From the start, I was labeled because of my weight. The chubby girl who was teased by classmates was put on her first diet at age 9 and grew into the fat teenager who curled up with a tray of brownies on prom night. Eventually, the isolated and embittered teen became the obese adult who spent her time in one of two ways: burying her pain with covert visits to the nearest drive-thru or trying to solve it all with the latest diet. Such was my life until the day in January 2009 when I stepped on the scale and learned my weight had climbed to 345 pounds.
Greatist.com recently published a short list of strategies that have helped me keep 180 pounds off for nearly a decade. There’s so much corruption in the diet industry. By being so entrenched in it for most of my life, I learned how to circumvent it. We all know (even if we don’t want to believe it sometimes) that there’s no magic answer. It takes self-inquiry, brutal honesty, and effort.
It can be a bewildering maze of options and promises to say the least…made even more daunting if you’re starting out with no guidance. That’s where my decades of trial and error come in. I offer one-on-one support from someone who’s been there. It’s how I got to where I am today – no one goes it alone. Don’t want a full-blown coaching package? Sign up for a 30-minute Q&A. Ask me anything. About food, feeling the feelings, gluten-free vs. grain-free, or which form of movement might be a fit. Bouncing back from years of zoning out with food isn’t easy, I’ll be the first to tell you…but it’s possible.
Every now and then, I’ll rip open a bag of gluten-free cake mix and decide to make a sweet finale for a special-occasion meal. Lately I’ve been given to paleo desserts made from almond or coconut flour, but sometimes, I just want the taste and texture of a cake derived from white flour, no doubt in part because of embedded childhood memories.
Such was the case on Easter. I had a bag of Bob’s Red Mill Gluten-Free Vanilla Cake Mix just waiting for a purpose. My pantry is always stocked with vanilla and chocolate gluten-free cake mix in the event of birthdays that sneak up on me, or impromptu company stopping by for a visit. What says hospitality like fresh cake…right? In addition to my cake-mix arsenal, I had tangerines…lots of them…and it got me thinking.
Why not put the magic of my Vitamix to use and invent a fruit-tinged cake that no one had ever had before. If you don’t have a Vtamix, I highly recommend you invest in one. They are remarkable in their ability to blend things like cauliflower, tangerines, even nuts, into utter smoothness. It is because of the Vitamix I eat vegetables on a regular basis – I love ’em as long as they’re pureed into a creamy soup!
Because it was a holiday, I went all the way. Why imbue just the cake with fresh tangerines when I could do the same thing with the frosting? The result was hypnotic. Heavenly. Jaw-droppingly good. So here you go, a magically simple recipe that will set tongues not only wagging, but begging for more. And bonus: this cake has some genuine nutrition to it, and no artificial colors! How great is that?
1 bag of Bob’s Red Mill Gluten-Free Vanilla Cake Mix
3 tangerines, peeled and sectioned
2 cans of coconut milk, refrigerated for at least two hours, or overnight
Preheat oven to 350.
Follow instructions on the cake mix bag. In a Vitamix or blender blend the tangerines until completely smooth. Pour into bowl of cake batter and mix thoroughly. Pour into round, sprayed cake pan and bake for 25-30 minutes. Leave in cooling oven for 10 minutes. Remove from oven and let cool completely before frosting.
To make frosting, open coconut milk cans and drain coconut water from cans, setting aside for drinking or adding to smoothies. Scrape fat into a medium-sized mixing bowl. Blend tangerines in Vitamix or blender until smooth. Add to coconut cream and beat with electric hand-mixer until fluffy. Remove cake from pan and place on a serving plate. Cover with frosting. Note: if weather is warm, keep cake refrigerated or frosting will disintegrate.
My relationship with carbs has been quite the patchwork of mood swings over the past decade. In January, it will be 10 years that i stepped out in faith and followed the cues Life was suddenly giving me to make slow and steady changes toward better health.
Step 1: shelve the binge-eating and processed foods. This is a huge step in and of itself but I felt ready. And I also knew, after a lifetime of dieting and being hard on myself what NOT to do. So in the beginning this was my only rule. I didn’t place restrictions on quantity or calorie-counting, or writing my food down the day before – all of which drove me nuts.
Step 2: Going gluten-and dairy-free. This was at the advice of my mentor, Diamond Dallas Page, creator of DDPYOGA, the physical part of the equation that helped me regain my strength and physical grace (it was there all along…it only needed to be uncovered). The second step was a big one and it was taken at about month 3 of my journey. Very important detail because when I take on too many changes too soon, it backfires. I wasn’t in a race and I didn’t want overwhelm, only permanent change I could LIVE with.
