Friday, April 29, 2011

Some Thoughts on The Royal Wedding

I confess that I did not wake up at 5:00 a.m. to watch the Royal Wedding.  But I did tape it and am watching it as we speak.  Right out of the starting gate, I am struck with how much times have changed since the days of Princess Di.  One of the commentators, a Mr. David Starkey, vehemently defended Kate Middleton's "social status" and pointed out that she is college educated (which seems in and of itself to place her in high social standing).  In fact, she is the first woman to enter the Royal family with a college degree.  This was followed by "praise" for the fact that the couple has been living together for some time now.  Yup, the times they are a changing. 

Fast-forward to the wedding.  Prince William looked dashing in his red uniform, and Kate Middleton was beautiful in her "16th Century"-style gown.  But I must say that I really loved the women's hats.  We just don't do hats here like the British do.  In fact, the hats out-shone the dresses.  2 young women arrived, one of whom wore a hat that I just could not figure out.  It looked like a large pink branding iron fashioned into a plastic ribbon.  But I think I get it.  Unlike our Academy Awards' red carpet, where everyone talks about whose gown was the most creative or unique,  in England, women express their individuality with their hats.  I wonder if (hope?) this fashion trend will find its way to our shores. 

I did some research and found out what was served at the 650-person Royal reception at Buckingham Palace.  There was champagne, wedding cake and "2-bite appetizers" (or canapes), consisting of mini Yorkshire puddings with roast beef and horseradish cream, bubble-and-squeak confit with lamb shoulder, smoked salmon, herbed crepes, and cornish pasties.  Later an evening meal was served to 300 guests that included crab followed by lamb.  Salut and congratulations to the new Duke and Duchess of Cambridge!

Until next time, happy and healthy eating!! 


Thursday, April 28, 2011

It's Show Time!

Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dream Coat opened at my son's high school tonight.  What a terrific show!   I have come to expect great performances from these extremely talented students and tonight did not disappoint.  "Joseph"  is one of the best times you will have at the theater.  The songs are fun, catchy and represent several genres, from Western, Flower Power 60's Rock, and Elvis Presley, to Jamaican Reggae.   It is based on the story of Joseph from the 39th Chapter of the Book of Genesis, and the young man who played the title role was spectacular.  I always knew he could act - in both comedic and serious roles - but I never knew he could sing!   The dance numbers were choreographed by 2 of the performers and were of Broadway calibre.  There was no shortage of splits, lifts, somersaults, and pirouettes.  I was stunned by the all-around talent in this delightful production.  The photo on the left is the only one allowed this evening.  I call it the "Wall of Stars".  For those of you who know me, see if you can spot my son, who played the role of the Butler and did a lovely job, if I say so myself.  I don't know what your plans are this coming weekend, but I know where I will be - there are 3 performances left!
Until next time, God bless!  And if you are able to, sit back, relax, and enjoy the show!

Wednesday, April 27, 2011

Following A Monastery Diet

If you watched the "60 Minutes" segment on Mount Athos, you will have noticed that the monks there ate only 2 meals a day, with each of them lasting 10 minutes.  You will have also noticed a lot of vegetables on their plates.  In fact, although the monks do occasionally eat freshly caught fish, they eat no meat, and not too much dairy.  They eat mainly a vegan diet, minus the tofu, seitan, and tempeh that we here on the mainland incorporate into our attempts at a plant-based diet.  They eat what they grow on their island, which appears to be various greens, squash, tomatoes, olives, lentils, nuts and fruit (more than likely peaches, figs, pomegranates, and apples).  They often eat bread and tea for breakfast, have an occasional pasta, and a glass or so of red wine.

10-minute meals are fine if there is no table talk.  On Mount Athos, one monk reads from the sacred books while all the others are silent.  As far as the 2 meals a day, I am not particularly opposed to the idea, but believe that our children and those who work 9 to 5 jobs need to eat more often than that.  

What does such a diet do for a person health-wise?  For the monks on Mount Athos, a lot!  They apparently do not suffer from heart disease, Parkinson's or Alzheimer's, and the only cancer recorded there is the rare case of prostate cancer.   Their diet, however, is not the only reason for their good health.  The monks work all day between church services, i.e. they lead a very active life.  There are no T.V.'s on Mount Athos, thus no couch potatoes.  The monks also pray 24/7 and, therefore, do not experience the stress we do with all of our deadlines, traffic jams, and social obligations.  If you want to really reap the benefits of a Mount Athos diet, besides giving up meat, butter, and dairy foods (except I am willing to bet freshly made yogurt and goat cheese), you must also throw out your television sets, do manual labor or exercise regularly, and shuck all social responsibilities (except, of course, local church-related ones).  In other words, you would have to pretty much live like a monk.   I am not saying that there are no health benefits to their diet alone.  There certainly are.  But it would help if we could also strive to remove the daily stress from our lives, spend time in prayer or meditation, and keep physically active.   

The photo (above) is not from Mount Athos, but from the dining hall of the Holy Myrrhbearers Monastery in New York.  The nuns there also do not eat meat, but because they raise goats and chickens, they do eat goat cheese and yogurt and drink goat's milk (on non-fasting days), as well as incorporating an occasional egg into their diet.   As I said in my last post, life there also leaves even one who is merely passing through with a peace that passes understanding.  Shucking off the stress of modern life does one good.   And the all natural, home-grown, vegetarian diet doesn't hurt either. 

Well, I hope you are all having a blessed Bright Week.  Until next time, happy and healthy eating!


Monday, April 25, 2011

Monastic Life in America?

Last night the show "60 Minutes" aired a beautiful special about the Orthodox monks who live on Mount Athos in Greece.  It followed them through their daily cycle of worship services, work, meals, and prayer.  Their life is a peaceful and holy life, with about 8 hours of each day spent worshiping in various church services.  If you did not see this episode of "60 Minutes", I highly recommend it.  It can be found (in 2 parts) online.  If you did see it, you may have been struck by the fact that women are not allowed on Mount Athos.  They have never been.  The good news is that we women do have opportunities to be a part of such "doorways to heaven" - even here in these United States. 

Situated in upstate New York, Holy Myrrhbearers Monastery houses about a half dozen humble, wise, and hard-working women with whom I had the priviledge of spending a few days last September.  Like the monks on Mount Athos, these nuns are striving to be self-sufficient.  They have gardens and raise goats for their milk, from which they make delicious cheeses and other dairy products.  They have plans to repair an on-site mill so they can even make their own flour.  Also like the monks on Mount Athos, they awake early each morning to attend the first of several church services throughout the day.  Between services, no hand is idle.  There is plenty of work to be done, from tending the goats, to caring for the gardens, to cooking the meals for the nuns and others who live or visit there.  For visitors, like myself, there is a charming little guest house just down the hill from the Monastery grounds that surrounds a lake.  And, even though the lake house  is a peaceful haven unto itself,  I have to say that I truly enjoyed waking in the morning to become a participant in the Monastic life.  I mainly helped the nuns in the kitchen and found that I eagerly awaited the bells that signaled the start of one of the church services that broke up the continuum of the workday.  I found myself instinctively drawn to prayer, and constantly felt that sense of peace that passes all understanding.  The monks on Mount Athos described their world as a doorway to heaven.  I found this humble Monastery to lack nothing in that regard. 

