Friday, December 20, 2013

Irish Elf

I don’t like anything getting in the way of my holiday cheer. I’m a bit of a Christmas professional; I look at the month of December as something to prepare for, both mentally and physically. Each year, I aim to be rested, energized and in full holiday spirit by Thanksgiving. For a girl who works her butt off and lives thousands of miles from most of her family and childhood friends, I crave, love and enjoy the days between Thanksgiving and New Year’s like the proverbial fat kid does cake. I take pains to lighten my workload so I can maximize every opportunity to connect with much-missed loved ones, celebrate a year of hard work and soak up every ounce of goodwill and human kindness as fuel for the coming year.  There are a few things that threaten the sanctity of Christmastime though; regardless of how we plan for and enjoy the holidays, they still can be a source of stress and tension. If there’s one thing this Irish elf has learned, it’s that you’ve got to strike the right balance of precautionary measures and damage control to have a fulfilling season every year. Below are some tips and tricks that have proved increasingly valuable to me as I get older. Although some are almost ridiculously simple and, at first glance, intuitive, if you’re a woman, it’s highly likely you need to be reminded often of the importance of caring for yourself FIRST.

1.       Sleep. It’s supremely important. Lack of sleep affects our mood stability, cognitive ability, metabolism and in my experience, ability to maintain perspective. If you’re exhausted, find a way to get the rest you need. Ask for help, ship the kids off to the mall, and sedate your husband with wine if you have to. Just get your head on that pillow so you don’t feel like you’re wearing muddy glasses all month long instead of rose-colored ones. If you’re reaction to this recommendation is “Who has time for sleep?!” you probably need it more than anyone.  

2.       Eat. Nourish yourself. If you’re bouncing from daycare drop-off to work to the mall to the dry-cleaner to daycare to the grocery store before the sun sets, you need sufficient energy to power your body through the run-around and nourishment to keep you sane. Lots of healthy fats and proteins help do both. No need to make a gourmet meal, try making a smoothie the night before and grab it on your way out in the morning. (See below for a yummy Gingerbread Smoothie recipe I created this week!) Keep your purse, car, office stocked with raw unsalted nuts, fresh seasonal fruit, raw veggies and hummus, hard-boiled eggs, and other simple, whole, healthy snacks.

3.       Listen. Slow down long enough to respond to indications that you need a break or a moment for yourself. If you’re freaking out over lost scissors and Scotch tape, put the wrapping paper down and take a walk or draw a bath, but don’t wait until you’re past boiling point and freak out on the next caroler that rings your bell.

4.       Indulge mindfully. No one wants to deprive themselves during the holidays, but over-indulging will do as much damage as under-nourishing. Unless you want to put your mood and energy in a tailspin, go easy on the sugar and alcohol especially.  You’re far more likely to respond to stressful triggers if you eat every heavy appetizer put under your nose and wash them all down with chocolate martinis. Sugar cravings, binge-induced self-loathing and killer hangovers lead to holiday bulge, not holiday cheer.  Moderation is always more difficult for me this time of year, but when I can manage to be selective with my Christmas Party indulgences and balance them out with healthy, nourishing meals at home, I inevitably feel more energetic, stable and a little proud of myself too.

5.       Be kind. And gentle. If and when you’ve overdone it, don’t punish yourself by skipping meals or hammering a double cheeseburger. Your body needs the right amount, and right kind, of energy to flush out toxins after a night of eggnog and peppermint fudge. If you went to town on the greasy apps and drinks yesterday, be gentle on your system today. Skip coffee and aim for low – no added sugar. Start with a smoothie that has protein, healthy fats, fiber and greens in it in the morning. Try drinking green juices between small, simple meals like sautéed greens with grilled chicken breast or pureed vegetable soup with a small side salad. The more nutrient dense liquids you can consume the better – your taxed system will be able to absorb and replenish nutrients without having to work overtime.

In a (chest)nutshell, taking good care of yourself and being kind to your body (at least on most days) makes a difference in the way we experience life, and it can make a remarkable difference in the way we experience the holidays.  You’ll be far better equipped to handle the in-law landmine navigation, familial expectations and packed calendar if you put yourself in a position to enjoy the things that make all the hustle and bustle worth every cent and lost hour of sleep. No other time of year affords us as many opportunities to enjoy the life, family and friends with which we’ve been blessed. Why not ensure you can make the best of it?

Lizzie O’s Gingerbread Smoothie
1 Cup unsweetened plain almond milk
¼ Cup raw pecans
1 Scoop Plant Fusion plain protein (or other plain plant-based protein powder)
1 Cup baby kale or spinach
½ Tablespoon chia seeds
1 Teaspoon alcohol free vanilla extract (I love Frontier Naturals)
1 Tablespoon unsulfured black strap molasses
1 Teaspoon ground ginger
½ Teaspoon cinnamon
Pinch ground cloves
Pinch allspice

Combine all ingredients in a high speed blender (always start with wet ingredients at the bottom for easier blending.) Blend until spinach or kale is completely pulverized. Enjoy!

Sunday, December 15, 2013

In Living Color

B is the most authentic, real, alive person I have ever met. He is sensitive and passionate, his emotions lie just under the surface; they bubble over multiple times a day in intense waves of happiness, frustration, joy, displeasure, satisfaction, sadness, anger. Always intense and always fleeting, his emotions are part of the astonishingly broad spectrum of bold, bright, beautifully vivid colors that come together to form his character. He is at times raw and unfiltered, loud and unrestrained. He thinks big, smiles big, feels big. He allows himself to be vulnerable in every way. He fearlessly feels his way through life and as a result, his life experience is nothing short of grand.  

I, unfortunately, am equally emotional, but not quite as brave as my husband. 9 times out of 10, I’ll take a detour around an authentic emotional response and head straight for a more scientific approach. I’ll filter, analyze, audit and reason my way through a shit storm for 6 months sometimes before I get the guts to really feel something, let it out and move on.  

The idea of becoming unhinged is so disconcerting that I cling to restraint like warm, fuzzy security blankets. This is obviously a byproduct of growing up with a mother who was basically Vincent Van Gogh crossed with Scarlet O’Hara. There was fire and darkness and intense light inside of her, a kind of lyrical chaos that sometimes yielded warmth, tenderness and pure sunshine. Other times, uncontrollable storms of complex, confusing emotions consumed our household and sucked the breath out of each and every one of us. My father, on the other hand, is to this day unwavering, stoic, steady and strong. In our youth, he was the calm to her storm. He was truth. He was safety. He was peace. He was our lifeboat. And so, I cling to the kind of discipline and order with which he kept us all afloat.

I may always find unbridled emotion unsettling. I may always default to restraint and control. But I’m starting to realize that the things that comfort us, the old habits or versions of ourselves that are easy and proverbial, are often the ones holding us back. B has taught me that letting go enough to lead a bold and colorful life isn’t a recipe for disaster. And when I watch the way he laughs and loves and smiles and fills every room with energy, I know that to never realize a life as vivid as the one he challenges me to live would be far more devastating than any momentary loss of control.

