Thursday, October 31, 2013

Day 234 The lure of Halloween candy

On the 29th, I went to Fred Meyer, our local superstore, to buy cat food and cat litter and some of those freezer pack things that you can put in a cooler. There were mega-displays of candy, of course, and I'd been thinking about my last favorite binge food, Milky Way bars that just have chocolate and caramel. I'm glad they didn't invent those until after I gave up sugar because they're exactly what I want.

So I decided to buy some, but only that. I looked and looked. No Halloween bags of that particular candy, so I went over to the regular candy aisle and they were on sale but there were only two bars left, small bars. (HP clearly looking out for me.) So I bought them. I didn't agonize over it, I didn't feel guilty, I just wanted them and wanted to eat them. I had a good lunch, waited until snack time and ate them both. They were good, though the first one was a lot better than the second. But they weren't fabulous. They weren't what I had been dreaming about. (Like remembering some old boyfriend as great when he was actually a jerk.)

I had sugar overload for a couple of hours and I just felt done with them. But the lure, the promise, the memory, ah, that's hard to handle some of the time.

Wednesday, October 30, 2013

Day 233 Ten days of 60 minutes a day

This is the 10th day of my month of doing more exercise. I'm doing 420 minutes a week, roughly 60 minutes a day. My coach Elisabeth had recommended upping my exercise at the beginning of our work together but I was most reluctant. I was already going to the gym four times a week (about 180 minutes a week) and I didn't know where I'd find the time.

The truth was I didn't know where I'd find the energy. I was at the top of my weight, not the top of my game. And making big changes in my food seemed more than enough change. Then when the summer came and I'd lost about 20 pounds, I revisited the idea and started walking most days. Just a mile. 20 blocks in my neighborhood, 15-20 minutes of my time. So I added about 60 minutes of walking but one of the gym days fell through (by my choice) and so I was really working out about 210 minutes a week, or a half-hour a day.

Don't get me wrong. I was giving myself a lot of credit. The average amount of exercise by American adults is pretty close to zip and I was doing something most days of the week and for a reasonable amount of time. But in a way, I knew I was doing kind of the least I could get away with. So I decided to take on this challenge. See if I could exercise 60 minutes a day, move my body in some way

I've been taking advantage of the beautiful weather to walk most days and do some weights and stretches. I doubt the weather will hold all month and I've got to find some alternatives. Of course, I could go to the gym every day for an hour. That wouldn't be bad. But for now, I'm just seeing what I can do.

Today I walked 25 minutes this morning and then this afternoon, I got my food plan buddy Lily to walk another 40 minutes with me. We had a date to sit and chat and we did that, but we walked and talked first. It was great. Last week I did 430 minutes, so far this week, 185 minutes with four days to go. I'll keep you posted.

Tuesday, October 29, 2013

Day 232 A different kind of bucket list

I came upon this list on Facebook and contacted its author, Shannon Kaiser, who generously allowed me to repost it here for you. You can connect with Shannon at

30 things to do before you die:
1. Stop worrying about debt.
2. Forgive your ex-lovers.
3. Stop trying to control your outcome.
4. Look in the mirror and love yourself unconditionally.
5. Leave the job you hate.
6. Find your purpose and live it full heartedly.
7. Adopt a furry friend.
8. Don’t feel guilty for holiday weight gain.
9. Trust that everything is in right order.
10. Travel to the place you keep thinking about.
11. Try something that scares you daily.
12. Be open to change.
13. Let go of your past.
14. Stop trying to change people.
15. Stop looking for answer outside of yourself.
16. Stop thinking you did something wrong.
17. Be your weird, crazy, beautiful self.
18. Follow your heart.
19. Risk everything for love.
20. Reject rejection.
21. See the world as a beautiful, safe, and loving place.
22. See everyone as equals.
23. Give up all attachments to stuff.
24. Recognize the journey is the reward.
25. Stay hopeful and optimistic in difficult situations.
26. Welcome all life lessons.
27. See the opportunities in every challenge rather than give up.
28. Live your values.
29. Inspire others by your own bigness.

30. Play with the world.

Monday, October 28, 2013

Day 231 Changing my exercise self-talk

As I mentioned in an earlier blog, I've been a regular exerciser for more than 30 years. For the last 6 or 7, my neighbor and friend Melanie and I have been gym buddies, going to the gym together in the morning on a Wed/Thurs/Sat/Sun schedule (which fits her work mornings). Until a couple of months ago, on the non-gym days or if Melanie couldn't go, I'd ask myself if I was going to exercise. Some days I'd say yes, some days no. If I didn't feel like it, if I had a lot of paid work and deadlines, if the weather was icky, if I was tired. You know, all those excuses we make.

Then when I started the food plan, my coach asked about my exercise program and I made it sound pretty substantial. I mean 3-4 days at the gym is a good routine and I was doing both cardio and weights. What I didn't want to own was the fact that I'd been doing the same routine for a long time and while I was sort of fit, I wasn't really as fit as I could be.

So I started walking in the spring and adding 20 minutes here and there to my days at the gym. I didn't push it, either for frequency or intensity, but more often when I asked myself if I was going to get some exercise, I'd say yes. And I've kept that up.

But now that I'm committed to a month of 60 minutes a day (or 420 minutes a week), my self-talk has to change. It's not "if" anymore. It's "when" and "what."

Sunday, October 27, 2013

Day 230 What I'm really addicted to

I went to a new-to-me AA meeting yesterday and listened to a woman talk about her relapses (she'd had several). She'd had a couple of surgeries and a lot of pain, but that hadn't been the cause of her relapsing. Each time she'd started drinking again, it was because of plain, old life discomfort: anxiety, nervousness, general malaise. She just didn't want to feel bad. The old admonition to sit with your feelings, to sit with discomfort was something she just couldn't do.

