Getting rooted in an unsettled world


Hello off-white readers!

Did you know that foods can helps us balance out the other energies of our lives. Of course you did, you are all savvy, aware people.  But in case any of you forgot (like I do), read ahead.

I love the Traditional Chinese Medicine model of the 5 elements to look at how lifestyle creates balance.  We have the following elements to play with in designing our personal wellness plan (PS: this is by no means a comprehensive view of the 5 elements, so seek out more info if you are so inclined):

Water – flow, dreams, winter, sleep, our “big dream” in life, fears, kidneys
Wood – our “get up and go”, spring, upward bound,  liver, ‘sergent’-like behaviors, awakening
Fire – charisma, social connections, inspiration, passion, summer, heart, anger
Earth – connection to earth, mother energy, compassion, “do I have what it takes”, getting grounded, warm, stomach/spleen/pancreas
Metal – completion, inward focus, constriction, large intestine and lungs

When I am feeling really out of balance, it is usually my liver that is whacked out.  Not really my “physical” liver, but the energy of the liver.   I often laugh at my “angry liver chi” because it makes me a tyrant that can’t stop working.  The liver, when imbalanced, is like the slave-driving boss who has no compassion or heart and works itself and others into burn out……..yep, that would explain me.  It’s also a very controlling (I want my way) kind of energy.  Every time I have any kind of energy/Eastern -thought minded work done on me its always about balancing my liver.  that dang little element very easily works its way into a stress-induced kunundrm in my life. 

The remedies: Yoga, nature and grounding foods, laughing, and letting things go (which means they may all fall apart around me and I have to just let it happen).  I need something to unwind the poor sergent so he can rest up, feel connected, be inspired, and ready to bring a spring like energy to the next day.

Root vegetable and slightly sweet foods are one way to augment the Earth element, which gets starved when the Liver is on a tyraid (Sp?).  With our world being what it is, I would imagine many of us are experiencing fear and stress.

See below for a recipe for a moroccon inspired root veggie dish, that when consumed in a loving way ina peaceful environment, might just do the trick!  Enjoy:

tagine root vegetables

If you don’t have a tagine, you can simply cook this in a covered pyrex dish.
Pre-set overn to 350 if using a glass dish, or 375 for ceramic/metal

1 Butternut squash, sliced into 1″ thick discs at the long end, adn 2″ cubes at the round end
1 sweet potato, sliced into 1″ discs
1/4 cup water

2 sweet onions, chopped
1/2 cup dried raisins/cherries or a mix of both
1/2 cup pistacios and almonds, mixed and finely chopped
2 tsp cinnamon
1 tsp cloves
1 tbsp EVOO
a few pats of butter, melted or warmed (for topping the squash at serving)
salt, to taste

Once the oven is pre-heated and the squash is chopped, place the squash in the baking dish or tagine with the water on the bottom.  Make sure the dish is covered.  Cook for 40-50 minutes, or until the squashes are slightly soft but not mushy.  You may peel the discs before serving (easier than peeling raw).

Meanwhile, in a large, non-reactive skillet, cook the following:
sautee the onions with the oil and salt for 3-5 minutes
add the finely chopped nuts and cook on med heat for 1-2 minutes, stirring regularly
add the raisins and spices, cooking for another 3-4 minutes, stirring the mixture well.  Keep warm until serving.

When the squash is done, place a few discs on each person’s plate.  Drizzle with 1 tsp warm butter each disc and top with the onion/dried fruit/nut mixture.  DELISH!!!!

Enjoy and may peace find us all, in our bodies and in our minds!

New year, new start

Hey gang, 

Happy new Year!  I’m here in Nor. Cal finishing up what has been a relaxing, family filled trip for New Year’s.  My holiday season was filled with quiet nights, snow, baking, cooking and of course, EATING!!!

All this eating has left me feeling a little sluggish, as has the dark and wet Oregon weather.  I must say, the California Sunshine in the Sierras today was mighty hard to leave.  

So, now its time to rejuvenate my body and get back to full force off white living.

Instead of just blabbing away about it in text, I’ve decided to create a video record of what its like to do a cleansing diet.  The first couple days are going to be about ‘pre cleansing’, which is just as important as the actual experience, because one must prepare mentally and physically to leave all the holiday goodies behind.  It definitely takes work to be stringent, but I know that it helps my body feel sooooo much better and gives me a chance to undistract myself from food thoughts.