Monday, November 25, 2013

Boob Tube

18 months later, I’m still a little surprised by how much back surgery altered my path. Major surgery shifts your focus, reshapes your train of thought, and causes you to look at every moment within each day differently. Ironically, eye-opening revelations and recovery progress seem to be balanced out with equal parts reversion and regression. You’re in many ways stripped of the habits that make you feel strong and normal, and as a result you unwittingly revert back to familiar, comfortable ones.

For the first six months, I had to spend A LOT of time prone. I went back to work almost immediately, which was too soon, and as a result had to come home and counter the sitting and standing in meetings and at my desk with solid “rest” hours in the evening. I wasn’t pleased with having to “rest” before I went to bed each night, so I attempted to keep those hours productive. There are only so many productive things you can do while lying down. I worked, read, scribbled in a journal, wrote blogs, meditated and occasionally researched random things on the internet. About 50% of the time, however, I was too pissed at my inability to move like a normal person and I sought comfort in an old friend.  TV. I knew it wasn’t going to help anything, but it felt so right. It soothed my anger and quieted my mind. The New York Times or obnoxiously sunny wedding blogs did neither.

Before I knew it my “productive” prone time dwindled to 30 minutes or an hour at most and I was watching HOURS of TV every night. After a few weeks of indulging in the deliciously dirty habit of watching shows intended for 15 year old girls and terribly bored housewives, I noticed I was starting to feel more lethargic and more discouraged about my recovery. Sure the TV comforted me at first, but I developed a sneaking suspicion that watching so much of it was making me more depressed. I decided to do a little experiment.

I went entirely TV-free three days/week (except for my husband’s sports on in the background while I read.) I allowed myself 30 minutes of TV two days a week, but only AFTER I had done at least two things from my “productive” list. The remaining two days of the week I could do as I pleased.

After one week, it was painfully obvious that I felt optimistic about recovery, clear-headed, energetic and good about myself on the days when I watched one hour or less of television. I felt lethargic, “meh” at best and pessimistic at worst on days when I watched the most TV. Days with about 30 minutes to an hour of TV time were just fine, but not quite as happy as days when I watched none. Overall, I ate more and later and snacked mindlessly into the night when I watched more than an hour of TV. Damn you “Pretty Little Liars!” Damn you!

The “AHA!” moment around TV was one of the many silver-lining lessons I learned during recovery. We know so many things to be true, but until we experience them for ourselves, it never really sticks or becomes a practice. Sure I knew that TV “rots your brain,” slows your resting metabolic rate, and is linked to depression and obesity.  Did I think about restricting TV time when I just wanted a little “Beverly Hills 90210” sunshine in my day? Nope! Did I care about the links to depression and obesity while I was snickering at Victoria’s contorted facial expressions on “Revenge?” Absolutely not. But after my little experiment, I couldn’t ignore that watching too much TV was making me feel worse about myself and about recovery. I realized the negative effects of too much TV are as real as a hangover after a night out with my 24-year old little sister.

TV is like that promiscuous party-girl friend you had growing up. She’s easy, pretty, exciting, fascinating to watch and you always kind of feel like you’re doing something wrong when you spend too much time with her. She doesn’t expect much more than your time and in return you get pure entertainment. Like your friendship with said slutty friend, watching TV does absolutely nothing for you. It prevents you from spending time nurturing more mutually beneficial relationships (with my husband in my case) and replaces healthier and more fulfilling activities.  As with any delicious form of escape, TV is best consumed in moderation. Take it from me, excessive consumption truly has the potential to turn you into a dim-witted chub.  

P.S. I will go to Pilates after I post this blog. When I get home, I will have some dinner, take a shower and chat with my husband about our days at work. And then, I fully intend to dive head first into my cozy bed and switch on the latest episode of Scandal.

Wednesday, October 30, 2013

Belize It

B and I were married on a little island off the coast of Belize on May 25, 2013. When we first returned to San Francisco, I had this idea that I would give myself a little time to process before memorializing our wedding week with some fabulous multi-installment blog. It’s been over 5 months.

I’ve never liked endings or goodbyes - I prefer to move, and think, ahead. I still hate closing the back cover on a book I love; I wish I could work the characters off the page and into my life. I used to cry every single time we left cousins, aunts, uncles, old family friends. Even the ones I didn’t like that much. I guess coming home and writing about my wedding immediately after would have forced a kind of closure I've never been very good at. I didn’t want to acknowledge it was over. Much like during childhood, I didn’t want to feel the dissonance between a week bright with familiar faces and laughter and a reality absent of family and friends' company.  Talk about a come-down far worse than the post-Christmas blues. So, instead of writing about Belize, I eased back into San Francisco and floated through a few weeks with my new husband, high on all that positive post-nuptial energy. And when scrolling through new images uploaded to our group album while waiting in the salad line started to bring that familiar ache for friends and family, I moved on. I focused on the next big thing.  

I grew up very far from our extended family. I moved away from home when I was 18. I left Boston after college and have lived in San Francisco, far from my sisters and parents, for 8 years now. I’ve moved on a lot. But I carry the people that raised me, shaped me, loved me, taught me in my heart everywhere I go.  The past few years have been hard. My family, health, support system and future life with my husband now resemble nothing close to what I envisioned 3 years ago. With each new piece of bad news, I closed my eyes and wished I had my sisters to hold me up or the Boston girls to make me forget or my Farmington girls to remind me how to be tough. When my parents ended their marriage, I wanted to eat cupcakes with Beth. I remember waking up in the hospital after surgery and thinking that I just wanted to have tea with my Dad. When they told me I can’t have kids, I just wanted my own mom to baby me a little. Every time I felt broken or lost, I just I wanted my people. But I knew that wasn't an option, so I just kept moving on.

And then I got off a little puddle jumper in Belize and took a boat to our hotel and tiny Emmie ran up the dock beaming and waving her camera in one hand, clutching the hat that was about to fly off her head in the other. From that moment on, all the people I longed for over the past 3 years- the people who make me strong, make me laugh, make me who I am- arrived one by one on that tiny caye off the coast of that beautiful country. It was as if they each carried a piece of me with them; and together with my sweet, gentle soul of a husband, they put me back together again.

Belize will always be paradise, but for that week, with my heart as full as it will ever be, it was my paradise. I’ve never felt happier, luckier, more at ease, more loved, more in love. I have never felt whole in the way that I did when we were there. No wonder it’s taken me 5 months to even begin to admit it’s over.

