn’t realize that although it tasted pretty good for the 35 seconds in my mouth, that cafeteria burrito or soft-serve ice cream and non-fat double grande mocha, left lasting negative effects on my H. They didn’t solve my problems. Honestly though.. how could I know? The only message I could hear was actually from my jeans… saying “damn girl… can we get a little breathing room here?” And lets be clear that my jeans had I have Never been on the same team, so if couldn’t hear anything from my body why would I listen to those guys?

Weight watchers, the Zone, Non-fat, Atkins, Metabolife, Fat Flush…I tried all of these to lose weight. But since I was only half-ass listening to a few pairs of jeans, I wasn’t motivated. It was an outside source.

The Diets

Now Weight Watchers may have changed over the years, but there were a few reasons it didn’t work for me.
1. It was based on meetings. So I felt like if I couldn’t attend a meeting I wasn’t going to be held responsible. They say groups hold you to your word… unless you can avoid the groups.
2. It didn’t teach me the right things. As long as I kept my points within the target range I was ok. So although I could eat all the veggies I wanted, I opted to eat less, but higher point value food. Also cafeterias didn’t exactly post point values.
So I ate crap on Weight Watchers. It worked for a few lbs at first but then I learned the game and blamed the program for my failings. Drop out.

The Zone was decent. The concept of keeping carbs, protein and fat in balance worked wonders for a family friend so I thought I’d try it. Really great theory if you can prepare your own foods. But I didn’t have time to read the book front to back and again the school café didn’t show nutrition facts.

Atkins and Non-fat were uncomfortable. If I remove anything from my diet in total I will end up craving it. Then I’d fulfill the craving with binging and we would be right back to square one. Also Atkins died of cardiac arrest. Maybe coincidence, maybe not.

After graduation came Metabolife. I was married at the time to an Army officer. He thought since he worked out every day he could eat whatever he wanted. And guess who was the good wife who made it for him and therefore ate it herself….? Ephedrine was all the rage on posts across the country. No need to learn to eat just pop a pill to up your results. I took it about two weeks. I was often sick to my stomach, my heart raced and I was wide awake all night. I couldn’t handle it. Within a year, pro athletes and army cadets were dropping dead of heart attacks during workouts. All were using Ephedrine.

Last diet I was ever on… Drum roll…. The Fat Flush Diet. This is by far the closest to how I eat now. It taught me which foods make my body work better and which inhibit the processes. Ultimately it required too many specialty supplements, but it is an excellent resource and I still use recipes and concepts from its pages.

All fell short. They would piss me off and I would run to that non-fat Mocha to make it better. More Static.

An Epiphany

I was 24 and had fairly recently given up on the Fat Flush. I heard somewhere that women are more susceptible to bone loss and we should get our calcium from food and dairy products. It does more good and more is absorbed than if you get it from a supplement. So I started drinking a glass of milk before bed every night. Oh my gosh! I got some serious signals. I was bloated and I couldn’t lay down, every angle made my stomach hurt and spending time in the bathroom didn’t make it any better. Turns out I was not digesting dairy. I was lactose intolerant.

As I looked back then on years of drinking milk and dairy products, I had these similar symptoms. After a bowl of cereal in the morning it was a long ride to high school. Cheese pizza (for lots of reasons) made me lethargic and bloated. I just figured it was standard.

NEWS FLASH: Our bodies are designed to take what they need and fight the rest. No ache or pain is standard.

I was overloading my system with cheese, milk, ice cream, cream of mushroom soup, yogurt. I thought it was dairy so it was good for me. Its true though… we have all heard it… too much of a good thing, can be harmful. It was creating static and I couldn’t hear what my body was telling me.

So I started cutting down, no ice cream, only soy milk. Cheese was only on pizza, which I loved so much, but since I was cutting down on the static, I heard my body every time I had it. Sonja, for real, enough with this. And generally I would tell it to go to hell, its yummy.

But now that I could hear my body… It opened up a whole new world. I began listening harder for what it would tell me after I ate other things. Bread, Candy, Soda, Beer; all those things.

Once I heard the communication regarding food I began to hear other things it was telling me. I felt things in my gut, that sternum gut, my heart center. My emotions and desires became clearer and my unH was obvious. I’ll spare us the details today, but I was shortly thereafter divorced. The static began to clear away more quickly. In the short term people used to ask me how I lost all that weight and my answer, fair or not, was “I got divorced.” There was truth in it, of course, but really now I know it was the communication of my team. Recognizing what was good for us and what wasn’t.