Here is Video #1.




Day 1 of a pre-holiday detox: GOING GREEN

Ti’s the season to DETOX!!!

So my friend A. and I decided to do a little detox before the holidays so that we could walk into Thanksgiving feeling pretty good about our choices.  Truthfully, after being derailed (in the BEST way possible) by my adventures in Italy and a visit to see Matt in California, its been a little hard to be as committed to wheat/dairy/refined sugar free living.  Once my tongue gets a little taste, it’s ON, sister!

With what I term as “the eating season” just on the horizon, now is my chance to get my body a bit back into balance and reconnect with why I love off-white eating/living so much: I FEEL BETTER.  My body has felt a little sluggish and my brain has also been a little less sharp b/c of the allure of the tasty white treats lately.  And I can’t help but wonder if my little visit from aunt “FLU” (yes, FLU, not flow) was worsened because of less than idea food choices (why did they have to make pumpkin bars at work last week and put them in the fridge where my lunch sits….)

Thank goodness for A. because she will help me stay on track, and I will help her too!  We are even co-house sitting for a mutual friend and have planned some fun “Cleanse Cooking” nights.  Yes, we have a sick sense of fun, and thank GOD we have one another!  If any of you have ever tried to eat a detox style diet (details to follow) you know how tough it can be to stay strong in the face of adversity, so having friend to do this with me helps A LOT.

Here’s the down and dirty of our detox diet, which will last between today (Nov 16th) and Thanksgiving (Nov 27th).  


  • A diet free of all dairy (incl eggs), flours of any kind (even spelt!) and concentrated sweeteners of any kind (looks like its stevia city for a few days)
  • Ample green veggies, such as collards, kale, broccoli, watercress, parsley, green onions, spinach ,etc.  Basically, we will be living on greens and green juices
  • Herbs and spices such as: ginger, lemon, garlic, turmeric, nettles, milk thistle, cinnamon are our friends
  • Fruits include only low sugar options: Green apples, cranberries, and dark berries
  • Flaxmeal and Omega-3 supplements daily
  • Healthy fats daily: extra virgin coconut oil, extra virgin olive oil, avocado, raw and sprouted nuts
  • Lean protein: wild fish, organic white meats and a daily protein shake (I’m using Metagenix Inflameze protein powder 1x/day)
  • Fresh legumes, such as adzuki beans, black beans, and garbanzo beans, and lentils.
  • Eating regularly throughout the day (I said DETOX, not starvation diet or fasting diet….we need our strength)
  • Water, water, water, water………you get the idea
  • Warm lemon water upon rising every day


Sounds reasonable enough, right?? Well, already I’ve had to stare in the face of baking some  apricot pecan chocolate bars with pomegranate glaze for an upcoming work event.  I strategically planned on baking these bars today, on day 1, because I’m still fired up on this whole detox business, and I’m feeling pretty strong.  I also made a wise choice of baking the bars after eating lunch (Mixed greens with tilapia and avocado) so I wasn’t hungry.  Its amazing how avocado can almost taste like chocolate when I’m really imaginative……

So, when I was looking back through all of my handy-dandy little videos, I found a clip that I recorded when visiting Matt in Davis in Sept and its PERFECT, because its about cooking greens.  So, here ya go!!!  Enjoy and maybe it will inspire you to gear up for the holidays with a little abstinent eating.  Just think about how much tastier those holiday treats will be after a cleanse – like a tall glass of water after a long day in the desert!!!


PS: I make reference to some Himalayan sea salt but really it’s not actually sea salt….it’s from the himalayas, which are clearly different than the ocean….must have been the Davis heat going to my head 🙂

it’s not rocket surgery


People overwhelm me.  In a good way.  Like this shirt – a gift to my husband from a client who always wore a shirt with this saying to his 6 am fitness class.  Now he is leaving, and we are simply feeling the immense gratitude and love that has been surrounding us both for the past 2 yrs in Oregon.

This is a picture of all the cards and well wishes we recieved in the past week from colleagues, clients, members of our center, and friends.  What was so incredible about all of this, is that many of the cards shared the same theme: “thank you for helping me change my life”.