There are many other Orthodox Monasteries in this country - some housing monks, some nuns.  And I am convinced they are all special places of serenity and worship.  The only other one at which I have spent quality time was St. Gregory Palamas in Ohio and it, too, was a little slice of heaven on earth.  Like the nuns at Holy Myrrhbearers, the monks there were wise in a way that pulls you up short - with a real grip on what really matters here on earth.  Orthodoxy has been called "the best-kept secret" as far as Christian denominations are concerned.  If that is true, then our Monasteries are the gems at the heart of our Faith.

Some of the goats at Holy Myrrhbearers Monastery 

View from the guest house at Holy Myrrhbearers Monastery

Both times I went to Monasteries for extended visits it was because I felt "called" to go.   And both visits left an indelible impression on me.  I can still close my eyes and feel the peace and the holiness that these bits of heaven on earth emit.  I can not visit Mount Athos, but I don't have to go far to get a glimpse of the holiness contained in such a place.  And, for that, I am truly grateful.  Until next time, God bless you all!

Sunday, April 24, 2011

VERY Impressed With South Carolina Cuisine

Yes, that's a whole fish (minus the head) on my plate in the photo on the left.  Crispy Flounder is the #1 best-selling item on the menu at Hyman's Seafood restaurant in downtown Charleston.  And I can tell you why!  I have never, ever enjoyed fish as much as this 16-20 ounce whole, bone-in flounder.  It is "scored" to make it easy to eat (that's what all those little squares are for) and then is lightly pan-fried.  It is then served with a delightful chutney for dipping the fish, coleslaw, hushpuppies (the best I've had) and a choice of sides (I chose a baked sweet potato).  Hyman's is apparently "the place" to eat when you visit Charleston.  Its other "signature" dish is called Carolina Delight.  It consists of your choice of seafood (including crab cakes) served on top of grit cakes and smothered with a creamy, rich, garlic Alfredo sauce.  Neither my husband nor I ordered it, but it looked amazing!  Hyman's has just about every type of seafood dish you can imagine on its menu and a bevy of appetizers and desserts, all of which made us drool as we saw them being carried from table to table.  It doesn't matter what time you go there - there will always be a small crowd waiting outside of this Charleston favorite.  And it is well worth the wait.  (We went there at around 2:00 and only waited 10-15 minutes - not bad!)

The other restaurant that really stood out for us was just outside of Charleston and is called Hominy Grill.  One of their signature dishes is Shrimp sauteed with scallions, mushrooms, and bacon, and served over cheese grits.  My husband ordered it and thought it was great!  I had a platter consisting of 3 vegetable sides with corn bread, which was one of the moistest and tastiest I have had.  For an appetizer,we had Fried Green Tomatoes dipped in a ranch-type dressing.  Very nice.... We had no room for dessert, but were told their Buttermilk Pie is to die for.

Something unique about Carolina cuisine is that, at both of these restaurants, instead of placing a basket of bread on the table for you to eat while you wait for your meal to arrive, you are served a bowl of boiled peanuts.  

Charleston is arguably one of the most lovely cities in the South.  With its old mansions, perfectly manicured gardens, and oceanside location,  it is a throw-back to days long ago forgotten.  Horse-drawn carriages ferry people from one end of Meeting Street (where all the "action" is) to the other.   A Daughters of the Confederacy Museum containing baptismal gowns of babies who later grew up to serve in the Confederate army, and other such endearing artifacts, is smack-dab in the center of town, juxtaposed by banks and restaurants.  If you should find yourself anywhere near this charming city, it is well worth the visit!

As today draws to a close, I would like to wish you all a very happy Easter.  Christ is risen and death has been conquered.  Praise our risen Lord!   Until next time, may God bless you all.

Saturday, April 23, 2011

Wanted: Comments on Blog

I realize that there are a lot of you who are still trying to post comments to my Blog and are not able to, so I had my husband try to see what happens when he follows the directions I gave you all back in March.  He got some prompts that were a bit different than the ones I get, so, if you have been trying to post a comment and can't,  maybe this will help you:

1.)  If you don't see a comment box below the post, click on where it says "0 comments" or "1 comment", or whatever the number may be.  This will take you to the comment box. 

2.)  When you see a comment box, type your comment in the box.

3.)  At the bottom of the box, where you see "Comment as",  click on Select Profile.

4.)  Highlight and click on Name/URL

5. )  You can type in your name or be anonymous if you choose

6.)   Ignore the URL section and click on Continue 

7.)  Then click on Post Comment and it will ask you to type what you see in a box on the screen.  This will prevent automated spam to be posted.  Then push Post Comment and you're done.

Sorry this is so complicated!   But I hope it helps, and I hope to hear from you.   God bless!!

Friday, April 22, 2011

Nothing Can Be Finer

Southern hospitality, Southern cooking, old mansions, and beautiful gardens.  Add to it 4 days of baseball and you have the ingredients for the perfect vacation.  We just got back from spending 5 days in Charleston, South Carolina, where my son's high school baseball team went for their Spring break tournament.  The boys did well, going undefeated until they faced a tough Carolina team in the semi-finals last night.  And South Carolina is beautiful, the people gracious, the food delicious, but I have to admit that it is great to be home.

Besides the no less than 50 insect bites covering my arms and legs (it was hot and humid there), driving past exits 72 and 73 off of I-95 in North Carolina was heartbreaking.   We wondered why we were stuck in 2 and 1/2 hours of traffic on a Sunday afternoon until it was our car's turn to pass the debris field left behind by the tornado that had swept through there the day before.  What had once been a swimming pool store lay in pieces in a large open field, along with what we could only imagine had once been either small homes or a trailor park.  In some places, people walked among the debris searching for whatever remnants of their past lives the tornado may have left behind.  Later, the evening news showed footage of the worse of the 62 tornadoes that had touched down in the area the day before.  It was a strange way to enter Holy Week, as well as to start Spring Break.  But it served to put things in perspective.

Carolina is nice, but nothing is finer than being safe at home as we approach the celebration of our Lord's Resurrection.  I hope you have all have had a restful and peaceful week.  Until next time, God bless you all!

