My healthy living philosophy and blogger responsibility

I spent last weekend at a triathlon training retreat in Lake Tahoe. 


(I'm on the far right!)
As the "food coach" for the group, I often find myself talking about my choice to be vegetarian.


After explaining where I get my protein (because I am ALWAYS asked about that), I am careful to point out that I am on a path that works FOR ME and that I do not have designs on converting anyone else. I believe strongly that everyone should find what works for THEM and that nobody should blindly follow another's path. I am a mentor to those for whom I am the "food coach" but only in that I am there to help them think through their challenges and to come up with food ideas. I am not a registered dietician (RD), personal trainer, or a doctor. I have a wealth of knowledge on nutrition and fitness because of my own interest in the subjects- my Bachelor's degree and post-graduate work are unrelated.

Blogger responsibility and disordered eating

Another blogger recently wrote about blogger responsibility (with regard to "healthy living" or food and fitness related blogs) and re-shared her response to an article accusing her and five other bloggers of potentially having a disordered relationship with food and/or exercise. Eek. I am writing this post to share my food and exercise philosophy and to make this very clear: Again, I believe strongly that everyone should find what works for THEM and that nobody should blindly follow another's (or my) path. Experiment, explore, talk to an RD or your doctor, work with a trainer- do what it takes to find what makes YOU feel good.

As for accusations that imply that "healthy living" bloggers (or non-blogging health foodies) are people who are obsessed with food and exercise (in a dysfunctional way), I have mixed feelings. In my experience, the blogs that I read are written by people who simply want to share their ideas and recipes and keep themselves accountable by publicly declaring their goals. I find others' blogs to be an excellent source of inspiration. I read a lot of food-related blogs because I love variety in my meals and I get great ideas from other health-minded people.

That being said, eating disorders (and over-exercising) are clearly very concerning. These things affect omnivores, vegans, and vegetarians indiscriminately. Those affected by this can be fixated on eating only "approved" foods or "perfectly" following a certain diet. Obviously self-discipline and consequences are not part of a healthy menu. Neither is a sense of superiority over those who eat differently with regard to one's success at attempting to live inline with a dietary ideal. Being vegetarian or vegan is certainly not a disordered ideal. Whether written in a blog or suffered in private, though, obsessing about food or exercise at the cost of relationships, happiness, or other life-nurturing things is not healthy.

My way

Healthy, as I define it, does not mean deprivation or perfection. I am not militant in terms of monitoring my food intake- I eat intuitively. I eat when I'm hungry. I stop eating when I'm full. I choose healthy foods (lots of fruits, veggies, whole grains, legumes, etc.) most of the time and indulge in less healthy choices occasionally without guilt. I exercise to feel good physically and mentally, not to burn a certain number of calories.

I cook and create my own recipes because I love to eat and because I get bored very easily. I have high standards for what I choose as fuel for my body but not because I am following any rules. I eat what makes me feel good. I don't count calories. I don't strive to be skinny. I want to feel good- to have energy and to be strong. But living healthy is more than that; I also want to feel fed. Physically and emotionally. Sometimes that takes a run through the Eastern Sierra Nevada region of California while looking up at Mt. Whitney.


Sometimes it takes chocolate. It is what it is- I just go with it.

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I know these things to be true FOR ME:
  1. When I am happy and relaxed my body works better.
  2. When I exercise regularly I am happier, I have more energy, and I feel strong.
  3. Meat, dairy products, and eggs are not necessary in my diet and by avoiding them I am significantly reducing my risk for heart disease and cancer.
  4. I feel great about my choice to opt out of consuming products that arrive in the supermarket by way of a process that is fraught with cruelty, pollution, and suffering. I feel good about this even if I'm not 100% perfect at opting out.
  5. My cholesterol is 60 points lower than it was 13 years ago when I was told that it was over 200mg/dL. The only thing that I have changed is my diet (even my weight is the same). I am on the right path.
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Why do I write this blog?

I enjoy sharing my ideas and recipes. I hope to inspire others to try new things and to help them along with their evolution of thriving as so many others have done for me. I want to show people who are just starting to make healthy changes in their diet and exercise habits to see that healthy foods can taste great and that living a physically healthy life can also greatly enhance mental health. We all have an emotional attachment to how we live and how we eat and how we do just about everything. I am not writing to convert or convince. I simply want to share what I know from my own experience so that others might, on occasion, find a tidbit that makes a positive difference in their lives.  



Weird foods: Popped amaranth

Amaranth is commonly referred to as a grain, but it is actually a tiny seed with big benefits. It is a great source of calcium, iron, protein, magnesium, zinc, and amino acids. Just 1/4 cup (uncooked) amaranth contains 7 grams of protein, 5 grams of fiber, and 21% of the RDA for iron.

Amaranth can be cooked as a hot cereal, ground into (or purchased as) flour for gluten-free baking, or even popped like popcorn!