Wednesday, October 9, 2013

Contrary To Popular Belief

You're not alone. You know the stuff that you keep to yourself? The complicated emotions you haven't quite worked through, the deplorable actions you're sure you'd be judged for? You know the thoughts you occasionally have about your kids or your husband that you're sure deem you unfit or undeserving so you don't ever vocalize them? Guess what? You're not alone. Far from it. I know plenty of mothers who daydream on occasion about what a kid-free life would have been like. I've met more wives than I can count that question their life choices more than they care to admit at a dinner party. And career women who've grown tired of selling their soul and dream about throwing in the towel? Dime a dozen. Next time you chastise yourself for thinking what you consider the "unthinkable," remember that no one and no life perfect. Just because your friends aren't chatting about their near nervous breakdowns over lattes, doesn't mean they aren't having them. At any given moment, someone you know is freaking out on her kids, giving up on her miserable job, exploding on her husband or  just plain wishing she could disappear. Let's be honest. We're all screaming a little inside at one point or another. Hopefully you're fortunate enough to find friends that let a squeak of honesty out here and there. It's important to remember you're not alone.

Tuesday, October 1, 2013

"Comfort" Smoothie and Product Recommendations

I am without a doubt an emotional eater. Always have been. Given the fact that I have a vagina, there's a good chance I always will be. With increased awareness around my tendency to bury emotions I can't handle in a pint of ice cream I can't digest, I've spent some time seeking out healthier "comfort foods."

Once in a while I create something that seems to yield an equal amount of instant gratification/comfort/release to Peanut M&Ms or Suzie Cake's Celebration Cake. I perfected this smoothie recipe over a particularly stressful 2 weeks this past summer, and the result was without a doubt, comfort on the tip of my tongue. (It also happens to have vegan protein, fiber, healthy fats and a super food!)

4 Oz Coconut water*
4 Oz Unsweetened plain almond milk*
1/2 Very ripe banana (peeled - I let a few bananas get really ripe then peel, half, individually wrap and freeze to make smoothie making as fast as possible!)
1Tbsp Jem Maca Almond Butter * (This stuff is like crack. It's worth finding or ordering online.)
1 Tbsp Frontier Naturals Alcohol Free Vanilla*
Dash Cinnamon
1 Tbsp Hemp protein*
1 Tbsp Pea protein*
1 Tbsp Chia seeds
Optional: 4 Drops alcohol free stevia* (this makes it pretty sweet)
Optional: Toss in a handful or 2 of spinach. You can't really taste spinach in smoothies, so why not!?

Put all ingredients in a blender and blend until smooth and creamy. Add more vanilla or stevia to taste, although you shouldn't need either if your banana is nice and ripe.

*PRODUCT RECOMMENDATIONS: Through a great deal of trial and error, sticker shock and nutrition label lament, I've found the healthiest, cleanest versions of the below ingredients. Keep in mind, home made or "whole" is always best, but let's be honest, we've got to do the best we can with the time we have!
  • Where to Source: I've become obsessed with They ALWAYS undercut Whole Foods (not that hard,) Real Foods (San Francisco chain, so not that hard either) and often Amazon (I find that impressive!) on dried herbs and spices, prepared foods, supplements, extracts, teas and pretty much all non-perishable crunchy specialty goods.
  • Almond Milk: I highly recommend finding a no-sugar-added almond milk with as short an ingredient list as possible. Engine 2 is my favorite brand, and 365 Organics is a close second. There's a terrifying amount of added sugar and funky fillers in a lot of the other brands out there so read your labels to avoid excess sugar and additives.
  • Vanilla Extract: Laugh if you will, but I believe a good vanilla extract makes or breaks a lot of smoothies. Without high temperatures to cook off alcohol, using a regular extract can make your smoothies taste bitter, or worse, boozey. Go for an alcohol-free version for raw foods and smoothies, in my opinion Frontier Naturals is by far the best. Snag the 16 Oz. size on - trust me, you'll need all 16 ounces once you discover how yummy it is.
  • Stevia: There are a lot of stevia products on the market now and they are not all created equal. You want to be sure you purchase pure stevia root extract that isn't cut with other sweeteners. Again, I prefer alcohol free in raw foods and smoothies to avoid the bitter/boozey taste of the alcohol-based extracts. NuNaturals is my favorite brand for stevia.
  • Vegan Proteins (when you aren't cleansing): My favorite "pure protein" powders are Navitas Naturals Hemp Protein (I find this is the least "chalky" of the plant based proteins out there) and Pea Protein (a little chalky, but relatively mild). They are both very low calorie and have few/no additives. 
  • Vegan Proteins: (with added supplements for cleansing periods or to use in meal replacement shakes): Plant Fusion (Original) or Vega Chocolate Sport (I don't like Vega Vanilla - too artificial tasting)
  • Coconut Water: This really is based on personal preference, (I prefer Zico,) but whatever you select, make sure there's no sugar or other fruit juice added)
  • Almond Butter: For most of my smoothies, I love Once Again Crunchy or I'll settle for 365 Brand as a back-up. For "comfort smoothies" or sometimes as a treat on brown rice bread, I go for the Jem Maca Almond Butter. I can't begin to tell you how amazing this stuff is, you've got to try it yourself. Try to ignore the price in anticipation of raw food bliss. Even if its just one time ;)

Sunday, September 29, 2013


I woke up this morning feeling happy, healthy and clear-minded -  as if a big fat dose of perspective had invaded my body overnight, infusing each and every cell with a blissful state of awareness.  When I feel this way, when my first thought of the day emerges with a smile and a sense of gratitude, my second thought is often “why can’t I feel and think this way all the time?”

The reflexive answer, simply put, is that life gets in the way.  Illness, loss, family, jobs, stress, hormones -get in the way.  But that’s not the real reason I don’t feel and think this way all the time. Sure, the aforementioned can muddy the waters of true, deep happiness – but more often than not it isn’t life that gets in the way, it’s me.

Bottom line: I could feel and think this way more often if I could just learn to leave myself alone.  Instead, within a month of settling into a positive, healthy state of mind, my tireless need for self-improvement usually sneaks up on me and reminds me not to rest on my laurels. An enticing career or personal challenge proves a little too attractive and in the blink of an eye, the perfectionist in me is empowered by success or fueled by the threat of failure.  “Just be” is replaced with “just do” and potentially unhealthy expectations. Before I know it, I’m pushing myself harder than I should without conscious awareness. The kicker? I inevitably start to do the same to those around me.

I watch many of the women I know do a regrettably effective job of encumbering clarity and content with similar cyclical behavior all the time.  Think about it. You know how good you feel when you take care of yourself; break free from habits that weigh your physical and mental health down.  Yet you might meditate every day for 3 weeks before you’re back to reading your email with one sleepy eye as soon as the alarm goes off.  Maybe you made it 2 months in a wellness routine full of weekly workouts and healthy home cooked meals before you went back to takeout 3 times a week and frequenting your favorite restaurants in lieu of the gym. It’s beyond discouraging to feel doomed to repeat your mistakes at the expense of your own happiness.

So what to do? How do you stop getting in the way of your own happiness? If I knew the end-all be-all answer, I would be meditating on a beach somewhere naked instead of writing this, but I can tell you a few things that have helped me tremendously over the past few years. 