Saturday, April 16, 2011

Five-Day Hiatus

It's Spring break!  I don't know what your plans are, but I hope you all have a wonderful week.   As for me, I have a lot of thinking to do.  And God is good.  What better place to do it than on a ball field watching my son play?  He will be in week-long tournament with his High School team.  I really do love the sport.  Check out the photo on the left.  You can see the ball approaching the first baseman's mitt just after my son slides safely on base.  Ahhhh...Anyway, as the week draws to a close, I will spend it in church, preparing for and celebrating Pascha (Easter).   And I'll "see" you all back here again then.  In the meantime, you get a five-day break from me and my ramblings.  Enjoy yourselves and God bless you all!

Friday, April 15, 2011

Bananas Too Ripe? That's Why They Invented Banana Bread!

They say that when life gives you lemons, you should make lemonade.  I agree.  But I also believe that when bananas become over-ripe (like mine always do after a few days of sitting on the counter), you should make banana bread.  I love banana bread, especially when it is somewhat "out of the ordinary".  There is something about a mashed ripe banana that makes this fruit especially delightful baked in a bread.  The cover story of the September 2003 issue of Cooking Light magazine features "7 Top Banana Breads" and has my favorite on the cover - Coconut Banana Bread with Lime Glaze.  It is outstanding with its 3 Tablespoons of dark rum and can be made Lenten with Egg Replacer powder, a rice or soy-based yogurt, and a Vegan margarine.  Another delicious choice is the Marbled-Chocolate Banana Bread.  It is wonderfully chocolately, with 1/2 cup melted semisweet chocolate chips folded into half of the batter, then swirled into the other half. 

If you haven't figured it out yet, I am presenting you with the 7 Banana Breads in order - from my favorite to least favorite, even though they are all excellent!  Another very yummy one is Blueberry-Lemon Banana Bread with Cream-Cheese glaze.  But I only make this one at the height of blueberry season, as I like my blueberries to be large and sweet. 

The Orange Banana-Nut Bread, which contains walnuts is tied in 4th place with the Molasses-Oat one.  Then I like the Classic Banana Bread, followed by the Cardamom Banana Bread with Pistachios.  The only reason this one is in last place for me is because my older son and I are allergic to Pistachios.  When I made it, I used walnuts and it was - well - missing something.  If any of you out there feel inclined to make this one, please let me know what you think of it.  All of these recipes can be found by going to the Cooking Light recipe link in the right column of this Blog. 

I thought we needed something a little lighter after my last post.  : )  I hope you agree. 

Until next time, happy and healthy eating!

Wednesday, April 13, 2011

A Loss Of Innocence

About 20 years ago, I saw a movie starring Robert de Niro, Jessica Lange, and Nick Nolte that was a remake of the 1962 flick "Cape Fear".  I remember that it disturbed me so much that I was angry that I had watched it.  My husband and I had to walk around the mall and talk for quite some time after it ended until I felt "o.k." again.  Well, that movie was just on T.V. and I decided to watch it.  I don't know why.  Nostalgia?  Curiosity?  Masochism?  Whatever the reason. after it finished,  I was stunned.  Not because I found it as disturbing as I did before, but because I didn't.  In fact, I felt absolutely nothing.    I mean, I was completely numb to the violence and cruelty that ran though it.  O.K.  So it's been 20 years and I have 2 teen-aged sons now who have exposed me to the likes of "Call of Duty" and zombie-killing video games.  But that isn't why.  It's because, in the past 20 years, reality has become darker and scarier, and way stranger than fiction.

20 years ago, I would drive past Oncology Centers and would cringe, but then offer up a prayer of thanks that I had no idea what secrets they held.  Since then, their secrets have been revealed and the toll they have taken on family, friends and acquaintances has been staggering.  Now as I drive by such places, I have to force myself to erase the images that come to mind. 

Funerals used to be few and far between and were usually for someone who had lived a good and long life.  But, besides the many people I know who have lost their lives to cancer,  in the past year alone, I have personally known 4 people under the age of 25 who have tragically and suddenly died; one of them almost a member of our family, one a friend of my oldest son, one a young boy of 15, and the last a 23 year old that my boys grew up with in our old neighborhood.

I watched as terrorists slammed into New York's Twin Towers, taking thousands of innocent lives in the process.  I also learned the hard way that what is right and true does not always prevail.  I've learned that just because someone grows old doesn't mean they've grown up.  And that "yes" sometimes means "not really", while some promises seem to be made to be broken.    There was a time when I was sheltered from most of life's ugliness.  And the scary and really bad stuff was the stuff of fiction - found in the novels of Stephen King or Anne Rice, and in Hollywood thrillers like "Cape Fear".  

What, you may ask, is the point of this post?  It's pretty simple really.  In spite of all the above examples, life is a gift, and friends are to be treasured.   And sometimes it is by experiencing the darker things that this fallen world has to offer that we come to the point of realization.  The realization that the only thing that lasts, that is 100% faithful and true, and that will never let you down, is God.  Lent is drawing to an end.  If you haven't done so already, I hope you will find some time to spend in quiet contemplation, face-to-face with The One who embodies all that is good - with the Only One who can turn our sorrow into joy, who has conquered death by His death, and who is capable of restoring all we are and all we know to that place of innocence once more...

Until next time, happy and healthy eating - and God bless you all!

Tuesday, April 12, 2011

Is High Blood Pressure In Your Cards?

One of the first clients I had came to me after she had been diagnosed with very high blood pressure.  She was put on a rather large dose of a beta blocker, as well as another cardiac drug, and the side affects were driving her bananas.  Her goal was to get off of her medications.  My goal was to help her do just that.  I have seen few people with as much determination as she had.  She was such a delight to work with.  She did absolutely everything I suggested, lost the weight she needed to (and then some) and was finally able to get off all her medications. 

High blood pressure is another one of those diseases that has become epidemic in our society.  And it is hitting people who are surprisingly young these days.  I have heard of cases of it at the grade-school level (i.e., grades K-6), with strokes occurring as young as 9 years old.   The danger of letting high blood pressure run amok, of course, is that it can lead to a stroke.  I believe that it would help all of us if we ate what is known as the DASH Diet (Dietary Approaches to Stop Hypertension), whether we suffer from the disorder or not.  It has been my diet for the past 9 years (even though I am going to take it to a vegetarian level once Lent is over).  The Diet is actually intended to prevent hypertension, although, if followed precisely, it should reverse it.  The recommendations for the DASH Diet are as follows:

1.)  Limit salt  (new findings recommend that salt intake not exceed 1,500 mgs. per day)

2.)  Limit intake of high-fat foods (Bake and broil food rather than frying it and stay away from ooey gooey desserts)

3.)  Incorporate regular exercise into your daily routine, even if it is a 30-40 minute walk

4.)  Maintain a healthy weight  - see previous posts on how much you should weigh (1/29/11) and what your BMI is (1/26/11), and how many calories you should eat each day (1/23/11 and 1/25/11)  

5.)  Follow the Dash Diet:  On a 2,000-calorie per day diet, it is:
a.)  2-3 servings of low-fat or, preferably, fat-free dairy
b.)  4-5 servings of vegetables
c.)  4-5 servings of fruit
d.)  5 servings of grains (this used to be 7-8 and is too high by most standards, especially if you are even considering losing weight.  See 4/4/11 post for grains' serving sizes)
e.)  2 or fewer servings of meat, poultry, or fish
f.)  4-5 servings PER WEEK of nuts, seeds, and beans
g.)  Limit oils and sweets (select heart-healthy oils, such as olive or canola, and do not deep fry anything!)