Both my husband and I advocate the off-white way of being at work.  Sometimes its through a class, sometimes just a passing comment to somebody who asks a question.  I’m so deeply touched by how many people have been deeply touched and forever changed by this work.  One person mentioned how her husband no longer takes blood pressure meds because of the exercise and off-white cooking classes she has taken.  Wow.  Big.

I want to take a moment to express is the most public way I can right now how much I enjoy the community we are creating  through wellness.  Off-white is not just about recipes or good food ideas, but about people coming together to celebrate their lives with one another in a wholesome, sustainable way.  

There were many tears shed (of joy and sadness for good-byes) in the last 48 hrs, and it feels good.  What may have started as just education has moved into relationships, and we are now in a place to speak from the heart with many of the people who have crossed our paths.

I’m lucky: in 10 days, when I return from California, I know I’ll get to see the same amazing faces and glean more and more inspiration from THEIR inspiration.    My clients are my biggest teachers and my biggest motivators.  Tonight’s card reading ceremony was a huge reminder to me of how important it is that I stay the course and continue to fuel my own passion for Off-White Living.  There are just too many darn good people to connect with for me to even consider otherwise.

Thank you Oregon for taking us in and making us family.


Matt and Rebecca


Food, frugality and fortitude

So, I’m kind of a cheapskate.  In general I hate paying for things.    I especially hate it when things I used to pay X for now cost X + 1 (or whatever)…..Its a joke amongst friends/family that my purse squeaks a bit when I open it.  Yes, you self-helpers out there, I AM working on it.

Lately the cost of food has increased dramatically.  Let’s take a look at some common examples

Just last week I stood in the grocery store, making some choices about what to put in, based on price. The items in question were:

Good Earth tea ($3.99/box of 18 bags
Beef (grass fed, $5.99/lb)
Avocados ($1.25/each)
Brown Rice Tortillas ($3.50/pack)

There were a few others, but these stood out in my mind.    I felt these items were rather expensive for what I could get from them, when considering volume and serving size.  I aim to spend $100/week on groceries for my husband and I to eat together.  We eat out approximately 1x/week WHEN WE HAVE THE FOOD WE LIKE IN THE HOUSE!  When we don’t have easy to prepare, wholesome and tasty food, we eat out.  A typical eating out experiences is $10-$15/person, depending upon where we go.  If I purchase a hot tea away from home, it is minimum $1.50 per serving whereas my Good Earth tea was only about $.25/tea bag.

Therefore, my question became clear: Would purchasing the whole food based items at the grocery, for more $$ per item than in the past, save me money at the end of the week based on frequency of eating out, etc.

Yes, yes, yes!!!!  Despite the fact that groceries are more expensive than before, if we can limit out dining out by even once per week, we are still saving money.  Even purchasing all those items on the list, which yield more than 1 serving, would save over 1 meal out.  Factor in the nutritional benefits of eating in, and its a slam dunk deal.

Now, I do believe we need to have some fortitude during these economic times.  It makes sense to use the grocery $$ we have sensible.  It also means schlepping home when my tired body wants to simply find a cozy spot to sit and have somebody else make the meal.

Here’s what I’ve come up with for ideas on how to save some $$ at the store and still eat well, the off-white way.

