A New Direction

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Relentless Forward Progress.  I’ve adopted this mantra from one of my favorite ultra running books of the same name.  It is motivating to me, even during the lowest point in any run, to understand that any forward progress is movement toward a goal, and something to be celebrated.

How often do we stop to celebrate relentless forward progress in our lives?  Raising children, growing older, starting a new career, decluttering our homes, reconnecting with friends, honoring our true selves, forgiving others, or moving in a new direction.

Don’t we sometimes feel like we aren’t making adequate progress, or achieving our goals in a reasonable amount of time?  We feel like we are standing still.  We feel stagnant.  We feel disappointed.  Why?  Because we are judging our efforts instead of celebrating them.

Every day we are relentless.  We start the day with positive intentions and small actions and hope.  We move forward.  Yesterday’s events are behind us, and today is an opportunity for something new.  We make progress.  We fail, learn, adapt, and repeat as we make our way through life.  Wherever we are at the end of the day, it represents the next step in our journey.

In certain seasons progress is slow, but in those times, remember that you are still moving forward.

Mind The Gap

Hi folks.  Gap Year is flowing along like a rapid current!  It’s hard to believe that this week I am back home, returning to college to pick up my daughter from her freshman year. I think I managed to squeeze in some adventures while she was gone.  Here’s the recap:

Dropped daughter at school

Flew to Orlando, visited Hogwarts

Flew to NYC, attempted SoulCycle, survived

Moved to the OBX, evacuated for hurricane, moved back, returned home for the holidays

Sold beach house

Bought new beach house

Flew to Aruba, met a flamingo

Renovated, renovated, renovated new beach house

Returned back to real life, refreshed and happy

Went for a run with running club

Picking up daughter at school

Asking myself, ‘What’s next?’.  Waiting for answer…

Pantry Tour

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It’s been way too long since I have posted a photo on my blog, so I figured why not give you a peek into my beach house pantry.  I use the term pantry loosely.  It’s more like a kitchen cabinet from 1993, which sits atop my teal formica countertops from 1993.  But alas, kitchen upgrades are something I must forego in order to afford said beach lifestyle.   In fact, my kitchen countertops are so old that the teal color very closely resembles Sherwin Williams 2018 color of the year – Oceanside SW 6496.  Lesson of minimalism:  what goes around comes around, so all that is required to be trendy is to do nothing for long enough.

So, this pantry is basically everything I need to survive, along with a fridge full of fresh produce.  I’ve been trying to take my own advice when it comes to paring down, which is reflected in everything except the bottom shelf of tea.  Minimalists are allowed to have excessive amounts of the things they most value, which for me is hot beverages.

What could I stand to let go of?

Top shelf:  Definitely ditching the rice wrappers.  Nori sheets are less trouble and taste better in my opinion, when I’m in the mood to wrap something up.  Veggie broth is a staple for quick homemade soups.  It must stay.

Second shelf:  No future need for sunflower seed butter, and maca powder.  Definitely dig tahini over the sunbutter, and cacao over the maca.  Using those two up and no plans to replace.  Besides that I’ve got 1 legume (lentils), 1 grain (brown rice), and 1 cereal (steel cut oats)

Third shelf:  Got my standard spices:  salt, pepper, and curry.  The seasonal spices (pumpkin pie and gingerbread) are leftovers from last year, so I’m just using those up, and Old Bay, because…beach lifestyle.  Wasabi is for my nori wraps, and olive oil is for cooking and for my face, because I like to moisturize after hovering over a steaming pot of food.  Then we’ve got coconut milk (for curries), pumpkin puree (seasonal), tomatoes, and beans.  My go-to beans are garbanzo beans, black beans, and aduki beans, if I can find them.  There’s also a can of refried beans and green chilis hiding in the back, waiting for Mexican night.

Bottom shelf:  The tea shelf is where there are a lot of leftovers from my health craze.  What doesn’t need to be there is protein powder (I prefer my super seed smoothie mix instead…equal parts hemp seed, chia seed, and ground flaxseed).  Chlorella can go, because I only need 1 green powder for smoothies, and Amazing Grass does the trick.  Golden Milk doesn’t make the cut, just because matcha tastes better to me.  My other tea rotation varies wildly based upon my grocery store whims.  Stevia is a staple in my house…it seems to be the only sweetener that doesn’t mess with my blood sugar or my gut health.

That’s a wrap on the pantry tour.  Would you like a tour of my teal countertop?  You got it!