For serving sizes, see my 2/4/11 post titled, "Bet You Can't Guess What These Random Items Are For".  Keep a food diary.  It's the only way to really know what you are eating each day.  And count your calories.  I know it sounds like a lot of work.  But if you have high blood pressure, you are making your heart do a lot of work that it should not be doing.  Trust me.  It's worth it, and after a while it just becomes a habit.  If you have any questions, please, please do not hesitate to ask.  Again, that is what I am here for.

Until next time, happy and healthy eating!

P.S.  For a photo and desciption of tonight's supper, see column on the right (under the Blog Archive).  The corn on the cob was delicious for such an early season crop.  I know, I know.  It was probably either grown with Round-Up Ready seeds or was genetically modified in some other way.  As long as it did not have worm, shrimp, or nut DNA mixed into it, we should be o.k. over here...

Monday, April 11, 2011

Why All This Talk About Omega-3's?

I have been talking a lot about Omega-3 fatty acids lately.  We know that they help to lower our risk of heart disease.  And they do this by blocking biochemical reactions that can cause blood clots, as well as those that cause the heart to beat irregularly.  We also know that they are a recommended part of a Cancer Prevention Diet.  In several of my last few posts, I have mentioned that they are most commonly associated with fish.  How much fish, though, is enough to provide the health benefits they are associated with?  To get the adequate amount of Omega-3's, a person needs only 8 ounces of an oily fish (like salmon) per week.  All fish, however, contain some Omega-3's.  Unfortunately, fish is not an extremely popular food.  I know of several people who simply do not like it in any shape, form, or size.  And there are others still who do not eat it because they do not eat anything that comes from an animal.

Even though fish is the best source of Omega-3's (with salmon containing almost 2 grams for a 4 ounce serving), there are other foods that contain this valuable fatty acid, such as walnuts, tofu, soy nuts, flaxseeds, olive oil, and canola oil.  You can also buy foods fortified with Omega-3's.  These include some brands of orange juice, yogurt, and eggs.  No matter what source you choose, you should aim for 2-3 grams per week.

I know that a lot of people try to get through supplements what they don't like to eat.  I have never liked this as a general rule, but it is especially true of fish oil.  For that lovely fishy aftertaste that they so often provide, fish oil capsules contain only a small amount of absorbable Omega-3's.  You need to ingest several of them to get the equivalent of just one 4-ounce serving of salmon.  So "eat" those Omega-3's as yet another step toward eating for life.

Well, tonight our boys won another baseball game and are now 7 and 0.  I found out after the game that my son had been hit hard in the chin with a ball during pre-game batting practice.  Yikes!  But, thank God, he's O.K.  Literally.  He said that he saw the ball coming at him and his natural reaction would have been to tilt his head, which would have meant the ball hitting him square in the face.  "Something" had him keep still and it hit his chin instead, doing the least amount of damage a ball coming at his face at that speed would have done.  As I said, thank God!!

Anyway, I hope you all have a good week and until next time, happy and healthy eating! 

Sunday, April 10, 2011

Popcorn - A Healthy Whole Grain

I used to think of it as "empty" calories.  But I didn't care much.  It was also low in calories.  Unless, of course, you slathered it in butter.  And what snack was better while watching a nail-biting movie?  I'm talking, of course, about popcorn.  Imagine my joy when I recently discovered that what I once thought of as a nutritionally void snack was categorized by the experts at the USDA as a whole grain!   Of course some whole grains are healthier than others so, I had to find out what the skinny was on this all-time popular snack food.  And what I discovered brought a smile to my popcorn-loving face.

It turns out that "popcorn provides more of the dietary fiber and antioxidants than any other snack food, according to findings presented at the meeting of the American Chemical Society" (ABC Medical News , 8/19/09).

First of all, corn is a whole grain whose antioxidants and fiber content are protected from the sun in the process of drying the kernels out.  And very little of the nutrients are lost later in the popping process.  
The healthiest way to eat it is to air-pop it and then add just a little salt.  But, sadly, that is not how most people prefer it.  At your local movie theater, multiple squirts of a buttery flavored goo top what could have been a healthy treat.  Other popular ways to eat this "whole grain" include Kettle Corn (loaded with sugar and a fair amount of oil), Caramel Corn, and a bevy of other flavored variations on the theme.  What to do?  What to do?
I am hoping that most of you out there are saying, "Hey!  I like my popcorn air-popped.  And I prefer those low-fat, "healthy" brands.  Pl-lease!"  If so, here's what you're getting with an average serving.  The bowl in the picture above was an entire popped bag of "Newman's Own" Oldstyle Picture Show Microwave Popcorn with 94% fat-free butter.  The bag says it serves "about" 3, but my youngest son easily polished off the whole thing while playing his favorite video game.  This provided him with "about" 330 calories, 4 and 1/2 grams of fat, 60 grams of carbohydrates and 750 milligrams of sodium.  Not too terrible for a whole bag of any snack.  But on top of that, he got 12 - yes 12 - grams of dietary fiber and 9 grams of protein!  I do wonder what exactly "natural butter flavor with other natural flavors" are, but with only 4 and 1/2 grams of fat per bag, there can't be much of whatever it is in it! 

Besides fiber and protein, popcorn contains surprisingly large amounts of free-radical squelching polyphenols, which lower a person's risk of heart disease, some cancers, and other diseases.  Still the experts lament the unhealthy manner in which most people eat this potentially nutrition-packed food.  As for me and mine, it has just taken a front seat on the snack shelf.  Yes, next time I may buy a brand without the mysterious "natural flavors" mentioned above.  But I am happy to see that something "fun" to eat is healthy, too!

Tonight for dinner, I made one of the Tofu Broccoli Quiche recipes that one of you was kind enough to send me.  And it was not bad.  In fact, my sometimes picky husband liked it more than I did!   The one ingredient we both agreed we could have done without was green bell pepper.  I do intend to make the other recipe I was sent as well, especially since that one contains Daiya Soy Cheese, which I think would add a nice dimension to it.  Check out the column at the right for an up-close photo and a link to the recipe. 

I hope you all enjoyed your weekend.  Until next time, Happy and healthy eating!

