Listen to your body? Hogwash!

A piece of advice that should be removed from the lexicon of the self-help world is, “just listen to your body.”

Body out of control

If your problem, like mine, is fighting personal obesity, and the chronic killer diseases that arise from it, your body is the last thing you want to listen to!  It’s what I’ve done wrong for decades, and it’s the thing that put me in this situation in the first place!

I listened to my body when my taste buds were screaming for a hamburger, or a beer, or a pizza…omigod pizza!  I listened to my body when I gave up on numerous efforts to correct bad habits, like smoking tobacco, taking sleep aids to get a good night’s sleep, and vegging out on the couch every evening instead of doing things around the house, like food prep and cooking.

liarOur bodies, deceitful liars

The truth is, my body is what I made it — a very deceitful liar!

Way back when I was a child, some 50 years ago, my body had already begun its deceitful ways. By convincing me that sugary soft drinks would quench my thirst better than water, that my mom’s chocolate pie was better for my body than an apple or a handful of grapes, my body was in early training to become the liar that it is today!

I have heard dozens, if not hundreds, of people say that they gave up on healthy eating, usually specific diet plans, because their bodies were rejecting these plans by giving them headaches, a feeling of energy depletion, or some other variety of temporary discomfort.

Unhealthy food is an ADDICTION, pure and simple!  And, these temporary conditions of discomfort are simply withdrawal symptoms that all addicts must go through in order to free themselves from the addiction’s chains.

Changing the paradigm

We need a different paradigm for dealing with our unhealthy habits. Instead of listening to our bodies, we need them to shut up, and we need to listen to the science of good nutrition, and by this, I mean honest nutrition!  We need to know what’s really going on when we eat unhealthy foods.

What we find in nutritional resources is that when our bodies are calling strongly for something, chances are that it is a craving.  It is no different from greed, lust, or any of the other biggies which want to seize control of our more sound and rational decision-making processes.  They demoralize us, shame us, and harm us physically, shortening our lives and robbing us of the quality of life we want.

One of the hallmarks of Dr. Fuhrman’s Eat To Live books and papers is what he calls “toxic hunger.”  It’s what drives these unhealthy appetites and causes many of our problems associated with eating unhealthily.  Addictions to food are dangerously real, and our bodies are great deceivers.

A new paradigm, when trying to relearn what to eat, is to be very suspicious of anything our bodies are telling us to do. Until we can identify the difference between a real need and a raging craving, we should depend on what our heads tell us rather than upon our stomachs.  A new paradigm requires us to embrace discipline, not an easy out, or an alibi when things get tough.

Our bodies are what we make them. Responsibly managing our impulses and discomforts is the biggest, and most difficult, step in defeating a food addiction.

Sweet Tofu Salad Dressing

The salad dressings in the Eat To Live program are important for a couple of big reasons.

One of the adages of Eat To Live is “Salad Is the Main Course!”  If the dressings are not bursting with flavors that satisfy the senses, then the salad — the main course! — can be rather dull and discouraging for newcomers.  The “no oils/no salt added” basic rule can feel very confining to a newcomer, so in my view, the more flavorful the dressings are, the more success a person is likely to have on Eat To Live.

Also, the dressings are an excellent way to create your own “favorite” with experimentation and combining flavors that appeal to you most!  The creative process is what makes this exciting for me, along with the actual personal contact I have with every element that goes into it.

This dressing is one I created this evening, and it is wonderfully light and pleasant to the taste buds.  See what you think about it.

Sweet Tofu Salad DressingSweet Tofu Salad Dressing

1 pkg (approx 16 oz) of silken tofu
1 cup unsweetened coconut milk
1/2 cup tahini paste
1/4 cup fruit vinegar (I used Trader Joe’s Orange Muscat Champagne Vinegar this time.)
1 cup fresh blueberries
4 medium shallots
4 garlic cloves
2 tbsp ground chia seeds
1/4 cup Italian parsley
1 tbsp red pepper sauce (I used Louisiana Hot Sauce, though it has a tiny bit of salt in it.)
2 tsp black pepper

Chop, dice, or slice all ingredients and combine them in a blender.  Blend on puree setting, if you have it.  If not, blend until the dressing has the thickness you like.
Makes about 40 oz.

Banana Avocado Breakfast Smoothie

In order to get out the door and to work on time, I put all these items in an airtight container the night before so that I can simply put it all in a blender for my breakfast the next morning.  I can even drink it on the way to work, so it’s a time-saver.  And, it’s very healthful and delicious.  Here is the basic smoothie, and I change it up with new things occasionally.

1.5 cups unsweetened coconut milk
1 banana, sliced
1 avocado, skin and seed removed
1 cup fresh blueberries (frozen okay during off-season)
1/4 cup flax or chia seeds, freshly ground (I use a dedicated coffee grinder)
4 sprigs of fresh mint, chopped with long stems removed
1 large handful of fresh greens (spinach and baby kale are ideal!)
Ice cubes as desired

Place all items in blender, and blend to desired consistency.  I use the puree setting on my blender, and it’s very smooth and delicious.  It makes about 16 oz.

Substitutes: Any berries, walnuts instead of listed seeds, nut milks (low or no sodium important)

Eggplant Stuffed Pepper

One night this past week, I was trying to create a recipe that would use my aging eggplant and bell pepper I had bought a few days before.  My Mediterranean food cravings having taken full charge of my senses, this is what I came up with, and it is definitely repeatable.  (No pictures this time, unfortunately.  Next time.)

