Overcoming Nancy Thomas

Who?  I’ll save you the trouble of Googling Nancy Thomas. You won’t find her on the internet (well, at least not the Nancy Thomas I am referring to).  Nancy Thomas is the name that my husband and I made up to describe that attitude that presents itself when you have the perfect combination of unfounded negativity and skepticism that anything good will happen.  It’s a combination of being a “Negative Nancy” and a “Doubting Thomas”.  Nancy Thomas.

Do you know how to recognize when your Nancy Thomas rears her head? For me, it usually manifests in an internal litany about how hard I work, and I have so much to do, how I never get to do what I want, and the weight of the world is on me, and burden this, unfair that, blah blah blah.  I can feel my body tense and my mind close. Nancy Thomas can make me feel like I’m a hamster running on wheel that is immersed in mud. Basically, exhausted.

Why am I even telling you about this?  What does this have to do with wellness or nutrition or food or any of it.

Well, I think Nancy Thomas has EVERYTHING to do with your wellbeing.  You see, I am of the belief that how you feel and how you think is the foundation that sets the tone for all of your behaviors, values, beliefs, inspirations, motivations, and perceptions about your capacity to live well, eat well, be well, etc.   Nancy Thomas can be the sabotuer who derails momentum you are gaining on making a lifestyle change. Nancy Thomas is the voice that says “no, you can’t” when you want to try something new. Nancy Thomas is a total downer.  If you let her, she’ll keep you running in circles chasing your desire for peace forever.

But wait, before you get totally bummed out by this post, I have good news. You can keep  Nancy Thomas in her place if you learn to listen to the signs that she has arrived and understand what she needs. Really, all Nancy Thomas wants is to be heard.  She represents some unspoken but strongly felt emotion in you that, if left unattended, will go on a destructive rampage in your mind.

Nancy Thomas is a lot like my toddler in the midst of one of his toddler-terrorist fits.  He’s demanding, nothing will satisfy him, he says no to anything that is offered, and he’s completely irrational.  He gets locked into a fixed mindset that the only option it to stand there and cry relentelessly. There are 2 way that I can successfully deal with him and neither has to do with facing his tantrum head on. That only makes it worse.   My options are to  avoid feeding into the drama by distracting him and just moving on, or finding a way to soothe him without him realizing what is happening.  It’s the same for Nancy Thomas- you can’t yell her away or scold her into shrinking.  You can’t punish a force that is by nature, already self- punitive. The solution is found in recognizing when you are having a Nancy Thomas moment before she takes over and figuring out what the unmet need is so you can fill it. You have to nip Nancy in the bud.

I had a Nancy Thomas moment today, and my toddler had a tantrum, so I spent a fair amount of my evening dealing with this kind of thing. So I guess you could say, I am kind of an expert, at least tonight.   Here is what I learned: we both wanted and needed the same thing. We were utterly exhausted and needed to be soothed but were resisting like crazy. For him, he simply needed to be held and rocked and put to bed early.  Done.

For me, I was deeply frustrated that I’d missed a chance to go to a yoga class at an actual yoga studio with legit yoga teachers and a really cool vibe, for the first time in over 2 years because I forgot my yoga clothes.  Damn it all!! If you could have only heard the dialogue in my head when I pulled up to the studio and discovered an empty back seat. let’s just say, there was nothing yogic about my reaction. So Nancy Thomas and her “badditude” accompanied me all the way home. Nancy Thomas cast a dark shadow on what had actually been a pretty amazing day, but I couldn’t see that once I was triggered. I could have easily stayed caught up in that negative thought pattern, which for me, is often followed by self-berratement and internal flogging for letting myself get so worked up. My, my, what a superb waste of mental energy.

But, here’s the cool part. I am very familiar with Nancy Thomas. I know that she can swoop in and ruin my whole night if I let her.  I also know that she’s basically a toddler, so I did something that we teach kids to do all the time.  I checked in with myself to see what I needed. I found my words.  I needed to relax.  I needed a time out.  So, I took ownership of my needs and told (not asked) my hubby  to keep an eye on Callum while mommy deployed some critical self care tactics. Then, I took a bath – a long, warm, luxurious bath that included time to read a book and time to lay still with my body immersed in deliciously oil-infused water without a single interruption.  And viola, just like that, Nancy Thomas was gone.

