Think for a moment of a food from your past, one that makes you feel great after you eat it for no specific reason. Maybe it is macaroni and cheese, slow-simmered tomato sauce, ice cream cones or potato pancakes. Eating comfort foods (every now and then) can be incredibly healing, even though your rational brain might not consider it highly nutritious.
Food has the power to impact us on a level deeper than just our physical well-being. What we eat can reconnect us to precious memories, like childhood playtimes, first dates, holidays, our grandmother’s cooking or our country of ancestry. Our bodies remember foods from the past on an emotional and cellular level. Eating this food connects us to our roots and has youthening and nurturing effects that go far beyond the food’s biochemical make-up.
Acknowledging what different foods mean to us is an important part of cultivating a good relationship with food. This month when we celebrate lovers and relationships, it’s important to notice that we each have a relationship with food—and that this relationship is often far from loving. Many of us restrict food, attempting to control our weight. We often abuse food, substituting it for emotional well-being. Others ignore food, swallowing it whole before we’ve even tasted it.
What would your life be like if you treated food and your body as you would treat your beloved – with gentleness, playfulness, communication, honesty, respect and love? The next time you eat your soul food, do so with awareness and without guilt, and enjoy all the healing and nourishment it brings you.
Quinoa (pronounced keen-wah), is a nutritional powerhouse with ancient origins. It was originally cultivated by the Incas more than 5,000 years ago; they referred to it as the “mother of all grains.” It contains all nine essential amino acids, making it a great source of protein for vegetarians. Quinoa is also high in magnesium, fiber, calcium, phosphorus, iron, copper, manganese, riboflavin and zinc.
While quinoa is widely considered a grain, it’s actually the seed of a plant called Chenopodium or Goosefoot, related to chard and spinach. Quinoa is a gluten-free grain and has a similar effect as other whole grains in helping to stabilize blood sugar.
It has a waxy protective coating called saponin which can leave a bitter taste. For best results, rinse quinoa before you cook it or even soak it for a few hours or overnight. When cooked, it has a fluffy, slightly crunchy texture. Try it in soups, salads, as a breakfast porridge or as its own side dish.
For quinoa, and whole grains in general, the majority of digestion occurs in the mouth through chewing and exposure to saliva. For optimal nutrition and assimilation, it is vital to chew your grains well and with awareness. A great meditation is to find a calm place, without distractions, to sit down for your meal. Make it a habit to chew each bite 20 times or more. See how this simple practice can help your digestion and overall focus for the rest of your day.
Recipe of the Month: Quinoa Pilaf
Prep Time: 3 minutes
Cooking Time: 30-40 minutes
Yield: 4 servings
1 cup quinoa
2 1/4 cups water or stock
1/2 cup dried cranberries
1/2 cup walnut pieces
1/4 cup chopped fresh parsley
pinch of salt
Rinse quinoa in fine mesh strainer until water runs clear.
Boil the water and add quinoa and salt, cover and reduce heat.
After 15 minutes add cranberries and walnuts to top; do not stir.
Cook 5 minutes more, until all the liquid is absorbed.
Remove from heat, add parsley and fluff with fork, cover and let sit for 3-5 minutes and serve.
When it comes to increased health, it’s not just what we eat but how we eat. Digestion actually begins in the mouth, where contact with our teeth and digestive enzymes in our saliva break down food. But these days most of us rush through the whole eating experience, barely acknowledging what we’re putting in our mouths. We eat while distracted—working, reading, talking and watching television—and swallow our food practically whole. On average we chew each bite only eight times. It’s no wonder that many people have digestive problems.
There are many great reasons to slow down and chew your food. Saliva breaks down food into simple sugars, creating a sweet taste. The more we chew, the sweeter our food becomes, so we don’t crave those after-meal sweets.
Chewing reduces digestive distress and improves assimilation, allowing our bodies to absorb maximum nutrition from each bite of food.
More chewing produces more endorphins, the brain chemicals responsible for creating good feelings.
It’s also helpful for weight loss, because when we are chewing well, we are more apt to notice when we are full.
In fact, chewing can promote increased circulation, enhanced immunity, increased energy and endurance, as well as improve skin health and stabilize weight.
Taking time with a meal, beginning with chewing, allows for enjoyment of the whole experience of eating: the smells, flavors and textures. It helps us to give thanks, to show appreciation for the abundance in our lives and to develop patience and self-control.
