Eat this bean, or maybe just grow it!

During the last few months I have eaten more vegetables and fruits, but I realized my kids were not doing the same.  The last few weeks I have tried to get my kids (aged 10 and 7) to eat a larger variety of foods. They need to learn that quesadillas and pizza are not the only food to eat. The bright spot in my food day occurs at dinner when the kids are given a new food to taste. A few weeks ago I tricked them by cutting up jicama and putting it in a bowl. I just said, “Try this.” They picked the white cubes from the bowl and ate away. Then they asked, “Is this an apple?”. Thinking it was a weird tasting apple was better than having them spit it out immediately or never try it all.

Some of the other food tastings were not as successful. Today’s food was green beans (also known as string beans). I thought beans were pretty benign. I was surprised when my youngest treated the food like a play toy instead of just biting into you. She pushed it around the plate eventually squishing and smashing it until little beans popped out. She said, “These look like lima beans?”. I was shocked she knew what lima beans were (happily shocked I might add). Eventually she put one of the tiny beans into her mouth. I can’t say she liked it, but she didn’t barf it back onto her plate.

Once my son saw the fun that his younger sister was having getting the beans opened, he grabbed another bean to see how many small beans he could find. Somehow the tasting had turned into an experience. No longer was this about food, it was about learning, experimenting and creativity. After splitting one of the green beans open, my son filled it with other foods from dinner to create his own bean sub. You have to give the kid points for creativity! We took some photos of his plated bean dish (like it was Iron Chef). We didn’t have any judges for the dish, but I promised I would write a blog about it.

How the evening ended was even more surprising. My son wanted to watch a video about growing green beans. We watched how to build a bean teepee as well as several instructional videos about how to prepare and grow beans. While my daughter grabbed the computer and began watching gymnastics videos, I realized my son had disappeared and the outside patio light was on. I couldn’t imagine what he could be doing outside in the dark. I found him outside carefully preparing soil for his beans. He had extracted some tiny beans and was planting them in a yogurt cup filled with seedling soil. Sometimes when you feed kids vegetables you just don’t know what is going to happen. In this case it seems we will be growing green beans. Maybe when you grow your own food, there is more interest in eating it. I just hope by the time the beans ripen there is someone besides me willing to eat them.

Eat This

Man has survived for thousands of years on a variety of food that depended on location, climate and how hard they were willing to work for the food. Did they forage, farm or hunt? Could their tribe or community kill a whale or elephant to feed the whole village? Think about how Native American Indians lived off the land, sometimes killing buffalo or catching fish, while other times picking berries. In the past, man had to eat to survive, but it seems today instead of just surviving, man is thriving. Maybe thriving too much, if obesity is a measure.

Could the food that has allowed humans to survive, actually be killing us? With our bountiful food choices, we can choose to help ourselves or kill ourselves. Heart disease, cancer, and many other diseases occur, but is it caused by exposure to chemicals, bad genes, or something more sinister – food. How is food and the way we eat impacting our health? We have indigestion and doctors prescribe a variety of purple and other colored pills to ease our pain, yet our problems may be rooted in the food we put in our bodies every day.

Every week news stories expose more foods that are good for us, yet 6 months later the same food (according to the news agency) is no longer good. Wine is good, oh, no it isn’t. Well, some is good. Women, they shouldn’t drink wine, well, not too much anyway. How are we supposed to decide on what to eat when no one really knows what is best? How do we shop at the grocery store and make intelligent food choices? I want to eat nutrients but which ones? How do I get the nutrients? Is my only option is to listen to my body and let it decide what food is best for me? Seems as good as any other method for choosing food. Isn’t each person an individual and don’t they have different nutritional needs? Instead of mocking someone for being a vegan or a meat-eater, shouldn’t we embrace the fact that we are listening to our bodies to optimize nutrition and our body’s performance?

Recently I chose to go gluten and dairy-free (because that diet makes me feel better) and I am fortunate to have so many food options. I know I should eat something healthy, but I wonder if a gluten-free, dairy-free cookie counts? No one can be perfect in food selection and health, so it is time we made food decisions for ourselves instead of leaving it to scientists, reporters or peers to dictate what is ‘good’ for us. Thousands of years of human survival cannot be all wrong. What do you want to eat?