I felt such empathy for her and I wondered if this is at the heart of the reason why so few people get sober and stay sober, an intolerance for that kind of discomfort. It was certainly why I started drinking and probably why I kept drinking until I crossed some line and couldn't not drink. I didn't want to be uneasy, or jealous, or anxious, or off-kilter.

Because I couldn't stand those feelings, I became addicted to soothing. It's why it isn't just alcohol in my life that is/was the problem. Work soothes me, eating soothes me, shopping can soothe me. Not everything that soothes me is bad but that intolerance for discomfort is a tough one for me to handle, to understand, to sit with.  

Saturday, October 26, 2013

Day 229 Casting less of a shadow

Yesterday, I walked twice. Once in the morning on the way down to my art studio and back two hours later. It was cold, foggy, but refreshing. Then in the late afternoon, in the warm October sun. Just lovely. Heading east I had the sun at my back and I realized that I am casting a much smaller shadow. There's just less of me to appear on the ground in front of me. Hurray!

This morning I walked in the drizzly fog with my fleece coat on. About half-way through the 45 minutes, I was way too warm and I tied my jacket sleeves around my waist. Hey! There was much more sleeve to tie because my waist is not so thick anymore. A second hurray!

Friday, October 25, 2013

Day 228 This week's creations

Lots of intriguing things in the last CSA boxes of the summer. So here's what I'm eating this week:

Crockpot soup:
Cauliflower, yellow onion, skinny red peppers, purple potatoes, fennel bulb with TJoe's Yellow Curry Sauce, veggie broth, and adobo seasoning. A little hot for my gringo tastebuds so I'm putting it over brown rice.

Veggie bake: Delicata squash, a garnet yam, celery, purple potatoes, fennel, parsley, spinach, the last of the skinny red pepper, a big sweet yellow pepper. I filled a big mixing bowl with chopped veggies. Then I mixed 1/4 cup olive oil vinaigrette with 1 cup broth and 2 T. of TJoe's 21 seasonings salute and coated them with the mixture. Baked in big flat pyrex dish for 40 minutes at 375.

Juice:  several varieties of apple from the local nursery's big sale, flat leaf parsley, celery, collard greens, cucumber, carrots, romaine. Adding a little vanilla coconut milk to the smoothie in the morning with frozen banana (peel before freezing), frozen pineapple, fresh pear, spinach.

Yum all around!

Thursday, October 24, 2013

Day 227 Thoughtful words for all of us with food issues

The Exquisite Taste of Plain Water

When we are able to fully appreciate the basic activities of eating and drinking, we discover an ancient secret, the secret of how to become content and at ease. The Zen teachings talk about the exquisite taste of plain water. Have you ever been very, very thirsty? Maybe you were on a long hike, or sick, or working without a break in the summer heat. When you were finally able to drink, even plain water, you remember how wonderful it was. Actually, each sip of liquid and each bite of food can be that fresh and delicious, once we learn again just to be present.

- Jan Chozen Bays, "Mindful Eating"

Wednesday, October 23, 2013

Day 226 On gluten intolerance from the Reboot Joe site

What is gluten?

Gluten is a protein found in wheat, barley, rye, spelt, kamut, and oats. It is found in bread, pasta, wraps, bread rolls, pizza, biscuits, crackers, pastries, cereals and most processed foods. These foods are considered a staple in many people’s diet.

It is said that research for gluten sensitivities is where celiac research was 30 years ago. Research into non-celiac gluten sensitivity, also known as gluten intolerance, has increasingly been proving that you can get serious symptoms from gluten ingestion without having celiac disease. We now have the existence of a spectrum of gluten-related disorders. Research into this condition is in its infancy and not all doctors and other health professionals have accepted it as a real condition. The prevalence of gluten-sensitivity is estimated to be approximately 6% of the general population (six-fold more common than celiac disease).

Gluten Sensitivity (GS) refers to an adverse reaction to eating gluten that usually does not lead to damage of the small intestine. Only in the last few years have researchers verified and isolated the existence of a non-celiac gluten sensitivity.

There is no test for gluten sensitivity other then eliminating it for a period of time and re-introducing it back into the diet and observing any changes. Dr. Fasano hopes to eventually discover a biomarker specifically for gluten sensitivity. If you suspect you may be negatively affected by gluten it is recommended to have the appropriate tests to confirm that you don’t have celiac’s disease or a wheat allergy. If these are both negative then the elimination and re-entry of gluten test is recommended.

Here is more on the differences of Celiac Disease, Gluten Intolerance and Wheat Allergy.

What are symptoms of GS?

Many people associate gluten sensitivities with only IBS like symptoms such as bloating, flatulence, intestinal pain, discomfort, constipation and/or diarrhea. However, gluten has also been shown to cause many non-gastrointestinal symptoms.

The symptoms observed in gluten sensitivities may resemble those associated with celiac disease but with a prevalence of non-intestinal symptoms, such as bone and joint pain, muscle cramps, numbness, chronic fatigue, eczema, skin rashes such as hives, psoriasis, headaches/migraines, iron deficiency anaemia, other vitamin & mineral deficiencies, infertility, teeth enamel irregularities, ulcers, lactose intolerance, early onset osteoporosis, hair loss (alopecia), bruising easily, nosebleeds and night blindness.

Behavioural changes can also occur such as irritability, listlessness, mood disorders, poor concentration, foggy mind, depression and clumsiness (ataxia).

