My Gluten-Free Experiment

I’ve been doing research on gluten intolerance and sensitivities.  Like with many “diets,” there is controversy about this one, too, ranging from “gluten intolerance issues do not exist” to “some have a legitimate health issue and should exclude gluten” to “no one should eat gluten because gluten is so bad for you.”  What’s the answer?  Of course, I don’t have the perfect answer.  However, some research I read stated that if you feel you may have a gluten sensitivity based on symptoms, see a doctor or try going gluten-free for a couple of weeks and see how you feel.  If your symptoms go away, perhaps you do have a gluten sensitivity or something as serious as Celiac.  Of course, you should consult an expert.

What are the symptoms of gluten intolerance or Celiac?  They are as follows:

  • Weight loss or weight gain
  • Nutritional deficiencies due to malabsorbtion e.g. low iron levels
  • Gastro-intestinal problems (bloating, pain, gas, constipation, diarrhea)
  • Fat in the stools (due to poor digestion)
  • Aching joints
  • Depression
  • Eczema
  • Head aches
  • Exhaustion
  • Irritability and behavioural changes
  • Infertility, irregular menstrual cycle and miscarriage
  • Cramps, tingling and numbness
  • Slow infant and child growth
  • Decline in dental health

Given that I have several of these symptoms and have tried so many things that haven’t work, I have decided to try a gluten-free diet for two weeks.  How did I come to this decision?  First, several friends have limited or completely erased gluten out of their diet and have been raving about how they look and feel.  You might say, “Come on.  Gluten-free diets are a fad!”  Maybe.  Maybe not. (Click here to read an article from the Mayo Clinic on why it seems gluten intolerances, including Celiac, are on the rise.)  Additionally, I just read Kimberly Snyder’s The Beauty Detox Solution, where she discusses several recommended changes to your diet, including eliminating gluten, which will impact both how you look and feel.  I liked her book because she did not force her opinion.  Rather, she shares data and personal experience along with alternative solutions to some of her suggestions should you feel you cannot change everything she recommends.  As I stated in a previous blog, several research studies disagree with some of her claims, but not all.  I will leave that research to you.

I’ve already made it through Day 1 just fine.  Since Kimberly Snyder’s recipes are gluten-free and tasty, I’ve decided to refer to her book for now.  Yes, it requires planning and preparation, but it is worth it.  I made a grocery list, did my shopping, and spent about 90 minutes making 4 of her recipes so I would have food for several days.  I’m even going to serve one of them at March’s Second Tuesday!  One thing many have warned me about is that if you do go gluten-free, you must plan.  You know those mid-afternoon cravings?  Most immediate options involve foods containing gluten, so I will make sure I carry gluten-free snacks.

I will keep you posted on my progress.  In the meantime, I will continue my research, which includes Dr. Frank Lipman’s Spent and Total Renewal.  