The Feeding Habits of Children

Today I made the mistake of letting my 5-year-old take a nap. She had a tough morning of soccer in 100+ degree heat, swimming in the pool and then a trip to the grocery store. She was exhausted. Everyone knows that you don’t wake a sleeping child (why interrupt perfection?). My daughter awoke in time for dinner, but ate almost nothing. She ate the cheese off of a cheese dog. I didn’t think this was possible, but she figured out how.

Now it is 9:17 PM and she is not sleepy at all. She is sitting at the kitchen table munching on a bowl of Rice Chex. Where was this appetite at 6:17 PM? Why couldn’t she have eaten the hot dog then, instead of deciding she is hungry now? Clearly children’s appetites are not limited by time or food availability. They don’t care that you just made dinner, they will simply tell you, “I’m not hungry.” Now it is over an hour past her bed time and she ‘has’ to eat. At least according to her, she ‘has’ to eat. It could just be a ploy to further extend the already late bedtime.

This incident made me wonder if our country’s obesity problem might be better served by getting people to listen to their bodies and asking themselves if they are truly hungry when they eat. Even a baby knows when it is hungry (it will cry to inform you of this) and children still have this ability to understand their level of hunger, yet we tell them, “Eat your breakfast (or lunch or dinner) now!” when they may have no hunger at all at that particular moment. As adults we seem to just eat at pre-specified meal times. But why is this? Is this healthy?

Maybe we should all learn something about the feeding habits of children to discover healthier ways to eat that are closer to nature instead of the man-made invention of ‘3 squares a day’. I just finished a chocolate square myself and feel satisfied with that. No need to eat the whole one-pound bar. I am not really hungry for that. So eating food at 9:17 PM isn’t a crime, but we do need to listen to our bodies to determine if this is what our bodies really need. What? You can’t hear what your body needs? Maybe it is time to listen a little more closely because the more we practice, the better we can get at it. Are you hungry, or are you eating just because you are expected to?

Schlotzky's or Cheesecake Factory?

I arrived at my hotel this evening after a day of traveling and meetings and I was starving. For breakfast I had eaten a bowl of yogurt. At the airport I drank a Cafe Mocha and for my lunch (if you can call it that) I ate a granola bar. I was starving and I wanted something to eat quickly. I also didn’t feel like sitting in a restaurant (alone) to eat. I was first thinking Cheesecake Factory (for the obvious desert reasons), but it didn’t quite fit my need to avoid dining alone or the desire for immediate satisfaction.

Another option for dinner was a Schlotzky’s Deli down the street. The sandwiches are yummy and I could get take-out! Best of all, I could sit comfortably in front of the TV in my hotel room while I ate. I can’t believe my desire to sit comfortably in front of the television while I ate was such a significant factor in my decision making process. If I wanted TV while I ate, I should have just gone to a sports bar. If I was a guy, a sports bar would have made a lot of sense. Unfortunately there isn’t a “Lifetime” bar or a “Sex in the City” bar.

I opted for Schlotzky’s and ordered my turkey and guacamole sandwich, jalapeno chips, root beer and chocolate chip cookie. It was all that I thought it could be. Best of all I didn’t have to do the dishes! Who knew that eating out on a business trip could be so satisfying even without going to the Cheesecake Factory.

Running – easy breezy!

After two weeks of feeling chest congestion, having a runny nose, having a stuffed nose, and feeling like moving from the sofa was impossible, today I finally felt ‘better’. I had been contemplating whether my illness was a virus or just due to this vile allergy season (the worst in Arizona in years). Since I was feeling pretty good, I decided to do my regular run (2.7 miles). I still can’t believe it. I finished it in about 26 minutes. It was fast, or at least it seemed fast, because I could actually feel wind on my face. Another indication was the sweat rolling down my cheeks and the fact that my arms and legs seemed to move without my brain telling them to. There is something about a run where you get into the groove and it feels smooth – obviously I forgot what it was like.

I found I was breathing hard during the run, but not the kind of hard where your lungs feel like they are attacking you. You know, the kind where your chest is unable to intake enough oxygen to keep your muscles going? Last week on a run (or should I say attempted run) I found myself having to walk most of it because even when I ran as slow as I could (a slow jog if there is such a thing) I fell into an asthmatic type of attack. Since I don’t have asthma I wasn’t worried, but more annoyed that my body just wouldn’t work like I wanted.