How a reaction to gluten could cause such a wide range of symptoms also remains unproven.  Dr. Fasano and other experts speculate that once immune cells are mistakenly primed to attack gluten, they can migrate and spread inflammation, even to the brain. In some individuals, gluten sensitivity was shown to present only neurological dysfunction.

Dr. Fasano says he sees headaches and migraines and brain fog in about one-third of the people he has diagnosed with non-celiac gluten sensitivity (far more than in celiac disease).

Can gluten cause diseases?

A review paper in The New England Journal of Medicine listed 55 diseases that can be caused by eating gluten. These included IBS, inflammatory bowel disease, cancer and autoimmune diseases. Gluten is also linked to many mood and neurological diseases, including anxiety, depression, schizophrenia,dementia, migraines and nerve damage. Children can also be very easily affected by gluten causing the same symptoms as listed above. Gluten has even been implicated with worsening of autistic spectrum disorders symptoms in a small study but many parents have found a significant improvement following a gluten and casein free diet.

Gluten can cause health complications for many and you may be at risk even if you don’t have celiac disease. A large study in the Journal of the American Medical Association found that people with celiac disease or gluten sensitivity had a higher risk of death, mostly from heart disease and cancer. There was a 39% increased risk of death in those with celiac disease, 72% increased risk of death in those with gut inflammation related to gluten (but not celiac’s), and 35% increased risk in those with gluten sensitivity.

Why are so many people suffering with gluten intolerances and feeling better for eliminating gluten based products?

There are a few theories, one being that wheat today contains more gluten than it ever has previously in history and this is having a negative impact on our health. Gluten is a natural insecticide so farmers prefer super gluten strains of wheat as it requires less pest control and gives a higher yield at a lower cost. Gluten also gives baked goods their light fluffy, chewy texture and also contributes to its elasticity so the baked goods retain their shape well and provide a strong structure so the super gluten strains of wheat are popular with the food manufacturers and bakers. We are also eating more wheat based products than ever before, so many foods that we have been encouraged to consume are full of wheat and it is often used as a filler in soups, sauces and other food products so we are literally eating it all day in some cases. Here is a complete list of gluten containing foods on

Some grains such as spelt, rye and barley have lower levels of gluten and this can be why some people feel better for these alternate grains over wheat.

Tuesday, October 22, 2013

Day 225 Reporting on the post-dinner eating

In agreement with my coach Elisabeth, I'm actively working on letting go of evening eating (post-dinner/in front of the TV movie eating). This has been one of my guilty pleasures for many years. I can't claim ignorance of how so not good it is for me. It's clearly a case of overeating (I've already had a full dinner), and while I don't eat anything that isn't on the plan, I don't need a rice cake with peanut butter after dinner. I don't need coconut milk yogurt with a pear and almonds. I don't need chips and bean dip. I'm not eating any of this because I'm hungry. I'm eating because my mind is still racing from the day, the Netflix choice (I don't have access to regular or cable TV) is not all that engaging when I'm alone, and I'm restless and wanting food to relax me, to slow me down.

In fact, my close friend Susan emailed me yesterday congratulating me on being productive on a beautiful sunny Saturday afternoon. I wrote back and said that congratulations were probably not in order. I don't have trouble being productive, I have trouble being at rest.

The last few nights I have not eaten after dinner and I have watched TV. How? I've been whitening my teeth, a process that calls for flossing and brushing two hours before bedtime, putting peroxide gel in these little plastic replicas of my teeth and wearing them for one-two hours. If you want it to work, you don't put anything in your mouth except water after the treatment until the next morning. This process will take about 3 weeks. I'm hoping that by then I'll be on my way to changing that old habit.

Monday, October 21, 2013

Day 224 7 X 60 Just move it Part II

I'm in decent shape for my age. I did a senior fitness test last summer and I can bench press and leg press a lot of weight (strong), I have strong bones from years of walking and weight lifting, but I'm probably not as cardio fit as I could be. Two reasons: I don't like to sweat (not from an appearance perspective but I don't like to be hot and sweaty) and I don't like to be out of breath (I find it frightening).

I'd like to get over both of these inclinations or dislikes and be fitter. So in the spirit of Younger Next Year, I am going to increase my exercise program. No, I'm not taking a month to go to Utah and ski all day every day, but I am going to move my body 7 hours each week, roughly 60 minutes a day every day. Currently I walk 20-25 minutes 4 times a week and go to the gym the other 3 days where I walk for 30-40 minutes and lift weights. So I'm going to increase my time and begin to do some other things. I get to choose what counts as moving my body: yoga, repeated stair climbing, additional weight work, a dance tape. Some vigorous yard work might count (sweeping, raking leaves) but no already routine activities. I want to move more that I already do. If I end up with a long exercise possibility one day, I can count it in the total 420 minutes.

I'm wondering if any of your readers are willing to take this on with me, be a buddy in the 7x60 club for the next month. If you are, email me at and we'll team up.

Sunday, October 20, 2013

Day 223 7 x 60 Just move it! Part I

I've been reading a book that's been around a while called Younger Next Year. It was recommended to me by a client, Jim Holland, who's an age mate and in great shape. He told me he'd given copies of it everyone he knew one Christmas as it had changed his life. Life-changing books are often a good recommendation, if nothing else to see what the other person is up to.

The basic premise of the book is that if we aren't growing, we're dying. That is, if we stop moving, our bodies slowly close down and move towards hibernation and decay (muscles atrophy, organs don't function well, we don't slough off old cells and cancer can start). This is a very simplistic summary of several long chapters, andt of course it's a variation on the age-old move it or lose it. The book is highly unrealistic in some ways (the authors advocate getting in shape by taking a month off and spending all day each day skiing), but the idea is sound. Get moving or become infirm.