  1. Remind yourself that you deserve to be happy. Every day.  A sense of self-worth is a HUGE brick in the foundation of happiness.  It doesn’t matter if you have to put it on a post-it note on the fridge or tattoo it on the back of your hand – just find a way to reinforce that you deserve to be happy as often as possible.  
  2. Take a few minutes each day to think through things that you're thankful for. Consider keeping a little gratitude journal and jot down just 1 or 2 things each day that make you smile. A little positive reinforcement goes a long way when life gets overwhelming -  no matter how bad things get, there's always something to be happy about.
  3. Identify at least one activity - that is yours and yours alone - that makes you feel peaceful and content. Find time to do it once a week.
  4. If you’ve identified things that stand in the way of feeling positive about your life, share them with someone. Sometimes saying something aloud is enough to loosen its grip on you. Example: “When I’m at home all day with the kids by myself, I feel really lonely and sometimes sad.” (Stay away from the blame game; try to objectively identify things that encumber your life experience without pointing fingers.)
  5. If you want to take things a step further, engage someone you trust in helping you be accountable for working against yourself. Maybe even ask your partner to help identify proactive measures.  Example:  I told B that I know I take healthy eating to extremes sometimes and stress myself out about avoiding allergens 100% of the time. I asked him to help me create awareness around that tendency and to keep an eye out for obsessive behavior. I don’t always want to hear it when he catches me stressing and voices concern, but there’s nothing more effective than seeing yourself through a loved one’s eyes. 
  6.  Practice self compassion. Don’t beat yourself up when you fall off track. Punishing yourself for lack of discipline, focus or awareness is a terrible waste of time that will only perpetuate unhealthy cycles. Instead take the time to think through why you got black out drunk when you only meant to have one cocktail. Challenge yourself to learn from your moments of weakness.
  7.  Ask yourself as often as you can, if what you’re doing makes you happy. Life is too short to waste time with things that lack short or long term gratification. Of course it’s unrealistic to assume that every moment of ever day will be spent frolicking through meadows and playing with puppies. But it is certainly ok to demand some form of fulfillment, joy or satisfaction from our jobs, relationships, personal time and every moment in between. You do deserve to be happy after all.  

Sunday, September 15, 2013

5 Reasons to Binge-Watch "Orange is the New Black" ASAP

It somehow manages to be socially relevant, culturally provocative and a guilty pleasure. I can’t remember the last time a TV drama inspired binge-watching the same way this Netflix series did. I also don’t think I’ve ever reflected on both our inability to overcome tribal instincts in favor of humanitarianism and the profoundly corrupt American correctional system all in the span of 1 week.

Piper isn’t entirely unlike SJP’s Carrie on Sex & the City. She’s likable enough to identify with her at least on occasion, and when you can’t identify with her you still feel sympathy for her struggle.  She’s a modern-day “everywoman” just like Carrie. She’s also shallow, narcissistic and selfish enough that you can keep a safe, slightly judgmental distance from her in her darkest hours. Her character flaws are not your own, right? Or are they?
The characters are so cleverly developed that you begin to forget they don’t actually exist. I lived for the well-timed insight into each character’s true nature and clung to clues of what landed them in prison.  I was anxious to “get to know” each one better. Their stories unfold artfully, and before you know it you start to feel things for them. Anger, sadness, pity, disgust - as if these women are real and have affected your life somehow. 
Watching Piper devolve and evolve at the same time forces you to consider what kind of person you might be if you too were stripped of your perceived identity, security blankets and everything that makes you feel happy and whole. If you were thrown into a pit with a mix of sheep in wolves clothing, wolves in uniform and plain old crazy-ass tigers, would you start to act like an animal too?  Your answer will be different after you watch the whole series.
On that note. You end up more creeped out by your own self realizations than Piper’s. The writers do a phenomenal job of challenging viewers to acknowledge how easily one of the many stupid mistakes we’ve made in our lives could have landed us in prison. We are all at the mercy of fate, law enforcement, timing, privilege - and there is potential injustice in all of aforementioned. 

Sunday, September 8, 2013

Learning to Walk

Eating a clean, healthy diet rich in nutrients and full of well-balanced meals every single day is not easy. Anyone that tells you it's effortless is lying or wealthy enough to afford a personal shopper and chef.  But I will promise you this, it's well worth it and it does get easier. It's kind of like learning to walk. At first, you're a mess. You fall all over the place, you can't stop getting in your own way, you trip over your own feet. Similar to finding your balance as a child and learning to walk, eating healthy is eventually both liberating and rewarding. You just have to get past the part where you feel like a drunk who's stumbled out of his bar stool and been thrust out onto Wall Street at lunch time.

Constantly exploring new recipes and cuisines has really helped me "learn to walk." Expanding my repertoire makes it far easier to "stay on the wagon" for longer periods of time. I believe variety and a little adventure ensure modified diets don't feel like deprivation. You have to have fun, love what you're eating and feel truly satisfied after ever meal.

There has been a lot of trial and error (and many an epic failure) involved in building my personal book of crave-worthy recipes. replacing bad habits with good and developing new eating habits is difficult enough. Allow me to spare you the traumatizing moments with nutritional yeast by sharing some of my successes. This one is crave, drool and certainly leftover worthy!


Clean Program-Inspired Almond Crusted Chicken 
1 egg plus 2 tablespoons almond milk (unsweetened)
1 cup almond meal (pulse whole, dry-roasted, unsalted almonds in a food processer until you achieve texture in photo above)
1 teaspoon sea salt
1 teaspoon garlic powder
few dashes of paprika
1 large or 2 small boneless chicken breasts (1/2 - 3/4 pound)
Olive Oil

  1. Preheat your oven to 425 and cover a baking sheet with foil. Spray the surface with olive oil mister (or other cooking spray)
  2. Filet the chicken breasts
  3. Beat egg with a fork in a medium bowl; add almond milk (use a bowl large enough to dip chicken filets in)
  4. Combine the almond meal, sea salt and garlic powder in a large bowl 
  5. Dip chicken in the egg/milk mixture and then in the almond mixture, until well coated
  6. Place the filets on the baking sheet and drizzle lightly with olive oil
  7. Bake for 6 minutes, rotate tray and bake for 6 more minutes
  8. Cut into one of the filets to ensure it's fully cooked, (the thick almond coating can make it difficult to feel for doneness.)
  9. Serve over a salad of mixed greens + 1/4 avocado with oil and vinegar or with sautéed swiss chard!

Wednesday, July 31, 2013

Chocolate Cherry Crack Shake

When I want to prove exactly how delicious, satisfying, energizing and crave-worthy my healthy shakes can be, this is what I whip up to turn even the harshest critic (B) into a believer. I feel like Superwoman when I start my morning with the perfectly balanced combination of protein, healthy fats, fiber and greens. Nourishing your body and mind sets the tone for the day in a way simply nothing else can.

B had one sip of this and said "Jesus. There's spinach in that? And that goofy hippy protein powder too?" I chose not to mention the other "goofy hippy stuff" at that moment, but even now that he knows what's in there, he still asks for it at least once a week. Now that is a good shake.

