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By Lara

Yes, I’m living in Portland now and so it seems only appropriate that I pass along things from sites among the likes of treehugger.com. But this was just too disturbing (although at the same time, not surprising).

“McDonald’s Happy Meals Evidently Invincible”

Apparently, this woman did a yearlong experiment to see if her McDonald’s Happy Meal would decompose. It immediately reminded me of those Peeps experiments.

It’s still amazing to me that we don’t demand more of our food growers and restaurants. And even more surprising that we feed all this crap to our children…artificial food with no nutritional value and full of preservatives, food coloring and sugar. Then we wonder why they act out and cannot focus in school. The answer to me is pretty simple: I believe most kids are malnourished. They lack quality food and quality nourishment.

I believe the answer is just as simple: take that $4 from a Happy Meal and go buy some fresh produce, fruit, and lean protein. I think it’s time to start celebrating eating REAL food again. Food that we purchase, wash (with veggie wash of course), prepare and cook.

Make it a family event, if it’s only once or twice a week. Get your kids involved in picking out recipes, making the grocery lists and teach them about budgeting and shopping. Not only will they learn great lessons, they will learn the simple joys that can come from cooking.

Here’s an easy-to-make Banana Bread recipe to start. (I know the sour cream thing freaked me out too, but trust me this is the moistest, most delicious bread I’ve ever made!)

Sour Cream Banana Bread

Source: Chow.com

INGREDIENTS

  • 2 cups all-purpose flour, plus extra for dusting
  • 2 teaspoons baking powder
  • 1 1/4 teaspoons kosher salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • 1 cup granulated sugar
  • 2 large eggs, at room temperature
  • 1/3 cup vegetable oil
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 4 very ripe medium bananas, mashed (about 1 1/4 cups)
  • 1/2 cup sour cream

INSTRUCTIONS

  1. Heat the oven to 350°F and arrange a rack in the middle. Coat a 9-by-5-inch loaf pan with butter and dust it with flour, tapping out the excess. Whisk together 2 cups flour, baking powder, salt, baking soda, and cinnamon in a large bowl to aerate and break up any lumps. Set aside.
  2. Place sugar, eggs, oil, and vanilla in the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with a paddle attachment and beat on medium speed until thoroughly combined, about 2 minutes. Add bananas and sour cream and mix until just combined. Scrape down the sides of the bowl, add flour mixture, and mix until just combined.
  3. Turn batter into the prepared loaf pan and bake until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean, the top is golden brown, and the bread is pulling away from the sides of the pan, about 1 hour.
  4. Transfer to a wire rack to cool for 10 minutes. Slide a knife around the perimeter of the pan, invert to release the bread, and cool completely on the wire rack before serving.

The Nameless Journey regularly features “Reader’s Write,” a forum for our readers to discuss a topic or issue meaningful to them. If you would like to write for an upcoming blog, please drop us an e-mail at: share@thenamelessjourney.com.

By Jan Zuehlke, Ph.D.

Change—a five-letter word with a four-letter feeling. It is the nature of human beings to resist change. In fact the minute we are born we start crying about changing from our mother’s womb out into a big, sometimes cold, world. As we go through the various stages of life, we have to endure many changes along the way if we are to survive and thrive.  Some of us are risk takers and love change, while others need to reflect and process the repercussions of change.

In the simplest terms, change means to become different. What a simple definition for a process that is so difficult for some of us to do. It is not human nature to become different without a struggle because to become different requires us to look at ourselves objectively. I have always resonated with the ideas that the only people who like change are wet babies, and people change in their own way and on their own day.

What we know is that when change occurs in any organization, family, or institution, everyone goes back to zero—and everyone in the organization, family or institution has to travel through the stages of change to become productive again.

The first of these stages is called, “Forming,” or better put the “I can’t believe this is happening to me” stage. This is often where we resist change the most, and as a result feel the most pain. In the next stage, “Storming” people act from their discomfort and become difficult, often creating disagreements with others. What we need to remember here is that it is okay to agree to disagree, especially in the midst of change.

The third stage, “Norming” is often the longest and most difficult stage because this is where decisions are made and confrontation skills are necessary. Also, this is when consensus takes place. The fourth and final stage is “Performing,” which could be called the “I’d rather fight than switch” stage. Yet, this final stage is where it all clicks, the change can be integrated and everyone is working and pulling the load together.

So when faced with change or difficult decisions in life remember, “you can’t mandate what matters” to someone else. Each of us works through change in a unique way, and no matter how much we may resist it, change is inevitable. That’s why we must always remember to view change as a continual journey—not a destination.

With more than four decades of experience in educational instruction and leadership, Jan Zuehlke, Ph.D. is a Total Wellness coach and speaker. She resides in Willis, Texas and can be reached at: jan@tools2change.net.

By Lara

1. Diets create confusion.

Make no mistake: there are some excellent programs with sound nutritional strategies and muscle-sculpting workout routines that are helping people get great results. Over the years, you’ve probably tried many of these—and as long as you were diligent, followed the program to a T, and whipped your body into submission, you probably got results, right? What about after you stopped following the program and tried to go back to a “normal” way of eating, moving, and living? According to Marc David, founder of the Institute for the Psychology of Eating, while diets may work short term, 96-98% of Americans’ diets fail at producing long-term weight loss. Sadly, many people have dieted for so long they have no clue as to their body’s “natural” way of eating.

How to create clarity: Slow down! Eating quickly creates internal stress, which in turn affects your body’s natural ability to assimilate, digest, and metabolize food. We’re hard wired to fight or flight, so in the face of stress, blood moves away from our bellies to our arms and legs to get us out of harm’s way. Before each meal, take a few deep breaths, put both feet on the floor, and eliminate external distractions (like the TV, steering wheel, and newspaper). Take breaths between each bite, and play a game to be the last one to finish.  By slowing down, you enhance your body’s natural ability to metabolize and assimilate the nutrients from your food. Plus, in this relaxation state, slowing down signals to the brain that you really are eating, so chances are, you’ll eat less.