I got serious about getting physical when I was 33, in 1980. My boyfriend at the time was a runner/jogger and he encouraged me to get moving to stay slim and be healthy. It took me a few weeks to get the hang of it and while I never loved it, I did feel better. In fact, for the next 10 years, running was a hangover treatment for me. Then when I got sober, it was a way to deal with extra time and restlessness so I kept at it. Eventually I shifted to walking as my ankles and hips got older and didn't care for the pounding on the pavement.

I have exercised rather faithfully for the last 33 years. The only long period of time that I didn't, curiously enough, was the month I spent in the treatment center, which at that time had no exercise problem at all. We walked two miles once a week.

At the same time that I am disciplined and faithful, I am not athletic. But I do not want to be old and infirm. I want to old, reasonably firm, and reasonably fit.

Saturday, October 19, 2013

Day 222 A poem by my friend Ethel Gullette

In response to my food Plan, Ethel sent the following vegetable poem:


I deal with quandaries
like my mother cooked vegetables,
as if to punish them.
She threw them frozen
into the pressure cooker.
Sizzling and sputtering
with all that pent-up heat,
they were always cooked to death.
We ate them anyway.
I still love my vegetables,
lightly steamed,
fresh and crisp,
but my resolves re often mushy and over-done.
I eat them anyway.

Friday, October 18, 2013

Edit 221 Another great Jill Kelly taste creation!

I had some old friends over for a potluck last night. I was providing the main dish and had planned to make an old favorite but discovered Wed afternoon that I didn't have all the ingredients and there was no time for a trip to the store (and I didn't feel like making time). So I looked at what I had and took a risk and this is what I made. It was fabulous!

Chicken with cherries and fennel

Cut up boneless, skinless chicken thighs in bite-size pies. (I used 10 thighs for 6 of us).

Mix 1/2 cup Luccini's Fig and Walnut Savory Balsamic Vinaigrette (or another tasty, fruity dressing), lemon salt, cumin, garlic and 2 cups of broth. Pour over chicken. Add 2 tablespoons capers and a bag of T Joe's dried black cherries. Marinate for 12-24 hours covered in the fridge.

Pour into baking dish and add 2 cups chopped fennel, 1 cup chopped kohlrabi, and 1 each chopped red pepper, yellow pepper, green pepper.

Bake at 375 for about 45 minutes or until fennel is fork-tender. Serve over rice.

Thursday, October 17, 2013

Day 220 Living the Quiet Life

I love the Zen Habit blog of Leo Babauta ( Here's a post of his from July that I pasted into my creativity journal on the Quiet Life.

Today I wish the quiet life upon you.
Some ideas:
  • Create a little quiet space in the morning.
  • Meditate for 2 minutes a day (to start with). Just sit and put your attention on your breath, returning when your thoughts distract you.
  • When you feel the urge to socialize online, pause. Give yourself a little quiet instead.
  • When you feel the automatic urge to say Yes to an invitation, consider saying No instead, unless it’s something that will truly enrich your life.
  • Don’t take music on a run or walk. Instead, give yourself space with your thoughts.
  • When someone talks to you, instead of jumping in with something about yourself, just listen. Absorb. Reflect their thoughts back to them. Appreciate their beauty.
  • Make time for the people closest to you. One-on-one time is best. Really pay attention to them.
  • Make time for creating, with no distractions.
  • Spend some time decluttering, and creating peaceful space.
  • Create space between your automatic reaction, and your actions (or words). Even one second is enough. In that space, consider whether your reaction is appropriate.
  • Instead of rushing, take a breath, and slow down.
  • Pay attention to sensations of whatever you’re eating, drinking, doing.
  • Have a daily time for reflection.
You don’t have to do all of these, and certainly not all at once. A slow, happy progression is best.

Wednesday, October 16, 2013

Day 219 A bedtime story

I saw on the news yesterday that inconsistent bedtimes have been linked to problem behaviors in kids. And it reminded me that the first piece of recovery information that I learned in the treatment center in Lynchburg, VA, in September of 1989 was about having a consistent bedtime as a support for long-term sobriety.

I'd been there maybe an hour. They'd gone through my bag to see if I'd smuggled in any drugs or alcohol. Gone through all my medications and registered them with the nurse who would now dole them out to me. Then shown me to my room. The treatment center was in an old nurses' dorm on the hospital campus. (You can find a full description of it in my novel, The Color of Longing.) The room was small, two twin beds, two dressers, a desk, a window. It looked like a dorm room. No decorations, plain blue walls, ugly bedspreads. I remember it was very hot in there. It seemed hot in the whole place or maybe that was just withdrawal.

The guy who was giving me the tour was named Sam and he had a cigarettes and whiskey voice but no Southern accent. He showed me the bathroom down the hall, told me I was lucky. There were only two women in residence and we would have the second bathroom all to ourselves while the 18 men shared the other. I wasn't feeling very lucky that day but I did come to appreciate that over the next month.

Then he said, "You're to be in your room by 9:30, lights out at 10. We get you up at 7."

"What if I'm not sleepy?"

"I guess you'll just lie there then." Then he laughed and said, "You'll sleep. Most people do."

Some look of fear or dismay must have crossed my face for he touched my arm and said. "You'll get used to it all. Having a regular schedule for sleep and meals is critical for your mental health. And we're as concerned about that as your physical health. Alcoholics keep crazy hours. We want you to learn to keep sane hours."

And I thought about late nights drinking and sleeping all afternoon and drinking at 4 am and dragging myself out of bed late morning on the weekends, mostly so I could start drinking, and wondered if he was right. Now I know he was. It wasn't  just getting 8 or 9 hours of sleep, although I find that important. It was taking good care of myself and living with a structure instead of chaos. I see now, I mean in this very moment, that that's what I'm now moving towards with food. No wonder that memory got sparked.