 

 

 

 

 

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Very Adequate (Recipe Included!)

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This past weekend I made some very adequate muffins. You’re in luck, because I did include the recipe below so you too can make some adequate muffins.  I hesitated to even think about posting the recipe because, well, these muffins were so ordinary. But here I am, braving the critics and sharing with you a very sufficient, but not life changing recipe.

I’m going against the grain on this one because it seems that in today’s food world ordinary just will not do.  Everything is about “best meal ever” and “surprise your taste buds” and “rockstar” status applied to just about anything.  We use terms like super foods, we watch cupcake wars, and we subtly compete with on another on who is the coolest based on what they ate. And don’t even get me started on hipster food trends like artisan toast and  mason jar salads.  It’s as though every food experience must be transformative, else it’s nothing at all. It’s not that any of these things are ill intended, it’s just that they are hyped up so much and have  charged connotations associated with them that play to our desires to be the cool kid by partaking in these foods. Here’s the thing, 99% of the meals that I create don’t get anywhere near “best  ever”, yet still I find myself very satisfied.  I can’t possibly achieve amazing every time I’m in the kitchen, or even most of the time.  And here’s another truth, while I’m at it – some of the recipes I make (even with kale, my beloved super food) really stink.  There I said it. Total fails, but usually we  eat them anyway because ,guess what, we  don’t need every meal to be a 10 in order to enjoy dinner as a family. I am a good cook, but I’m not a super hero.

I think this whole notion of over selling our food experiences  just sets us up for disappointment and for feeling like somehow we are inadequate when we are simply being ordinary normal humans trying to nourish our bodies and figure out what works for us.  I believe that disappointment  can trigger us to keep seeking a flavor experience we will never find, and hence keep eating to chase the dream, so to speak.  I am so incredibly guilty of falling into this pattern too.  Maybe one day, just for fun, I’ll get a little chuckle by looking back at this blog to find posts where I did very thing I’m renouncing right now. So be it.  Live and learn, right?

Well, here’s where I take a stand.  I am taking a stand for the ordinary. For the average. For the sufficient.  I’m committing to underselling and over delivering, or just underselling and  delivering what was promised (which was very adequate)  instead of overselling and under delivering, but being okay with it because I’m just being myself. It is enough.  Do you want to join me?  You are enough too.  It’s okay if you still eat your salad out of a plastic Tupperware because you’re petrified to carry around glass jars of food for fear of them breaking.  It’s fine if you don’t like kale, I still love you anyway. And it’s totally acceptable if you sometimes just scrape together whatever you have in the kitchen to put a meal on the table because on that day it’s all you’ve got in you.  Here’s what I think will happen: when we liberate ourselves from the expectation of what something should be, we are free to experience it for what it is.  We can release attachment to outcome, to how it defines us, to our egos. And yes, even a little muffin can have this power.  Food can be a metaphor for life, so why not learn the power of radical acceptance via our nibbles and noshes.

So here I give to you my very adequate, but rather satisfactory pumpkin and carrot muffin recipe.  Why do I love this recipe despite the fact that I wish they could be a little sweeter sometimes or a little more moist others?  I love it because it’s flexible, simple, easy to prepare, and everybody in my house enjoys them.  And who care’s about “Uh-mazing” when I am surrounded by warm smiles and full bellies from my family, who loves me and appreciate my very adequate cooking.

This recipe was adapted from the Applesauce Muffin recipe in the Bob’s Redmill Baking Book.

