The date was January 5, 2009. The occasion: my annual check-up at the doctor’s office. I looked at the white Formica scale head-on that afternoon, the way an MMA fighter locks eyes with her opponent. The scale and all its unwelcome factual information had been a thorn in my side since the age of 9 when I was ordered on my first diet. Except for a few brief moments when a sudden burst of willpower triumphed over a dull and meager food plan, I generally dreaded stepping on the scale. This day was no exception. I’d become accustomed to admonishing the nurse that I didn’t want to know the status of my weight as I kept my eyes shut tight during the intake. Wearing black every day of the year, barely fitting into most chairs, getting winded doing just about anything was punishment enough – I didn’t need the upsetting numerical details. And yet…seconds after I wobbled onto the scale on 1.5.09, I looked down and stared at the digitized revelation of 345 pounds. It was an all time high, and oh, was there history involved. Food was only one of the contributing factors that had me headed in a direction that diminished my life force in tandem to the scale numbers rising.
How was I going to get out of this one, I thought. Would my love of food land me at the 400-pound mark by next year? How, how in God’s name could I reverse the tide when my relationship with food was so entrenched in excess? Eating was a release, a pleasure, and probably a genetic predisposition. I come from a long line of eaters; but that’s a side-topic. There was another, very significant reason I ate ferociously and with attitude: My size 28 body was the perfect vehicle with which to flip off a size-bigoted society.
You don’t like how I look? Screw YOU, I’ll get bigger! You think I shouldn’t eat that donut? F&^k off, I’ll eat three! You think I should start a diet on January 1? Watch me do an eating tour of Little Italy instead. After years of shame and swallowing society’s Kool-Aid that I was a defective failure of a human being because of the way I looked, I decided to start fighting back. You don’t like the way I look? That’s YOUR problem. And that is an immutable truth that I cherish to this day.There was just one not-so-tiny glitch. The 180 excess pounds had become a burden that kept me from living life fully.
I was 100% clear that the weight did NOT make me a bad person, just a trapped one. Trapped not only by the weight but by towering denial, the way an anorexic denies she’s alarmingly thin. In my mind I was a little Zaftig at best. Besides, wearing black erased it all. But then, there’d be a moment of truth, like having to navigate a crowded restaurant without knocking into tables, or worse…PHOTOS! Always sobering, a photograph refused to let my delusions about my bourgeoning size run the show.
As I often do when feeling overwhelmed, I drove home after the doctor’s appointment and retreated to my chaise lounge for an hour-long snack while watching the Oprah Winfrey Show. Cracking open a bag of potato chips, I settled in to hear Oprah declare that she’d fallen off the wagon. Oprah confessed, and I commiserated with her. And then…an unexpected jolt of inspiration that changed the course of my life for-EVER. To my fellow strugglers who read this, all I can say is, after years of inner healing and doing work to repair my battered self-esteem, I can only conclude in retrospect that my time had come. I’d cleared enough debris out of the way to begin the final step of the journey – the exterior. For years, I’d been told by intuitives and wise women I sought out for counsel that the weight would be the last thing to go. Turns out they were right.
But who could have guessed that my guru for the final leg of the journey would have been a high-octane, somewhat intimidating former professional wrestler? Crazy but true. And Diamond Dallas Page’s powerhouse personality was the perfect fuel to propel me into action. I should point out, very notably, that I was ready and willing to take the action. No one can fill that void for you. For more in-depth details about how the journey unfolded, read my first book, “Clean Comfort,” and my most recent, “The Untended Soul.” I outline it all so those seeking freedom and a lighter way of being will have a blueprint for their own journey.
I write this today as a means of celebrating the path that I’ve created and am still on – ten years later. It never, EVER gets old. Most of my life was spent in a tailspin of dieting or binge-eating. I couldn’t keep weight off for 10 weeks let alone ten years. But I’m living proof that anything is possible. This new life of freedom doesn’t feel so new anymore; it has become my new normal. And don’t let the litany of marketing techniques and glitzy women’s magazines fool you: losing weight doesn’t give you a permanent pass to happiness. Know anyone who has one? I don’t. During these ten years there have been roller coaster rides and challenges I never could have predicted. But I ride it out. I stay for the show rather than run away. I write this with a mild case of the winter blues and the melancholy that goes with it. Mindful of all that I’m grateful for, I also wish I could live somewhere warm for half the year, be 20 pounds lighter (thank you menopause), and be already settled in our new home. The latter will be a done deal by month’s end, the other two, not quite as quickly. But you know what? Feelings like melancholy, anger, frustration, and sorrow are part of life. They revolve in and out of everyone’s life. I’d much rather take ‘em as they come rather than eat to escape and then have the compounded problem of carrying energy-zapping weight.
Ten years later, my normal state of being is to be surrounded by life: by people, activities, challenges, and emotions, all kinds of emotions that I used to shove underground with family sized cans of ravioli, buckets of fried chicken, and lots of white bread and butter. It’s my life, only lighter. And I love it.
…or Pound Cake. Couldn’t decide on a proper name, but there’s no mistaking I’ve created a winner! As I often do this time of year, I mentally take stock of the year that’s about to pass and I extend the inventory check to my cupboards. Invariably, I discover I’m either overstocked, or have partially-used dry goods that need to be purposed – pronto!
Such was the case for a half-used bag of all-purpose gluten-free baking mix, coconut flour, and almond meal (all of which I keep refrigerated because of their perishable natures). Also: my stash of picked summer blueberries in the freezer wasn’t getting any younger, so it was time to get to work and create something yummy!