Liz's Triple C Shake

1 Cup unsweetened almond milk (I like 365 Brand or Engine 2 is the best)
1 Cup frozen dark sweet cherries
1-2 Tablespoons plain unsweetened almond butter (Also like 365 Brand) 
1 Teaspoon ground cinnamon
1 Teaspoon vanilla extract (I prefer alcohol free)
1-2 Tablespoons raw cacao (Navitas Naturals is a great brand if you can't find cacao in your health food store bulk bins. Note: If you add Vega Chocolate protein powder per below, start with 1 tablespoon raw cacao)
1 Scoop Vega chocolate protein powder (or Plant Fusion unflavored protein powder is my 2nd go-to)
1-2 Cups fresh spinach
1 Tablespoon chia seeds
Optional: 1 Teaspoon Spirulina. Skip this the first time you make it though, SP can "dirty" up the gorgeous flavor of this shake
Throw everything in a blender in the order listed above (or in any order if you have a Vitamix, lucky dog) and blend until smooth. Enjoy!

Sunday, July 21, 2013

Crack Whore Patty

Crack Whore Patty was my alter ego in college. For the sake of not repeating the word “whore” over and over again, let’s call her “CWP.” CWP was born a little seedling in high school, when I discovered alcohol and my love of partying. The unencumbered joy, the laughter and dancing, the excitement was all addictive – as it is for most teenagers. But I didn’t love drinking for the same reason most teenagers love it. I’m pretty darn sure I loved it for the same reason most 70-year-old salty sailors with innumerable illegitimate children love it – because it was a ticket to freedom from self-imposed pressures that otherwise felt inescapable. After a few drinks, I felt as close to weightless and worry-free as it was going to get for me. I didn’t worry about school or making my dad proud or letting people down. I didn’t worry about boys liking me or question if I was funny enough or pretty enough. I just let myself be. It was like a long awaited exhale every time.

The escape offered by cheap rum drinks and warm beer proved too alluring by freshman year of college, when the CWP seedling had blossomed into one of those carnivorous Venus-fly trap plants. I started to push the limits for what was “normal” drinking and partying and was hungry for that freedom all the time. I’m sure there are old classmates that would tell you they questioned if I was an alcoholic in training. I’ll be the first to admit I had already left one of the training wheels back in the summer between high school and college. My best friend spent most of college gluing the second training wheel back on, gently asking in the morning if I remembered her dragging me home from the curb I insisted upon “resting” on for a few minutes outside the bar. I never remembered. I only drank when everyone else was drinking and partying though– never mind that was 3-4 nights a week and sometimes on Sunday Fun-days – so I never had any motivation to question if there was something different about my drinking. And of course who wants to question that when you’re in college. No one.
I couldn’t get bombed fast enough in those days – it was like running 100 mph at a brick wall. Drunk hit me hard and fast, but the wall was a break from that side of myself that grew increasingly exhausting –the side that worried about the future and supporting myself and making everyone around me happy.  I tore into cocktails (of any kind) or beer (of the cheapest kind) and within no time I shattered the microscope I always put myself under. That’s when CWP would emerge. She had the time of her life and made sure everyone else was having the time of their lives too. She was wild and you never knew what she’d do next, but you could bet it would be funny and often a spectacle. She had a blast and she never worried about tomorrow. Never.
Sometimes CWP would black out her teeth and rat her hair and sing songs in her underwear on a stool in the living room, cigarette dangling from her hand, one eye crossed (I can still do that), southern whiskey drawl spot-on. Other times she would get mouthy defending the honor of a friend against a Boston bridge-and-tunnel chick who could have nailed her to the wall. Thank god that scrappy alter-ego was a fast “flight” responder to fear. She would have hysterical conversations with serial killer cab drivers in French, walk home barefoot through the Back Bay alone, spend money she didn’t have bouncing from bars to parties to bars again with people she barely knew. No matter what the night entailed, she was certainly the “life of the party,” at least until she had to be carried home.  
CWP insulated herself with the fiercest of friends and endless wild nights but there was an obvious price. She didn’t date anyone seriously all through college because she was “having too much fun,” (when she wasn’t too steeped in PAD and slept  through class) but she was really just afraid of getting hurt or rejected. She knew she couldn’t expect the level of respect and kind of love she deserved as long as she partied the way she did – she was at least smart enough to know that. But she felt powerful and free and on top of the world when she drank. She hated feeling vulnerable so she chose partying over companionship. Ironically, that felt safer to her.  
CWP dissolved by morning and I woke up depressed and lonely. I was sad a lot of the time but even in daylight I knew I was supposed to be the tough one, the fun one. I never wanted to be a downer so I hid how affected I was by the drinking as much as I could. (My roommates might find that laughable when they recall all the times they found me sleeping by the door with a blanket, pillow and bottle of orange soda. Not much hiding there.)  
CWP made it difficult to decipher if I drank until I lost control because I didn’t feel good about myself or if I didn’t feel good about myself because I drank until I lost control. It was a “chicken or the egg” thing. Either way you look at it – I simply didn’t feel good about myself most days back then. I was lost. I was stuck.  Drinking had introduced me to the cycle of sin now and atone later. I thought if I balanced out the “party” with enough “punish” then I wouldn’t do too much damage- to my grades or my body or my reputation. What I didn’t understand was that the damage was already done – if only through the inception of that loop of self-destruction. 
It took me a long time to understand that I wasn’t ever going to move forward towards success, happiness, or a fulfilling relationship if I didn’t leave CWP and her unhealthy cycle of sinning and atonement behind. I might have gone a bit too far in the control-freak direction, but it’s better than the self-loathing that was de rigeuer in those days. I’m not ashamed of what I went through, it’s an important part of who I am, but the untapped potential and damage I did in those years is nothing to be proud of either. I never loved that lifestyle and it sure didn’t love me back. Self-control, discipline, and a strong will to be kind to myself and my body have given me a life that I love and lots of things (and people) that love me back the way I deserve to be loved. There just isn’t room for CWP in my life anymore. She might be entertaining and the life of the party, but she’s the high-priced hooker of alter-egos – she charges a price you’re not willing to pay.

Friday, July 19, 2013

Option C

I put a lot of pressure on myself. Some would say my level of discipline and self-control borders on intense.  I tend to push push push myself until hitting a release valve is necessary. Decompression usually comes in one of 3 forms. If I'm being self-aware enough to recognize the need, I'll give myself a “me” day which ideally includes Pilates, a green juice, a walk to the Golden Gate Bridge, an enormous fresh salad , a chick flick and bed by 11 pm. One day like that and the world is new again. If I fail to be so preemptive, my brain does me the service of automatically downshifting into “safe mode” whether I like it or not. I walk around like a zombie on auto-pilot for a week or two operating at ½ the speed I normally do, incapable of even the most rudimentary forms of multi-tasking. I forget my keys; I can’t remember if I unplugged the curling iron or closed the apartment door behind me; I don’t even consider carefully planning meals, workouts and social engagements around a highly productive work week. If my workload and social schedule don’t allow the luxuries of option A or B, and I’ve gone too long in “high functioning mode” option C just happens. And by “happens” I mean “creeps up behind me, shoves me in a burlap sack and takes me for a ride.” 