3/4 cup whole wheat flour
1/2 cup coconut flour (or just do 1 cup whole wheat flour)
1/2 cup oat or spelt or barley flour
1/2 cup unbleached flour
1 T sugar
2.5 tsp baking soda
1 tsp each: cinnamon, all spice
1/2 tsp ginger (I like to get mine from The Spice House)
1 tsp vanilla
1.5 cups of canned pumpkin (or mashed baked sweet potato)
1 cup shredded carrots (I cheat and buy shredded carrots, but you can shred them in the food processor or grate them)
1/4 cup molasses (original recipe calls for brown sugar)
3 eggs
3 T oil
a few Tablespoons of water, depending on the consistency once you’ve mixed the wet and dry ingredients. The denser the flour, the more likely you’ll need water.
Optional: 1/2 cup shredded unsweetened coconut

Preheat the oven to 400 degrees and prepare your muffin tins.  Whisk or sift the flours, the 1 T sugar, the baking soda and the spices.  In a separate large bowl, beat the eggs, oil, vanilla, and molasses. Fold in the pumpkin and the carrots.  Add the dry ingredients until just mixed, adding water as needed to make the batter thick enough to easily spoon out, but still very moist (not runny).  Don’t over mix.  Once mixed, fold in the coconut if desired.
Fill the muffin tin well about 3/4 of the way, and bake for 20-25 minutes, or until a toothpick or knife comes out clean.

 

 

 

 

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Now

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Now. Small word with big meaning.  This word has tremendous meaning to me. So much so that we have an art quilt with this word on it, created by the amazing artist Therese May and gifted to us by my MIL.

I have been thinking about this word a lot lately. For me, two different ideas come to mind.

One one hand I think about living in the now, relinquishing my attachment to the past and my anxiety or anticipation about the future. Ha! Who am I kidding, it’s darn near impossible for me to do both, but boy do I  try.  My son definitely helps me with this. Toddlers have nothing but the now and I loves seeing the ease of which he moves through life, not worrying about anything and therefore fully enjoying whatever creative opportunity the moment brings.  He is free, and when I enter his world with him, I can be free too.  That freedom makes my body feel light, my cravings feel smaller, my fears disappear, and my joy feel bigger.

Then there is the other association I have with the word “Now”. I think about action. Doing. Moving. Engaging.  NOT procrastinating. NOT being stuck in fear. NOT making excuses.  But there is a catch – I think to really harness the power of “NOW”, so to speak, there must be consciousness and intention, else you run the risk of living in the tyranny of the moment.

I learned about tyranny of the moment at a training aimed at discussing ways to help communities get out of poverty. I work in public health, and my work surrounds helping communities find strategies to obesity prevention. When you are caught up in the tyranny of the moment, the actions you take tend to just lead you down the same familiar (and unhealthy) path that you’ve been on. You are being reactive.  You are not in a state of future planning or thinking about the impact of “now”. You are just acting.

In reality, I believe we all have to come to terms with that tyranny of the moment if we want to make change in our life.  At some point, after you have invested some time in deciding what you want, you have to decide that NOW is the time to act on those intentions. You have to say NOW is the time to stop watching this TV show and go to bed, or NOW is the time that I put the bag of chips back in the cupboard, or NOW is the time I put on my shoes and go for a walk….or in my case, NOW is the time I start firing up my blog again.

So the question I pose to all of us tonight, is what is your NOW calling for? For me, it’s a 9:30pm bedtime so I can get up early and fulfill my goal of exercise before a long day of sitting at meetings. Which means, of course, time to sign off. Goodnight friends.

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Hello world, I’m Baaaack!

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Aaand, what a better way to break a hiatus than to share a photo of a delicious ancient-grain-cake, cherry and dark chocolate infused, fresh whipping cream and candied ginger truffle!

So, hello there dear reader (all 2 of you still left, I’m sure).  How have you been? What’s new since 2012.  Wondering why I am back, or rather why I ever left?

Let’s answer the second question first. I suppose the truth is that I’m not sure. But the long answer is that I got really busy, really distracted and also my whole focus on wellness evolved.  The blog was starting to feel less relevant as I changed. I moved away from just a focus on food and trying to eat the “off white way” to a focus on behavior and tapping into what makes me feel good and balanced. I also finished grad school, did a half Ironman, had a baby, got a new job, moved, moved again, and now here I am.