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I love popped amaranth tossed with salads, over hot cereal, added to baked goods, or in homemade granola bars.

Popping amaranth has a bit of a learning curve. It took me several tries before I found a method that works for me. It may take some experimentation for you as well but, to get you started, here is my method*:
  1. Heat a dry pan on high heat.
  2. Add about a tablespoon of amaranth and quickly move the pan in a circular motion (ala "Jiffy Pop") over the burner. The key here is to keep the pan moving in a circular motion until the amaranth has finished popping so that you don't end up with "snow" all over your kitchen!
*Note: This works well over my gas stove- I'm not sure how it would work over an electric burner.

(Updated from the original post, published May 2009.)

Travel food

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Getting ready to go on vacation is never really easy. Packing always takes significantly longer than I ever imagine that it will. For our latest adventure, we traveled by airplane (yes, another trip right after our California RV adventure!) and that makes all of the preparing and packing and whatnot just that much harder. I can never find decent food in an airport for myself (let alone something that my kids will like and that I'll feel good giving to them). This time, I wanted to be prepared instead of starving a few hours into our flight!

Breakfast:
Our flight was at 10am, so we had a chance to have breakfast before boarding. My husband and I had breakfast at home but, since we had to get the kids up and ready early, I made a portable breakfast for them. Super pancakes (in the mix: whole wheat and all-purpose flour mix, hemp seeds, almond milk, banana, canola oil, vanilla, baking powder) and fresh blueberries. Because these pancakes are sweet from the banana, the kids love them without any toppings and that makes them extra portable and great for in-car breakfasts.

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Lunch:
Instead of purchasing an airline meal (that may or may not be something that we can eat), I packed a snack bag for each of us. Our bags contained sunflower seed butter and jelly sandwiches (I didn't want to break any "no peanut" rules that we may have encountered so I avoided peanut butter), edamame (soy beans), snack bars (Clif ZBars, Nu Go bars, etc.), Snapea Crisps, sliced apples, and Snackimals cookies.

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More on our latest excursion soon!

What kind of foods do you like to bring with you when you travel? Any grab-and-go favorites?

Thank you, vacation

Over the past couple of weeks I have been on a road trip in an RV through all kinds of places in my home state of California. We've been to the desert and to the beach. In hot places (surprisingly the coast!) and cold (nighttime near Mono Lake). We've soaked in mineral springs, climbed sand dunes, toured a ghost town, visited family, built with Legos, boarded Air Force One, and high-fived Mickey Mouse. My kids are wiped out but we're all having a great adventure.

A few highlights:

Along Hwy 395 in the Eastern Sierra:
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I went for a run here one morning- that is Mt. Whitney in the background (the highest mountain in the contiguous US):

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My little gardeners:

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Sand dunes in Death Valley:
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Badwater Basin salt flats (it looks like snow, but it is salt!):
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Desert sunset:
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Crazy hot spring resort just south of Death Valley. This place had private mineral baths- so neat!

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Schoolhouse at the Calico ghost town:

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Carlsbad State Beach:

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Fun!
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At the Ronald Reagan Presidential Library (this place made me cry- very moving!):
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"Let's squish our faces together!":
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Vacation is awesome. Not only do I temporarily escape the must-do routine of daily life, but I find myself repeatedly shocked out of the numbness of normal. A family of big horn sheep on the side of the road. Laying in bed and having a conversation with a toddler in a moonlit RV. A crazy hot spring resort in the middle of the desert. All things unusual. All things special. All things with lasting impact beyond their tangible contact.

Vacation provides opportunities for us to learn more about each other too. Such as when we heard a song on the radio that my husband dislikes so much that it almost makes him mad. Normally we don't listen to the radio together. Especially the one odd (and crummy) station that we found when we were in the middle of the desert. In the context of our routine, we might not have known things like this about each other. Vacation affords room to make exceptions. To bedtimes. To having dessert before dinner. We try new foods that aren't a part of our usual spread. Some may be added to the rotation at home, some are "I-have-to-try-____-while-I'm-in-_____" foods.

I was born in Southern California and lived there until I was 8 1/2. I have mentioned before my love affair with all of the magical things that grow in the Southern California climate. I so love the warm salty air, avocado and citrus groves, brightly colored flowers, and jacaranda trees. I even saw cherimoyas at a roadside produce stand, swoon!

Even though our road trip schedule has been crazy (think 5 consecutive theme park days!), I feel decompressed. I'm tired but content. I'm unwound. My left brain has relaxed enough to allow my stress-averse creative side to emerge from hibernation. I love that I've had moments that call for the notebook that I carry around in my bag or even my iPhone note app because I simply must capture a passing thought before it gets away. I am pleasantly surprised to learn this about myself: inspiration to be creative or to write doesn't come from quiet. It comes when my mind is un-numb. Thank you vacation for this!