Option C sneaks up at least once a year and starts with a cocktail and the idea that maybe I can be like most 30-something adults who find repose in a happy hour drink or two. Somewhere in the middle of a bottle of champagne with the girls or my sisters, option C becomes the best idea ever. Uproarious laughter and gossip ensue, dancing in the kitchen while butchering the words to our favorite songs is often involved and next thing I know I’m sucking down a nasty cigarette (sober, I balk at anyone smoking in public poisoning me with their black tar). Unfortunately, those nights are usually punctuated with mindless eating (always things I’m allergic to) and regressive, slightly trashy behavior. I always end them standing in the kitchen in my underwear hacking at a pint of ice cream with a spoon thinking “I dessssserb dissss. So. Gud. 95% of time. Must shit relessse valb 5% time. Nom nom nom.”

Option C is favored by most of my friends, the stuff of lore for my colleagues and likely a breath of fresh air for B – although he would never admit to that. People get a kick out of seeing the perennially controlled girl lose control a little. Most everyone I’ve gotten close to after college wonders (often aloud) why I don’t do it more often. “Who cares if you go wild 5% of the time, especially when you’re so disciplined 95% of the time?” they ask. “It’s good to decompress! Why don’t you do it more often?”

It’s not just the painful stomach cramps from eating like a fat kid or 3 days spent clawing my way out of the PAD (post-alcohol-depression) abyss. It isn’t the wasted day of crying over that damn Sarah McLaughlin SPCA commercial with a bag of peanut M&M’s in my hand. It isn’t even the frustrating 3 pounds that appear in an instant and take 2 weeks to counteract. (It used to be only 4-5 days damn it.)  It’s how they come together to form a reminder of a weaker, sadder, lonelier side of myself that I’ve spent the last 10 years fighting to leave behind. My inner strength, my confidence, my self-awareness, my happiness are all interdependent with the level of discipline I now employ. I’ve fought and overcome a lot of family, emotional and physical battles in my life already, and self-control is the glue that keeps me together, it’s what keeps me moving forward. These things are the keys that have unlocked doors to a healthier, more balanced version of me - one that is happier than I ever thought I could be. Without them I would still be Crack Whore Patty, spinning around in the same drunk circles of dysfunction.

I suppose to truly understand why, one must get to know Crack Whore Patty. I will introduce her shortly.

Sunday, June 16, 2013

Screw Hunger! (More on the Clean Program)

I can’t starve myself. No matter how pretty the book jacket, handsome the doctor or cute the packaging, if deprivation is at the core of a regimen or lifestyle, it’s not going to work long-term for me or anyone else with a beating heart. Unless you’ve got a little crack stash in your purse, you won’t fare well with hunger. Take it from someone who tried it first in the 6th grade, and then again in high school, and probably a few times in college – hunger equals failure. Trust me, I was 30 pounds heavier (sometimes a little more) when I screwed around with deprivation. It messes with your mind and your metabolism. And it makes you a little sad.  Or permanently pissed off. Either way, not worth it.

The Clean Program isn’t exactly a piece of cake, but it’s a hell of a lot easier than being hungry or frustrated with unexplained physiological changes. You have to wrap your head around a few temporary habits (most notably, the absence of chewing in the morning and at night) and hopefully adjust to some that will become new lifestyle choices. The “holy shit” moments when you discover what has been causing heart burn or constipation or mood swings for 15 years make the uncomfortable moments well worth it. You might get a few headaches or be inconsolable every morning when you first ditch the coffee, but in return for your sacrifice you get a front row seat to the most engrossing science experiment you can imagine.  It was fascinating to watch what was happening to my body as I removed all the gunk that was clouding my self-awareness during recovery and in some cases, for years before. In the end I enjoyed an unprecedented level of clarity around the interdependent relationship between food, alcohol, sleep, stress, exercise and elimination that I pray I don’t lose as time wears on.

You begin with an elimination period, during which you remove common allergens and toxic triggers including gluten, dairy, nightshades, corn, soy, peanuts, red meat, processed meats, alcohol, sugar and more. (I know you’re thinking “what the hell can I eat?!” Put down the Cheetos and read the book before freaking out. ) Your next step is to transition to liquid meals in the morning and evening. You’ll be surprised by how fulfilling these high protein, high (good) fat, high fiber, extremely nutrient dense smoothies and soups are. You can have fresh juices in between “meals” and snacks like apples with almond butter or raw veggies and hummus if you need more. Your solid meal (at lunch) might be grilled chicken with mango and wild rice (a favorite of mine) or lamb skewers with apple and onion (another favorite.)

The first few days will range from a little tough to terribly miserable, depending on how many toxins are in your pre-existing diet. I have an uncommon amount of allergies and because I don’t love acne, rashes and weeks of constipation, I avoid dairy, gluten and processed foods as much as I can stand to. The first 3 days for me mostly included sugar cravings, random sneezing fits and a desperate need for naps I obviously didn’t have the time to take. I also missed chewing a lot in days 2-3. Beyond that, the “withdrawal period” was kind of like PMS – inconvenient and irritating, but not life-altering. If you are used to 3 cups of coffee every morning, 2 glasses of wine every night, pizza or burger lunches followed by afternoon fro-yo, a cigarette or two after dinner and ice cream in front of the TV before bed, you might have black-outs and seizures in the withdrawal period. That may or may not be an exaggeration, but if that’s your jumping off point, the first few days will be more difficult for you than they are for people that have healthier, cleaner habits to begin with.  Just sayin.

While you’re eating amazing whole foods like fresh fruits and veggies, seeds, nuts, quinoa, wild game, fish and more and drinking unexpectedly satisfying smoothies and soups, you take some supplements and drink beverages like lemon water or “Natural calm” to help the process along. You’re also to ensure you get enough sleep, hydrate well, exercise more moderately, poop every day, and always leave a 12 hour window between your last meal of the previous day and your first meal of the day. You’re also encouraged to do some optional activities that help your body cleanse, restore and rejuvenate its systems. Meditation, massages, laughter, wellness education, journaling, and more massages were my favorite additions. In essence, you take amazing care of yourself for about a month. It’s a total labor of love - just for you.

Along the way you’ll likely experience peculiar side-effects that are less bothersome and more encouraging. They underscore the effects of what we consume on our bodies and almost restore your faith in the theories as you move forward. I was like a poster child for the mild side-effects and I freakishly enjoyed that. It validated what I was doing and made me feel increasingly excited for what came next. If the book was so right about the wild vivid dreams, headaches, and sleep patterns, those stories about the glowing skin, energy surges, clockwork regularity, mood stabilization and clarity must be true too! And they were.

