"If you could clear out all that space in your mind, you'd have a doorway. And you know what the universe would do with that doorway? Whoosh! Rush in--and everything will take care of itself."-Richard, the "annoying-wounded-but-wise" Texan that befriends Liz in India-
"La dolcezza di non fare niente!"
"So, that's the final lesson, isn't it? Sometimes, when you set out in the world to help yourself, you inevitably end up helping...Tutti!"
-Tutti is the Italian word for everyone, & the name of the 7-year old Balinese girl that Liz helps-
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Eat, Pray, Love--the movie version of Elizabeth Gilbert's incredible journey that takes her to Italy, India, and Bali in search of herself, opened in theaters this week.
I saw it last night with my husband, and I loved it even more than the book. How is that possible? Make no mistake. This is not a chick flick. My husband hadn't a clue what this movie was going to be about--and he was captivated by it.
OK, full-disclosure here: If self-reflection, meditation, a bit of whining, 9th generation medicine men, gurus, mouth-watering Italian food, friendship, travel, and solo-unimaginable adventures seem too woo-woo-out-there, this movie is not for you. Otherwise, inspire & uplift yourself, and go see it! If you aren't able to see the trailer, click here.
So, in the spirit of Eat, Pray, Love--
- I'm clearing out my brain of as much information as I can stand to do at one sitting, so I can make some space for everything new that inevitable comes my way. I've got recipes, links, and info I just haven't had a chance to get down in print--yet I'm unwilling to let go of them until I can "back-them-up-on-the-blog".
- I'm promising myself plenty of time in the future for "La dolcezza di non fare niente!" Who wouldn't love that phrase? The Italian philosophy, so contrary to our Western way of life--"the sweetness of doing nothing". I definitely need some serious work in that department. My husband, on the other hand, is a master of la dolcezza di non fare niente. Lucky guy.
- If what I write about in any way ends up helping anyone else--that would be simply wonderful! But honestly, I really write for myself. "Sometimes when you set out to help yourself, you end up helping Tutti!"
It's been eight-weeks since I started on this adventure, and honestly, it's no longer a diet--it's just how I eat. Why, you must be wondering, would a healthy woman, seemingly without heart disease take on such a restrictive eating plan?
- My eating repertoire has expanded a hundred-fold. Everyday, I'm eating something different, that's chock-full of anti-oxidants, vitamins, minerals, and tastes delicious. Kiwis, muscadine grapes, blueberries, tomatoes, lacinato kale, Swiss chard, lemons, oranges, bananas, 100% pumpernickel bread, steel-cut oats, watermelon, peaches, cherries, soba noodles, spicy tempeh "bacon", fat-free hummus, caramelized onion penne pasta with pumpkin and sage bread crumbs, Yukon gold garlic mashed potatoes, Cajun sweet potato fries, pizza with "Italian sausage", peppers, onions, kalamata olives, and sun-dried tomatoes. Enough said.
- No oil means my dishes, pots, pans and stovetop are a breeze to clean.
- I've lost between 6-8 pounds, depending on the day--and you'd need a huge cooler to hold all the food I eat in a day. I love how my clothes fit. And I love the compliments. Without oil, the added fats in my food, nuts, that tiny square of chocolate that always grew into a bar, or avocados, I've got about 500 extra calories a day to "spend" on healthier food--or to lose weight. And guess what? Most of my weight loss is all in the belly & butt. And according to a new report, which was published in the Archives of Internal Medicine, having a larger waist was associated with a higher risk of death whether the person was normal weight, overweight or obese. For more on the risks of belly fat, click here.
- Minor aches, or joint stiffness have vanished, replaced with a new-found flexibility. This one seems sort of "woo-woo", but maybe I owe it to my better omega-3 to omega-6 ratios, now that I've cut out my main omega-6 source of nuts & oils. Team physician Dr. Joe Maroon advises the Pittsburgh Steelers to ditch their ibuprofen, and replace it with omega-3 supplements to nix inflammation and pain--and there are a whole lot of journal articles that agree with him.
- Eating about every 3 hours keeps me energized and alert--and gives me an extra hour a day of awake time.
- My eating, shopping, and cooking routine has become just that--routine. With my husband on board, helping out with shopping, chopping, & cooking it's just becoming a way of life.
- My craving for fat & sugar is gone.
- My idea of a perfect snack food has completely changed. Forget chips & crackers. Give me a some leftover sweet potato fries, cherries, or a small serving of dinner leftovers.