Friday, April 8, 2011

Food Addiction

This week, the President of the American Society of Addiction Medicine (ASAM) is taking part in a vote that would recognize food addiction as a genuine condition with biological triggers such as those that are associated with alcohol and drug addiction.   I have believed that some people can become addicted to particular foods for several years and am encouraged by these proceedings.  The following quotes are from the Wall Street Journal, April 5, 2011 article, "Food May Be Addicting For Some", by Kevin Helliker:

"A new study suggests that people who struggle to say no to chocolate, french fries or other junk food suffer from something more insidious than lack of willpower: They may actually have an addiction."
"The publishing of the study comes at a time when American psychiatry is wrestling with whether to regard pathological eating as an addiction akin to alcoholism.
Skeptics note that the brain's reward centers are designed to light up at the promise of food, because food is necessary for survival. Those centers also brighten in some cases at the thought of whiskey or cocaine, they said.
Moreover, skeptics note that food addiction less commonly results in the consequences that characterize drug addiction—stealing, negligent parenting and deteriorating workplace performance.
"The skeptic's position is that drugs are uniquely powerful reinforcers that hijack the brain's reward center," says Michael M. Miller, a Wisconsin psychiatrist and board member of the American Society of Addiction Medicine.
Calling himself "middle-of-the-road" on the issue of food addiction, Dr. Miller said ASAM will vote this month on a policy change that would embrace food addiction—among other compulsions—as a genuine addiction."

I see the arguments that the skeptics have put forth and have a real problem with them.  Compared to drugs, food is a very low-cost addiction, thus the lack of behaviors such as stealing to "maintain one's habit."  Food addiction is a more insidious habit because it is entirely socially acceptable to buy and eat even copious amounts of the most unhealthy foods.  You also won't see negligent parenting or deteriorating workplace performance resulting from food addiction since overeating does not generally impair one's judgment like drugs and alcohol can do. 

I intend to follow up on the results of next week's vote.  And I will let you know what the results are.  I am keeping my fingers crossed!   : )

Tonight, I made Better 'n Beef Bourgignon again for dinner, this time with Seitan instead of Portobello mushrooms, and it was even better than it was before.   The Seitan absorbs the flavors of the wine and other ingredients beautifully and the texture was very "meat-like".  I supplied a photo of it in the right hand column of this Blog (just below the Blog Archive). 

I hope you all have a nice weekend.  Until next time, happy and healthy eating! 

Thursday, April 7, 2011

Wrapping It All Up

This past weekend, I watched 2 videos.  One was a reaction to the Movie "Supersize Me", by Morgan Spurlock.  It was called "Fat Head" and was made by and starred Tom Naughton, a comedian whose catch phrase in the film was "follow the money" (in reference to vegetarian lobbyists influencing government policy).  He could not understand how Spurlock gained all the weight he did and got his cholesterol to sky-rocket on a 30-day McDonald's diet.  He defended the fast food chain, claiming that no one forces anyone to eat anything they don't want to there (I have to agree with that part!).  He also set out to prove that he, too, could eat 3 meals a day of fast food and lose weight and lower his cholesterol, which he did.  In fact, he did so on a high-fat, primarily meat-based diet.  But he also walked several miles a day 6 days a week, kept calories below 2,000 per day, and eliminated most carbohydrates.  Basically, he went on a fast-food Atkins diet.  We all know that the Atkins diet does result in weight loss, so there should be no surprise there.  And doubling your daily exercise is guaranteed to have positive results.  He "could not understand" how Spurlock gained so much weight.  Well, Spurlock did not exercise, ate his fries, and did not throw away the hamburger buns.  He also did not order diet cokes.  He ate what most people who go to fast food restaurants eat.   How many of your kids out there throw away the buns and say no to the fries that come with their meals?

My biggest problem with Naughton's film, however, was his constant assertion that lobbyists pushing for vegetarianism have influenced public policy.  Over the past 6 years, the opposite has been true.  Compare the old Food Pyramid to the new one and you'll see what I mean.  What used to be bottom heavy on grains is now heavier on the animal-based combination of meats/dairy.  His catch-phrase "follow the money" is correct.  But the money now appears to come from the meat and dairy lobbyists, not the CSPI.  I looked up what the CSPI is doing these days and it is pretty much pushing for Nutrition labeling, including on fast foods.  And I don't see anything wrong with that.   

As for the Rave Diet, by Mike Anderson, it is a 100% plant-based diet, which also eliminates vegetable oils, keeping overall fats way down.  Like Naughton, Anderson blames the government for following the money.  But the money he believes they are following comes from the meat and dairy lobbyists.  I have to side with Anderson on this point...

Both men claim that their diets are heart-healthy and both had testimonies to "prove" their point.  I do wonder what the long-term cardiac affects of the Atkins Diet will be.  If a person has inflammation in their arteries and follows such a diet for too long, I just can't see it continuing to be "heart-healthy". 

Of the two diets, only the Rave Diet claims to also be a cancer-prevention diet.  Anderson states that the cure for cancer is a strong immune system (I agree) and that the current treatments (chemotherapy and radiation) destroy it (this has always troubled me).   Anderson says that plant foods are the only foods that strengthen the immune system.  In fact, Richard Cutler of the National Health Institute was quoted as saying, "the amount of antioxidants you maintain in your body is directly proportional to how long you will live."  In researching immune-boosting foods a while back, I came up with a similar conclusion.  In fact, the first thing I had in my notes was to "eat less protein, especially from animal sources, since such protein residues can irritate the immune system".  Anderson had several cancer patients give testimonies of having cured their disease on a 100% plant-based diet.  This was compelling.  If you see my posts on an Anti-Cancer diet (especially 2/8 and 2/10/11), you will see that antioxidants play an important part in helping to stave off cancer, so there is something to Anderson's claims, since the number one way to get antioxidants is with fruits and vegetables.  But I confess that I am not yet at the point where I can honestly tell someone to buck conventional cancer treatment for a plant-based diet.  For one thing, as Anderson even noted, as soon as people went back to eating meat, their symptoms returned.  How can I make sure someone is really sticking to the diet? 

One of the issues that actually made me chuckle was both men's claims about what humans were "meant" to eat, as well as the negative affects of eating what we weren't meant to.  Naughton interviews a doctor who claims that he tried a vegetarian diet for 9 years and "lost strength".  And that the Pritikin diet made him depressed.  Anderson states that a meat-based Atkins diet has a toxic reaction on people, enhancing their chances of later contracting cancer.  Moreover, he states that after being on the Atkins diet for a year, there is an average reduction of blood flow to the heart of 40%.  I have to agree with Anderson on the cancer point.  A high-fat diet is dangerous for people who have, have had, or are predisposed to, in particular, the hormone-driven and digestive-system cancers.  As for the Atkins diet reducing blood flow to the heart...I don't know how one comes up with that statistic exactly, but I do know that the Atkins diet should not be a long-term one.  It is unbalanced, for one thing, and way too high in fat for another.  I could only understand (but still not condone) someone going on it for quick weight loss.  Although I do not completely agree with all of Anderson's assertions either, such as his problem with our best sources of Omega-3's, overall, his dietary approach is a much healthier one than a long-term "stage-one" Atkins diet.