The power of chewing is so great that there are stories of concentration camp survivors who, when others could not, made it through with very little food by chewing their meager rations up to 300 times per bite of food. For most of us 300 chews is a daunting and unrealistic goal. However, you can experience the benefits of chewing by increasing to 30 chews per bite. Try it and see how you feel.
Try eating without the TV, computer, Blackberry, newspaper or noisy company. Instead just pay attention to the food and to how you are breathing and chewing.
This kind of quiet can be disconcerting at first, since we are used to a steady stream of advertising, news, media, email and demands from others. But as you create a new habit, you will begin to appreciate eating without rushing. You have to eat every day—why not learn to savor and enjoy it?
In traditional Chinese healing, sea vegetables correspond to the winter season and to the kidneys, adrenal glands, bladder and reproductive organs. The strengthening, balancing and cleansing properties of sea vegetables are known to help these organs as well as the hair, skin and nails. Sea vegetables (or seaweeds) provide a variety of minerals and vitamins, including calcium, iron and iodine, and can help balance hormone and thyroid levels in the body. Eating too many processed foods or foods grown in mineral-depleted soil can result in a lack of minerals in the body, leading to cravings for salty or sugary foods. Adding sea vegetables to your diet can help balance your energy levels and alleviate cravings.
Recipe of the Month: Mighty Miso Soup
Prep Time: 5-10 minutes
Cooking Time: 10-15 minutes
Yield: 4-5 servings
4-5 cups spring water
1-2 inch strip of wakame, rinsed and soaked 5 minutes
in 1 cup of water until softened
1-2 cups thinly sliced vegetables of your choice (see notes)
2-3 teaspoons barley miso
2 scallions, finely chopped
Chop soaked wakame.
Discard soaking water or use on houseplants for a boost of minerals.
Place water and wakame in a soup pot and bring to a boil.
Add root vegetables first and simmer gently for 5 minutes or until tender.
Add leafy vegetables and simmer for 2-3 minutes.
Remove about 1/2 cup of liquid from pot and dissolve miso into it. Return it to the pot.
Reduce heat to very low; do not boil or simmer miso broth.
Allow soup to cook 2-3 minutes.
Garnish with scallions and serve.
Any combination of vegetables can be used in miso soup. Here are some classic combinations:
onion-carrot-shiitake mushroom-kale: mildly sweet
onion-winter squash-cabbage: great in wintertime
leek-corn-broccoli: great in summertime
Add cooked grains at the start of making the soup. They will become nice and soft.
Add a tablespoon of uncooked quinoa or millet at the beginning and let it cook with vegetables for 20 minutes.
Add cubed tofu toward the end.
Add bean sprouts toward the end.
Season with 1/2 teaspoon ginger juice for an interesting twist.
If using dry shiitake mushrooms, let them soak for 20 minutes, slice and add at the beginning.
Our local Lululemon show room hosts a number of free yoga classes and last night the Hubz and I decided to take advantage of one of them. We tried a new yoga class called Groove Yoga (sometimes known as DJ Yoga Flow- when there is a DJ) at Laughing River Yoga; also a new to me studio. According to their website this is what Groove Yoga is:
Experience the energy of music and prana (life force) in a new way. Open your heart, quiet your mind, and be led on a journey of movement and music. In groove yoga you will explore the relationship between inner awareness and outward expression as you surrender to a meditative yoga groove. Draw on your intuition and spontaneity as you move through postures with breath and music as your guides. Music will range from upbeat to ambient, trance, and downtempo grooves.
*I tried to find videos on YouTube that would give you an idea- I found two that give you a short sample but they don’t really show you everything.
From this description I thought we would be going to a class that was going to be a mat based practice that would be incorporated with “upbeat to ambient, trance, and downtempo grooves.” Well I was only half right….you may say that really I had no idea what we were getting ourselves into.
We arrived early to class not knowing how busy it would be because it was free (to those who mentioned being referred from Lululemon) and because we had never been to this studio before. The instructor was outside waiting for the current class to finish and we talked a bit with her and she gave us a description of the class. I really wish I could remember what she said exactly but it was something to the effect of letting the music take you and getting up off your mat and letting the music move your body all around the room. Fear shot through my body and I could tell the Hubz was ready to turn and run especially when she made reference to no one else being there and how it might just be the three of us. But I stopped myself from leaving because I’d feel like a jerk and said might as well do it; take advantage of the 90 minutes to at least get a good workout in.
Eventually more people showed up and my nerves started to calm down a little, not much, but a tiny bit. As I rolled out my mat and took a seat I looked over at the Hubz and whispered – “if you want to go tell me now”; he said no and we stayed. Then I told myself to embrace this experience otherwise I wasn’t going to get anything out of it and would leave even more stressed out than I already was upon arriving there. I attempted to open my mind and be in the moment.