  • Puchase whole fryer chickens and carve them yourself.  You can get nitrate-free lunchmeats this way too!
  • Purchase only what you will eat that week in fruits/veggies.  Uneaten produce that goes bad is simply a was to $$.  If you can only cook 2-3x in  week, it doesn’t make sense to buy elaborate veggies that would need to be used everday.
  • Bring groceries to work as a way to avoid buying snacks or eating out at work.  Baby carrots, bags of spinach, a bottle of salad dressing, a supply of teas and beverages…all ways to make eating well convenient and cheap.
  • Buy raw ingredients and make your own…whatever.  Instead of pre-made trail mixes (spendy and full of sugar), buy bulk items and make your own.  Use whole oats instead of quick and buy them in the bulk section.  No need to pay Mr. Quaker for his fancy can.  You can even find agave nectar, flax meal, most grains/rices, and dried fruits in bulk these days.
  • Buy enough for at least 4-5 days so you don’t go to the store daily.  This is a total waste of time, gas, money and energy.
  • Make your own soups, deli salads and pasta dishes for work.  Spending $7 on ingredients for a nice home-made dish that you can eat for 3 days will save $$, as these things typically run $3-7/lb at the deli or grocery.
  • make your own cookies, breads, etc.  Don’t give Starbuck’s $2 for a muffin you can make for $.50 that has better nutrition.  Bob’s Redmill flax meal has an awesome recipe.
  • Buy a water filter and stop buying water bottles.
  • The more packaging, the more it costs.  Buy in large quantity and make up your own mini-bags of ‘whatever’. The whole snackpack thing is a gimmick – you can do it at home.
  • Purchase yogurts, applesauce, cottage cheese, etc in larger containers and take a smaller container with you to work each day.  Reuse the smaller container
  • Give the generics another chance. Some generic stuff actually has better nutrition than the “fancy” stuff.  Example: WinCo’s Cascade Pride english muffins. They cost $1 less than Thomas and have no HFCS, more fiber, and I hear they taste pretty good.

Okay folks, off to bed for me.  I like this topic, but I need some sleep :0

Wishing you all an off-white day tomorrow!

PS: The cost of corn, wheat, and sugar are also on the rise – even better reason to stop eating these things!

Things I love: Be Three

There is a new online newsletter called Be Three.  Its for women, its clever, sassy, and the staff seems really cool based on their bios.  Check it out, and for those who just don’t get enough emails in their inbox every day, they even have a daily newsletter.

I don’t often address my yogini side in my posts (Try and focus on nutrition and sustainable wellness, but yoga is certainly a part of that!), but I loved this article, titled: Get your chant on:

Get Your Chant On


Last week, you found out that chanting isn’t just for saffron-robed monks, and that (heck yeah!) you’re willing to try it out for the sake of inner peace. Now, let’s turn our focus on ”what is a chant” and how easy it is to get your chant on.

What Is a Chant?
1. Words: One of the most popular spiritual words du jour is Om because of its intention to cultivate a sense of connection with those around you. And while many chants use Om as the main repetition, chants can range from this one-word mantra to a forty-verse ode to a brave monkey, like the Hanuman Chalisa.

2. Short and Sweet: Chants are often short and easy to remember, and, much like the songs you learned in grade school, are done in a call-and-response fashion (so that fading memory of yours doesn’t have to recall much at all).

3. Simplicity: All you need for chanting is your voice. No super-yoga flexibility, odd-shaped implements, or worldly-strength required.

4. Strength In Numbers: If singing in public ranks up there with public speaking on your top-fears list, worry not. While chanting, you’re singing with others – no solos required.

What to Chant?

Turn on one of these playlists – in your car, when you’re cleaning your apartment, or right before bed – and you’ll be on the fast track to zen.

Krishna Das: Check out this chant master’s CD collection of traditional chants, available for download on your iPod.

BMW – the ultimate driving (me crazy) machine

Lately I’ve been taking my BMW for a spin more than I should.  What I’m talking about is the BMW in my brain: the Bitching, Moaning, and Whining.  Yes, it is the ultimate driving machine – of my neurosis!

Seems like I’ve been living in the problem a bit, and not in the solution…and what happens when I’m there: I get caught up into the desire to eat sugar, forget my responsibilities and become self-centered.

There is a reason I haven’t posted much in the past week – I’ve simply been self consumed.  LIving an Off-White life is all about personal accountability, responsibility, and balance.  Well, this week I none of the above.  I also saw a correlation between my attitude, my stress and my lack of self-care.  I ate too quickly, I did not give myself the simple pleasure of sitting at the table for dinner.  I did not connect with friends as much.  yada, yada, yada… get the idea.

What is it about the BMW’s of our minds that make the simple principles of self-care, especially with nutrition, so difficult.  Is it that I don’t feel worthy of good choices?  Is it because I see all the people in the TV and magazine Ads having so much fun with their junk food that I want to join in?  Is it simply that stress really does drive the need to just simple carbs, go into a food coma, and forget life.