By the end of the Clean Program, I felt healthier, stronger, more in control of my body and more comfortable in my own skin than I ever have. Yes, I’ve done a lot of prep work over the past 10 years, but I believe the program pushed me over the threshold to a new level of feeling in tune with my physical and emotional needs. It gave me the nudge I needed to return to being kind to myself, inside and out. The lymphatic swelling I’ve had in my right leg for over 2 years dissipated to almost nothing. Miraculously, the spinal and peripheral nerve pain I’ve grown accustomed to was reduced to a quiet hum at worst. My digestion has finally become as predictable as my morning alarm. I left the house one morning and turned to B and said “my skin hasn’t looked this good since I was a baby.” I was very serious. He agreed. My hair and nails felt stronger, my skin tighter. The puffiness under my eyes went away, as did the lingering water retention and bloat I experience from cheating with dairy and wheat. I could go on and on.

Trust the “tried everything once former fat kid.” There are no quick fixes with weight loss or whatever it is that ails you. There are band-aids, yes, but the most logical, intuitive approaches to wellness are the ones that will work long term. Whether or not you decide to try the Clean Program, start with small changes and build upon them at a pace that is comfortable for you. Do the best that you can with the body you were born with, the resources you have access to and the means at your disposal. Set realistic but ambitious goals so you aren’t setting yourself up to fail but you feel triumphant and proud of yourself when you reach milestones or start to feel the benefits of your healthier choices. Whatever you do, make a commitment to yourself. Ultimately, that’s what it’s all about. Commitment. If you can manage to honor a commitment to your mental and physical well-being at least most of the time, the rest will follow. It really will.

Sunday, June 9, 2013

Clean Program Part 2

I ordered “Clean” by Dr. Alejandro Junger on Amazon and began reading it within a few days. By the time I picked up that book, it had been 8 months since surgery, my wedding was 3 months away, I was still in pain every day and my body simply did not feel like my own. I wanted to dance at my wedding without fearing the price I might pay for a twist or dip into my fiancé's arms. I wanted to feel like myself again and eliminate the temptation of old familiar habits and comforting myself with food. I was sick of feeling weak and vulnerable. I had a lot of healing to do.  I remember reading the book’s subtitle, “The Revolutionary Program to Restore the Body’s Natural Ability to Heal Itself” and thinking, “yes please.”

The book opens with powerful stories of healing and dramatic health changes that were surprising enough to me to inspire nothing but skepticism at first. But I kept reading (I was really in that “I’ll try anything” place,) and eventually I got to a point where I kept nodding my head at the book like a weirdo (by myself on the bus,) or widening my eyes with childlike excitement (which B found rather entertaining.) Once I got through enough of the anecdotal evidence, read about Dr. Junger’s personal experiences with stress, diet and lifestyle, and skimmed over the familiar basics on toxicity, I thought “Jesus. This makes a lot of sense.” (Full disclosure: you’re not going to politically or philosophically agree with everything the guys says. And in my opinion, you don’t have to. That would just be bizarre. But try to keep an open mind and entertain the idea that he is on to something.)  

In summary, Dr Junger’s theory is that we create a war zone in our bodies by consuming processed, inflammatory, acidic  - or in a nutshell, harmful – food and beverages. Then we slather synthetic, funky stuff on top of our bodies, in our hair, on our faces. Throw in toxic substances in our homes (cleaning products, etc,) coming out of our cars and in the air we breathe. Our bodies spend so much energy fighting all these internal, external and environmental battles, that we are ill-equipped to face disease, illness, stress or even silly things like food poisoning. We’re a bunch of sad sacks with overwhelmed bodies and overwhelmed minds. 

“Clean” challenges you to remove as many of the above barriers to overall health and well-being over a 21-30 day process that requires mindfulness, discipline and focus.  Wipe your slate clean so you can have a clear, unadulterated understanding of what your body and mind need to operate as the well-oiled machine it is intended to be. Help the machine "remove, restore and rejuvenate" through a series of pretty simple behavior modifications. Sacrifice a bunch of crap your body doesn’t need anyway; instead nourish it with bold, bright, beautiful fruits and vegetables and wonderful things like wild game and ancient grains. Go easy on yourself while your body is doing the hard work of purging years of Twinkie plaque and ice cream mucus. Help the process along with long walks, steams, meditation, massages, plenty of sleep and rest.  Emerge  feeling like a superhero. Yes, a superhero. That is the only way to describe how I started to feel by day 6. There is no other word that could communicate the combination of energy, clarity, happiness and empowerment that this process yielded for me.

But, as is the case with anything worth anything in life, it isn’t easy. Or cheap. Or comfortable. Or fast. But boy does it work.

Next up: The Dirty Details and Why They’re Worth Dealing With (You didn’t think I’d be all “sunshine and roses” about it did you?)

Tuesday, June 4, 2013

The Clean Program: Part 1

Most of us are completely out of touch with our bodies. We’ve been drowning out the signals sent by our digestive and nervous systems for so long that it’s become difficult to isolate what ails us, and almost impossible to define solutions.  Every day, a million different factors stand between us and our optimal state of well-being. Work, stress, lack of sleep, familial and social demands, personal issues, poor diets and more prevent us from feeling strong, healthy and clear minded. We seem to save money and make time for everything and anything except what’s most important – proactively caring for ourselves.

To some people, recovery from spinal surgery might feel like a game of Chutes and Ladders crossed with a painfully slow round of Monopoly. To me, a physically and socially active, hard-working, always multi-tasking woman, it was more like water boarding. About 8 months after having back surgery, I was frustrated not only with the unexpected duration but with my inability to stay on track with my usual healthy diet and exercise routine throughout recovery. I tried like hell to keep my chin up and to keep perspective, but at times recovery felt like an endless stretch of undulating pain and frustration marked with milestones too small and far between to bear.  Just when I started to feel like myself again, I would have some setback or surge in nerve pain that sent me right to the Peanut M&M’s or if it was bad enough, Suzie cakes. I could have taken pain killers and zoned out in front of the TV, but that simply wasn’t an option for me. Instead I engaged in a tug-of-war with my pain and recovery – refusing to let it take anything away from me and demanding cupcakes as consolation.

I tried to ride it out with a smile on my face. God did I try. But the inconsistent results of my consistent focus and determination left me in uncharted territory. I felt completely and utterly powerless and that is not a position I do well in. I did my best to avoid old habits every time the pain crept back up or kept me awake at night, but as work intensified through the winter and my wedding countdown began, it became increasingly difficult to resist comforting myself with food (and then punishing myself with exercise or restricted eating.) I couldn’t wrap my head around the fact that I couldn’t fix myself and move on. For the first time in years, there were days when I was dangerously close to crossing the line between that weakened, vulnerable state and self-destructive. At a time in my life when I needed to be more in tune with my bodies needs than ever, I simply couldn't afford to wrap myself in the ironically suffocating comfort of old familiar habits. I knew I needed to do something dramatically different to pull myself out before I got in any deeper. I had come too far to sink back into those muddied waters.
I voiced my need to get back on track for good to a close girlfriend of mine after a weekend of debauchery in LA. She immediately suggested I look into the Clean Program. I entered the name into my phone's note pad and strolled out of the airport. Little did I know her recommendation would not only get me back on track with my diet and well-being, it would reduce my pain to almost non-existent, remedy some other minor nagging issues I had previously dealt with and most importantly, give me a sense of clarity and perspective I have never experienced before.