Okay so this didn’t all happen at once. We started the class with a mat workout that incorporated movement with traditional asanas. I started out slow and cautious, and nervous. I really didn’t want to look foolish but eventually I looked around the room and well everyone else looked a little silly too. I guess at that point I looked more foolish not joining in so I let it go and joined.
We moved from sitting poses to standing and that’s when we started moving around the room. Again a little nervous and withdrawn for the first few minutes but then music I know and love to dance to came on and I just couldn’t help but want to dance. Once I finally let my insecurities go I began to feel really good and feel so much more energized and couldn’t help but smile.
By the end of the class I felt amazing, a little silly but happy that I could laugh at myself when I had a hard time going around the room putting my opposite arm and leg up at the same time (I kept having to stop and get myself back on track – lack of coordination I guess haha). I also felt super peaceful and de-stressed and just so much more focused. I really surprised myself and went into the class thinking I wouldn’t ever want to do it again and now I can’t wait until next Fridays class!
I found that this genre of yoga embraces the spirituality of yoga along with music and dance to give you peace of mind as well as an amazing cardio workout- without making you feel like you are working out. It was great with the music the instructor chose but I bet it would be even better with the live DJ.
After this huge post I feel like I finally learned something new about myself, if I just let go I can have an amazing time and find something new that I love. I need to get out of my head and just relax more! I need to thank Lululemon for having this free class, Laughing River Yoga for having a vague description of the class and myself for embracing the situation ….oh and the Hubz for bearing through it (not his thing at all especially being the only guy).
I leave you with this: over the next month try something new, different, strange or that scares you and open your mind and give it a try. Come back here and tell me about it! Or if you have done this already tell me about your experience.
Last week I wrote about the new workout plan that the Hubz and I have been doing for the past month. You can head here to read the post in full but basically we have started a new incentive program to help us stay on track and keep us motivate to workout. This past week I have been doing Insanity with Shaun T and I am absolutely loving it. I am going to do a full review once I finish the first month. In addition to Insanity I have also been doing some walking and yoga as well.
The Hubz and I have been feeling a little bit of the winter blues and bored with our current workout routines as well as a lack of motivation. With summer around the corner we are getting excited for hiking and gardening but until then we need to get ourselves in tip-top shape so 15 mile hikes don’t make us feel like we were hit by a truck the next day. In addition to changing up our routine we are also working on an incentives program to help motivate us to stay on track.
For our incentives program each month we have a set of goals to help us stay on top of being active as well as to track our workout progress.The incentive part of it is that at the start of each month we will each be eligible for $50* of fun money, to be paid out on the last day of the month IF we accomplish our goal. The goal:
Work out 80% of the days in the month OR 70% of the days in the month and 1 hour for everyday missed from the 80% (example: March 80% plus Hours goal–>Must workout 25 days and Total of 15.5 hours OR 70% plus Hours goal–>Must workout 22 days and 15.5 hours PLUS 3 hours for the 3 missed from the 80% days so total of 18.5 hours)
2. Work out an average of 30 minutes per days in the month (October-May) and work out an average of 60 minutes per days in the month (June-September)**
March 2011 Goals
Must workout 25 days
Total of 15.5 hours
Must workout 22 days
Total of 18.5 hours
So far this month I am on track with the 80% however since I only have 1 off day left I may be turning to the 70% plan this month…..we’ll see. This is where I am at as of yesterday:Today:
Currently my workouts include yoga, walking, elliptical, weight training and most recently Insanity- have you tried this with Shaun T? What did you think? As soon as the sidewalks and bike path clear out I am determined to start the Couch to 5k again as well. What do you do to keep active? How do you stay motivated?
Lastly I’ll leave you with my current workout playlist (it’s a work in progress):
What are your workout tunes?
*In case you are wondering why cash? Well Neil and I have a tendency to not spend money on ourselves even when we need to. This money that we earn will be $50 we can use guilt free towards whatever we want. Originally we were going to set a specific item/service as our goal but then decided that for us it just din’t make sense. It works better for us to make a decision when the time comes based on what we need then. Additionally the money allows us to save up for more expensive items such as Lululemon clothes or hiking gear.
** June-September is the time of the year that we do hiking, biking, gardening and (hopefully) running so there are days that we may be active as many as 8-10 hours on a hiking trip that is why there is the increase of total hour goals.
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