I suppose the answer can be all three.  For me, the reason behind all the BMW moments was based in a fear of uncertainty.  I thrive on stability and control.  I like when things are the same, yet they never are.  So much is evolving in my life: career, residence, the role my husband plays in our life (grad student), financial insecurity… goes on and on.

Can anybody else relate?  I’m so interested in this human phenomenoa of wanting to neglect self in order to buy into fears and stress.  Yes, I get it that fears/stress are valid, but it never feels better  to give them all my power.

My hope is that I’ve done the footwork, prayer, and surrender over these issues, at least for now, and can get back to what I do love : blogging, connecting with friends, making healthy meals and being creative with food, and trusting that this evolution is absolutely perfect in its awkwardness.  Isn’t everything beautiful at one point awkward (I think of flowers opening for the first time, baby chicks with ugly patchwork down feathers, storm clouds that you can’t tell if rain is coming or not).  My biggest lesson to realize is that I am, and always will be, perfectly imperfect, and no amount of fantasizing about mile-high cheesecakes or donuts is going to change that truth.  For me, or for anybody else.

So, here are a few steps I’ve taken to get my mojo back;

1. Spend time with a friend on Sunday afternoon
2. Make some time for my husband on Sunday night after his trip out of town
3. Eat simply for 3 days: focus on 3 meals/day with the emphasis of these meals being fruits/veggies, and a lean protien.  No grains, and get off the dairy again.
4. Write in my journal
5. Post here, and be honest with myself and others about me
6. Look at websites of people I admire – ever reminding me to stay connected to my dreams and realize that nobody wakes up in one day with it all put together
7. Turn OFF THE TV – it is so demoralizing and food-tempting for me.
8. Go for a walk instead of a run on Saturday – gave myself permission to be in “flow” instead of force.


eating off-white in a “white” world…. (quinoa recipe included)

They say you can’t go home again……and I think they are correct.

This weekend my husband and I went to Northern CA to check out his new grad school (UC Davis) and visit family.  Food issues have always been a family affair for me.  Dad was overweight and had a stroke in 1995 and mom shared my love of cake frosting and baked goods most of my childhood.  I’d say to some degree we all had an eating disorder.  Never was there left-over ice cream or desserts in my home, no matter how large a package was purchased.  I simply thought it was normal.

So here I am, with my high maintenance diet, going home.  I know where all the treats hide: chocolate chips in the outside freezer, homemade biscotti in the spare bedroom, ice cream in the kitchen and whatever was baked for the weekend’s bbq is probably resting in the laundryroom.  Yes, I come from a long line of food hiders.  Either because the family would eat all of the goodies, or because ants would find their way into the cupboards, food was always kept anywhere BUT the kitchen.  There were stashes everywhere, which meant that I adopted a pattern of ‘sneaking’ from a young age.

For the most part I faired well.  My mom tries to supply me with healthy options, but unfortunately her Splenda-baked lemon cheesecake just did not work out (no dairy and no Splenda for me).  She also lovingly made a HUGE tray of lasagna for everybody to eat….well, except me, as I best not have dairy or white flour.  Nothing like watching others eat homemade lasagna while you chomp down on a green salad with chicken to make you want to devour a whole tray by yourself.

So what did I end up doing…..”sneaking”, of course!!!  I dipped my hand into the Ghirdhelli chocolate chips several times when I was near the outside freezer. I could feel the tension in my stomach and I did not enjoy them at all.  “so this is what I was like growing up…”, I thought to myself.  It was all about getting what I was NOT supposed to have.

The good side of ugly:  compared with past visits, I did relatively well at staying away from the white stuff.  I declined an offer for Starbuck’s drinks when everbody else was slurping down latte’s.  I did not eat late at night when I arrived on Thursday evening, despite a growling stomach.  Choices I make past 8pm are never in my favor.   I even resisted the peanut butter, cheesecake, cheese and ice cream.  I did have a homemade biscotti, and damn was it good!