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Kitchen Envy, I Know.

 

Ignore the Label

Just the other day I was poking around the frozen foods section, something I periodically do.  It’s become a spiritual practice of mine to stare at the ice cream freezer, breath deeply, and boldly walk by without purchasing, while reflecting upon my inner strength and awesomeness.  However, this time something caught my eye.

A colorful new pint of birthday cake ice cream stared back at me.  Not just any ice cream, but Low Cow ice cream.  This little nugget of food technology had a label screaming with healthy buzz words and promises that seemed to good to be true.  On it’s cheerful pink label, it celebrated only 280 calories per pint, and 24 grams of protein.  Oh, and don’t forget, it’s gluten-free.  Basically it seemed so good for you, you could practically skip your long run and just chow down on this laboratory concoction while continuing to build muscle.

Don’t delude yourself with these too-good-to-be-true products.  They aren’t examples of health innovation, but rather an example of reductionism, a clever industry trick to separate a whole food into its nutrient components, which can then be promoted, confusing unsuspecting consumers into believing in the health benefits.  These are food labels at their worst (or best, if you are the food manufacturer).

What does the label forget to mention?  It is made of dairy, so it probably comes with a side of inflammation and maybe even a little animal cruelty, plus a good dose of whey protein for some excessive IGF-1 and cancer risk.  Oh, and it is sweetened with all kinds of gut-disrupting, non-digestible goodness, to leave you running for the potty after you finish that second pint when no one’s looking, because hey, two pints are still half the calories of Ben and Jerry’s, right?  Sorry, birthday cake flavor…at my age, I need to take good care of my body on my birthday, not poison myself.

So basically, if you see a promising food label on a food you traditionally need to stay away from, be forewarned that your relationship to that food matters more that whether it is a high calorie version, or some newfangled health halo version.  If you are a cookie overeater, you will still be eating too many of the gluten-free health cookies and feeling bad afterwards.

Best to ignore the label.  You know what foods serve you and what foods don’t, so don’t let any food manufacturer convince you that their version is the healthy exception.  Just walk away, and reflect upon your inner strength and awesomeness.

Run Out Of Something

I’m going to spend the next few posts focusing on the Munching part of life.  I’ve been reflecting lately on how much progress I’ve made in the food department, and I hope to share some reflections in the next few posts that might get you thinking about your relationship to food, and might add value to your lifestyle.

Look, we’re all on a quest to be happy and healthy, so no matter what our current weight or what our relationship is to food, I can safely say that we have all had good intentions in our actions.  When I used to eat gummy bears, I thought I was making good choices by eating low fat snacks.  When I used to drink Diet Coke, I thought I was making good choices by avoiding sugar.  When I used to diet and restrict my food intake, I thought I was making good choices by limiting calories.  When I switched to a whole foods, plant-based diet, I thought I was making good choices by eating nutritious food in abundance.  But was I making good choices for myself in doing this?

Maybe not.

I think I can fast forward through processed food and fad diets, and assume that most of us have finally come to the conclusion that those no longer serve us, and we are ready for positive change.  So we dive down the nutrition rabbit hole, and learn about gluten-free, and dairy-free, non-GMO, organic, superfoods, etc.  We spend and spend and read and read and get smarter and smarter, while we layer more and more standards into our acceptable foods, diving deeper into next level products, like supplements, fermented foods, medicinal mushrooms, etc.  At least I did.  I can tell you that I thought I was making good choices by dropping some serious cash at the health food store, and dropping some major hours in the kitchen.

In fact, if you opened up my pantry and fridge during this phase of life, it would have closely resembled the aisles of Whole Foods, minus the mood lighting and cool hip display shelves.  The health halo was shining bright, as I gazed upon food products only enlightened people would be savvy enough to buy.  I isolated myself from friends with my dietary restrictions, refusing to join them for restaurant meals.  I stressed out my family with the food rules in place at home.  And yet, I couldn’t understand why my health wasn’t vibrant, nor was my happiness abundant.  In fact, it sucked.

Maybe you are at this point in your life, when you are stressed out and tired over food.  Maybe you need to take it down a notch.  Here’s one thing you can start to do today:  Run Out Of Something.

You heard it.  Use up what you have, and don’t rush out to replace it.  Get down to one flavor of tea bag.  Run out of supplements.  Watch the world continue to turn, and life to carry on.  Understand that you don’t have to be a self-sufficient island of health, and that if you run out of something, you can actually depend on yourself for resourcefulness and your relationship with others for support.  Meet a friend for coffee if you have none left at home.  Brush your teeth with baking soda if you run out of toothpaste.  Be imperfect.

