Begin Within Monthly Journal
& Favorite Easy Meals
February 2015; Letter 3
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One of the best things I did during my ‘year of healing’ was to quit eating breakfast. I’ve written about the benefits of not eating breakfast (for me) before, but here what I’m talking about it not just weight loss and energy, but the ability to be hungry.
I used to think it was impossible for me to skip a meal. Somehow I imagined that my physical makeup just wouldn’t allow it. I called myself ‘hypoglycemic’- and other such terms that made it sound like a serious physical syndrome. I was sure that I had to eat every 4 hours or so. I would get irritable, sometimes a little panicky even, and try to bite my husband’s head off when we were out doing errands (or working) and he was oblivious (as usual) to the fact that 'meal time' had passed. (He, on the hand, has always been fine with skipping meals.)
But learning to skip breakfast taught me that I could get hungry and it was okay. I mean, really, how many of us are going to starve to death if we miss a meal or two? Now, a little discomfort? That’s different.
I should add that some people skip dinner, or their midday meal instead. I, personally, don’t like to go to bed hungry. I don’t sleep as well. The idea, for me, is to go at least 12 hours without food... but more like 14-16 consecutive hours at some point during the 24 hour period. (Often I eat dinner at 8pm and then my first food the next day will be around 11am. I do have water with ascorbic acid and then ginger tea with lemon before that.)
However, I am not rigid about this. If I need food one morning, then I eat. Especially when traveling I change it up. All hotels in South America include breakfast with the stay, so I usually go ahead and eat breakfast for the week or two that we’re on the road. That way I could skip lunch, if needed. But often it’s just fun to eat out on trips so I’ll do the traditional three meals a day. (With no bad physical effects, I should add. And mentally, it’s all good. I need variety from time to time.)
After I got used to ‘fasting’ for part of each day, I discovered that I didn’t really get ‘hungry' anymore. These days, if I start to feel cold and/or sleepy I know I need some food. Hunger is rarely the signal.
Hunger, I believe, it quite misleading and very mental. To some extent the more I eat the ‘hungrier’ I feel before each meal.
My husband couldn’t believe I taught myself to skip meals. But I did. And now there’s a whole lot less stress in me and around me when I haven’t eaten. These days I can go 8 hours without much effort. Now when we are working, or traveling, my husband is often the one to say he’s hungry first.
Being able to wait to eat also makes it a whole lot easier to eat whole and healthy foods. That’s because I am willing and able to wait for good food and don’t ‘have’ to eat whatever junk might be available right then.
Beyond actual meals, I have come to see that learning to be ‘hungry’ also relates to life. Most of us live pretty cushy lives and, from my perspective, some of us can get a bit stuck in a rut, no longer pushing and growing and learning and stretching.
And that’s what life IS, our reason for being here, the goal of life on earth. It’s to expand and grow and learn and CREATE as much as possible. Those experiences and our knowledge are the things we get to take with us and that we will have forever. They are the stepping stones towards an infinity of growth.
If you are feeling dull and aimless, or like life has become busy monotony (same routine, different day), then maybe you have forgotten how to be hungry for life.
If you don’t even remember what that means anymore, try this:
Think of the thing you most wanted to do, your deepest dream when you were younger, the thing you probably gave up on a long time ago when you decided it wasn’t ‘realistic’, or that the realities of life made it too hard. Being a musician, an artist, a wonderful parent, a landscape designer, a famous fiction writer, a deep sea free-diver, a golf pro, a tiger-trainer, a wall street investor. I don’t know what your thing is. You do.
Imagine what steps you’d need to start taking towards doing that thing…Ugh, I know. Notice all the fears that come up, and all the doubts and ‘realistic thinking’ that instantly sets you back.
Well, hunger or desire is the drive to take those steps, to surmount those obstacles. And it can be cultivated.
(Keep in mind, you don’t have to pursue those old dreams, life does move on. This is just a little exercise to remind you of the feeling of being hungry for and excited for something.)