Step 3: Becoming acquainted with the gluten-free and cow-dairy-free lifestyle. This was actually fun, because I had some pretty delicious times with cupcakes, cookies, baguettes, bagels…..you get the picture. But I was younger and my metabolism could take it. I didn’t over eat them though, even though I easily COULD. Being mindful of quantity and when I’ve had enough was a skill that developed over time, and the one underlying rule I still live by is no binge-eating. And when I want to eat more than my body needs I simply take it as a sign the waters are troubled and it’s time to do within.
Step 4: Keeping the weight off. I’ve been doing this for almost a decade thanks to following the formula laid out in Step 3. Which isn’t to say I’m a robot or fitness model whose weight never fluctuates. It has and it does. Which brings me to….
Step 5: Menopause. And all its attendant symptoms, including (cue the music from the shower scene in “Psycho”) WEIGHT GAIN! Yes it has happened, 30 pounds have come back, uninvited. The pasta dinners I could burn off with a longer work or harder workout don’t get incinerated like they once did. Because of this, carbs became the enemy – banished until further notice! But this wasn’t livable. I wasn’t happy and neither was my body. Which brings me to…
Step 6: Renegotiating with carbs. Let’s face it, I love ’em. They’re creamy, comforting, and nourishing…if you choose a healthy one. After listening to my body carefully and talking it over (dialoging with your body as you would a close friend is something I do and recommend to my clients, it’s a great way to glean information, as well as repair the damage from all the years I berated it), I decided adding healthy carbs back in the equation was in order. I welcomed brown basmati rice, quinoa, potatoes (red and purple in particular) to the stove with open arms. Even if some of the menopause weight is here to stay, so what? I should deprive myself of healthy food? I don’t think so. I don’t eat carbs daily, but several times a week for sure. And here’s one of my favorite ways to enjoy a bowl of comforting carbs – hot cereal. Sure, there are plenty of gluten-free hot cereals out there, try ’em all if you like! But as you know, I love not only cooking, but alchemizing food with my Vitamix. There’s a little labor involved with this one, but remember, labor in the kitchen usually translates into something that’s less processed and better for you in the long run. Make a big batch and have it for the week, or freeze part of it. Cream of Brown Rice Cereal is a blank canvas so jazz it up with shredded coconut, hemp hearts, dried fruit, pumpkin pie spice…whatever! The point is to enjoy both the process and the eating. Yes, we are allowed to ENJOY our food – what a concept!
Cream of Brown Rice Cereal
1 cup cooked brown rice (I love brown basmati rice)
1 cup unsweetened almond milk (or non-dairy milk of your choice)
1 teaspoon vanilla
dash of cinnamon (optional)
Sweetener of choice (I eat it unsweetened, but if you want to add maple syrup or honey, go for it)
Blend all ingredients in a blender or food processor until smooth. Scrape into a small ceramic baking dish with a lid and bake for about 20 minutes at 300. May also be cooked on the stovetop but it has to be stirred frequently or it’ll burn. Serve and enjoy. You are FUELED for the morning.
I wait all year for spring: the time of physical and spiritual renewal when the earth reawakens and bursts into life-affirming Technicolor activity, holidays commemorate freedom and resurrection, and the cooking turns gleefully celebratory.
As soon as the last lilac has ceased blooming and its mystical fragrance is no more, I begin pining for the spring equinox once again.
Which is hardly to say I don’t enjoy the rest of the year, but you get the picture. There’s no place like spring.
Bill and I celebrate both Passover and Easter, and in mapping out the week’s details of Matzo Ball Soup on Friday and Eggs Benedict with Homemade Corned Beef Hash on Sunday, we noticed a gap in the dessert section of the holiday menu. Since we’d both been craving cheesecake it was decided. I’d do a rite-of-spring riff on the dairy-free cheesecakes I’ve been making for the past 9 years since distancing myself from cow dairy and dropping 180 pounds in the process.
What’s more fresh on the palate than a citrusy current of fresh lemon…especially when conducted via a slice of creamy cheesecake? You see where I’m going with this, and I hope you give this dairy-free version a try. Bill’s not on the dairy-free bandwagon and he pounded the counter with approval this morning after his first bite. Yes, we had cheesecake for breakfast…but the fact is, this is so full of nutrition vs. the empty calories of traditional cheesecake, it’s a Divine way to begin the day! Oh, and double-bonus…it’s a no-bake recipe…kinda (see directions).
Here’s to Freedom from Bondage from the foods that your body doesn’t deserve. Happy Easter, Blessed Pesach.