- It's impossible to overeat! All you need is 400 calories of grains, beans, fruits, & veggies to fill up your stomach completely. There's just no more room--you're full--so you stop!
- I've added back walnuts, in small amounts, and only for recipes, not for snacking. I can see eating an occasional serving of wild salmon in the future because it's lean, a good source of long-chain omega-3s, that's relatively toxin-free and it would be an easy meal to share at friends' homes, or to order in a restaurant.
I'm not quite sure why I stopped eating white potatoes in favor of sweet potatoes, but they're my new found fave. When we received 2 dozen mixed fresh potatoes in our weekly CSA share, I had to do something with them. Voila! Crispy Cajun Potato Slices and Yukon Gold garlic mashed potatoes. Followed up shortly with my friend Barbara's Accidental Vegan Oil-Free Potato & Pea Curry at a recent picnic. Recipe to follow.
Give Potatoes the Respect They Deserve: The Satiety Index ranks foods by how much you can eat before satisfying your hunger. Turns out, boiled potatoes have the highest satiety rating--at 323. Croissants have the lowest--at 47. And French fries are lower than boiled potatoes--at 116.
Why so satisfying? Potatoes are a natural source of a proteinase inhibitor that increases levels of satiety hormones and reduces appetite. This step-child carb also has high levels of something called, "resistant starch," which doesn't raise blood sugar or get broken down into glucose. According to Frances Largeman Roth, RD, resistant starch also helps reduce abdominal fat.Vegetable & Fruit Peels for Your Smoothies
The best feature of a VitaMix is that it blends & "chews" up everything you put into it. No, the best feature is that you don't have to peel your fruits & veggies before you grind them up. It's a 2-fer. Save time--and increase nutrition with fruit & vegetable peels. Check this out, courtesy of Matthew Kadey, in the Septemer 2010 issue of Prevention.
- Apple peels contain nearly all of the fruit's quercetin, a powerful anti-oxidant that's been credited with improving exercise endurance by increasing VO(2Max), preventing certain cancers & periodontal disease, as will as increasing nitric oxide production that benefits blood vessels.
- Kiwi peels are rich in vitamin E and disease-fighting flavonoids.
- Orange & lemon peels provide d-limonene, a compound that may protect against skin cancer, and flavanones that lower cholesterol and blood pressure, and help curb the appetite.
- Carrot peels are a good source of beta-carotene that protects the eyes, skin, and immune system.
- Anti-oxidants are concentrated in the peels of fruits & vegetables--because that's their first line of defense against pests & fungi. Eat the peels if you want to boost your anti-oxidants.
Who knew that Dr. Sears, the baby & parenting maven, and author of 30 books on child care almost died of colon cancer at age 57? To insure that "he'd never have to go through that again," Sears hit the medical journals & consulted with the experts to figure out what diet would give him the best chance of remaining disease-free. Turns out, the same advice kept turning up again & again: Graze--don't gorge.
This made me stand up and take notice, because guess what?
If you're eating plant-based with no added fat, you end up eating every three hours. Dr. William Lands, the renowned lipid & essential fatty acid expert believes most of our chronic diseases would disappear if we followed 2 rules: Keep a balanced healthy ratio of omega-6s to omega-3s, and cut down on oxidative stress by eating like a grazer--small meals, spread out through the day.
Here's what Dr. Sears had to say about the benefits of grazing, in the September, 2010 issue of Prevention.
"I learned that, compared with people who gorge on a few big meals a day, grazers, who eat frequent mini-meals, suffer less colon cancer, have steadier moods, are less likely to develop diabetes, have a healthier immune system, tend to be leaner, enjoy lower blood cholesterol and levels of stress hormones, have less "itis" illnesses (dermatitis, bronchitis, colitis, arthritis), and just plain live longer and healthier.
The magic of grazing is that the body has less metabolic mischief to get into. In a science-made-simple nutshell, grazing promotes stable insulin levels--the three magic words of good health. To understand why grazing is so good for you, let's follow the meals of a gorger and a grazer from their plates to their bloodstreams.
As the gorger feasts on a high-fat, all-you-can-eat steak house buffet (followed by dessert), two things happen.
- Her blood levels of "sticky stuff"--cardiology-speak for artery-damaging fats--act like sludge in the bloodstream, clinging to the lining of her arteries, contributing to plaques, and ultimately stiffening arteries.