If you get a chance to see it, "Fat Head" is on Netflix Instant Cue.  And you should be able to find Tom Anderson's "the Rave Diet" at your public library.  I hope these past few posts have helped you to understand why there is so much conflicting dietary advice out there.  Hang in there!  I'll help you sort it out.  All you have to do is ask - that's what I'm here for.  Until next time, happy and healthy eating!

Wednesday, April 6, 2011

Lowering Cholesterol With An Anti-Inflammatory Diet

A few years ago, I prepared a paper on "Lowering Cholesterol" and the first step on it was to follow an anti-inflammatory diet.  If you've been following my posts lately, you know that this week's entries have been inspired by a film made by Tom Naughton ("Fat Head") and Mike Anderson (author of The Rave Diet).  As I enumerate the cholesterol lowering steps, I will note, when applicable (in parenthesis), if they measure up to the standards laid out, or observed, by these two men.  Here goes:

1.)  Follow an Anti-Inflammatory Diet: 
a.)  Avoid trans-fatty acids and partially hydrogenated oils (both would agree)
b.)  Stick to Olive and Canola oils (Anderson would not agree.  He is for avoiding all vegetable oils.)
c.)  Increase intake of Omega 3 fatty acids - fish, flax seeds, chia seeds, olive and canola oil, walnuts. All Omega 3's have been shown to actually inhibit inflammation, but especially those found in fish.  To know which fish are safest to eat, however, please refer to my post "Good Fish, Bad Fish" 2/16/11.  (Anderson would only promote the use of flax seeds, chia seeds, and walnuts for Omega 3's, since fish is an animal and the other 2 are oils.).
d.)  Minimize consumption of refined and processed foods (Anderson would agree.  Naughton ate so much junk that I don't know where he stands on this issue under normal circumstances).
e.)  Eat plenty of vegetables and fruits, especially berries.  The antioxidants they contain build up defenses against damaging free radicals.  They actually help to reduce LDL cholesterol, thus lessening the build-up of plaque in artery walls.   (Anderson would agree.  Naughton would have a problem with the sugar in the fruit)
f.)  Eat anti-inflammatory herbs and spices like ginger and turmeric (Anderson would agree).

2.)  Do not use caffeine addictively - it adds to the workload of the heart, increases adrenal activity, and may contribute to elevated serum cholesterol.   (Anderson would agree.  Not Naughton - he drank a lot of diet coke)

3.)  Do not smoke

4.)  Exercise at least 30 minutes per day five days per week (both would agree)

5.)  Practice Relaxation Techniques - stress can increase serum cholesterol.  I believe that, since stress can cause ulcers, mouth sores, and colitis, which are all conditions that result in the creation of "sores", it makes sense that stress would also cause inflammation of the arterial walls.  Thus the eventual build-up of plaque.  See 2/2/11 post, "Stress is A Killer". 

6.)  Maintain a normal weight (Anderson would strongly agree.  Naughton thinks too many people incorrectly fall under the category of  being "obese".  I know that if I gain even 10 pounds back, my heart, which was damaged by the chemotherapy I had, has a rough time.  Angina (chest pain) becomes chronic and tachycardia (extremely rapid heart beat) occurs much more frequently.

7.)  Keep overall fats in your diet low - approximately 15% of your daily caloric intake. (Anderson would agree or even want them lower.  Naughton would strongly disagree.  He must have eaten 100's of grams of fat per day on his "diet")

8.)  Eat Oats to help lower cholesterol

9.)  Eat plenty of garlic - Remember when people took garlic pills?  This is why.  Good thing is that you don't need more than what your average recipe calls for to get the health benefits.

10.)  Eat plenty of shitake mushrooms, green tea, and chili peppers (Anderson would disagree with the tea since it contains caffeine).

Tonight was another game night.  My son's high school team is now 6 and 0!  In spite of the cold winds out there, it was another great night of baseball.  Dinner, unfortunately, was Red Beans 'n Rice from Popeye's for me.  My husband had their Fried Catfish Dinner with a side of Red Beans 'n Rice and a Biscuit.  Oh well.....

Until next time, happy and healthy eating!

Tuesday, April 5, 2011

What Really Causes Clogged Arteries?

If you talk to most people, they will tell you that clogged arteries (or arteriosclerosis) is caused by a diet high in fats, in particular saturated (or animal) fats.  But in his movie "Fat Head", Tom Naughton proposes that saturated fat is not the culprit, and is determined to prove it.  For 30 days, he goes on a high-saturated fat diet, eating meat-based fast-foods, fried cheese, lots of bacon, and an occasional vegetable oozing with butter.  He also doubles his exercise (6 days a week instead of 3) and limits carbohydrates to the level recommended by the "Atkins Diet".  And what was the result?  Well, he lost 12 pounds, his overall cholesterol went down, and his body-fat ratio went from over 31 to around 28.   Believe me, his doctor was as stymied as I was!  So, what's up with that?  I will try to explain.

The truth is that the experts out there do not really know what starts arteriosclerosis.  But it seems to stem from damage to the arterial wall.  Bad (or LDL) cholesterol does contribute to arterial plaque formation, but what is it that gets the process going?  The answer: Inflammation.  My studies have shown that clogged arteries are a chronic inflammatory response in the walls of the arteries that is promoted by LDL (low-density lipoprotein) cholesterol.  But, when it really comes down to it, the relationship between dietary fat and the onset of arteriosclerosis is a contentious area of medical concern. 

Inflammation weakens the arterial wall, almost like an areterial ulcer and then, apparently, plaque/cholesterol attach themselves to the weakened area -  like a wound they slip into as your blood flows through the artery.  Can you picture that?  So it appears that (and Naughton strongly presses this point in his film) the cause of arteriosclerosis is not too much saturated fat in the diet, but inflammation of the arterial walls.  And he is almost right.  The problem is that the cause of the inflammation is still up to debate and there is no way to know that the inflammation is there until the cholesterol starts attaching itself to the affected area!  And we do know that the more plaque you have in the artery, the higher the possibility of blockage, i.e. heart attack.  On, in an article called "Inflammation & Heart Disease", it states, "Evidence suggests that inflammation is linked with arteriosclerosis, which is the term for the thickening of the artery walls due to accumulation of fatty substances, like cholesterol." 