Okay, so on to the first question, and really the most important. I’m back because I feel that I have something to offer.  I feel that in spite of my credentials (yes, I did mean in spite), I feel like my perspective on wellness and my passion for helping people feel ignited about doing things that make them feel good is worth sharing. At the very least it will make me feel good, so, yay! One more happy person.

For a long time I mulled over finding a venue to use to resurface. Should I get a new blog? Should I go a different route? Does anybody even read blogs anymore?  Basically, I was making excuses and spent a lot of time trying to find the ideal solution, which in turn, left me stifled.  Isn’t this the case for so many decisions? If I can’t do it perfectly, I won’t do it at all.  It certainly has gotten the best of me on more than one occasion.

So, here I am – taking the giant leap from contemplation to action, and not caring a darn bit about it being perfect. Over time you’ll see this blog change. I’ll update the background, the pages, and the posts will change. We’ll talk more about the process to finding health and wellness, and yes, there will be some recipes and nutrition information mixed in as well. You might see some guest bloggers, such as my dearest friend, amazing nutrition and wellness professional, Andrea Lopriorie, and maybe even a hello from my husband Matt, who now has is PhD in nutrition (yep, I told you we’ve been busy).

But for now, I want to share with you my newest muse, my most powerful inspiration, the reason I do anything at all: my son Callum.  I know, isn’t he amazing?

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Be well, friends and we’ll reconnect soon. In the meantime, let me know what you’ve been up to!  Can’t wait to catch up.

 

 

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Today I will….

Fill in the blank.  What will you do today to take on your own relationship to health and wellness?  It doesn’t have to be big to be significant.

Want an idea – visit Today I will online – a tool for individuals and professionals who are committed to healthy living at all stages of changed. Pretty cool stuff.

It never ceases to amaze me how big the ripple effect of one positive thought can be on my life.  I live the concept of “today I will” because it keeps things in the moment ( we aren’t talking about forever here, just today), it’s simple, and it’s positive.  

Today I will prioritize water throughout the day.  It’s getting warmer here in Davis and I’m workout out a lot to train for my half-iron man.  I need water.  That is my commitment for today.

What will you do today?

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Nurture or Nature – why do we keep eating so much sugar???

Based on national survey data analyses, grainbased
desserts account for a greater proportion of
daily calories than any other food group in people
age 2 and older USDA’s National “What we eat in America” Survey results; just published

I am still baffled when I read statements like the one above.  It just doesn’t compute.  We are still eating far too much sugar, refined grain, and just ‘too much’ in general despite the major public health, private diet industry, personal advocate, and other efforts being made to stop us from eating the foods that make us sick.

Why does this great paradox exist whereby we may *know* that eating certain foods can have ill effects later on, but we do it anyway?

The Nature argument:
Some hints as to our biological drive to eat sweets might come from the latest 60-minutes broadcasts, which highlights the impact of sugar on our brains and bodies.  http://www.dietdoctor.com/must-see-toxic-sugar-on-60-minutes.

Further, my husband (who studies stress and eating via fMRI and other tools), has learned through is work and the work of others, that for some people the following scenario occurs (also seen in people who smoke a lot of pot, do other drugs, or otherwise have impaired frontal lobe executive function)

Even when an individual can indicate on a survey or interview that they know a behavior is “bad” for them and know the consequences, they are incapable of choosing otherwise when actually in the midst of the choice.  This may explain some of the compulsion behind binge eating.

Biologically, we are wired to seek and hunt sugar, as it is a concentrated energy source that is rare in nature.  The same is true for fat.

But, can you think of ONE food that is naturally occurring which is both high is sugar and fat, like most sweet treats can be?  How about one (aside from honey) that is just pure sugar? Even sugar cane has to be processed to get the sugar out from the fiberous cane plant.  Even both honey and pure sugar cane have trace minerals in them in addition to calories.

We have created “superfoods” that are so potent they go right to the pleasure centers of the brain in ways that our biology just cannot handle.  They have the ability to make us override our sense of fullness/hunger, long-term goals (if I eat this today, I might gain weight/have  diabetes later), and they may have long term impact on our brain’s ability to make good food decisions in the future.