The biggest obstacles in life are the fears we have, which usually come from beliefs we hold, that quite possibly aren’t true. (Almost nothing is ’true’ when you really break it down.) The being ‘realistic’ part is a bunch of crap. We are here to create. We create everyday of our lives. Most of us just don’t consider it to be so. Your life, as it is, did not just happen. You created it. And you can create any other version of your life that you prefer. It all starts in the mind, with your expectation and intention, and flows from there. Really.
You can think yourself into a box. You can also think yourself out of one. It’s not that hard.
By the way, if you think taking responsibility is too harsh and doesn’t account for ’stuff that just happens’, then try the alternative. (Maybe you already do). Be mad at the world when thing don’t go your way…OR look for your part in it. Even if your part was teeny, tiny, just learn what you can, shift your attitude, and move forward.
Now, maybe you decide becoming a rock star is too ‘far out’ for you, now that you are in your 60s. Maybe you got feedback that told you you’d never be a supermodel with your build. Well, I have also met very satisfied people who do things they love, that keep them hungry for more (and that stretch and inspire them to create), such as running a bakery, operating an online niche magazine about photography, coaching little league during spare hours, becoming an online investor and taking over financial management for the family, attending workshops on improving relationships, opening a yoga studio, being the best homeschooling parents, taking up cooking classes, being an inspiration as a teacher, becoming a sommelier, reading all of the classic books they never got to, or going ‘all spiritual' and exploring the metaphysical and discovering the limitlessness of the inner self.
Whatever it is, humans need goals and they need to be growing. Once you reach a new level, then you’ll find another one, in a continuous expansion. And, really, the activity you choose isn’t the point. It’s the exploration of self that is.
We create our lives whether we acknowledge it or not, so why not start doing it consciously?
Let's learn to be hungry: For our health and for our lives.
The Problem with Gluten-Free
If you’re at all like me, you’ve probably tried out various different ways of eating. If you think back over the years you can probably remember many diet crazes that have come and gone.
Back when I was in high school, it was food with fat that was considered ‘bad’. People lost a lot of weight on low-fat diets. I did. For a while I lived on carbohydrates and sugary foods and only ate a few grams of fat per day. Big pretzels and yogurt were a favorite lunch that I packed.
Now, the trend is towards little to no carbs, and even high fat. Funny, people lose weight on these diets too.
Another big trend is, obviously, eating wheat-free foods.
I quit eating wheat about 4 years ago when I was first trying to improve my energy. I am not celiac: I won’t die if I eat wheat. I just used to not feel so good a couple of days after I did eat bread and other gluten-rich foods. Mostly tired and lethargic. Which could indicate a mild intolerance, but not an outright allergy (which would cause a faster and possibly more dramatic effect).
I think it has been a good exercise, not eating wheat, in that it made me quit eating a great many not-so-healthy foods. However, the problem with gluten-free ‘alternatives’ remains that, just like ‘low fat’ foods 20 years ago, they tend to be sugar-laden and pretty empty in terms of nutrition.
Rice flours, cornstarch, corn flour, tapioca and sorghum flour, powdered milk, these are the types of ingredients you’ll find in most wheat-free flour blends and products. They can turn out lovely, fluffy, baked goods. But are they really that much better for you? I find that they don’t keep me satisfied for long and that I get a sugar crash shortly thereafter, which leaves me hungrier than before.
And if you are trying to learn how to 'be hungry’, foods like this don’t help. If you are living on sugar and refined carbs, it is highly probable (without a LOT of willpower) that you will eat more (and more frequently), and that you will be hungrier between meals.
To me, gluten-free means without wheat yet still eating WHOLE foods. I don’t look for gluten-free bread to replace in a sandwich, or gluten-free cookies to snack on. I skip the bread altogether and have a lunch bowl of beans and brown rice with veggies, or scrambled eggs with avocado, or leftover meatless meatloaf, or a filling salad. For snacks I have things as simple as raw veggies, or popcorn, or a piece of really good dark chocolate. If I wouldn’t eat six regular cookies, why would I eat six gluten-free ones? They are essentially the same thing, a sugar delivery system.
