Wednesday, August 28, 2013

Food and Special Occasions

There was a time in my life when special occasions meant eating much more and different foods than I normally would. When I lost weight several years ago, I knew I had to come up with new special occasion rules.

Initial Special Occasion Rules

For a while, I allowed myself two “treats” at special occasions, such as a small dessert and some wine. I soon realized however that the two treats rule didn’t work so well for vacations. Vacations are more than a day or two and even if you bring a lot of your own food (which we normally do), you have a lot less control over what you are eating.

If I followed my two treats a day rule, I was bound to gain some weight, which I then had to lose after I got back home. And that’s not fun, especially as it’s getting harder to lose weight the older I get.

Do I Really Need the Extra Food?
So I took a good look at my reasons for “treats” at special occasions and realized that treats are not really necessary. I’m not saying that I should never enjoy a treat. However, I realized that I had somehow associated “special occasions” with “food treats.” I had convinced myself that because I am on vacation or at a “special event” I should be “allowed” to eat foods I normally wouldn’t. And there is just no reason for that. Food is not what makes my vacation or any occasion special. Experiences and people make special occasions special.

During our recent Lake Tahoe vacation, I ate pretty much the way I eat at home, and it was one of the best vacations I have ever had. Yet, I had far fewer treats than in the past when I was on vacation. The only exception was the day we went to the buffet. But while I enjoyed some “treats” there, the day was overall balanced. Breakfast was fruit, oatmeal, and two turkey sausage patties. For lunch I had some fruit and a few nuts. Dinner was a plate of salad, sushi, a chocolate covered strawberry, a mini tiramisu cup, and a glass of sparkling wine.

We had decided to go to the buffet the day before we went, and I made the decision to indulge a bit but also planned ahead. I have a glass of wine or champagne maybe once a month, and I consciously planned to have one that evening. I also knew that there would be delicious small desserts. I didn’t just eat the food because I “deserved” it because I was on vacation. Rather, it had been a while since I had sweets, and I was going to enjoy some that evening. Other than the sparkling wine and the sweets, I ate what I normally eat, which is lots of fruits and veggies. Those foods make me feel best, and that’s why I felt great on our vacation and afterwards.


Over the weekend we met some of hubby’s college friends, and I was reminded that special occasions usually require planning. We were invited for lunch and they served pizza, which I couldn’t eat. There was also a green salad and some fruit, which I ate, but it didn’t keep me full. By the time we got home, I was really hungry. Luckily, I had some leftover Greek salad and some chicken in the fridge. It would have been much better if I had planned ahead and brought some food I could eat, especially since we had a 1.5 hour drive each way. I’m normally good about planning ahead, but there is clearly room for improvement!

What Makes an Occasion Special?
Lastly, I thought about the fact that you can describe pretty much anything as a “special occasion” and use it as an excuse to eat. Years ago, when I had associated special occasions with food, I had to make a conscious decision to make the occasion about people and experiences and not food. While I would automatically associate a special event with food in the past, that association is now gone. It took some time and training, but I feel much better now.

When I did the Conscious Cleanse in January and again in June, I had a chance to look at my relationship with food in detail once again. One of the points Jo and Jules make is that you need “soul food.” Only if you have meaning in all aspects of your life (relationships, work, spirituality) can you permanently make peace with food and take the focus off of food. Soul food is a principle I find very useful and think about often. The next Conscious Cleanse with email support, live teleseminars, and an online support group starts on September 7.

Questions: What’s your attitude when it comes to “special occasions” and food? Do you follow any specific “rules” when you are at a special occasion? Do you eat differently on vacation? If so, how? What do you think of the concept of “soul food?”

Be well,

Monday, August 26, 2013

Ratatouille and French Women for All Seasons

A few months ago, I re-read French Women Don't Get Fat, and I really enjoyed the book as I find that Mireille Guiliano’s approach to healthy living makes sense and is doable. I especially appreciate her focus on eating (for the most part) simple, seasonal foods and creating balance in a no-nonsense way.

The other day, I remembered that many months ago I also bought French Women for All Seasons for my Kindle, but I had never read it. So I started reading it, and I’m really enjoying it. Mireille expands on a lot of the points she wrote about in French Women Don’t Get Fat and also responds to some of the feedback and criticism she received after writing the first book.

The main focus of the book is, as the title implies, living and eating according to the seasons. In addition to recipes and menus for each season, there are also fashion and general living tips. Like in French Women Don’t Get Fat there are many anecdotes, which I very much enjoy reading.

Reading French Women for All Seasons reminded me that there was a recipe in French Women Don't Get Fat that I had planned on making in the summer when homegrown zucchini and tomatoes are plentiful: ratatouille. I remembered that Mireille’s recipe was very simple.

There are basically three ingredients: eggplant, tomatoes, and zucchini. You slice each into thick slices and layer them in a big pot, starting with the eggplant, followed by the tomatoes and finally the zucchini. Then you repeat the layers. I seasoned the layers with salt, pepper, jalapeno slices (not in the original recipe) and garlic. Turn the heat to low and let cook for about two hours. There is no need to add any oil or water. Here is a link to Mireille’s simple, original ratatouille recipe on the French Women Don’t Get Fat website. The French Women Don’t Get Fat website has lots of Mireille’s recipes, tips and advice. It’s fun to check out.


I loved the ratatouille, but it was too spicy for the kid, and hubby liked it okay but wasn’t the biggest fan. 