The Nurture argument:
We are a produce of our environment.  Think about your commute to work.  Between commercials on TV/Radio, billboards, magazines, internet ads, seeing fast-food or other food establishment signs…how many cues to eat do you see every day just by doing what you do?  

How about the food environment around gatherings/celebrations.  Would you have a birthday dinner that served just a simple, low-calorie meal?  Maybe, but probably not.  How many times a day/month/year are we encouraged to ‘treat ourselves’?

How about the fact that, in many cases, we are not taught how to cook from our families and certainly not from our schools.  When the norm is to get drive-through food on a busy day, how habituated are we to those familiar habits?

Again  I am going to advocate for each and every one of you to take a mindful, honest look at your food behaviors, values, beliefs and attitudes.  Do they work for your goals?  Would you rather spend 10% more of your income on better food today or MUCH MORE in the future on health care?   Does your personal food environment match your desired food values?  Have you had a conversation about such matters with those in your life that you eat with regularly?

We can’t begin to change the “big”Environment if we don’t start with the personal environment.  We can’t change the personal environment if we aren’t willing to look at ourselves honestly and find willingness to explore a healthier, saner way want navigate our food journey.

Quiche, revisited the off-white way

 

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all the makings of an off-white quiche

Next week is Matt’s birthday (it will be the 10th anniversary of his 29th birthday), and we are heading to his folks house for a weekend celebration.  I’ve got some travel and long meeting scheduled this week, which means my contributions to the weekend must be done tonight and tomorrow and frozen for the occasion.

Matt loves quiche.  Who doesn’t love quiche.  He especially loves it with bacon and cream, but he is willing to compromise.  Thankfully, if I put enough cheese on top of anything he won’t really miss the bacon or the cream in this quiche.

The inspiration for Matt’s birthday quiche was from this recipe.  I wanted to modify it because his parents are on the Oxygen diet, so my goal was to satisfy everybody’s needs.  Tough job, I tell ya. Luckily I am a good improviser and here’s what I came up with:

4 egg whites and 1 whole egg: beat for 2 minutes
3/4 cup original Almond Milk
2 cups of roasted veggies: asparagus, mushroom, orange pepper and yellow onion (I roasted them with an Herb d’ Provence spice mix @ 350 for 10 minutes).  SAVE 7-8 ASPARAGUS TIPS FOR THE TOP.
8 oz Monterey Jack cheese
salt, pepper, to taste
1 whole wheat organic pie crust (what a racket – it only has 2g of fiber and cost twice as much as the other….but 2g of fiber is better than nothing, I suppose!)

Baste the crust with egg white and bake for 5 min @ 350.  This will keep it from getting soggy
Once the veggies are roasted, add them in the following way to the crust:

Veggies first, covering the pie crust dish evenly
Add the cheese, spreading evenly
Pour the egg white mix over and make sure it also evenly spreads

Take the 7-8 asparagus tips you saved and place them in a circle, evenly spread apart on top of the quiche so that every ‘slice’ will have an asparagus tip’.

Bake at 350 until golden brown on top (about 40-minutes).

What does it take to change a nation?

I read something quite sad today.  According to this link at the CDC, obesity rates in the US have not changed in the last few years, despite what appears to be a lot of effort to make change.

This really gets me thinking, especially because my new job (which I love!) has me working on grants to design programs aimed at changing food and physical activity environments for groups of people.  It makes me wonder why, despite so much effort toward education, awareness, and encouragement to make good choices, we as a nation are not ‘gettin’ it done’.

Why is that?  I don’t think there is a silver bullet answer, but here’s my 2-cents on it, for what its worth:

1. People are not personally engaged with their own wellness policies to govern their own life.  We talk a lot about wellness policies for schools, companies and private organizations, and even for the nation, but what about your guidelines that rule your own life?  

Have you ever sat down with just yourself or your family and discussed what your health/nutrition/fitness values are?  No?  You’re not alone.  I hear from my clients ALL THE TIME that until they seek support from coaches like myself, it doesn’t cross their mind to have a conversation about it.