Maybe, someday, I’ll even try integrating a bit of wheat back into my diet. If I ate meat, which I don’t (and haven’t for over 20 years), I would only eat the free-range, organic, healthy type. The last thing I want is to be consuming antibiotics and hormones. (That’s partly why I avoid dairy too.)
In a similar vein, I might consider eating foods that were made with fresh-ground, organic, whole-grain wheat. There is evidence that the intolerances that many people experience when eating foods with wheat could actually be reactions to the various ‘other’ things they put in these highly processed foods. Even your ‘whole wheat’ commercial bread loaf was probably made with high gluten flour, which is taking gluten and souping it up to the extreme in order to make the bread softer and moister. Check out this interesting article here.
All in all, regardless of what foods you decide do or do not work for you, I believe that sticking to foods that are as close as possible to the form in which they grew would prevent the majority of the physical, food-related ailments that we humans experience.
Yes, it might take a bit more work, but I promise you it will be worth it. And with time it will just be a part of your life. You’ll hardly be able remember what it was like before you transformed your diet and yourself.
Now, as usual, I’ll close this February edition of The Begin Within Journal with a few of my favorite easy meals from last month.
And, remember, the journey to health always begins within.
PS. Besos are the greeting used in Argentina. (Literal translation, kisses.) Everyone gets a single cheek kiss to say hello, and goodbye. Woman to woman, woman to man, even man to man. (Well, the old-time Argentine men might ‘beso' their buddies, using a rougher more manly style than with the women- but they leave the male foreigners out on that one because they know it would make them uncomfortable.) Getting off the phone one might say ‘un beso’ before goodbye. The men might say ‘un abrazo’ (a hug), which is the more common way Argentine men greet each other here, using a firm back-slapping embrace.
February 2015 Favorite Easy Meals
When I want a sweet fix in the afternoon or after dinner, this is my favorite healthy snack or dessert.
My husband loves it too...
Frozen blueberries :)
During blueberry season here in Argentina I always buy a case or two extra for freezing. And the ‘recipe’ for this healthy treat couldn’t be simpler...
• Just dump the blueberries in a full sink of water to wash. Agitate them around and pick off any sticks or under-ripe/wilted blueberries that float to the surface.
• Drain off the water and place the blueberries in a strainer to get any excess water off. Then spread the blueberries out on a couple of baking sheets that are lined with paper towels. Let sit out on the counter until reasonably dry, maybe an hour or two.
• Then pack into ziplock bags. Squeeze any excess air out of the bags and lay them them flat for the initial freeze.
Another quick snack I enjoy is raw carrots. I suppose that could sound boring, or too '80s diet'… but it’s much more satisfying to me than an apple. And carrots are seriously nutrient-rich. You don’t even have to peel them. You can eat them like a horse :)
I usually do peel the carrots, then cut them into sticks and dust them with salt.
Smashing up some avocado with salt and lemon also makes a great dip for those carrots and a filling snack. (Pictured below are 3 or 4 avos, enough for a few people. I usually just have one for me.)
Carrots are also great travel snacks. When we were recently in Patagonia, we bought a bag of carrots (among other things) for noshing on during the day. They pack well and last a long time; even at room temperature and with rough handling in and out of cars, and rooms, and various bags.
An Easy Lunch Salad...
Roasted zucchini on greens with nectarines makes a great warm or cold lunch bowl.
Leftover roasted zucchinis from the night before, on a bed of greens, with fresh nectarine slices. So simple. Dress with salt, pepper, good olive oil and fresh lemon juice to taste.
I am currently infatuated with my new carrot tomato soup recipe. I even ate it cold, straight out of the fridge, over some cold rice and it was delicious. Hot, it’s a cozy bowl of soup; cold, it’s akin to a fresh vegetable juice smoothie. Check out the recipe for TLC Soup here.
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Learning to be Hungry- A Recipe for Life