It’s so empowering to know you can succeed with less, without all of the health crutches and superfoods, and to know that your body is strong and healthy on its own, without the high end lifestyle products companies are pushing on you.  If you eat a less than perfect restaurant meal, your body will carry on.  Health is not strictly food, and it’s more important to be a whole person than a broken person eating whole food.

It wasn’t until I realized this that I was able to let go of perfection and for the first time build some gradual consistency in my relationship to food.  No longer did I consider a minor infraction to my usual food routine as a complete failure, leading me to fall off the health wagon into a slump of despair.  No longer did the pendulum swing so wildly between health food, and face in a tub of ice cream when no one was looking.  Finally, I started to chill, and feel good most days, and for me, that was a huge win.

 

The Secret Of Slowing Down

Commuting used to be a prominent source of stress in my life.  Driving in a crowded urban area led me to countless experiences of conflict, rage, and cortisol spikes.  No matter what intention I set before driving, I seemed to always find myself tangled up with another driver, seething and anxious by the time I arrived at my destination.

The most effective secret I found to relieving my driving stress was traveling 2 mph slower than everyone else.  Think about it.  Most people aren’t content with the posted speed limit.  They want a little bit more for themselves, so they tend to speed up.  Very few people seem confident that they have the time and space in their lives to go slower.

This means if the highway speed limit is 70, and you set your cruise control to 72 mph, you will likely get tangled up with the aggressive drivers.  But set your speed to 68 mph, and everyone will go around you, leaving you alone.  Sure, you might get an occasional tailgate or annoyed look, but angry people are difficult to please.  They aren’t in the mood to be happy with their life, but I am.  I want all the unhappy people to go around me and move on while I sing to my yoga playlist.

What other ways can you go against the crowd and move 2 mph slower in your life?

Food, Simplified

Food.  So. Very. Tiring.

Have you ever felt like you have reached your limits when it comes to healthy eating?  Like if I have to come up with one more new idea for dinner, I am going to lose my mind?  Like I can’t even read on more click bait article on the latest nutrition trend without skimming it and thinking, ‘blah, blah, blah’?  That’s kind of where I am right now with food.

There is no place in my life where I currently crave the benefits of minimalism more than in my food choices.  This has led me to lots of recent experimentation in my relationship to food and eating.  Food required way too much of my energy and focus, and I felt ready to put eating on auto-pilot in favor of more rewarding pursuits, like living life.

I think it’s helpful to periodically swing the pendulum of your behavior in the opposite direction.  By experimenting to live with too little, we can gain perspective on where a comfortable medium exists.  Here are a few small experiments I have done recently to lessen the role food has in my life, and to help me gain clarity on that balance:

Only buy one food from each category when grocery shopping (one grain, one nut, etc.)

Setting limits on grocery spending or number of items per trip.

Drastically buying less food…no duplicates, no bulk stockpiles.

Fully run out of something before restocking it.

Eat the same thing for breakfast every day.

Salad for lunch, any type.

Eating raw for breakfast and lunch.

One night per week off of cooking to enjoy a restaurant.

Avoiding snacks, and environments/situations where I typically snack (that’s you, TV).

Drinking only water, coffee, and tea.

Eating 3 satisfying meals or less per day.

Limiting sauces and condiments to a few favorites.

Intermittent fasting on travel days or long car rides.

Eating slowly, chewing more.

Repeating meals with batch cooking and leftovers.

Allowing my pantry or fridge to look bare, knowing I still have enough.

Cooking based on ingredients on hand vs. recipes, and trusting my intuition.

Avoiding packaged foods, and my own personal irresistible foods.

Eating larger quantities of fewer, simpler things.

Avoiding cookbooks and recipe blogs, keeping my focus off food during non-meal times.

Asking myself how else I can fill myself up.  Friendship?  A Hug?  A Walk?

All of these small focuses over the past few months have helped move food to the ‘back burner’ of my life.  I certainly did not undertake every focus at the same time.  I simply reflected on where I felt I needed help, and chose one or two focuses per week, maintaining those practices as long as they served me.  Perhaps some of these experiments would work for you, or inspire you to come up with your own ideas for small personal challenges.

After all, food is meant to fuel your life, not be your life.