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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.
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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.)

Note: 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 Sharkisha Martinez

Some people are like leaves on a tree. When the wind blows, they’re over there… when it blows that way, they’re over here… they’re unstable. When the seasons change they wither and die, they’re gone. That’s alright. Most people are like that, they’re not there to do anything but take from the tree and give shade every now and then. That’s all they can do. But don’t get mad at people like that, that’s who they are. That’s all they were put on this earth to be. A leaf. Some people are like a branch on that tree. You have to be careful with those branches too, cause they’ll fool you. They’ll make you think they’re a good friend, and they’re real strong, but the minute you step out there on them, they’ll break and leave you high and dry. But if you find 2 or 3 people in your life that’s like the roots at the bottom of that tree you are blessed. Those are the kind of people that aren’t going nowhere. They aren’t worried about being seen, nobody has to know that they know you, they don’t have to know what they’re doing for you, but if those roots weren’t there, that tree couldn’t live. A tree could have a hundred million branches, but it only takes a few roots down at the bottom to make sure that tree gets everything it needs. When you get some roots, hold on to them but the rest of it… just let it go. Let folks go.” ~Tyer Perry

There is this show on A&E that I’ve become quite addicted to called “Hoarders.” It’s about people who compulsively hoard everything—things that most people don’t have a problem tossing out like clothing that is way too small or a burrito wrapper from Moe’s. They hoard and hoard until it is threatening their health, and their homes sometimes cave under the pressure from their hoarding to the point that it begins to deteriorate.

Watching this show, it’s easy to question how can people do this? How can they cope with this constant visual chaos? It’s fascinating yet a bit repulsive. It make wonder if these people must have a defect, an illness of some sort to that living like this is so okay with them that they don’t even see it as a problem? But in watching this show, I realized something interesting: I have my own version of hoarding. Although my version is not as easy to see because it’s much more common than anyone cares to admit.

I hoard people.

I call them my “friends” and cherish them above everything else. But what I realize is that they are not all my friends. Many of these relationships have become so destructive and emotionally toxic that it’s become unhealthy to hold on to them. Isn’t it crazy how watching a show about compulsive disorders reflected the chaos going on in my life?

I couldn’t help but question myself as to why it was I kept these toxic people in my life? Is it because I believe they will change? Or do I think they need me? Or am I afraid I will someday need them?

I guess my biggest fear is abandonment. The idea of being completely alone with no one to call terrifies me. It’s a solitary existence that I don’t want to think about. And I am still trying to get to the root of that. Why is the idea of being alone so terrifying for me? But the truth is once I was able to acknowledge that I have this problem, I understood that I need to let some of these friends go in the same way the hoarders on TV need to let go of their possessions. In this realization, I could already feel myself feeling lighter, better.

So I quietly began my process. I didn’t make a big production out of it. I just narrowed down my contacts. I changed my phone number, which was the most effective way of doing things. Skimming through my contact list, I deleted those “friends” whose sole basis for being in contact with me was (and I’d already known this) was to remind me how much better than me they thought they were—while taking whatever they could out of me. I also decided to stay away from all those places that evoked bad memories so as not to expose myself to that kind of environment anymore.

I admit, however, that writing about letting go is a lot easier than actually doing it. I feel a lot of guilt sometimes over my decision. Am I wrong for doing this? What if one of the people I let go really does need me? What if I really hurt someone’s feelings? What if they become angry at me? What if I run into them somewhere?

But ultimately, I knew I had to stand by my decision and focus on me for a change. As my best friend, Beth, once told me, it’s okay to be selfish sometimes. Because sometimes it’s necessary to take care of yourself—because if you don’t then who will?

And although I did lose a lot of people, I was able to really see who my true friends are. Quality friends who I can call on at anytime, and I know can call on me. People who want to see me grow as well as I want them to. Lifetime bonds. At one time, these valuable treasures were lost among under the chaos of my life, buried under all of the friends I had hoarded. Despite being under appreciated and undervalued at times, they never wavered in their loyalty or support of me.

