Sunday, December 18, 2011

# 54 - Get Thee Behind Me, Seitan

Once a month Dr. Tsipi Morris, founder of the Efrat Women's Health Center, hosts a Healthy Cooking Demonstration. During these sessions she introduces us to food we would never have made. 
Who even remembers the names of the other stuff? Sometimes I think she's putting us on.
She prepares and cooks everything in front of us, sometimes with us. And we get to enjoy her hard work for dinner. Then surprisingly for some of us (okay, read: me) at the Efrat Women's Health Center, the new healthy food is really tasty.
Dr. Tsipi is probably hoping we'll incorporate some of her food fare into our dinners.
You know what? Change that to a maybe. I actually did make her nut-filled butternut squash once and I even served her unique fruit-and-nut baked apple concoction. It went over pretty well in my house. But I think I ate a little too much of it all by myself.
Most recently we learned how to cook with Seitan, a wheat-based meat substitute. The Women's Health Center staff are always encouraging/brainwashing us to eat proteins other than meat - beans, nuts, chick peas, sardines, etc.
I had never seen Seitan, let alone heard of it. It comes in packages of what looks like a few small steaks. It cuts up like steak too, and that's more or less how we handled it.
Tsipi cut it up, sautéed it a bit, and added all kinds of vegetables.
We put it in a whole wheat pita with salad and a dill and cucumber dressing and we had a Yiro. The photo above is Dr. Tsipi with my yiro. It looked and tasted like shwarma. It was pretty good.
Then me made a curry concoction with the Seitan and it was kind of like chulent, or something you'd find in an Indian restaurant. A new taste and aroma for some of us (read: me).
Dessert was a half of a cantaloupe stuffed with pomegranate seeds. Beautiful and delicious.
To your health.

Wednesday, December 14, 2011

# 53 - Picturing Good Health

We did a pretty interesting group exercise at the Efrat Women's Health Center last week.
Alizah Shapiro, our social worker, rolled out two body outlines. They looked straight out of a crime scene.
Actually, Alizah was the model for these two outlines, traced by her five and eight year olds. We were supposed to fill in the outlines. Body #1 was a "healthy body". We had to include everything we thought had to do with a healthy body.
* A big smile
* A calm head
* Strong arms
* A happy heart
* Healthy food in her mouth
* Sneakers on her feet that like to exercise.
We even drew weights in one of her hands for the exercise we know she does, and a pillow near her head for the good night's sleep she gets.
The unhealthy body  had a hammer banging at her head for all the headaches she has, a big mouth that intakes too much unhealthy food, a stomach that's plagued with indigestion and all kinds of ills, dry hands, bad knees, and a couch for her couch potato status.
It's easy to see which figure we'd rather be. The goal is to PICTURE good health and then to do everything we should to attain the good health that we picture.
We are what we picture, I guess. And we'd better start picturing all good things.
I recently was lucky enough to celebrate my anniversary, B"H. My wonderful husband got me a card whose cover sported a young happy in love couple. I bought my husband a card that sported an older happy in love couple. It was clear that my husband looked at us as young, and I was shocked that I seemed to look at us as old.
Well, I'm ditching that card, and buying a new one. I am going to picture us as young and vibrant, and, of course, in love and happy.
The way we think about ourselves impacts how we feel about ourselves, and influences how we go forward to change things for the better.
And I'm going to work very hard on picturing myself as that Healthy Body with a happy smile, a happy heart, and a happy healthy everything else. 

Monday, December 12, 2011

# 52 - Don't Be Annoying

One of the things you really have to be careful of when you're watching your health is how you come off to other people.
If you're going to start telling folks, "Oh my gosh, how can you eat that? It goes straight to your hips/thighs/abdomen/heart", then no one will want to be near you anymore.
They'll groan every time you appear.
I learned a great lesson early on from my brilliant nutritionist Judy Kizer. In a social setting, don't comment on other people's food. Don't even look at their plates. Don't make health comments until they mention the subject first. Then if you say anything, just answer a question and do not seem antagonistic.
If you show a good example without shoving good health ideas down people's throats, they'll be more inclined to listen to you when you do say something.
It's important to be truthful about your food and health ideas, while you try to maintain a pleasant exterior. But there are challenges.
* "Yum, look at that cheesecake. Sha, do you want to split a piece with me?" "No, thank you. I don't eat cheesecake." "Oh, you don't, eh! Humph!"
I guess you could sneeze and then say, no thank you. That might be a better out.
* "Hey, let's play If I Were on a Desert Island. Okay, whose first? Go ahead." "If I were on a desert island what two foods would I bring?" Well, it used to be so clear to me. It used to be a no-contest desert island choice of potato chips and Coke. Over time my island fare changed to a definite Entennman's chocolate covered donuts and milk. Now I have no idea. Whole wheat bread and peanut butter? What about a drink? Well, if it was a desert island with coconuts, and if I could climb to the top of the palm tree without breaking my leg, and then if I had a hammer or a very heavy rock that I could actually lift, I could have local coconut milk. Hm. Something to think about. But, you see what I mean, even playing games has changed now. And if we played Desert Island and I said, "Rice cakes and cheese," folks would roll their eyes and never ask me to play again.
    You don't want to be annoying in social situations, but you've got to escape potential pitfalls.
* I attended a birthday party last week, and was offered a piece of birthday cake. It's an insult to say, "No, I won't eat your birthday cake." B"H, I was surrounded by a supportive crowd, so I said, "I would love to have a piece of your birthday cake. It looks so delicious. Mazel tov. I'm just not allowed to have it." That passed quietly, B"H.