Other off-white survival tips I use:

  • Start every day with warm lemon water.  This helps keep the GI track a flowin’.   Lemon water also kills a craving, especially if you add tons of lemon.
  • Distract myself when food becomes tempting and I’m not hungry.  My 4-yr old nephew was a great distraction, and he was up for a little fun anytime.
  • Make a dish of my own for family picnics, etc.  I chose quinoa date salad (recipe below) and tabouleh (from Near East).
  • Tell your family about your food limitations. I couldn’t be chowing on peanut butter because everybody knew that it wasn’t a great food choice for me.  I was rigorously honest so I could keep myself healthy.
  • Become your own observer.  I enjoyed watching myself get into ‘sneaky’ eating mode and seeing how I felt, thought and acted. It really was like Jr. High again.  Consequently, Jr. High is when I started obsessing on sugar for the sake of control/rebellion/pleasure.

Quinoa date salad

Serves 4
3/4 cup quinoa, not soaked
1.5 cups water
2 tsp vanilla
2 tsp each: cinnamon, ginger, cloves
1/2 tsp salt
1/2 cup chopped almonds
3/4 cup chopped dates

Add quinoa and water to a medium saucepan.  Bring to a rolling boil and then simmer covered until quinoa absorbs the liquid.  Just after the boil add vanilla, salt, and spices.    Chop the dates and almonds finely.  Add to quinoa 2-3 minutes before cooking is complete.  Serve warm or cold.

Stress and sugar, Part III: HOW TO GET OFF SUGAR

Ever wish you were the kid picked to visit the chocolate factory in the Willy Wonka stories?  Ever make up ridiculous fantasies in your mind about larger-than-life candylands?  Yeah…me neither…. 😉  But if you did, or still do, this post is for you.  First, a video titled “I want candy”

So, basically, this post is the summation of my whole blogging purpose. GET OFF SUGAR. Do it now! Don’t wait until you have diabetes, arthritis, obesity, depression. Of course, if it were easy, I wouldn’t have a blog, a job, or half of the life experiences I have been blessed with. I suppose being human means that some things are not easy.

I’ll be honest. I am not 100% off white, but I am about 90% off white sugar, 100% off white flour (90% off wheat altogether) and 100% off milk, cheese and yogurt. I feel a lot better, have less sugar craving, and I poop regularly. Seriously, being chronically constipated and ‘full’ all the time was a MAJOR side effect of eating too much sugar and dairy.

So, if you want to get off sugar, here’s what I suggest:

1. Find your willingness. Before you do anything with your diet or lifestyle, you have to find that strong desire for something different. What are you willing to change about your diet? Are you willing to stop drinking soda altogether? Are you willing to have fruits or pass altogether on dessert? Are you willing to spend 3-4x as much for unrefined grains/flours/sweeteners so that you can feel better.

No question is more important than the question of your willingness. On a 1-10 scale, how willing are you to do what it takes to get off sugar. Don’t be upset if its not a 10. Rarely is a sugar addict stoked about this process. But, look for what you ARE an 10 on. For instance, I was a “10” in a willingness scale to give up all candy on Feb 28, 2004 (first day of lent – I quit candy and never looked back), but about a 3-4 to give up hot chocolate. So, now I just make healthier hot chocolate and that helps. You have to start where you are and continue checking in with that willingness.

Let’s say you’re willing and ready. Next steps;