Tuesday, October 15, 2013

Day 218 A great blog post about GMOs and avoiding them

Thanks to Carole Bartolotto, RD, for this great post in the Huffington Post.

Despite the fact that over 90 percent of people want genetically modified organisms (GMOs) labeled, we still don't have that right in the U.S. -- yet. But we are not powerless. Awareness about GMOs is growing steadily. And I believe it is the "small things, everyday deeds of ordinary folk" that can make a big difference. If our elected officials will not do our bidding, then we can take our power back right now by not buying or eating any genetically modified foods. Need some motivation to cut them out of your diet? Here are some sobering facts.
1. We eat on average 193 pounds of genetically modified foods in a year, at minimum. Yes you read that right -- 193 pounds!
2. There are no long-term safety studies in humans. Thus, the long-term health effects are unknown.
3. Genetically modified crops use more pesticides. Their use has increased by 404 million pounds from 1996 to 2011. And stronger herbicides are needed to counter weed resistance,including 2,4-D, which is one of the chemicals found in Agent Orange! This is bad for the environment and can't be good for us.

4. Chemical companies that create GMO seeds -- such as Monsanto -- patent them so farmers have to buy new seeds each year. I just don't think it's right to patent seeds, GMO or otherwise. And think about it, do you really want chemical companies to control our food supply?
It is for these reasons that I avoid genetically modified foods. I hope you consider removing them from your diet as well. Let's use the power we do have -- our dollars -- and avoid GMOs now.
The current crops that are genetically modified are soycorncanolasugar beetscotton,Hawaiian papaya some zucchini and yellow crookneck squash and alfalfa (which is fed to cattle and not us). Here are some tips to cut GMOs out of your diet.
  • Buy USDA Organic, especially when purchasing the current GMO crops. Organic foods are grown from seeds that are not genetically modified.
  • Look for the Non-GMO Project Verified seal. For more information about the Non-GMO Project, see here.
  • Buy brands that are sourced to be free of GMOs such as Trader Joe's labeled foodsor Whole Foods Market's 365 Daily Value labeled foods. If you eat a lot of processed foods, such as canned and packaged products, choose these brands or an organic brand. Better yet, eat more whole foods, which are less likely to contain GMOs.
  • Since most corn and soy are GMO, choose organic or a brand that sources their items to be free of GMOs when you eat these foods. This includes sweet corn, corn tortillas, corn oil, corn chips, tofu, edamame, soy milk, and baby formula.
  • Instead of canola, corn, soy, or cottonseed, choose extra virgin olive oil, organic canola oil (cold pressed), or safflower oil.
  • Sugar and high fructose corn syrup are another source of GMOs. Cane sugar is not genetically engineered, so when you do have sugar, choose cane. However, processed sugar is not good for us anyway; therefore, it would be best to cut it out as much as you can.
  • Most Hawaiian papaya and some yellow crookneck squashzucchini, and are all genetically modified. Buy these foods organic. You can also try your local farmer's market. All Trader Joe's produce is sourced to be free of GMOs, so you can also buy these veggies there if you have a store nearby. You will notice that Trader Joe's sells Caribbean papaya and not Hawaiian, which is one of the ways they avoid selling GMOs.
Do you eat out a lot?
  • Ask the manager at restaurants you frequent if their menu items contain GMO ingredients. This will help increase awareness and perhaps move them in the direction of removing GMOs from their menu.
  • If the manager doesn't know, ask if organic foods are used. If organic products are not used, avoid tofu, veggie burgers made with soy, corn, corn tortillas, corn chips, edamame, and other foods from corn and soy. Also avoid sugar, sweets, and desserts.
  • Ask what kind of oil they use. If it is soy, canola, corn, or cottonseed, they are most likely GMO.
  • Salads can be a safe option, but ask for cruets with olive oil and vinegar instead of other salad dressings.
  • The great news is that some restaurants have made the effort to avoid GMOs in the Los Angeles area, such as Real Food Daily, Hugo's, and Café Gratitude.
What else can you do? 

Tell restaurants, fast food chains, and grocery stores, you want products without GMOs. They will respond to customer demand, as they have done in the past. Remember what happened when we found out there was "pink slime" in our hamburgers?

Monday, October 14, 2013

Day 217 Moving towards the next big challenge

I've been putting off writing this particular post because it means taking another big leap and I'm resistant to more big change. It isn't a surprise to me that I need to do this. I haven't been harboring the illusion that some miracle would happen and I wouldn't have to address this directly. But I've just been coasting for a while.

My first big step was changing what I eat. And as my blog post two days indicated, those changes have become pretty solid. Next up: changing how I eat. Specifically, snacking after dinner in front of the TV.

When I moved more heavily into my drinking and started using wine coolers to feel better in the morning, I knew that wasn't normal. I went on doing it for another 12 years, but I never pretended it was what everybody did. But snacking in front of the TV, why that's an all-American pastime and not doing this seems counter-cultural, radical, revolutionary, and worst of all, restrictive.

But there are several good reasons to stop doing it.

  • Extra calories that add up to more than I need in a day.  Check.
  • Extra calories that don't get burned while I sleep so they add up to extra pounds (or less weight loss). Check. 
  • Disturbed sleep. Many foods stimulate the third-eye chakra (intuition, visions) giving us weird dreams and making us feel that we've been busy all night. Check. 
  • We don't physically rest as well since our digestive system has to digest (digest means less rest). Check. 
But my emotional self doesn't buy much of this. She's screaming: "We'll suffer if you do that. We won't make it."