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Great Veggie Burger Recipe

I’ve just read Kimberly Snyder’s The Beauty Detox Solution, which I found to be a very interesting book.  While some of her claims (e.g., eating light earlier in the day and heavier at night) are disputed by other research, I appreciate that the tone is not “do it my way or you are wrong.”  She offers alternate solutions that would work for whatever you are willing to change in your diet.  I’ll blog more about her book and other research I’ve come across later. Right now, I am excited to share with you her veggie burger recipe.
First, about my take on veggie burgers.  I am a healthy eater in the sense that I eat a lot of fruits and veggies, I don’t drink any soda, and my drinks of choice are water and coconut water.  I also work out 5-6 days a week.  However, I have always been afraid of veggie burgers.  Many have tofu, which I am learning is not so good for you because it is so processed.  I thought I would try this recipe and LOVED it….so did my husband.
Alkaline-Grain Veggie Burger Recipe
Ingredients
1.5 cups water
.5 cups millet
2 garlic cloves, finely minced
2 Tbsp raw coconut oil or grapeseed oil, divided
1 large onion, finely minced
3 cups spinach, finely chopped (I used more…maybe 5 cups)
2 stalks celery, finely minced
2 small carrots, peeled and minced
2 Tsp Celtic or Himalayan sea salt (I used Kosher salt)
1 Tbsp cumin (I doubled this)
1/2 Tsp black pepper
1 cup amaranth flour
Directions
Soak millet overnight and rinse thoroughly before using.
In a sauce pan over high heat, bring the water to a boil.  Reduce the heat, then add millet and simmer until millet has cooked to a softer texture, around 15-20 minutes.  Pour millet through strainer and set it to the side to cool.  (I found the millet soaked up all the water and did not need to strain it.)
Sautee the garlic in 1 Tbsp coconut/grapeseed oil until gently cooked, then add the onions, stirring until they are translucent.  Add the spinach, celery and carrots, cooking for a few minutes.  Add the salt and cumin and stir.  Add the millet and stir.  Turn off heat and add amaranth flour.  Stir until mixture binds and then cool.
Form the mixture into 3-4 inch diameter patties and place on large plate.  Heat large pan to high and coat with 1 Tbsp coconut/grapeseed oil.  Sautee each pattie on both sides until firm and brown.  (I would recommend medium heat.)
She does not advocate grains so she suggests putting on a salad or wrap in romaine or collard greens topping with sprouts, mustard and organic ketchup.  We are going to make a salad with pita, the veggie burger and hummus.
Enjoy!
Posted in alkaline grain veggie burger recipe, beauty detox, beauty detox solution, kimberly snyder, veggie burger recipe | Leave a comment

Why It Took Me 20 Minutes to Eat Only 9 Raisins

First of all, happy new year to everyone!  I hope 2012 brings you health, love, and happiness.  Hopefully, the title to today’s blog has you a bit intrigued.  Believe me, when I was asked to eat raisins and then told how much time had passed, I was shocked, too.  So what was I doing?

You may recall my writing about my desire to bring meditation into my daily practice last year.  I will lay it out on the table and tell you that, for whatever reason, I could not make it stick, even though I know all the benefits of this practice.  Today, however, I got a reminder notice on my calendar that it is the first Tuesday of the month, a day where my gym offers a free hour of meditation led by an instructor who walks students through various meditation techniques.  I decided to commit to attending regardless of what enticing things might distract me, and I am so thankful that I did.  Where do the raisins come in?  Don’t worry, I will get to that.

Our instructor walked us through three meditation techniques, each of which were designed to help us test how we react to them, perhaps guiding how we could bring a meditation practice into our daily lives.  Technique One consisted of us sitting in a comfortable seated position and to breath.  We started by putting one hand on our chest and the other on our belly, noticing what happened if we breathed only into our chest and then only into our belly.  We then moved to using mantras, where one was said when we inhaled and the other during our exhale.  An example would be, “(Inhale) I am calm.  (Exhale) I am at peace.”  I was shocked to learn this took 13 minutes.  It felt like 5.

Technique Two was quite difficult for me.  First, we were instructed to not be attached to anything but the breath.  If we had an itch, or a noise bothered us, or we remembered an errand, we should simply acknowledge it, let it go, and then go back to the breath.  During this exercise, she proceeded to move a wooden stick in a metal bowl and then hit the stick against the bowl, making a chime sound.  The sound of the stick being moved in the metal bowl drove me crazy.  It grated on me.  Nonetheless, knowing this was a mediation “practice,” I did my best to not be attached.

And now we get to the raisins, Technique Three.  Our instructor handed each of us a box of raisins and asked us to eat three.  Those were the only instructions.  I ate each, one at a time, reminding myself of how slowly I used to eat as a child and how incapable I seem to be of that these days.  She asked us what we noticed about the raisins, and since most of us gobbled them down, we did not notice much.   She then asked us to eat three more raisins and notice what it was like to eat each of them.  We then put a raisin in our mouths, one at a time, trying to come up with various sensations.  She then asked us to do this one more time, but provided more specific instructions:  how did they feel, how did the taste, how many ridges were in each, did they all have a pit, what side of our mouth did we chew on and why, etc.  Once this was over, she said 20 minutes had passed.  What!?  I ate only 9 raisins in 20 minutes?  It usually takes me 5-10 minutes to eat my dinner!  Trying the “raisin experiment” had me very curious as to what it would be like if I slowly chewed my food on a daily basis, appreciating every flavor and texture.  Imagine!