What I did yesterday was guess-timate amounts based on the amount of ingredients I had on hand…the recipe that follows below is my best to-the-letter replication. If you prefer, skip the all-purpose baking mix and use almond flour instead to make it a true Paleo recipe. This particular of coffee cake (or muffins, use whichever incarnation suits you best) isn’t super-sweet. My palate has been groomed to want, expect, and appreciate less sweetness than is customarily foisted on our national tastebuds. I say this as somewhat of a warning if you have a seasoned sweet tooth. I hope you’ll try this as is, and if you find it too bland, use some birch sugar or coconut palm sugar next time. But give the temperate amount of sweetness a shot…you just may find you like it after all.
This perfectly-sweet blueberry creation is perfect for a quick breakfast, post-workout snack, or a rescue-dessert when you’re at a party where Christmas cookies, bowls of candy, and layer cakes abound! You can absolutely eat cake and still maintain nutritional equilibrium! Portion size matters, of course, but don’t be too much of a drill sergeant, it’s the holidays!
I’ve found what matters most is a healthy mindset, remembering enjoyment is culled from many sources besides food: ambience, conversation, music, connecting with others…Clean ingredients that pack some nutrition into the equation are important too
Properly corralling my passions is something I sometimes struggle with. Take cooking for example. My love of creating at the stove leaves me more than a little vulnerable to the swirling vortex of recipes that are available EVERYWHERE, from magazines and cookbooks to television and the blogosphere. Even before the internet was invented, organizing the recipes I collected was a challenge. I’d hear an idea that appealed to me, scratch it down, and tuck it away somewhere for future trial. Nine times out of ten, I’d forget the hastily-written-down recipe existed. Either that or life got in the way and the would-be creation got back-burnered, so to speak.
When I began, ten years ago, a healthier way of eating which led to a 180-pound weight-loss, I decided it was time to take a look at the recipes I’d clipped from magazines or scratched onto a piece of paper during a talk show. The ones that were largely dairy, sugar, fat, and white-flour based got the heave-ho. After a lifetime of emotional eating, binge-eating, and comforting myself with food as an escape, I’d found more effective coping techniques. But I still adored cooking. So I transfigured that love into three cookbooks filled with recipe makeovers of foods such as New England Clam Chowder, Meatloaf, and Chocolate Cake, that I don’t want to entirely give up. Even with my pared down collection of recipes, I’ve come to terms with the fact that I probably won’t get to them all in my lifetime, but I’ll sure give it a shot.
Yesterday, as I was rifling through my cookbook collection, I found a slip of paper from 1993. It was an entree recipe scribbled out while watching Regis and Kathie Lee one morning, and it was Kathie Lee Gifford’s recipe, presumably one of her family-favorites, for Sweet and Sour Chicken. The ingredients were fairly simple and while not exactly health-food, certainly weren’t on the damaging end of the spectrum. Regular readers know my policy: diets and ‘never-again’ directives only backfire, so I vacillate between ultra-healthy, semi-heathy, and decadent food choices. It works for me and I’ve kept my weight off for nearly a decade!
For my take on Kathie Lee’s recipe, I chose sugar-free apricot jam, canned pineapple in its own juice, and the best quality Russian dressing I could find. Actually, I couldn’t find any Russian dressing in Fresh Market’s refrigerated dressing section so I chose French and it worked fine. Since I didn’t write how much chicken or what variety, I winged it and used about two pounds of boneless breasts, cut into chunks. It yielded plenty of extra sauce, which is perfect if you’d like to serve this over pasta or rice. Yesterday was a watch-the-starch-intake day for me so I presented it to Chef Bill with sauteed spinach and it was fantastic! Bill adores Asian cuisine and he declared this a viable option for when he’s got a craving for Chinese. My philosophy is, sure I love eating at restaurants (it’s part of how I got to 345 pounds!) but there’s nothing better than food made at home with love. And homemade food has a much higher likelihood of being healthier than restaurant food. Chef Bill is also a veteran of the restaurant business and assures you that in most high-pressure commercial kitchen, the food’s rarely imbued with amore.
An aside: I’m coming to terms with clutter, and be default, deferred dreams, hopes, and decisions. Besides chucking out recipes I know I’ll never use, I’ve done the same with clothing, books, photographs, and general knick-knacks. Weight-loss and general health and balance are about the entire picture of one’s life – not just calories in/calories out.
A wise teacher of mine pointed out that clutter and weight are related burdens. The state of our closets, drawers, basements, cupboards, and refrigerators are a reflection of our mindset. It hit home for me. And Thank God I was ready to take an honest look at my habits. I love getting emotionally charged with what sounds like a great idea. New recipes often seem like a great idea, so I acquire them, one way or another. But follow-through is often a different story. So what I end up with is actually not great ideas that are brought to life and lived out, but a collection of wishes and what-if’s.
And I was astounded to realize it’s kind of hereditary. A few months ago I sifted through an entire bag of paper scraps that were my grandmother’s recipe collection. They were scrawled on the back of bridge tournament score sheets, calendar pages, school bulletins. They were, in essence, a mess.
I spent an entire afternoon looking through them, throwing most of them out, and selecting a few I intend to recreate. I’m glad I did it. My grandmother died when I was three, so I never got to know her. After this marathon session with her recipe collection, I felt imbued with her energy and left with a feeling of spending time with her. It was nice, but also exhausting.
And I decided I’ve got a little more work to do in terms of being unburdened and more focused with follow-through. So when I came across this extremely appealing recipe courtesy of Kathie Lee, I didn’t hesitate. I made it for dinner that very day and it felt marvelous to not only follow-through, but serve the fruits of my labor with my beloved. Hope this inspires you to do the same.
Below is my version of Kathie Lee’s recipe, amended to be lower in sugar. So glad I found it, and more importantly, TRIED it before entombing it back into its hiding place for another 25 years.