And yet. And yet.

Sunday, October 13, 2013

Day 216 My recurring drinking dream

Last night, I had the dream again.

When I first got sober, I had a rather typical recovery dream. I'd be at a party or a dinner and there'd be a drink in my hand or at my place setting, and I'd drink some and then remember with horror that I didn't drink anymore. I'd be filled with guilt and shame and remorse and it was awful. Once I started talking about these dreams at AA meetings, I learned they were very common. And that only alcoholics have them.

In the last few years, the dream has changed. Now when I take that drink in the dream, I realize that I've been drinking all along, all these years of so-called sobriety have been a sham. I'm heart-broken at the thought, confused, miserable. And when I wake up, it takes a few minutes to know that the dream isn't real. And that I am in fact sober and have been for more than 24 years.

I'm not sure what the dream means. The situation changes each time: different events, different circumstances. The constant is the knowledge that my sobriety isn't real. I've never heard anyone else mention this dream. Once I get over the shock of it, it leaves me curious to know what else in my life might not be real, what the faux drinking symbolizes.

Saturday, October 12, 2013

Day 215 Where I am today

I'm seven and a half months into the Plan. It's how I eat now. No wheat, no dairy, very little soy (I'm okay if it's a minor ingredient in something and I just have a little (like a dressing). I eat much less meat, once a day or every other day. I eat a big salad most days and another meal of many cooked vegetables plus a quart of green juice smoothie. It's just how I eat now. It's not a big deal.

Making the juice 2-3 times a week has become a routine (took me 15 minutes this morning). Making a crock pot soup is about the same amount of time. Did it twice this week because I had folks to dinner and served it up. I often steam greens or bake other veggies at the same time so most of my cooking gets down on one morning of the week, usually Monday, but for no particular reason.

I shop much less frequently. Usually once a week on Wednesdays at New Seasons, our local upscale organic store, where I get a 10% senior discount that day. We are also still getting our organic food box (another two deliveries, I think) and I go to Trader Joe's about every three weeks for some staples that I like from there.

I do still get a few deli items at New Seasons. I like their kale/carrot salad and their quinoa/apple salad and sometimes they have grilled vegetables, which is a nice change. I don't have a way to grill. Not yet anyway.

I've lost 32 pounds in this time, no idea how many inches, but I'm down a size in clothes and those are loose too. I feel lighter, lots happier, lots healthier. And getting ready to make the next big change.

Friday, October 11, 2013

Day 214 Contempt prior to investigation

I've always loved this phrase from the AA program, about how we disdain or reject things before we give them a chance. "That will never work for me." "I could never do that." "Yuck!"

I had two close encounters of this kind yesterday. One was with a younger friend, who was talking about her struggles with weight and diets and I suggested she watch Fat, Sick, and Nearly Dead. "Oh, I already know all that," she said. She assumed it was the same old story about eat less and move more and of course it's not, but she didn't want to learn that. She was already cynical and resigned. Made me sad.

The second encounter was with an older friend, who remarked about how much weight I've lost and I was telling her that green juice smoothies were at the heart of my efforts. She wrinkled up her nose and when I asked if she'd ever had green juice, she said "No. Sounds awful."

I don't try to convert anybody. But I'm always curious when people talk about wanting something different (different results) but are unwilling to entertain a different way. I've been there many times myself.

Thursday, October 10, 2013

Day 213 5 seconds of cunning, baffling, and powerful

I went to one of my favorite AA meetings yesterday. It's a women's meeting with a nice mix of newcomers and old-timers and we read from the Big Book before discussion. Two women were celebrating anniversaries, one with 20 years and one with 3. I didn't know the 20-year woman but I've watched the 3-year woman come in and out for a while and was delighted to see she had put together some time.

She was talking about what it had been like and her move from wine to hard liquor, and just like that I had a flash of serious, full-on craving for a big glass of cold bourbon. I didn't want the taste, I didn't want to be drunk. What I wanted was that moment of relaxation that almost always came from the first drink. A sense of relief of tension, anxiety, desperation, sadness, jealousy, boredom, anger, fatigue. You name it.

The craving lasted no more than 5 seconds, probably about the length of time of the relief I used to feel lasted. And then it was gone and I was back in my right mind again. I don't feel endangered by those occasional cravings. I've learned to regard them with curiosity and compassion for myself. I talked about that craving when my turn came, glad to have a safe place like a meeting to get it out into the open. And to be reminded that the disease is still there.

Wednesday, October 9, 2013

Day 212 An interesting argument from Michael Pollan

My food plan buddy, Lily Gael, was reading to me from Pollan's new book, Cooked, and one sentence struck me so much, I copied it down. In our culture, Pollan says, "The only legitimate form of leisure is consumption."

Of course, consumption refers to lots of things: we consume TV, we consume video games, we consume goods (clothes, books, cars, toys, music). We are a consumer society. Our leisure is spent consuming. But the fact that Pollan is talking about this in a book focused on the kitchen means he's also talking about food.

Consuming food is an enormous part of our leisure. I would guess most of us eat when we get together with friends: coffee and a scone, dessert, tea and a cookie, meeting over lunch, over dinner. If we go to sports events, we eat. If we go hiking, we take food. We eat in our cars, in our beds, in front of the TV (one of my issues). I live in a city (Portland) of an astounding number of restaurants, many, if not most, of them full every night.

We seem to have lost our interest in activities that don't involve food. At the same time, we seldom just eat. We read and eat, talk and eat, watch and eat. So it isn't really about the food either. It's just about consuming.

Pollan is arguing in his book, as I understand it, for us to also be producers. To grow food, cook food, create food, not just consume it. Something magical can happen in the kitchen. Cooking has become a creative act for me, and my relationship with food and my body is changing because of it.