Amazingly I didn’t turn to Oreos anymore to help get through the rough days of a divorce. I heard the way they made me really feel and found more peaceful outlets.

Open the line of communication with your body. Start listening and paying attention to how it feels when you eat something. Any thing. After a good solid meal of fresh veggies and lean meat, it will talk to you then too. And the tenor will be different.

I made choices as to what I prefer: the feelings and the sounds my body was bouncing back to me. I prefer a full and clean feeling. I am satisfied without feeling bigger. The sounds aren’t hollow and deprived; they are rich, full tones of health.



I always thought blogging was a demonstration of self-importance. Assuming what you had for lunch or how many steps your pookie took this hour was something we couldn’t live without knowing.

I’m learning, though, there very well could be things that people are writing that are worth reading. There are car blogs, cooking blogs, shopping blogs, and daddy blogs. All offering “you’re not alone” assurance, a little perspective and perhaps a few helpful hints. To a Midwest woman who never felt a sense of relevance from birth, even after being reassured that you have knowledge and perspective interesting to other people, it seems pretty self-serving.

Ultimately I want to share the sense of grounding and happiness I feel. After several “growth experiences” earlier in my life, I have really been able to center myself, find myself and it started when I learned to eat well. I am sharing this now because I would love other people to experience those same feelings. Family and friends hear these thoughts on a regular basis and now this may extend my reach. I’m not a writer or an author as other bloggers started out. I am a woman who realizes there is no holy grail. I will not wake up one day and not have to think about what I’m eating, how I’m going to move my body and keep myself balanced. It’s an ongoing challenge. So my goal here is to share with you how I’ve come this far and the way it works for me.. in hopes that you will find a nugget or two that work for you.

Happiness (not just a song by Charlie Brown and the Gang)

We all have excuses why happiness is a goal and not our current state-of-mind. Today it’s the weather; muggy and sweaty. Tomorrow it’s the weather; pouring down rain. So no real happiness there. Happiness is bunnies and rainbows and sailboats and clean, smiling babies. Well, you need storms to makes rainbows, wind for a good sail and sweaty passion to make bunnies and babies. Happiness is a way of living my life. Giving my body what it needs in order for me to concentrate on being me. So I can offer everything to the things I am… I am a daughter, a sister, soon to be an aunt, a friend, a woman, a connector, a professional, a student, a Chicagoan, a mentor. Keeping my life in balance allows me to perform these roles with consistency, understanding and patience. Keeping it uncluttered and peaceful leaves space for love and friendship. Helping to create pure, organic peace in the world and more importantly…let’s be truthful, my life.

Maybe you are an artist, a performer, a mother, a patient, a doctor, an uncle, a girlfriend, a lawyer, an exectutive assistant… I really do want you to enjoy every bit of each role you fill without feeling overwhelmed. Give gifts of health and peace to yourself and you will be able to give back to a fulfilling capacity.

I have been very careful about using the word Happiness too much. Have really been tired of writing it actually. It is an unfortunate thing, but somehow using a word over and over seems to devalue it. Desensitizes us to its power. We can get bored of it and begin to over-analyze it or tune it out completely.

Change for instance. It has often carried a connotation of opportunity, hope and maybe a bit of scariness and uncertainty. All emotions evoked by the use of it. Now after hearing it repeatedly during the Obama campaign it is more often passed over without pause. The words hope and love may have lost some of their luster. Our culture has even started to cycle through expletives and exclamations because the one before loses its emphasis. Cool, awesome, wicked, stoked. We have to come up with something new.

So I don’t want to over use the word Happiness. It has already been used to the point that we no longer value its meaning the same way we used to. I would love for it to really mean something to you and have a place in your vocabulary and your life. Let’s use “H”.
(For Lyrics to the Peanuts Song go to

The Gut

As a baby I certainly don’t remember being H, but most of us have probably gotten tastes of it. We recognized it as a break from the sad, fat and low feelings we were consumed by in adolescence. As a result of identifying the difference between down and up, I have become somewhat obsessed with being H. The kind of H that comes from the gut. Not belly- gut, sternum gut. The center and most dense part of your body, (it’s a numbered Chakra, the heart center, for you yogis.) The more you pay attention to your body you will feel the spot I mean. All the pure feelings and sense of being come from there. All of them… Anger, hurt, love, and H. They can all be felt in their purest form at the sternum. You’ll see…