What is that saying…”if you don’t stand for something, you’ll fall for anything”.  Spend some time mapping out what is ‘in’ an what is ‘out’ in your home in terms of food choices, fitness, stress management, etc.

An example:  One client has a rule that if her kids are hungry before dinner, they are offered fruit first.  No matter what.  Even if they pull out a Cliff bar or Goldfish crackers and start eating them.

Another example:  One client had a conversation with her family about her and her hubby’s fitness needs. The older kids agreed to watch the younger kids on Sat and Sun so the couple do do a 1-hour walk together each day of the weekend.  It was just policy in that house!

And the reason you need to determine your own wellness policies is because…

#2 reason I think obesity hasn’t changed: the default environment is obesegenic.  That means it is aligned to encourage weight gain if you just follow the status quo.

Here’s an example:  You drive to work in the AM (no activity there) because the bus system is sketchy or non-existent.  You get to work where, in the break room, are an array of treats at any given moment that you constantly have to resist (how many times can you say ‘no’ in your mind to the banana bread that your colleague made before you break down and have some).  Then you sit some more, and maybe work through lunch.  Maybe you packed your lunch, maybe you are at the Mercy of a restaurant, cafeteria, or (sigh) a vending machine…and let’s not even mention the office Starbuck’s run.

If you just do this every day and top that off with a few dinners out, eating your meals on the gargantuan dinner plates most stores sell, and fall prey to constant food advertising, you are going to eat too much.  And then you are going to gain weight.

So, what can you do:  BE YOUR OWN ADVOCATE!!  BE A CHANGE-AGENT IN YOUR OWN LIFE, OR EVEN IN THE LIVES OF THOSE AROUND YOU.  Ask the people who have lost weight, kept it off, or maintained a healthy weight what they do, and I promise they will tell you that THEY DON’T LEAVE THEIR HEALTH IN SOMEBODY ELSE’S HANDS.  They prioritize themselves, their wellness, and their food and fitness values.

 

Your are worth it!  Change is possible, and it’s okay to need help!  Just ask – your friends, family, co-workers, or me!

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Eat more kale…and here’s how (RECIPE)

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Am I the poster child for kale or what?  If you too want to wear your love of kale on your chest, support a good cause and go here to buy one of these babies.

So, the next question is…HOW do I eat more kake?

Answer: It’s so easy!  Kale goes with everything, even chocolate.  Yep, I’ve downed my share of chocolate protein shakes with kale included and I swear, you don’t even taste it. Promise.

My favorite kind of kale is Lacinato kale, AKA Dino kale.  It’s easy to work with because the leaves are soft and less ‘wrinkly’, but in general I’m an equal opportunity kale consumer.

Tonight, to celebrate the arrival of my new shirt, I made this fabulous and very easy kale-inspired recipe

 

Quinoa, black bean and kale salad
2 cups cooked quinoa, slightly cooled (I cooked mine in the rice cooker with broth)
1 can each: corn and Trader Joe’s Cuban black beans
1.5 cups of finely chopped kale (also from Trader Joe’s in my case)
2 tbsp each: EVOO and fresh lemon juice
1 tbsp finely chopped scallions
1-2 tbsp finely chopped cilantro
spices (about 1 tsp each)  cumin, sea salt, pepper, cayenne pepper

Mix the spices, cilantro, scallions with the oil and lemon juice in a bowl, set aside.  Toss the corn and beans with the quinoa.  Add the oil/lemon and mix half-way. Add kale and mix in thoroughly but try not to ‘mush’ the salad – toss lightly.

Chill and let the spices sink in! Enjoy.

This makes about 5-6 cups of salad, and I think it pairs nicely with white fish, such as Tilapia.

Great advice for better, fresher eggs!

Check out this link from Organic Authorityt hat helps you tell how fresh your eggs are. Too bad you can’t do this BEFORE you buy!
http://www.organicauthority.com/foodie-buzz/how-do-you-know-if-your-eggs-have-gone-bad.html
My thought on ‘old’ eggs: put them in your hair. I put eggs in my hair about 4 times in January and saw major improvements in shine and thickness.
Waste not, want not