Tuesday, October 8, 2013

Day 211 What I've been eating and cooking

I was at Wordstock, Portland's book festival, over the weekend, selling my books (see and was glad to already be well settled in my food plan so I didn't have to be flummoxed about what to eat or take.

I ate a double breakfast each morning (12 oz of green juice smoothie at 7, an hour at the gym, and then second breakfast at 9:15.(steel cut oats, walnuts, pear, coconut milk one day and 3 scrambled eggs and 2 GF waffles with maple agave the second).

Saturday I took 7 cups of green salad with black beans with me (dressing in a small container), a Larabar, some almonds, and more smoothie. Sunday I took 7 cups of cole slaw and quinoa/almond/apple salad mixed with a Bobo's bar. I've got these great glass Pyrex bowls with plastic lids that make taking food along easy.

I was really tired each night so I made things simple: a can of Amy's black bean chili with a cup of steamed chard (already done) added the first night, the second night leftover potato/corn/white bean chowder with a half cup of turkey sausage and broccoli added. Both meals were hearty, quick, and delicious.

Yesterday was cooking day (Monday often is) and I made an Indian stew in the crockpot with onions, potatoes, fennel, a slightly hot red pepper, and zucchini with a jar of Tjoe's Red Curry Sauce, a cup of broth, and a cup of coconut milk. I added a cup of brown rice the last hour. I also made juice in the afternoon (parsley, collard greens, romaine, apple, carrots, cucumber).

Tonight, I'm doing my veggie bake for the week: onions, yukon gold potatoes, a yam, and big chunks of cabbage, baked in a sauce of 3 remaining tablespoons of an olive oil dressing with herbes de Provence, 1/8 cup olive oil, 1 cup vegetable broth, and 6 oz of roasted, glazed figs (no idea where that jar came from). I put all the sauce ingredients in my blender and poured it over the veggies and baked it for 35 minutes at 375. Heavenly!

Monday, October 7, 2013

Day 210 Changing your palate could be a radical political move

I've talked in this blog before about David Kessler's The End of Overeating. Kessler is a former US Surgeon General who set out to understand why he always bought two huge chocolate chip cookies and then obsessed about them until he had eaten them both. While he does talk some about addiction and our inner workings that lead to that food obsession, he spends a lot of time talking about the food industry and how they have shaped our cravings and our palates to lust after salt, sugar, and fat.

I won't go into the details here (his book is very accessible and well worth reading if you struggle with food) but our mouths basically have become addicted to salty, sugary, smooth foods that don't take much chewing. They just slide on down. Much to the delight of our mouths and the delight of the restaurant owners, who get us to come back and do it again and again and again.

You may remember me mentioning a few months back Kessler's reporting on chicken breasts at most chain restaurants, which are soaked in oil, salt, and sugar and precooked before being frozen and shipped to the restaurant, where they are soaked in oil, salt, and sugar before being cooked and served to us. So that chicken breast is a lot more than chicken. The deception aside, the additional calories and contribution to obesity aside, the whole point is to have food that is so tasty (palatable), in fact hypertasty, that you'll come back and buy it over and over and over again. The chicken isn't flavorful because it's a great piece of chicken, it's flavorful because it has salt and sugar in it and on it. The chicken isn't juicy and tender because it was raised right, it's juicy and tender because it's been tenderized and juiced up with oil.

How food tastes is being manipulated for profit reasons. It's not illegal, it may not be immoral. It's up to us consumers to know what we're getting and if that's what we want.

I don't know if I would enjoy that food anymore. I haven't tried it and I don't plan to. But I do know that my palate has changed. That I like the way vegetables taste by themselves, without sauce. I like less salt on my food. I don't want much oil on my food. I don't want sugar in things that aren't naturally sweet. Call me radical, call me a revolutionary. I want real food, not manipulated food.

Sunday, October 6, 2013

Day 209 Marshaling support for change

One of the smartest things I did when I moved into my food plan last March was to start blogging about it. I did it initially to have some accountability. An agreement I make with myself is important to me, but I have a firmer commitment when others also know about the agreement. So it seemed important to announce to a few folks that I was embarking on a big change and that I'd be reporting on it. And although nobody can keep me sober other than me and nobody can keep me on the plan other than me, it does help to know that others are supporting us.

It was also a wise idea for me to hire Elisabeth Dunham as my coach. I wasn't quite sure what having a coach would do for me, but her suggestions for making gradual changes, her solutions to the problems I encountered, her quick answers (or an I'll find out) to my questions, and her encouragement and support were well worth the money I spent.

And a third prong of my support has been the friends who've adopted a version of the plan themselves. I've been meeting every two weeks with my buddy Lily. We talk obstacles, challenges, recipes, discoveries, setbacks, successes. Six or eight other friends, both local and long distance, are now on their own versions of the plan and we talk on the phone or when we get together and support each other. Our mutual wishing each other well and good eating is a wonderful addition to my path.

Saturday, October 5, 2013

Day 208 An amazing thought about addiction

I've been reading David Krueger's The Secret Language of Money. It's a pretty interesting book about our relationship with money, personal, familial, cultural, and the individual story we each have about money and what we want it to do for us. The book is about a great deal more than money. It's about how we do life, what we expect and don't expect. And of course, he talks some about addictions around money: spending addiction, debt, gambling.

He talks at length about the restlessness of addiction. The dopamine rush we get from spending whether it's cash or credit card, online or in person, and how we want more of that rush. Always more. And here's the sentence that blew me away: "When one is addicted to something, the hardest thing to do is nothing."