I am so glad I attending this month’s “Monthly Meditation.”  I learned about the types of meditation practices and how I could incorporate it into my life.  One suggestion she gave, which works great for city folk, is to stop at the street corner when the light is flashing the “Don’t Walk” sign and just look it at and breath (rather than dart across the street trying to make it to the other side before the sign stops flashing and the cars start moving).  She suggested this could be a good reminder to meditate.

What I also like about meditation, in general, is that there is no right or wrong.  It’s just about the breath.  Whether you set your clock for a 3 minute, 10 minute, or more meditation everyday or once per week, all we need to think about is “inhale, exhale.”

So go ahead.  IIIINNNNNHHHHAAAALLLLLLLEEEEEE.   EEEEEEXXXXXXXHHHHHHAAAAAALLLLLLEEEE.

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Start Small and Accomplish Big Things!

Sometimes, life and our list of things that need to or we’d like to get done can feel overwhelming.  It could be decorating our home, paying off debt, start exercising, or clean that messy room.  I recently ran across a great concept that is so simple yet makes so much sense for helping this “list” to feel more manageable.  What is it?  It’s all about starting small.

Let’s take, for example, your desire to clean that messy room.  According to the FlyLady’s The 5-Minute Room Rescue, you should set your timer for five minutes and clean as much of that room as you can within that time period.  Once the buzzer goes off, you stop.  What will inevitably happen is that you feel accomplished because you are surprised at what you were able to get done in just five minutes.  This creates a motivation to either clean for longer than five minutes or if you literally have no more time, you are more likely to go back and finish cleaning that room.
Let’s now look at something a little more daunting – decorating your home.  This could include everything from new furniture to hanging pictures to painting walls.  Whether it is all or some of these, it is a lot to take in.  According to David Allen of Getting Things Done, it is important to set goals within reach, otherwise, we will feel like a failure and never get the task done.  
What are the goals within reach?  Perhaps we can first set the goal of painting one room. That seems manageable, but there is a lot involved.  You must pick the brand of paint, the color and where you want to buy it.  Then you need to measure the room to determine how much paint you need, buy the supplies, move the furniture, cover the furniture, place painter’s tape in the appropriate places, paint, let the paint dry, move the furniture back.  Phew!  That’s a lot!  However, each task sounds much more manageable that “painting the room.”  Maybe you can make it your goal to pick the paint by the end of the weekend. Perhaps on Wednesday after work, you can measure the room to determine how much paint you need and on Friday, you can get the paint and all the supplies so you can start to paint that next weekend.  
At the end of the day, it’s all about making a small dent in a seemingly daunting task, which gives us the motivation to keep moving toward accomplishing our goal.
Chip and Dan Heath wrote a great blog about this concept, which they address in their book Switch:  How to Change Things When Change Is Hard.  This book is fantastic, easy to read, and filled with many helpful tips that can be applied to many aspects of life.
Posted in Chip Heath, Dan Heath, Dealing with Overwhelming Tasks, Five Minute Room Rescue, FlyLady | Leave a comment

How Focusing on the Good Can Change your Life

As you may know, I have been working through The Artist’s Way for a few weeks now, six in fact.  Between that and some of the books I’ve read, I have noticed something very interesting happen based on a simple theme – focusing on what I am good at and that which I love doing.  I am sure you’ve all heard about Marcus Buckingham’s Now, Discover Your Strengths.  (If you have not, get the book and take the test.)  The author’s argument is that if you focus on your strengths, rather than trying to fix weaknesses, individuals will actually be more effective.  I took the test several years back and refer to the book often.  I find it spot-on with what my strengths are, and it has actually helped me have a greater awareness of who I am and what I am good at.

While Mr. Buckingham’s book has been helpful, The Artist’s Way as well as other books I have read have taken his concept to a whole new level.  For example, in Scott Belsky’s Making Ideas Happen, he speaks about a man named Jay O’Callahan who uses the concept of appreciations when giving feedback to people.  His entire organization uses this, the idea being that if you share with someone that which you appreciated about what he/she did or said, that person will inevitably focus on those things and over time, that which he/she needed to “fix” tends to go away.  This is so different from annual performance reviews which are filled with providing feedback on your strengths and weaknesses.  Imagine if they were only focused on our strengths!