  • Give yourself a 3-7 day detox period. If you want to do a colon cleanse, that can go on for longer, but clean up your diet for a few days. For me, this means none of the following: wheat, corn, dairy, caffeine, chocolate, alcohol, sugar, fake fats, artificial sweeteners. You will be instead eating TONS of veggies, fruits, lean meats, eggs, olive oil, coconut oil, whole grains like brown rice, etc.
  • After your detox phase you might crave sugar a lot less already. This is good. Start drinking lots of water. Flush out all the “junk” and cell “memory” of wanting sugar. Your body remembers what you’ve always done and its used to it. If you drank a lot of sugar in soda or beverages, replace the habit with water. Just do your best. Get support if you need it (or start a blog to blab about it, like I do!)
  • Eat protein at every meal. Vegetarians won’t like me much because I advocate more meat consumption for those kicking sugar than some people might be comfortable with. The reason is that lean protein, esp animal protein, helps stabalize blood sugar, which is KEY in kicking sugar. Also, if you use high quality meats, then you are getting B vitamins, healthy fats, iron, as well as protein. You can certainly eat things like beans, tofu, lentils and nuts, but I find carb-based proteins to “confusing” for my body at first.
  • Balance that carnage with a boatload of green veggies. You just can’t have too many. Eat 1-3 cups of green veggies/day, cooked or uncooked. Suggestions are: mixed green salads, adding spinach to omelets, steamed asparagus, soups with zucchini, leeks, bell peppers, collards/kale, snap peas, etc.
  • Express your feelings. So much of our desire for sugar is to taste the “sweetness” of life. What are you really craving? Write about it, talk about it, go for a walk or jog to blow off steam. Whatever you do, get your voice and your ideas heard.
  • Get rid of all the white stuff in the house. Its a conflict to your mind when you are saying “no” and you still have white sugar/flour. Maybe for a while you keep none in the house. If you must bake or cook with sugar/flour, use sucanat, agave nectar, molasses or stevia. Use whole wheat flour (less ideal, but okay), spelt flour, oat flour, or get to know gluten-free flours. check out if you want some good gluten-free baking recipes.
  • Cleanse your liver. Start a practice of hot water with lemon in the morning. This will help “lube the tube” as well as detox the liver. If you have a long history of processed foods, your liver needs a break. Other liver cleansers include: stinging nettle tea, green culinary herbs, asparagus and milk thistle. Bitter veggies also cleanse the liver.
  • Educate yourself about reading labels and finding healthier alternatives to the foods you used to eat. Some things can be modified to have less sugar, such as baked goods and cereals. Other things, like marshmallows or store-bought cookies, are pretty much not and option if you want kick sugar. You might have to pick and choose what its important to you and then let the rest go.
  • Find out if you have any food allergies. My sugar obsession was made worse by my dairy/soy allergy. I had no idea until I was tested. I think I mentioned this before, but check out Diagnostech if you want to do some testing.
  • Take it day by day. Progress, not perfection will help you move toward freedom from the white stuff. You can do it. I believe in you. I don’t even know you, and I believe in you because I was the toughest sugar junkie ever and I’ve made it to the other side…..or at least to where sugar is the exception and not the rule in my life anymore.

Sugar and stress, part I

So I’ve decided to do a little piece on sugar and stress, since it is SUCH a big aspect of my life and I see a lot of the effects of s&s everyday with myself and others. One benefit of having this affliction AND being a nutritional counselor is that I get to experience the impact of food and mood or many levels.

I’m gonna do this in 3 parts because I have a lot to say about this topic, and I think its worthy of a few posts.

Here’s where I’m going to start: WHY do I emotionally (people) crave sugar when I am stressed?

When I was young , the only thing I ever wanted was sugar, sugar, sugar. I obsessed over Halloween candy. I was glued to mom’s side when she was baking, so that I could score some free licks off a spoon or spatula. I always voted for “The Sizzler” when we were picking restaurants, exclusively for the strawberries and whipped cream at the salad bar. I was a junkie.

How did this all begin? First off, did you know that sugar is the first taste we develop? Mamma’s milk is sweet. We are held when we are fed. We feel safe. It goes on and on. Sometimes new mom’s and dad’s are told to bring sugar water to the doctor’s office when their baby gets an immunization, to help calm the pain. Sugar numbs us out. It makes us high. Physically, we do not need sugar to survive. We need carbs, but not necessarily simple sugars. We might then speculate that some of us are not so equipped to handle the impact of sugar. More on that in post #2.

For as long as I can remember, sugar has been a best friend to me. It is always there, in so many shapes, colors, sizes and textures. Its cheap, its socially acceptable, and it makes me feel SOOOOOOOOOOOO good….or does it? I went years harmoniously co-existing on this continuous sugar buzz without a hitch. I bragged about the fact that I could eat a pound of red vines while grocery shopping and not gain any weight. I think I kind of liked being the candy girl. It had a certain charm. My ego devoured the attention I got over sugar. “How cool is this?” I would think to myself. Turns out, not so cool.

But, like all good addictions, it catches up. It turns out that my physical and mental body don’t like being fueled by fructose and glucose 24/7 and that as I get older, my tolerance for sweet is much less, yet my attachment to it is much greater.

The past couple days I’ve been wanting for sweet because I am afraid of change. What? How do sugar and change relate? Well, when you are trying to heal the body-mind from something that was like an old friend (sugar) in your life, and then new variables (like possibly moving to California, and making major life changes) pop up, it sends me running back to mamma’s arms: AKA hot chocolate, oatmeal raisin cookies, or anything warm and sweet.