Mike Anderson, author of the Rave Diet, states that "the one thing an animal-based diet does is kill people.  It does this by clogging arteries."  He goes on to say that eating animal foods causes a fatty sludge to build up in your blood.  HDL cholesterol takes care of some of it, but the excess settles in your arteries.  And he is not wrong in his assertions.  He goes as far as to state that "the requirement of cholesterol in our diet is exactly zero" and provides several testimonies of people who completely reversed the damage done to their hearts (after having had heart attacks) by following an extremely low-fat, and completely plant-based diet.  I do not think he made up these claims.  So what do we make of it?

It appears that our friend Mr Naughton is a very lucky man.  His arteries obviously were not inflamed.  Thus the success with his animal-based diet.  The main problem I have with promoting it, however, is that if there is inflammation in your arteries, you won't know it until the cholesterol starts building up in it.  Maybe some people are predisposed to inflammation due to lifestyle and heredity.  I do know that there are steps you can take to avoid or reduce inflammation of your arteries - some dietary, some lifestyle.  Tune in tomorrow for the skinny on following an Anti-Inflammatory Diet.  It makes a lot of sense and neither school of thought would disagree with that!  Then we'll examine some of the other claims made by our friends Mr. Naughton and Mr. Anderson.  Again, the information may surprise you!

Until next time, happy and healthy eating!

Monday, April 4, 2011

Grains: Keeping it Real

If you have been following my posts, this week I plan to address assertions made by Tom Naughton in his 2009 documentary "Fat Head", which run in stark contrast to the dietary recommendations spelled out in Mike Anderson's, "The Rave Diet", which is essentially a Vegan diet.  Both men claim that their diets are "the way humans were meant to eat".  Fat Head claims that the CSPI (The Center  for Science in the Public Interest) is responsible for the emphasis on a plant-based diet that the USDA promotes.  And the Rave Diet claims that the dairy and meat lobbyists are responsible for the emphasis on high-protein (i.e., meat and dairy) diets that the USDA promotes. 

The first thing I want to nip in the bud is Naughton's outdated claim that the USDA's Food Pyramid recommends that we eat between 9 and 11 servings of grains per day.   Under the New Food Pyramid which came out 6 years ago,  depending on your age, sex, and activity level, recommended servings of grains are between 3 and 8 one-ounce equivalent servings.  And a serving of bread is not what you would get in a sandwich.  It is one slice of bread (normally smaller than the Pepperidge Farm one I have pictured above), 1 cup of ready-to-eat cereal, and 1/2 cup cooked rice,  pasta or hot cereal.  In the photo above, I measured one cup of Basic 4 cereal, which is about half of what my son eats each morning.  As for the measuring cup, that's your 1/2 cup "serving" of rice, pasta, or hot cereal.  I don't know about you, but when I make pasta, we eat about 3-4 times that amount each.  Unlike Naughton's claims,  for most of us, the New Food Pyramid no longer emphasizes grains.  In fact, for a 2,000 calorie diet, the recommendation is 6 servings of grains, 4 and 1/2 servings of fruits and vegetables, 5 and 1/2 servings of meat and beans, and 3 servings of milk (or milk products).   My problem with the New Pyramid is that I do not believe it recommends enough fruits and vegetables, which are packed with nutrition-rich antioxidants and vitamins.  But that's another story...

Depending on which dietary approach you prefer, you will likely find multiple "errors" in both of these videos (and book).  I point out the grain claim made by Naughton only because it is blatantly false and affects some of the other points he makes.  Plus, if you see the film, I want you to know that the Pyramid he uses is no longer the one the USDA promotes. 

Why, you may ask, am I comparing these two diets this week?  Besides the fact that I have never seen 2 diets so diametrically opposed to each other, it is because both make the exact same positive claims about their own diets, and fling the same accusations about the influence the other school of thought has on the USDA, as well as what damage the other's diet "does to a person" health-wise.  This is, sadly, merely indicative of what we repeatedly see when it comes to media-driven nutrition advice.  By following the news stories, we see a constant shift in what we should and should not eat.  With all the contradictory information out there, it's a wonder anyone knows what's really good (or bad) for them.  Whether I agree with them or not, through their claims and mud-slinging, both of the above diets address some critical issues that deserve attention.   So I thank both Tom Naughton and Mike Anderson for providing the inspiration I needed to tackle these difficult issues in an attempt to set the record straight.

(Tonight I made crumb-coated cod, Japanese rice in our rice cooker, and Brussels sprouts.  Nothing too exciting, but tasty nonetheless.) 

Until next time, happy and healthy eating!
P.S.  Because I keep referring to previous blog posts, I have placed my Blog Archive on the top of the right-hand column of this Blog for your convenience.

Sunday, April 3, 2011

No Wonder Everyone Is So Confused!

Yesterday I watched a documentary called "Fathead" that followed Tom Naughton, a comedian turned producer/actor, who ate a primarily meat-based, fast-food diet for 30 days and lost 12 pounds and lowered his cholesterol on it.  He avoided the fries, often removed the bun, and ordered diet cokes.  No, he was not advocating such a diet, but argued that fast food is not responsible for the increase in heart disease and obesity in this country. Not if you know what to order (which to him is meat, and more meat).  The villains who have messed up the way Americans eat, he claims, are those who are pushing for vegetarianism, specifically the Center for Science in Public Interest (CSPI).  Repeatedly using the phrase "Follow the money", he claims that food standards in this country have been influenced by this consumer advocacy group that has come up with such phrases as "heart attack on a bun" to describe fast-food  hamburgers, and "heart attack on a plate" to describe dairy-rich foods like fettucine Alfredo.  People, he says, were naturally hunters, and were never meant to eat a plant-based diet.  He points to the Food Pyramid in frustration with what he says is its "9 to 11" recommended servings of carbohydrates (or grain-based foods) per day.  And he blames this sugar-based diet (carbohydrates convert to sugar in the body) on the rise of heart disease in this country. 

On the other end of the spectrum, I am reading a book called "The Rave Diet", by Mike Anderson, which includes a video that makes the point that humans have been largely plant-eating vegetarians for hundreds of years and that, not until the last hundred years have they even been able to afford to eat meat at the level that people eat it here.  The author of The Rave Diet, which is entirely plant-based, also blames the government for accepting money from food lobbies - but rather than the CSPI, he points his finger at the meat industry.  And he maintains that animal-based, high fat diets are responsible for the high level of heart disease in this country. 

Three points that both of these men agree on are:  1.)  that there has been an increase in heart disease in this country over the past 100 years,  2.)  that mankind was not meant to eat the way we do here and now,  and 3.)  that our nutritional needs are set by food lobbies.  On most other points, these two would have to go to the mat to settle their differences - so diverse are their "facts" and "assertions".  