* I had a very long meeting recently. Once upon a time, I'd have spent the night picking on the nosh on the table. To avoid that I brought a yogurt from home. From the hostess's table, I added some almonds and dates. Yum. I drank coffee with everyone else. That lasted about an hour. Now what? Tick tock tick tock. The cookies were still on the table, but I didn't touch any, and I didn't comment on anyone else's cookie intake either. I could have brought carrot sticks to munch on all night long, but that would have been obnoxiously in-your-face, so I didn't. When I came to the meeting, I found that the hostess had graciously put out nuts and fruit to pass the evening in addition to the baked goods. So, I made it through, B"H, and did it hopefully without my health attitudes grating on anyone's nerves. But just in case you don't know what the hostess is serving, bring sucking candies. No one will think twice if you pop a sucking candy instead of a snack.
Your health is your business. Other people's health is theirs. Acting and eating properly is a gift for yourself, and if other people are inspired to join in a healthy life, that's great. Of course, you're thrilled when folks choose a better lifestyle, and you can be encouraging, but never push them or meddle into their mouths.
The holidays are on the way. Here's to the gift of health for everyone!

Tuesday, December 6, 2011

# 51 - Salad Queen

While I eat a pretty good variety of foods - the whole nutrition triangle - I try to have at least one big salad a day. In the beginning of my journey to better health, I had to choke down my salads or drown them in dressing. 
But I have heard again and again the benefits of salads. They contain fiber and lots of nutrients and vitamins that we need for a healthy life. They help reduce the risk of cancer. They fill us up and help us reduce the calories we eat at a meal. They really make us feel better. (You see, I do listen during our health sessions at the Efrat Women's Health Center. :) )
Well, I've learned over the past few months to really love salads and make them as interesting as possible.
I even get my family to eat my designer salads. Sometimes they take seconds. That's amazing.
I throw in everything, plus the kitchen sink, to my salads. Every vegetable in the house, plus some nuts or seeds and a cut up fruit. The perfect combination of taste with every forkful. Yes, I have absolutely become the Queen of Salads. 
I don't always have time to make Super Spectacular Salads, but when I do, there's no competition.
I invite you to make Super Salads too. Then, Long Live the Queens.

(Pictured are MY salads.  The top is an original creation with the guidance of nutritionist Judy Kizer. Left is a salad from 

Kosher Elegance by Efrat Libfroind.)

Sunday, December 4, 2011

# 50 - Beloved Torturer

At our last exercise class, our instructor Daphne Kupietzky (who seems like such a lovely person in real life, but is a slave driver on the work out floor) started us on reverse jumping squats.
What is it? I have no clue. I guess the best way to describe it is: the opposite of my most hated exercise - jumping squats. In evil jumping squats you squat down as low as you can and then you jump up. With a reverse jumping squat, you jump and descend into a squat. (See photo at left.)
Where do these trainers and instructors get these exercises from? Exercise nightmares.
Once before I wrote that Daphne was trying to kill us. Tonight I was sure of it.
Then she said, "Look at all of you. Three months ago you would never have been able to do this." She seemed so proud of us.
At that moment I realized, Daphne's not trying to kill us. She is trying as best she could to whip us into some kind of better shape - to bring our once-totally-pathetic physical abilities as high as she possibly can. So she teaches us a new choreography every week that is not REALLY supposed to frustrate us - just keep us on our toes.
And she upgrades our sprints to new and more difficult challenges each week.
My emotions during Daphne's workouts vary from frustrated to fun to shvitzy to fainting to fantastic.
When Daphne finishes torturing us and the class is over we always just sit down together for a few minutes - for no reason. Class is over. Maybe it's just a "Team, we made it through" moment that we try to hang on to for just a little while longer.
Thank you, Daphne.

# 49 - Choice Challenged

I have a major problem with making choices. I can make many choices, but sometimes I'm not sure if I've made the right ones.
Perhaps my dislike of choices makes me like familiarity, or my preference for familiarity makes me dislike choices. In high school I never had to choose summer reading. I simply reread my favorite book Pride and Prejudice at least twice during every summer vacation.
Even today I plan every family summer trip to the same spot on the Golan. I like the friendly home-y feeling of driving up to our yearly vacation destination and saying, "Hello, Golan, we're ho-ome!!"
Now that i think of it, I seem to wear more or Iess the same clothes every day, even though, B"H, I have a closet full of lovely clothing.  It would be just torturous for me to stand in my closet for ten minutes trying to decide what to wear. 
So, compound my dislike or perhaps  difficulty in making choices with my busy schedule and you can imagine that I have no idea what foods to make for any meal.
In the old days, Pre-Women's Health Center, I was an advocate of Grabbing Something.
"Ema, what's for dinner?"
"Oh, just grab something, darling."
And I did the same. I often just grabbed the nearest easiest item in the pantry.
Now I still grab. I grab an orange or a banana. But I also want my family to be healthy, so I make healthy foods whenever I can. And if we can't sit down at the table together, I can still tell the gang, "Oh, grab something." but I know I have healthy things to grab in the kitchen.
While it's difficult for me to make choices, I am fabulous at following directions. So recently I sat down with nutritionist Judy Kizer who helped me make a food chart filled with the foods I always eat anyway, but organized in a better fashion.
My suggested menu is made up of the foods I like - nothing strange or difficult. It's perfect for me. I can choose to eat what Judy and I decided on, or I can be adventurous. I'm pretty adventurous when I'm creating a project or working in a new layout, but I'm happy to go with someone else's ideas when it comes to food. 
La Brityut. To good health.