Today I was listening to my IPOD (a requirement for any run alone) and listening to an odd compilation of Hebrew songs. I was thinking about other music I needed to add to my collection. I just heard of some Turkish music I need to get, as it might be a good complement to what I have already. I wondered if I should try running to my belly dancing music? Wow, I guess I just revealed a lot about my IPOD. Is that kind of personal? Like leaving your panty-hose hanging over the shower rod in the bathroom when you have dinner guests over?

For some reason on the run I felt out of my head. Or was it really in my head? I guess I was in my head where there hasn’t been space for several weeks because of my cold. I felt focused on my running because I wasn’t wasting any time thinking about my lack of oxygen or my darned shin splints (that seem to keep recurring). The running shoes I bought a few weeks ago (and broke in by walking around Disneyland for three days) were finally ready for prime-time running today and they worked great! The air temperature was about 80 degrees at the start of the run, which to some might seem too hot, but for me it was perfect. I love to sweat out toxins and hopefully lose a few pounds in the process. When I stepped on the scale after my run I was a bit disappointed, but I guess I cannot expect miracles from a single run. The feeling of a ‘good run’ was the reward anyway. I can only hope to avoid another cold and shin splints so I can have another great run tomorrow.

Don't try the chocolate chip diet

For some reason I decided that it was a good idea to lose 5 lbs this month. This is not just a goal I committed to myself, but I committed it to a room full of other goal-setters. In other words, I can’t just back out now, I have to keep going. I was just pondering how many calories it would be if I ate my notebook? I was talking about the paper kind, not my computer. I feel like I am counting calories of everything around me, and now, not just food! I have a few strategies I have come up with, but none has eliminated my tremendous pangs of hunger. Did I mention I could really eat?

Considering I work from home and I sit only feet from a vast selection of tasty treats in my kitchen pantry, it has been a real feat to eliminate in-between-meal snacks. Every time I would walk past the pantry (before) I would stop and grab something. It wasn’t anything big. Just a Cheez-It or a pretzel. What could be the harm? Well, my pants are so tight I feel like if I eat a single grain of rice, my stomach will expand – ripping my pants apart like the Incredible Hulk. As a result, I will be forced to buy a whole new wardrobe. Clearly this weight-loss thing is about mind over matter; my minds desire to not go broke buying new clothes. Right now the mind is winning, but my stomach pangs are holding strong.

As a tactic to limit my eating, I started writing down everything that crosses my lips in one of those on-line food diaries. It is great because you can even track calorie burn by activity and your weight over time. I now log every cup of tea, every nibble of a cookie, and every chocolate chip. Everyone eats chocolate chips right out of the bag don’t they? Or is that just me? When I tried to log it in the food diary it didn’t have a measurement for “chocolate semi-sweet morsel”, so I had to improvise with 1/100th of a cup = 1 morsel. I didn’t actually count the morsels, but surely a handful couldn’t be more than 15 morsels? Could it?

Now I see why the ‘single chocolate chip habit’ is so bad. You eat a handful, which doesn’t look like much. Then 10 minutes later you have another handful. It isn’t long before you realize that 1/2 the bag is gone and you barely have enough left for those chocolate chip pancakes you were planning to make at the weekend. Did I mention this would happen by Monday at 10 AM? I kept wondering if someone else had been getting into my chocolate chips. Then I realized I opened the bag this morning and everyone else was out of the house for the day. The next day when I stepped onto the scale, I would realize that it must have been me eating all the chocolate chips, because the dial inched upward ever so slightly. Now I am scared to eat any snack for fear that I will tumble down the slippery slope where my single cheez-it turns into a box-a-day habit. Sadly, my eating problems are just that, habit.

You would think without all my snacking, I would be a lot more productive because I don’t have to brush bright orange crumbs from my keyboard. Unfortunately, at times I find it hard to focus because I am distracted by the hunger pangs. Pangs that seem to hang with me most of the day. Well, except when I am sleeping. Then I can just dream about eating everything I want. I may feel hungry a lot of the time, but something must be working because the scale dial has started inching downward instead of upward.