That has so been my experience. I think of it as the inability to stop doing something, but it's really an inability to do nothing. To just sit there or stand there or lie there until the need, the restlessness, the agitation passes. I don't have much faith that it will, but I've never really tested it. I've just gone from one soother to another. What an idea! Do nothing.

Friday, October 4, 2013

Day 207 Guest blog on wheat

Long before I got on the Plan, I'd been hearing about Dr. Davis and Wheat Belly. Here's some info about that from a local health coach who specializes in helping people get off wheat.

The other day I was enjoying my gluten-free (GF) breakfast at my favorite GF café, Kuwain’s Rio Café on West Burnside in Portland, when I began a conversation with a man sitting next to me. He told me that his son, who had been diagnosed with asthma and autism had become a normally functioning highly intelligent student and a runner when He moved to a wheat-free diet. All the boy’s symptoms had disappeared.

This is a remarkable story but it’s not a unique one. Dr. Rodney Ford, a pediatric gastroenterologist and food allergist, has written 10 books on the subject. He shares success after success when treating the links between wheat consumption and child behavior and health issues. He also treats adults with the same positive results.
Unfortunately, most of the medical community has not yet caught on to this wheat crisis as the cause for many neurological effects such as depression, lethargy, ADD and ADHD, and also many immune system disorders, joint pain, muscle cramps, and swelling in the tissues. Turns out gluten may not be the only culprit contributing to this wheat-related health crisis after all. Researchers are looking at a unique protein called gliadin in genetically engineered (GE) dwarf wheat that acts as a trigger for escalating the weakest propensity for disease in the body, according to Dr. Thomas O'Bryan of the Mayo Clinic. Dr. William Davis, author of the NY Times best-selling book Wheat Belly calls gliaden a “perfect chronic poison.” Interviews with these two doctors ( offer insights into these issues.

Gliadin is a unique DNA protein that attaches to the morphine receptors in the brain. It’s a “feel good” hormone and causes us to eat more, thus contributing to the obesity crisis. GE dwarf wheat was created in a chemist’s lab in the late 1960s as a first crude attempt at gene splicing and is in widespread use in the United States. The best way to know if gliadin is the cause of your physical ailments is to give wheat up 100% for a period of 30 days to test your body's response.

Giving wheat up completely requires becoming an aware consumer as wheat is contained in many food products, including processed foods. You have to start reading labels.

Deborah O’Brien is a food, health and life coach. Contact her for more information about getting off wheat. 503-706-0908.

Thursday, October 3, 2013

Day 206 A brush with wheat and dairy

I just came back from a long weekend with my family up on Mt Hood celebrating my sister's 60th birthday. It was the weekend of the typhoon from Japan bringing us inches of rain and so we were inside a lot, reading, playing cards, watching our favorite funny movies (Dodgeball, Airplane). There was a lot of non-plan food because that's the way most of my family eats: cake, French bread, many kinds of cheese, for example, but I'd brought soups and salads for myself and our other sister, who's also on the plan (she's lost 45 pounds).

The birthday cake was the same family favorite German chocolate cake from a local bakery and my experience with it last year (eating a piece and then feeling wretched about 45 minutes later) carried me through saying no. But the next night there was blackberry pie and ice cream and I decided to give it a try. There were no immediate repercussions: I didn't feel "sugared out," and I didn't crave more or even think about the remaining ice cream in the freezer. In fact, the pie was very good but the ice cream was just sort of okay, which surprised me because it was my favorite brand. And all of this was good news to me.

The not-so-good news came the next day with major intestinal upset all day and into the following morning, problems I haven't had since the very first month of the plan, problems that were all too common before the plan. So now I know. Staying off wheat and dairy is good for me, and indulging in either will have unpleasant consequences.

Wednesday, October 2, 2013

Day 205 My version of SAD has arrived!

After a most beautiful summer of many cool mornings and warm afternoons, plenty of sunshine and little rain, fall has descended on the Northwest like a ton of bricks. The weather has turned cold, wet, and continually cloudy, more like November than the gorgeous September we usually get. Add this to the rapid diminishing of the light that comes with the Equinox and it's gotten pretty gloomy here.

It takes me a few days to recognize the onset of my version of Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD). Mine doesn't come at the height of winter with a burning desire to go to Hawaii or Arizona. In fact, I do go to Florida now in late January and it always seems odd to be in the sun and the heat. No, by the holidays, I've made peace with the cold and the dark and moved into my indoor life.

It's now that I struggle. It's now that the evenings seem too long and I feel at loose ends with myself, loose ends that I try to tie up with extra food. I know this will pass, that I will settle in, and my challenge is to be okay without needing to eat about it.

Tuesday, October 1, 2013

Day 204 Eating on purpose

I've been thinking a lot about how I want the next phase of my life to be. Many of my friends are retiring. They're downsizing to smaller homes, moving to warmer climates. Some have been retired for a while. On to their big travel adventures. When you work for yourself, the transition can be much less clear cut. But the time constraints, the dwindling future is still there.

Since I got sober, I have wanted very much to live on purpose. A great deal of my drinking life was aimless. It may not have seemed so from the outside. I was in relationships, I went to graduate school, I got a PhD, I had a career and wrote academic articles. But inside I was lost and wandering and I don't live that way now.

I think that may be why this food plan is so good for me. Because it's about eating on purpose. It's not about eating because I'm hungry, although that's a factor. It's not about what do I feel like eating (what would taste good), though that's a factor too. It's mostly about understanding the purpose of what I eat (feed my cells, my muscles, my brain connections; keep me in good health, both mental and physical; support all the things I'd like to do). And about making deliberate choices, something I didn't much of when I was struggling with addiction.