My life now is so much richer, so much fuller. And I guess I have A&E Hoarders to thank for that. For opening my eyes, teaching me how to let go, and helping me see that under the chaos, I do have roots.

Sharkisha Martinez is a customer service representative for Verizon Wireless whose passion and long-time dream is to become a non-fiction writer. Originally from New York City, she now resides in Rochester, NY.


I EAT!

By Lara

Every day, we are faced with making endless choices—and so often given the craziness of our lives, when it comes to food, we simply don’t want to think about what to eat. So we mindlessly disassociate, disconnect, and shove anything into our mouths that will calm that roar in our bellies. Even for those who are on a “diet,” it’s still a mindless disconnect of: just tell me what to eat so I’ll be skinny.

Yet, at the end of the day, our bellies may have food in them, but so often we’re still hungry. Hungry for pleasure. Hungry for love. Hungry for joy. Hungry for acceptance.

It’s not the roar of our bellies that we so often long to feed: it’s the ache in our souls we feel when we want something more, but we have no idea how to find it.

Those roars, desires, and aches tell a story and reveal profound insights into a deeper world within—a world where our mind, body, and soul connect. A place where we have infinite creative power and possibility waiting to be evoked. Yet, in today’s culture, we are so bombarded from external chaos (or stress) that the internal chaos also ensues. From leading the carpool and filtering millions of media/marketing messages to worrying about taxes and what to cook for dinner, it’s no wonder we seek order.

So often that order we seek appears in two distinct ways: a) let me ignore my body and just do whatever I have to do to get by; and b) let me control my body through a diet because in doing so, I feel a sense of power and order that I don’t otherwise feel.

For so many of us, this is a complete pendulum swing—one day we’re counting calories or points and the next we’re shoveling in a half-gallon of ice cream. Then we beat ourselves up for having “fallen off the wagon” and vow to do it all differently.

It’s a seemingly endless cycle, and one that I spun in for nearly 25 years. For me it began around age two. I would scream, “I eat” as my parents’ big blue Ford rumbled past the Dairy Queen along Highway 6 in my small Texas hometown. By age 10, I was on my first diet and doing Jane Fonda exercises with a bunch of my mom’s friends. Then, this disordered thinking (and eating) led me to dancing with anorexia by 14, topping 200 pounds by 19, and spend years gaining and losing the same 20 pounds.

You see, what we so often fail to understand is that our relationship with food is the most important, complex, and longest lasting relationship of our lives. Before we ever sprang forth into the world, we were in a relationship with whatever food our mothers ingested. And no matter how hard we try to ignore this relationship, it’s always there.

Behind my own yo-yo, I was playing the weight/wait game. It’s the sort of thinking that goes, if I lose this “weight” then I can really live. I’ll be happy. I’ll be loved. I’ll be sexy. I’ll be…fill in the blank. In the end, I was tired. No, not just tired. I was exhausted and confused. I was angry that I had kept myself believing that I had to “wait” until I lost “weight” to live.

Beyond the scales, new diet, latest exercise routine, and next marathon, I realized last year the core of what I truly wanted: I wanted balance. I wanted flow. I wanted to trust my body and just give it the food it wants versus what the latest diet guru says I’m to eat.

I knew I could no longer diet. I knew that I could no longer just use working out, marathon running, triathlon, and even yoga as a means to an end to simply burn calories. But what I didn’t know was how would I live? What do people eat who aren’t on diets? Do they work out?

Sitting with these questions, of course I stumbled upon an answer. It came in the form of book, “It’s Not About Food: End Your Obsession with Food and Weight” by Laurelee Roark and Carol Normandi. Having overcome eating disorders themselves, Laurelee and Carol run a non-profit organization, called Beyond Hunger, which helps women overcome eating disorders and disordered eating. (I will be featuring a portion of an interview I did with Carol and Laurelee in an upcoming blog.)