This concept can apply at the personal level as well.  While reading Chip and Dan Heath’s Switch: How to Change Things When Change Is Hard, they speak about the concept of bright spots.  In the book, they cite several examples of people changing their behaviors for the better by targeting the things that work very well, understanding why they work so well, and capitalizing on them to create change.  For instance, a boy had severe behavioral problems in school to the point where he was about to get kicked out.  Instead of pushing him off as a “bad one,” a therapist started talking to him about school and which classes or teachers he liked.  What was uncovered is that the boy performed well in one class, where a teacher would greet him at the door, make sure he understood his assignments, and sometimes give him different assignments to account for his learning disability.  Once this was uncovered, the therapist spoke with each of the boy’s teachers instructing them to do the above.  While his behavior did not become perfect, it improved dramatically such that he was able to stay in the school.

In another example, in the early days of Save the Children, one of their leaders, Jerry Sternin, was given six months to change the childhood malnutrition situation in Vietnam or he would be booted out.  Important to note is that prior to Mr. Sternin’s start of this assignment, hundreds of research studies were done about how the problem should be fixed and money had already been invested to fix this problem, but failed to do so.  He had quite the task ahead of him, and realized that, in order to be successful, he had to change the research from identifying what was wrong to answering the question of “What’s working?”  First, he found there were families at the poverty level who had children that were not malnourished.  While observing them relative to families whose children were malnourished, he and his team found the difference was how often the children were fed and what was put in their food.  By feeding a child the same amount of rice four times a day rather than two, the child was healthier.  Additionally, if moms added the shrimp, crab and sweet potato greens (all readily available in the village) to the rice, it gave the children more of the nutrients they so desperately needed.  Once this was uncovered, Save the Children put together a plan that had all the mom’s in the village cooking together so they learned the positive ways of cooking and feeding their children.  Needless to say, the malnutrition rates went down and Mr. Sternin kept his job.

Over the past few weeks, the books I’ve chosen to read have impacted me about the value in focusing on strengths and that which is working in life.  I’ve realized The Artist’s Way has been doing the same thing!  Slowly over the past six weeks, I have been eliminating the things that don’t work in my life and adding more of that which does. Between the morning pages, weekly artist’s dates, and weekly activities proposed by Julia Cameron, the initiator of this great program, I simply don’t have time or energy to do things I don’t want to do.  For the past few days, my husband has even commented on how happy and relaxed I’ve seemed.  He’s right.  I feel happy, centered, and relaxed.  I am in my element.

I get it now.  It’s truly worth it to stop and assess what we are good at, what we love doing, and do more of both.  Slowly, our weaknesses and annoyances whither away.

Posted in Chip Heath, Dan Heath, Focus on your Strengths, Heath Brothers, http://schemas.google.com/blogger/2008/kind#post, Making Ideas Happen, Now Focus on Your Strengths, Strengthsfinder, Switch, The Artist's Way | Leave a comment

In Search of the Best Cookie Recipe

Since I was young, whenever I am bored or stressed, I bake.  Sometimes, I will try new recipes for different types of sweet treats, while other times I try to perfect my “go to’s,” namely the basic cookies – chocolate chip, peanut butter, and snickerdoodle.  After trying several recipes with little success, I started to do some research.  For me, the perfect cookie is more on the chewy, rather than crunchy, side.  If I can make a cookie that is crunchy on the outside and chewy in the middle, even better!  Also, I like to have the cookies around for a while.