This desire to soothe is so deeply imprinted in me, and others (I think?!), that it almost seems like the right thing to do . My brain is so good at taking the path of least resistance that I trick myself into believing that I actually need sugar to survive. When uncertainty triggers feeling of aloneness, I need security. It feels deeply carnal, like a survival instinct. My emotional body actually thinks that I will not survive without it.

In the past few years, I’ve done a lot of soul searching and book study about this crazy, wacky phenomenon of sugar-stress. Here’s what I know:

  • Sweet is the first taste we experience, and nearly all people find “sweet” palatable. Sweet includes breads, pastas, fruits and even meats, such as red meat or lamb.
  • The average American consumes 140 lb/ year of sugar in some form. That is 44tsp/day. That means we pretty much get it all the time, so it becomes a major physical and psychological habit.
  • Most kid’s can identify brands like “McDonalds”, “Starbucks”, or some sugar cereal characters before they can actually read. When our sub-conscious mind is wide open, we are bombarded with messages that these companies will provide us with fun, friendship, love and excitement if we just eat what they are peddling.
  • As a kid many of us develop the association of sweets with reward, soothing our pain, celebrating and drawing attention to ourselves (ever have mom bring in cupcakes on your b-day? Didn’t you just feel like the cool kid at school, even if just for that day?)
  • When white sugar was first developed, European conquerers used it to over-power the people they were invading. They claimed that it made wise, motivated men “stupid and lazy” (from the book Sugar Blues).
  • Sugar depresses the nervous system. If you’re a nervous nancy, like I am, you want to stop those neurotic thoughts. What a better way than some cookies and milk, or a piece of favorite cake, or some candy, or whatever…..


  • Do you find yourself going for breads, cookies, cakes, candy, Starbucks ‘stuff’, fruit, honey, granola bars, power bars, etc when you have had a long day, are over tired or bored?
  • Are your favorite foods in the dessert category?  Would you rather skip dinner and have dessert first?
  • Do you get edgy or cranky if you don’t have sweets/fruit/breads for a couple of days?
  • Do you fantasize about sweets, or did you used to do so?
  • What’s in your cupboard?  Lots of boxed, processed foods? Refined cereals?  energy/granola bars?  Dried fruit?  Do these items tend to get eaten first?
  • Does the thought of never having those favorite sweet treats again feel really sad or scary to you?
  • Is the concept “portion control” non-existent when it comes to certain, refined carb-based foods?
  • Are you turned off to bitter or sour foods, like dark green veggies, lemons, saurkraut, relish, etc?
  • Do you hide stashes of sweets in your car, room, desk or anywhere that nobody can see you eating them?

I’m certainly no expert on your life, but for me, I can answer “yes” to far more of those questions than I’d care to admit to.  However, when I do face my truth, I can release the guilt, shame and frustration and move forward.  There is life after refined sugar, and I’m learning how to make friends with it, one day at a time.

For those who are curious about unrefined sweeteners:  I use them in my life, but they are still sugar.  If I’m spooning agave syrup into my mouth, I’m still getting high on sugar, it just doesn’t take as much of a toll.   It’s really about why I am seeking out sweet stuff to fix my life.  It never works.  It never makes me feel better, but my brain has 31 years of conditioning to release.

If you are just starting out your sugar-free life, I have some insight and advice, based on what has worked for me:

  • Get SUPPORT!  Friends, special groups, spiritual groups, blogs like this, etc
  • Be gentle with yourself and realize it is a process
  • Begin to replace as much refined carbs with veggies, protein and water.  Protein is your friend, as are anti-oxidant rich veggies.  more on that tomorrow.
  • One day, one meal, one moment at a time.  Progress, not perfection.
  • If it’s serious, talk to your alternative health practitioner about getting food allergy or GI function tests done.  I learned  a TON about the physical reasons I crave sugar when I had tests done by Diagnostechs.   They rock!

PS: for the curious – yes, I did have some sugar today.  I made hot  chocolate w/ rice milk and cocoa.  I used sucanat instead of stevia.  Not the best  choice, but could have been worse.