Questions: What’s your favorite tomato recipe? Tomatoes are my favorite food, and I love eating them straight off the vine, like an apple. But I also enjoy them in a nice caprese salad, as tomato soup, and they are certainly great in ratatouille. What are you reading right now?
Be well,

Monday, August 19, 2013

Age, Location, Weather

After the kid and I got back from visiting my family, we still had a few days before having to go back to school/teaching, so we took one last trip to Lake Tahoe. It was great to spend some quality time together.

In fact, it was the best trip we have ever taken together. First, the kid is at a great age to travel (especially shorter trips). While I enjoyed all the trips we took when the kid was younger, they were a lot of work and not very restful. This was the first trip where I felt I could actually relax. Second, we stayed right in the center of South Lake Tahoe, close to everything (including the arcade – very important for the kid!). Lastly, the weather was perfect. We are very thankful for a great trip and amazing memories.


When we travel, we usually try to stay in a place with a small kitchen so that we can prepare most of our meals ourselves. This time, we didn’t have a kitchen, but we had a small fridge, and I packed a lot of fruits (cherries, grapes, melon slices, bananas, and blueberries), veggies (carrots and cucumber slices), cheese, almonds, trail mix, corn chips, and hummus. The hotel provided breakfast, including some delicious oatmeal and fresh fruit. Hubby also enjoyed the eggs, potatoes and various sausages. I also had a few sausage patties to get some more protein. 

While I usually don’t like buffets, we decided to go to a buffet one night, mainly because of the great view from the restaurant, which overlooks the lake. I enjoyed a big plate of salad and delicious sushi as well as a glass of sparkling wine. There were amazing dessert offerings (most of which I couldn’t eat as they contained flour), but I found a perfect, small chocolate covered strawberry. I also picked up a little chocolate cup which I thought was filled with some sort of cream. Once I started eating it, I realized that it was a tiramisu cup, so it had some ladyfingers on the bottom. I decided to eat it anyways. My stomach wasn’t too happy later that day as well as the next day. In the future, I will make sure of what is in something before I eat it…


We walked quite a bit while we were away. I forgot to wear my Fitbit several times, so I’m not sure about the exact steps/miles, but I know that we hit 10,000 steps every day and often more than 15,000. That was a lot of walking, especially for the kid and considering the high altitude.

While it was nice to get one last, short family trip in, it’s good to get back to a regular schedule. I look forward to planning our meals again and getting back to a regular yoga/walking/workout schedule. Hubby and I may also do another Conscious Cleanse in September. While I’m pretty happy with the way we ate during the summer, there is definitely room for improvement, and a cleanse is a great way to focus on us and how we treat our bodies. Since the last cleanse, dairy, condiments (especially ketchup), and snack foods have made more of an appearance again than I’d like. It’d be nice to clean my eating up a bit more again…

Questions: What was the highlight of your summer? I am very grateful that I got to visit my family with the kid in July. I’m also very thankful for our Tahoe trip and the time together and the memories we made there. Do you usually eat “better” during the summer? I feel I eat “better” during the summer months because of all the fresh veggies and fruits that are available. However, there is always room for improvement…

Be well,

Thursday, August 8, 2013

Summer Fun

The kid and I have been traveling for the past few weeks to visit my family. We really enjoyed the trip and are very grateful for spending time with everyone, but toward the end of the trip the kid really missed his friends and his regular surroundings.

In the past when I traveled (especially for a long time), I often struggled with staying balanced when it comes to food. I sometimes used a “one treat per day” rule, but when you are gone for several weeks, one extra treat per day really adds up. Plus, I often ate such different foods than at home that it really turned out to be much more then just one treat…

On this trip, I continued to follow what I learned on the Conscious Cleanse. That is, I started every day with 32 ounces of warm lemon water, followed most days by a green smoothie. (I had planned the smoothie making ahead of time and bought and sent a small bullet mixer to my parents’ house as they didn’t have one. It worked great!) I also brought some food with me: Qia cereal, hemp seeds, almonds, almond butter, small trail mix packets, and a few Lara bars.

The majority of my meals were greens. Here are some salads we made at my aunt’s house.


Besides greens I also enjoyed some traditional foods that I normally don’t eat (but in smaller quantities and always paired with greens – which often resulted in unusual combinations). I also indulged in some Italian ice cream a few times, but my focus on the trip wasn’t food but people.

The Conscious Cleanse suggests an 80/20 rule when you are not on the cleanse. That is, you should eat according to the Conscious Cleanse principles 80 percent of the time and add in “extras” 20 percent of the time. I feel I followed the 80/20 rule successfully.

When I weighed myself after the trip, I had actually lost 2 pounds, which is probably a first when it comes to long trips and my weight. I am glad that I was able to continue to feed my body in a way that makes me feel great, and I’m thankful that I did the Conscious Cleanse first in January and then again in June as I had really learned what makes me feel good and how to make vegetables and some fruits the focus of every meal.

Hubby stayed home and also continued to eat quite a few Conscious Cleanse-friendly meals. He started his days with lemon elixir (water, lemon juice, cayenne pepper and a few drops of honey). He also ate quite a few green smoothies, salads and veggies. But, it also happened to be Silicon Valley Beer Week while we were gone, so there was also plenty of beer and some “beer food.” So we’ll clean things up a bit in the next few weeks. Smile

In fact, another group cleanse starts on September 7th, and we are thinking of doing it again. If you want to read about my experiences during my first and second cleanse, you can read about them here (in reverse chronological order.)

If you are interested in doing the Conscious Cleanse in September, registration is now open, and through August 11th, you can get $25 off with code EBCC913.

Questions: What are some highlights of your summer so far? What’s your favorite summer food right now? Our tomato, basil and jalapeno plants are doing great, and we are enjoying tomatoes with every meal.

Be well,