1 medium-size eggplant, peeled and cubed
1 bell pepper (I used an orange one)
1 medium-size onion, quartered
3 garlic cloves, minced
4 tbsp tahini paste
1 small lemon
1/4 cup of freshly minced parsley
1 tsp turmeric powder
1 tsp fresh ground black pepper

Blanch whole bell pepper for a minute or two to soften the outer skin, then place the whole pepper into the oven at 375 for about fifteen minutes.  The pepper should still have enough structure to allow for the stuffing.  Allow pepper to cool.  Cut pepper in half crosswise, and clean pulp out, if desired.  Trim stem of pepper so that the top will lie flat in the baking dish when stuffed.

Add remaining ingredients, except the lemon, to a blender, and run the blender at a medium speed until the texture is to your liking.  I kept mine slightly rough in texture.  Pour mixture into each half of the bell pepper, and add a slice of lemon to the top of each half.  Place halves into a baking dish, cover and bake for about 45 minutes at 380.

After taking the peppers out of the oven, remove cover and squeeze the juice from the remaining lemon onto each half.

Serves 2

Fresh Tomato Sauce

I’ve been back on the Eat To Live life plan for the past month, and I am reminded again of the wonders of excellent nutrition and the enjoyment of eating on Dr. Fuhrman’s plan.

One of the staples in my diet is tomatoes, and the more creative, the better, staying strictly in plan.  Because I use so much tomato sauce and raw tomatoes, while not being able to rely on finding no-salt/no-oil added tomato products on the grocery shelves, I decided I needed my own recipe for creating a sauce that I can pour into my bean soups and as vegetable toppings during the week.

This is the recipe for the tomato sauce I made yesterday, and it is scrumptious.Fresh Tomato Sauce

10 Roma tomatoes
2 Green Tomatilloes
1 cup of fresh Italian Parsley
1 large yellow onion
6 cloves of garlic
1 juiced lemon
2 celery stalks sliced
1 red bell pepper chopped
1 large dried black ancho pepper (seeds in)
1/4 cup grape vinegar
2 tbsp turmeric powder
1 tbsp black pepper
2 tbsp ground flax seed

Chop and slice all ingredients and toss them into a blender. Blend for several minutes into a puree sauce. Pour contents into a large pot, and bring to a boil and stir. Bring heat down to a simmer, cover, and cook for 90 minutes, stirring as needed to avoid sticking.

This recipe made a little over a quart.  It’s hard to tell exactly, because I tasted a half-dozen spoonfuls while I was making it…okay, maybe it was more than that.

Local farmers markets…challenging our assumptions

highlight03It’s that time of year when local farmers markets are abundant in good home-grown produce, but it is important that veggie and fruit buyers beware of our own assumptions about what we are buying.

Five assumptions about farmers markets:

  1. Just because everything looks fresh and green doesn’t mean it is.  Be aware of the growing seasons in your area, and if you see some items that are not “in season”, you can ask questions about how fresh the produce is and whether or not it has been in food storage for awhile.
  2. The produce is not necessarily free of pesticides and herbicides.  It may look great and healthy, but if you want to be careful about ingesting poisons, do not let your guard down just because you aren’t at your local supermarket.  Ask questions!
  3. If buying organic is important to you, don’t assume that an open-air, seasonal farmers market is naturally organic.  Be aware that genetically-modified foods and chemically-fertilized produce is abundant at farmers markets, just like they are at your local grocer.  Again, ask questions!
  4. If buying “locally grown” is important to you, farmers markets do not necessarily promise this.  Many market vendors, in order to make a living, supplement their produce offerings with items that are grown elsewhere in order to offer a variety.  In the Dallas area, for example, many local farmers markets have products that come from 500 or 600 miles away in the Rio Grande Valley.  This is not to say we shouldn’t buy the products; it simply means that the products are not necessarily grown locally.   Nothing wrong with this, but it might be important to some shoppers to know.
  5. Many of the vendors at farmers markets are brokers, not the farmers themselves.  One of the good things about buying from local farmers markets is that you are at least one purchasing level closer to the people who grow the food.  However, many of the market vendors are broker-dealers and may not have much knowledge about how the food was grown and harvested.

When this season rolls around every year, I love my Saturday morning shopping trips to the local farmers markets.  But, through the years I have discovered that I am not always getting what I think I’m getting.  It’s not that I’ve been lied to or deceived.  Rather, it’s that I have brought along a load of naivete about the way the food and distribution system works.  Knowing this, I have become much more realistic about my expectations at these markets, and because I am better informed than before, I feel much better about the purchasing decisions I’ve made.  To better health!

Tribute to one of the best towns in Texas…West

villagebakeryoutsideAbout a year-and-a-half ago, I wrote an article, published on Blogcritics (click here to read the old article), about the wonderful town of West, Texas.  Known for its fantastic bakeries and Czech food, it is the best-known stopping place between Dallas and points south like Waco and Austin on I-35.

Best of all, though, is the tremendous hospitality that is such an obvious characteristic of this great community.  On my trips south out of Dallas, the highlight is always West.  On trips in which I have not been in a huge hurry, I’ve always enjoyed visiting with small business owners and hearing stories about the Czech heritage and the town’s history.  It truly is one of the great small town treasures in my beloved home state of Texas.

If any community is equipped to handle tragedy, it is West.  It’s hard to imagine that they will be drawn any closer to each other than they already are, but they will.  I am sure they are thankful for the world’s attention on them at this little snapshot in time, but if I know the community as well as I think I do, they will also be glad when they can indulge in their private grief and say their quiet good-byes to their friends and neighbors.

I have enormous respect for the people of West and the surrounding small communities like Elm Mott and Abbott.  These folks are not your Hollywood Texans, swelled up with ego and braggadocio.  They are the humble, kind, and relentlessly hospitable folks that make native Texans, like myself, so proud to live here.

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