The book met me where I was and gave me a whole new range of understanding as to why I had always hid behind the shadows, and why I didn’t trust myself to choose foods that would nourish me.

Now, nearly a year later, I realize my wanting to understand this relationship between weighting and waiting isn’t just an interest. It’s my passion and purpose to help others reconnect and mend their relationship with food and their bodies. I am now going through the process of becoming a Certified Food Psychology Coach through the Spencer Institute, and as I open to what’s possible for my soon-to-be-clients, I also heal this relationship for myself.

In the weeks to come, I will be blogging about these issues with the intention that through my journey and learning, you may also discover a new awareness around your relationship with food as you slow down, tune in, and enjoy.

All Lit Up

By Lee

You are a failure. You never finish anything you start. You are too addicted to just quit. You are a piece of @#!#@, so you just can’t do it.

The voices in my head are mean. And they aren’t just mean, they are damn loud, too. Since I expressed my desire and intention to qFire by Lee Mendelsohnuit smoking over a month ago, I have found myself once again face to face with yet another smoking failure. In the last blog I wrote about smoking, I had counted down my remaining rolled cigarettes. Even that didn’t work. I once again found myself in a similar space: confused, guilty, fearful, and frustrated.

Last Saturday while shopping at Rite Aid in Portland, Lara handed me this little book called, “Quit Before You Know It: The Stress-Free, Guilt-Free Way to Stop Smoking by Planning Your Relapses,” by Dr. Sandra Rutter.

My first reaction was, what can a little $5 paperback book do for me? But in the midst of my guilt, I realized that information can never harm. I was open, so sure, I’ll read it.

Upon reading the book, I realized smoking wasn’t the only area of my life where I had felt this way. College accounting was another failing, painful, embarrassing experience. It was one of those classes that never came easy for me. So, I hired a tutor, and after hours of private attention, I did finally pass.

In hindsight, I understand that the internal embarrassment has haunted me for years. And the conversation at the center of this—and in many other areas of my life—has been, “you are stupid.” Now that I have become aware of this deeply limiting belief, it can go away.

Why is it that when we fail at something, we either run from it, ignore it, or believe that we really can’t do it? We’re often taught, or come to believe, that if we fail at something once, we are forever cursed to not master it.

But look at the world’s most powerful and successful people, and they continuously show us the exact opposite—they are so determined to succeed that they will try over and over again until they do. I believe it is the pressure that we place on ourselves and the fear of looking stupid that keeps us paralyzed from moving forward.

In reading this book by Dr. Rutter, I realize that by building in room to “fail” I take away the pressure of having to get it right the first time. There’s space to allow me the day-by-day journey of change.

“Self-doubt creeps into almost everything we try to do,” says Dr. Rutter. “It can be destructive, or we can use it as an opportunity to try out new ways of thinking—even if we don’t believe we can succeed.”

Now that I’m on her plan, I am not counting down the number of cigarettes I have left. I’m just simply documenting each time I light up and observing why. What are the triggers? Did I just wake up, or have I just finished dinner, about to be in a car for a long time, etc.? This exercise is designed to get to know your individual patterns and to know exactly how much you smoke. It also creates a way to be completely present to the addiction, without judgment.  So after documenting for three days now, I am amazed at how much less I really do smoke and how some cigarettes are a physical need versus a pattern of habit. I smoke on average 9 cigarettes a day, when mentally thought I smoked closer to 20+.

I like this plan because it allows freedom of choice in how you eventually quit, such as adding in just one “quit day” a week for a month and gradually turning this into two days a week, etc. Another is to track the time between cigarettes with a stopwatch and gradually increase the time between smoking throughout the day.

I finally see that it’s not that “I’m stupid.” It’s that just like everyone, I have my own unique way of learning new things, and this is the journey I am choosing to take. Regardless of how long it takes, one day I will be a non-smoker.