- The body doesn't like to waste food, so it also pours out the food-storage hormone, insulin, to deposit excess food fats into her body's storage bank--belly fat. And we all know how bad that is for you.
As for the grazer, by eating smaller amounts of food more frequently, she has:
- Less indigestion
- Less heartburn
- Less sticky stuff in her blood vessels
- Stable insulin levels that remain stable
Sears' Gut 101
- Stable weight
- Eat twice as often
- Eat half as much
- Chew twice as long
- Enjoy super green smoothies loaded with the healthiest fruits & vegetables. With a liquified smoothie it's easier to absorb more nutrients, and there's less waste.
Bye-Bye Birdie and Blood Vessel Health
Bye-Bye Birdie. Joyful Music Relaxes Blood Vessels
Pre-Play Plant-Based Picnic with Friends
Who's the Smiling Guy? It's My Husband
The Accidental Vegan's Potato & Pea Curry (recipe to follow below)
Even a Complimentary Picnic Serenade by University Theater Students
A Picnic of Potato Curry, Lentil Salad, Crisped/Toasted Tortillas, Eggplant & Pepper Salad, Cherry Tomatoes, Pineapple, Watermelon, Tamarind Chutney, and Red Wine
It was the perfect evening. Clear, 76 degrees, with low humidity.
It was the perfect place. A professional outdoor theater set in a stunning out-in-the-country hillside location.
It was the perfect picnic. Plant-based, oil-free. A delicious homemade potluck picnic with friends. Complete with a serenade by theater students. So easy. So delicious.
But the production! It bypassed all of our expectations. High-energy music, song, and dancing. It was a play we all grew up with and we knew all the lyrics by heart. To say all of us literally felt uplifted, and dare I say, "joyful," by this Bye-Bye Birdie production, is no exaggeration.
So, what's the connection between healthy blood vessels and joyful music?
It's straight out of the University of Maryland, in a recent article by Dr. Michael Miller, and the "endothelial vasoreactivity nitric oxide maven," Dr. Robert A. Vogel.
Here's the gist: If you listen to music that feels joyful to you, your blood vessels will relax & dilate, your blood pressure will lower, and your heart rate will decrease. Endorphins will start to flow, lifting you up, and oxytocin will start to secrete. That's the bonding hormone that makes you feel connected to whoever you are with. And that's exactly how all four of us felt after our plant-based picnic & Bye-Bye Birdie. Crazy, huh?
Miller, Michael, MD, Vogel, Robert C. et al. "Divergent Effect of Joyful and Anxiety-Provoking Music on Endothelial Vasoreactivity" Psychosomatic Medicine 72:354-56, 2010.
The Accidental Vegan's Pea & Potato Curry
Makes 4 to 6 servings
4 red or yellow potatoes (unpeeled), chopped
2-3 tablespoons of vegetable broth
1 onion, chopped
2 cloves garlic, minced
1 tablespoon grated ginger
1 tsp. ground cumin*
1/2 tsp. ground coriander*
1/2 tsp. ground turmeric*
1/2 tsp. ground cardamom*
1 tsp. sea salt
1 large tomato, chopped
1/2 cup or more frozen peas
Put the potatoes in a saucepan, add water to cover by an inch or two, and bring to a boil over high heat. Lower the heat to medium, cover, and cook for 8 to 10 minutes, until soft.
Meanwhile, heat the veggie broth in a non-stick skillet over medium-low heat, add the onion, garlic, ginger, cumin, coriander, turmeric, cardamom, and salt, and saute for about 5 minutes, until the onion is soft.
Stir in the tomato and cook, stirring occasionally, for about 5 minutes longer, until it breaks down.
Stir in the peas and cook a few minutes longer, until heated through. Serve hot.
*Cook's notes: Serve with Tamarind chutney (I found this at Whole Foods). Don't use russet potatoes for this dish, as they'll crumble, whereas yellow or red potatoes will hold their shape. You can substitute 2 1/2 teaspoons of curry powder for the cumin, coriander, turmeric, and cardamom.
Oops, I've run out of writing steam. The recipes for All-American Chili with Kick, Spicy Moroccan Stew, Sweet Potato Fries, Yukon Gold Garlic Mashers, Caramelized Onion Pumpkin Penne Pasta with Sage Bread Crumbs, Spaghetti and Beanballs, Vegan Italian Sausage, and Three Layer Black Bean Tortilla Stacks will have to wait for another day.
For now, it's time for La dolcezza di non fare niente! The sweetness of doing nothing!
Here's to a wonderful week!