2. Diets create illusion.

So often, we go on diets and begin hard-core workout programs falsely believing that once we shed that 10 pounds and wear those skinny jeans again all of our problems are solved. It’s the type of thinking that tells us that we have to wait until we lose weight to be OK—to be pretty enough, attractive enough, or sexy enough. In essence, we come to believe that we can’t authentically express and live our lives until we are “fixed.” Therefore, we put an enormous amount of pressure on ourselves to be “perfect” to execute this “perfect” diet and “perfect” workout plan to yield us the “perfect” body—creating the illusion that once we are “fixed” through our diet, we are then whole and free to live.

How to create clarity: When you feel the urge to go on a diet (or maybe you’re on one now), stop and ask yourself what you really most want from this diet. Is there some area in your life you feel out of control? How will going on a diet or starting a new workout plan help you feel in control? Beyond the skinny jeans or swimsuit, what is it that you are really trying to “fix”? The feeling of not being enough? The freedom to express your sexuality? The voice to speak with authority and truly be heard? When you let go of trying to “fix” yourself and focus instead on healing whatever is stopping you from truly living, your body will release any unhealthy FAT (feelings, actions, or thoughts) naturally.

3. Diets are not pleasurable.

Whether you’re eating meat and cheese to avoid carbs or eating fruits, vegetables, and lean protein all day to avoid fat, most quick-fix diets lack a balanced approach. While there is a pearl of wisdom and value in every diet and exercise plan out there, most have us denying ourselves some food group or behavior. Instead of taking great pleasure in a rich array of foods, and moving our bodies because they desire to move, when we’re on a diet, it’s often about a means to an end. We endure the pain of boring, fun-free food and gut-busting workouts that pummel our bodies so that one-day in the future when we step on the scale we can enjoy pleasure. That is unless we “cheat” by binging on handfuls of those Girl Scout cookies. And if you’ve ever done this—and you take away nothing else from this post—then please take this: you don’t have a willpower problem. Here’s why…

How to create clarity: We are physiologically wired to be pleasure seekers and pain avoiders. And when we are denied food or pleasure for too long, our brains produce a chemical—neuropeptide Y—that increases our appetite and demands pleasure. So when we continuously deny ourselves the pleasure of high-quality, natural food (versus that fake, fat-free stuff) or we restrict our caloric or fat intake over time, our bodies revolt by producing higher levels of neuropeptide Y. The key is to allow yourself a healthy, moderate level of fat and sweets in the diet—just make them as high of quality as you can and eat them in a relaxed, slow state. In other words, enjoy!

By Lara

This week Foodie Friday takes on a bit different taste. Instead of delivering a handpicked recipe to tease your palate, I feel compelled to deliver a dose of contemplation for your brain.

I’ve never professed to be a real ‘foodie’ (at least not in the Food Network sense). Growing up in a town of 3,000 people in central Texas, our idea of gourmet was adding garlic salt to butter bread (to compliment our Hamburger Helper) and eating it in the formal dining room. Some years after college, I began taking more of an interest in food. Not necessarily in which recipe would deliver the most pleasing array of spices.

Rather, I was interested in the behind-the-scenes issues. My journalist’s curiosity led me to wondering what was in that hamburger? Where did that chicken come from? What’s really in Dorito’s (or do I even want to know)? And how much pesticide was really used on that head of lettuce?

Lee feeding my brother's chickens.

And more importantly, I questioned, what is the real cost of all this food to me long term? Sure, I may pay only 99 cents for pack of Mac ‘n Cheese now or a $1 for that Junior Whopper, but what is the real cost to me down the road? To my health? To my body? To my energy levels? To insurance? To society?

Curious, I’d read anything I could get my hands on related to food quality (with the book “Fast Food Nation” being one of the most insightful, yet disturbing reads). Of course the more I knew, the less I could shop anywhere but farmer’s markets and natural grocery stores to buy organic food.

At one point, I was spending a ridiculous amount of money on all this food, and it did make me feel great. I was eating healthier, and beyond that, I was eating with a conscious focus on quality. I was consciously choosing how to allocate my money and felt better about my decisions.

Yet, as my finances shifted along with the economy the past few years, I wound up back in massive chain stores buying whatever my dollar could get me the most of. No, I still didn’t revert to eating Ramen Noodles like in college, but my steadfast rules had softened about quality and health.

Recently, however, as I’ve begun peeling back the layers of my belief system around food, I have returned to conscious eating. I have realized that my health and my body don’t come with a price tag. If I can spend $7 on a margarita, then I can certainly spend $7 on some organic vegetables.

So with that, I’m now back to navigating the aisles of the natural markets, and while my checkbook may feel a bit more weight, my brain and body do not. I am eating better quality and feel better about what I’m eating. And by being really present to my food, allowing myself to really taste and enjoy all the flavors, textures, and colors, I am eating less.

The other night, Lee and I watched the movie Food, Inc., and it was a disturbing reminder of why I began this journey of questioning my food years ago.  Some of the scenes in this documentary (which is up for an Oscar) left me teary eyed—from images of chickens whose legs and internal organs were damaged because of the growth hormones they were shot up with to stories of families suffering from disease and even the loss of their two-year-old child (he was poisoned with E.coli from a fast food hamburger).

This weekend, instead of simply picking a few recipes to prepare for your family, I invite to you to take a deeper look at what you’re really feeding them.

Happy Friday…here’s to your health!

(Click on the link to watch the Food, Inc. trailer on YouTube.)