I watched these two videos, recalled the many articles issued by the Associated Press these past few years on "the latest" in dietary recommendations, and completely understand why so many of you are confused about what you are "supposed" to be eating.   Over the next few days, I would like to help unravel some of the myths and facts set forth by the 2 (above) schools of thought.  I shouldn't be surprised that both Anderson and Naughton sometimes use the exact same arguments and the exact same examples to make their extremely diverse points.  I have had so much fun preparing for these posts.  I hope I do the subject justice and that you find the posts both entertaining and informative. 

Until next time, happy and healthy eating! 

Saturday, April 2, 2011

A Happy Day

Today was a wonderful day!  My oldest son, along with his good friend, represented France at their Model U.N. conference this weekend and, for the first time, they took the gavel!  They actually each got an engraved gavel (see photo above).  They have won best delegates before and have even received standing ovations for their often colorful and highly creative presentations, but this is the first time they won! 

My youngest son's team played an outstanding game of Varsity baseball and they also won - 9 to 1.  My son came in from playing left field as a clutch pitcher, pitched an inning, and allowed no runs.  He also had 3 at-bats and had 3 hits, one of them an RBI.  Their team, so far, is 5 and 0...

As for me and my husband, we decided to celebrate our sons' victories by going out to dinner.  We went to "Bonefish" for the first time this Lenten season and had such a nice dinner, we wondered why we had not gone there before!  I had their trout with a sampling of all their sauces except for the lemon butter one.  My husband had a delicious fish called Pompano covered with baby shrimp and scallops.  The vegetable of the day, which we both enjoyed, was chickpeas sauteed with spinach.  And we had a fun red wine called Menage a Trois, which is a California wine that is a combination of Zinfadel, Merlot, and Cabernet Sauvignon. 

Of course, I had to Oxi-clean the heck out of a white uniform before we could leave, which always proves to be an exercise in frustration.  It's pretty harsh on the hands.  Plus it takes two washes to get the pants to look halfway decent.  If anyone out there knows of an easier way to get grass and red dirt stains off of uniform pants, please let me know.  (We are not allowed to use bleach...).  Thanks! 

Well, that's it for tonight.  This one was a quickie!  Until tomorrow, happy and healthy eating!

Friday, April 1, 2011

"12 Steps" To Healthy Eating

I didn't know what the 12-Step Program was until I saw the movie "Clueless" a number of years ago.  And it was the show "My Name is Earl" that took 2 of those steps and fashioned a successful series out of them.  It was yesterday, however, when I was "led" to an examination of the 12-Step Program in an effort to explain the best way to lose weight and keep it off.  And I had one of those "aha" moments when I realized that it was by essentially following those very steps that I was able to kick what had been for me, a food addiction.

Nine years ago, I spent a great deal of time in prayer.  I was sick and wanted answers, and the ones I received were not always what I wanted to hear.  God had always been my heavenly "Daddy", but during that time - of all times- he exercised what we parents refer to as tough love.  And one area of my life that was especially messed-up and in need of a parent's guidance was my relationship with food.  I realized that I did not control what I ate.  Food controlled me.  I ate for comfort, and, when I was upset, I ate a lot of what I liked - mainly salty, fried, and fatty foods.  I often overate, in general, and then felt guilty afterwards.  God showed me that, not only could I not control my eating habits, but that this lack of control had spilled into other areas of my life as well.  (Believe it or not, we are already up to steps 4 and 5 here - taking a moral inventory of ourselves, and admitting to God and to someone else the nature of our wrongs). 

I remember when I first shared these things with my husband, he said something like, "Your diet isn't that bad!  You eat a lot of healthy things."  And he was right - I did.  When he was around.  Dinners were pretty well-rounded, always including a meat, a starch, and a vegetable.  I ate the "really bad" stuff when I was either alone or out with my then very young children.  Also, since we both needed to revamp our diet, he thought nothing of the chicken fried steak, fish 'n chips, or eggs Benedict I often ordered at restaurants, because I had turned him on to them as well (See steps 8 and 9 below for how I dealt with this). 

Step 6 is the point where we are ready to make a change - with God's help.  I knew that, without Him, I would never be able to do it.  I prayed something along the lines of ,"God, I am addicted to food and am drawn to everything that I know is not good for me.  Please help me to sincerely desire what my body needs.  I can not do this on my own and so I relinquish control of my diet over to You."  I probably prayed this type of prayer about a dozen times before it finally "took", by the way.  You need to be persistent, you need to really mean it, and it doesn't hurt to be desperate!

When I rededicated my life to Christ through what some Orthodox Christians would call the baptism of tears, the Christian radio stations that my brother played and that used to make me nervous suddenly soothed me and I found myself drawn to the likes of Petra, John Michael Talbot, and Keith Green.  The same thing happened when I finally relinquished control of my diet to God.  Suddenly the "healthy" recipes I had ignored in my cooking magazines became the staples in my diet, until I abandoned the old magazines altogether for Cooking Light and Light 'n Tasty (now called Healthy Cooking). 

Steps 8 and 9 ask that you make a list of people you have harmed and that you make amends, the thinking being that if we free our conscience, we are much less likely to escape back into our addiction.  This, I have found, is a life-long process.  We often inadvertently hurt those we love and are close to.  There is wisdom in the phrase "never let the sun go down on your anger."   Tied in with that is step 10 - continue to take personal inventory and admit when we're wrong. 

Step 11 - We need to learn to live a new life with a new code of ethics, something God will give us the power to carry out.   Like an alcoholic who is finally dry, I have not had a french fry in over 9 years.  I no longer crave them, but I do not want to set myself up for temptation either.  It's just not worth it.  The same holds true for just about any deep fried food, as well as buttery or full-fat creamy dishes.  They are things that a person with a tendency for breast cancer is better off avoiding.  (See my post on the anti-cancer diet). I began to actually crave things my body needed.  And, after reaching my goal, I began to "allow" myself the low-fat desserts I have featured in some of my posts. 

The final step is to help others who suffer from the same addictions that we suffer from.  I suppose this is why God gave me the desire to turn over my CPA and study nutrition instead.  I really believe the 12-Step Program is divinely inspired!  When I worked at the clinic that hired me when I received my certification, I loved helping people change their eating habits and achieve their goals, whether it was to lose weight, lower their cholesterol or blood pressure, or to just eat healthier.  But, as I mentioned before, the clinic did not survive the economy.  Now, I am enjoying this Blog as a means of reaching out to people.  And it really warms my heart that there are people out there reading it (and even sometimes taking the advice in here to heart!).

Will the 12 Step Approach to better eating work for everyone?  I guess you need to ask, "Does every person who goes to AA end up sober?"   Will it work for you?  Well, you first have to face up to the first 3 steps:  1.)  Admit that you have an addiction and that you can't control it;  2.) Recognize that there is a higher power that can give you strength;  and  3.) Decide to turn your will and your life over to the care of that higher power (or to God, as we understand Him).

Until next time, happy and healthy eating!