After reading several websites, I found a few tips and tricks to avoid the overly crunchy cookie.  They are as follows:

  • Substitute all-purpose flour with bread flour, using the same measurement the recipe calls for with the all-purpose flour.
  • Add an extra egg yolk.  For example, if your recipe calls for 2 eggs, use 2 eggs and one egg yolk.
  • Add about a tablespoon of milk.  This one, I play around with.  Sometimes I add it.  Sometimes I don’t.  It’s effect really depends on what you are making.
The next thing to overcome with cookies is how to make them last longer.  Outside of preservatives, these tips have been very helpful:
  • Freeze the dough and make as needed.  So simple!  Similar to the store bought cookie dough in the refrigerated section of your grocery store, roll up the unused dough into a log.  Wrap it with plastic wrap and then foil paper.  Stick it in your freezer, and when you are ready to bake some more cookies, slice off the number of pieces you want to bake, and bake the cookies at the temperature your recipe calls for.
  • Save the end pieces of your bread loaf and put them to good use.  Put a slice of bread in the storage container with the cookies.  I thought of this when I remembered the trick to prevent your brown sugar from turning into a big hard clump.  Here, you place a piece of bread in the container with the sugar and it will stay soft.  I tried this with cookies, and it worked!  
If you are looking for some fun cookies to make, check out Martha Stewart’s Cookies cookbook.  I got this (and her Cupcakes cookbook) as a wedding gift, and it has been great fun to try different recipes.  If you look up the recipes on her website, you will get the added bonus of reviews of the recipes with other tips and tricks to make her recipes even better.
Happy baking!
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Making Room for Good Things to Enter your Life

I don’t know about you, but when I have guests over, I feel a burst of motivation to get organized and start checking off my project list.  I’m sure you know all about “the things I’ve been meaning to get to” list.  Last month was no different.  My best friend called to tell me she and her family were coming to New York for a visit, so I immediately started organizing.  I know!  I know!  She was never going to open all my drawers to see if they were cluttered or not, but I knew whether or not they were.  I simply looked at her visit as a “deadline.”

Prior to the visit, I combed through my bathroom and kitchen cabinets and all my drawers, getting rid of things I forgot I even had.  I also gave each item a home.  Playbills went into an archival box (thank you, Container Store!).  Business card information was put in my laptop’s address book.  Ideas I’ve torn out of magazines were placed in files.

Once I was finished, I noticed two things:  1) It did not take as long as I thought; I simply needed to dedicate time to the task, and 2) My brain became uncluttered, giving me the space to do things I enjoyed without any worry over things things I needed to do!  You know that mental checklist we all have?  Some of us get this list out of our head by writing it on paper, but the items are still “things that need to get done.”  Putting it on paper gets it out of our ruminating head – the side that says, “Don’t forget to do X,” but it does not get it out of the side that says, “You still need to do X.”  At the end of the day, the task still needs to get done….at some point.

I’ve been so motivated by the feeling I got over going through my drawers that I have decided to make October “space clearing month.”  Anything that clogs my brain or the physical space around me will be donated, tossed, or put in its proper place.  You might wonder how exactly I will decide what happens to each item.  Several years ago, I was introduced to a wonderful book called Clear Your Clutter with Feng Shui by Karen Kingston, who also runs a space clearing website.

As a result of her book and words of wisdom on her blog, I have learned some great lessons about how and why to get rid of things we may be attached to but don’t need or like.  She also shares the impact on our lives when keeping such things around.  For example, how many of us have gotten a gift from someone special that we appreciate but don’t care for?  In the book, Karen explains that the person who gave it to you cared for you, but you don’t owe it to them to keep it.  They want you to be happy, so you can easily give it away to someone who would enjoy it or donate it to someone who would need it.  She wrote about this much more eloquently in her book, but you get the idea.  I realized I was holding on to so many items because I was attached to my past.  However, each time I moved from apartment to apartment, the boxes of stuffed animals, porcelain Precious Moments figurines, and old books for “one day when I have a kid” were following me around, unopened.  I began to see these items as clutter rather than neat collectibles.  Her book empowered me to give those things to a child who would use and appreciate them today because they did not mean as much to me anymore.  Of course, I did keep my post prized possessions!

Here we are again, years later and other clutter has crept into my life.  By simply organizing a few drawers and cabinets because of a friend’s recent visit, I have experienced, once again, the value of clearing my clutter.  This month, I will continue to clear space and allow for new, happy things to enter my life.  Time to get the latest edition of Karen’s book to see what tips she has added!

Posted in clear your clutter with feng shui, clearing your clutter, feng shui, getting organized, http://schemas.google.com/blogger/2008/kind#post, organizing your home | 2 Comments