How am I surviving this hunger? Surprisingly I have been positive for the most part. I have traded my sugar crashes to “Choose to feel better”. Besides just watching the calorie counts, I have reduced my gluten intake (you know, wheat? or anything made with flour?). This seems to really improve my mood and alertness. Another trick I tried, but not sure if it actually works – I wear my loosest pants and ‘think thin’. Can I brainwash myself to think I am thin? Will my brain just ‘make it so’? I thought this might be more motivating than trying to squeeze into pants a size too small. The pants must have shrunk in the dryer because I couldn’t have gained THAT much weight? In 2 weeks it looks like I have lost about 2 pounds. Feeling hungry isn’t so bad; just don’t put your hand too close to my face because my choices may be down to eating your hand or a notebook (although I need to check my calorie counter first). Here comes another hunger pang, time for my mantra…”Choose to feel better”.

Can Food Replace Hugs?

Why are people in the United States so averse to hugs and kisses? I was at a recent global business gathering for my company and one of my fellow U.S. coworkers, who had spent a number of months working in Europe, walked right up to me and kissed me on both cheeks. I was a bit taken aback as this is not the typical greeting you experience at a work gathering in the United States. Several minutes later as more coworkers gathered in the lobby, I noticed that the double cheek kiss greeting was prominent with the Europeans. I guess I had heard of this friendly greeting type before, but was not expecting it to occur in the hotel lobby during a business event amongst co-workers. (I might add that this was before dinner or drinks began, so there was no excuse that this was alcohol induced behavior.)
Several weeks earlier I was at another team event with some members from Europe, Israel, and the U.S. As everyone gathered for the first time in the restaurant,  there was handshaking, hugging and the occasional kiss on the cheek. To me this is normal as we all only get together one or two times a year and we are mixing European, Israeli, and U.S. culture in a room. The experience is much like when you see friends that live across the country or in another state that you only see occasionally. The difference here being that we were all coworkers. We work together via e-mail, IM, and telecon, but rarely experience the face-to-face meeting which is so different, and to be enjoyed. You feel like finally, you get to really ‘see’ each other and why not give a hug? It feels like the right thing to do. When I told a friend about this greeting tradition, the immediate response was, “you shouldn’t hug a co-worker”. Hmmm, I thought, Really?  This surprised me. Although I have to admit, when I worked in the typical office where you sit in a cubicle next to your co-worker, it would have seemed a bit strange to hug your coworkers as they arrived each morning.
Hugs and kisses in the U.S. are typically limited to family and close friends. No one balks when they see a parent hug their child or kiss them on the cheek when they fall down or are upset. Similarly two lovers in the park sitting on a park bench with their arms around each other does not seem unusual. So it is acceptable for friends, family and lovers to get hugs and kisses, but what about everyone one else? Also, what is the cutoff of where hugs or friendly kisses on the cheek are acceptable?
When I think about affection in my own home, it is wildly prevalent. My 4-year-old will stand next to me and my husband and say ‘Hug’ as she pulls us together. I guess she is used to seeing us hug, so it seems weird when we don’t. She will also come up to me and say ‘Hug’, with her arms up and open, ready for the big hug. I have to say, I have never turned it down. Who would turn down a hug? You would have to be crazy. Just now her big brother ‘hit’ her with a doll triggering voluminous tears to flow down her face and she came over to me for a hug. Why is it that only children get a hug for comfort? Don’t adults need a hug for comfort too?
Recently I was in  San Francisco’s San Mateo area and stumbled upon a restaurant that used “Food that Hugs You” as it’s tag line. Inside the restaurant you could order your comfort food of your choice – everything from fried chicken to butternut squash ravioli. Whatever your version of comfort food they had it. There was something about the idea of food hugging you and the comfort it brings. If food can hug, why can’t humans do it more? Have we replaced real hugs for the food kind? Aren’t humans much more able than food to hug (because we have arms?). Hugs in U.S. culture seem to have been lost along with the dial rotary telephone. The dial rotary telephone has been replaced by the iPhone (and all of us are very grateful for that) but is it really a good thing that food has replaced the hug? This might explain the rising trend of obesity in the U.S. Just like the child crying with tears streaming down their face, even the rest of us need hugs for comfort and we shouldn’t always turn to the food kind. Maybe the next time you see your friends, a co-worker you haven’t seen in a while…extend a hug or a kiss on the cheek..and not just to fight obesity, but because it makes you feel more a part of the human race. We are human, we need hugs and we should embrace that.