Thursday, May 30, 2013

Take THIS Gwyneth Paltrow!

Anyone that’s ever read my blog knows that I’ve struggled a great deal throughout my life with body image and food issues. I was a chubby little girl, a fat kid, an overweight adolescent and a “curvy” young adult. I’ve shared some funny stories and made many a joke about my “fat kid days” now that I have created distance between that person and the one that is writing this, but the self loathing that tainted much of my youth and young adulthood was far from funny.

I have a great deal of empathy and compassion for any woman who struggles with loving her body or being kind to herself. I know how crippling and consuming it can be when you’re your own worst enemy. I know how much time, energy and education it takes to break the seemingly unending cycle with weight struggles. I understand that it takes a commitment to yourself and loved ones to get to a place where you can manage to treat yourself well as life propels you forward through each day as a student, career woman, wife, caretaker, sister, friend and everything in between.
When I moved to California I met a man who saw me the way I wanted to see myself. I also found myself in a place that made it tremendously easy to discover new ways to feel healthy and strong. That man and this place helped me realize that I could view myself and the world through a different lens.  They helped me see that I deserved to be happy. Somewhere around that time, I finally decided to be kinder to myself inside and out.
Now don’t get me wrong, I made that decision, but that doesn’t mean that I’m always successful. I’m still totally an emotional eater – you’ll find me on any airplane ride away from my sisters or best friends with a big bag of peanut M&M’s and usually some Swedish fish too.  I still have moments when I freak out over gaining a few pounds, even though I know by now that everything evens out eventually. Oh and I have to talk myself off a ledge when my pants get too tight. I don’t wake up hugging myself and smiling at my tummy rolls every day. But regardless of the peaks and valleys, one thing has remained a constant on this long and winding road to self love and acceptance. I ALWAYS continue to educate myself. I figure that if I can take one lesson away from every battle, if I can collect scalps of those bastard demons along the way, then I will be stronger and tougher and better to myself with each passing day.  (As disgusting as the mention of scalps is, it is an appropriate reference given how ugly things can get when you go to war with yourself.)
20 years of different diets and exercise regimes , 2 nutritionists, a naturopath, an acupuncturist, a Chinese herbalist, 3 douche bag therapists, a mean pediatrician, a dermatologist, a kid who moo’d at me in math class, endless books, blogs, magazines, diet gurus, yoga teachers, a few months in an outpatient program, some more books and the unconditional love of one man and one city morphed me into an open, honest, compassionate, very real, very well informed “health foodie.”  I’m like Gwyneth Paltrow with a sense of humor, saddle bags, a fat kid past and a little humility. I may not have her money, private chef, dedicated Pilates instructor and kids with “creative” names, but I do have a rock star husband. He just can’t sing like Chris Martin.
Although there’s no Gwyneth-style book in the works, I am going to start sharing more of the information, resources and lessons I’ve learned on my “try not to hate yourself for loving peanut M&M’s” journey. My girlfriends love hearing the tips and tricks that make eating and living healthy a little more manageable for your average Gwyn, and I love sharing. I just can’t fight it anymore; this kind of thing is simply my wheelhouse.

Saturday, March 9, 2013

shoulda coulda woulda

I moved out to California with my best friend. Less than a month later, I met the man I'm going to marry this May. Had the tables been turned, I would have wanted to hang myself. We were new to an unfamiliar city full of unfamiliar faces. It was her first time living more than a few hours away from her close-knit family and our close-knit group of friends. She grew up in the folds of a big Italian clan; they moved her in about 5 doors down the hall from me in the freshman dorms. We spent the next 5 years eating, sleeping, shopping, breathing together. We had each other and 4 other forces of life - all sources of strength, laughter and comfort. We left all that behind and moved out here with nothing but our friendship, just enough naivete to throw caution to the wind, 2 ratty blankets and one pillow. And then I met B.

B always loved her and still does. Everyone loves her. He also understood how important she was (and is) to me and he knew that to make me happy he had to try to make her happy too. He enjoyed her company and was content to get to know her while he got to know me. He cooked for us and brought us on weekend drives around the Bay Area to discover our new home. I wonder how many of those drives she spent wanting to go back to her old home.

I'd imagine she felt a sense of loss when I met him, but I can't say for sure what she felt because she's never spoken of the unfortunate timing. She's never uttered a word about how lonely she was. She never cried in front of me about it; she was chipper at best and quiet at worst. Sometimes she was really quiet for days on end and her face would get a little stiff like she wanted to slap me. I should have given her the chance to cry, to tell me it sucked. I failed her in those moments, I know that now. I was blinded by a childish need for her to be happy for me - I remember thinking that I had spent "forever" watching everyone else fall in love. So dramatic. I was 23. I hadn't spent forever doing anything. I remember thinking it was finally my turn to fall head over heels and have the world rejoice in my good fortune. I was young and self absorbed enough to believe I was entitled to support even if that translated to a lack of compassion for what she was experiencing. It's amazing how easy it is to justify being selfish when we're young.  

She met someone in the 2nd year we were here. He was nice to her and offered companionship, but he was never the one. Her heart was too kind to see that, but her head never quite trusted him or her future with him and that made her anxious at times. He wasn't social and she is and that made me anxious for her. I started missing her soon after they met but I didn't think I had any place to complain about that. She supported me in the most unfortunate circumstances when I met my salty, wild, thirty-something stranger, I thought the least I could do was support her choice to be with this guy. I still wonder if I should have pushed more for them to come out to dinner with our friends or join us at happy hour. Maybe I spent too much time trying to learn to accept her choices and not enough time fighting for my friend.

I was relieved when she left him. I know that sounds terrible, but it's the truth. Everyone around her knows she deserves the world and he wasn't giving it to her. He didn't make her eyes sparkle. I was so scared she was going to marry him and never realize exactly how happy she deserved to be. He should have given her whatever she wanted and did whatever was needed to make her happy. She's that special. He wasn't smart enough to see he had hit the jackpot, but at least he was smart enough to realize he wasn't right for her.

When it ended with him, she didn't feel as if she had much to stay for. She started planning her exit almost immediately. I was hurt by how easy it was for her to pick up and go, but I understood why she was doing it  - I'm a bit of a runner myself.  I'll always wonder if I should have made it harder to leave, if I could have made it harder to leave with different choices along the way. I wasn't compassionate enough to what she must have been going through when I met B. I didn't fight for her when I saw her folding into her relationship with that jerkoff who wouldn't even give her a puppy. I didn't tell her how badly I wanted her to stay when she told me she was moving back to Boston.

She'll always be my best friend, even with all the should haves, could haves and would haves. I just hope she knows how much we both love her. Since she left, B and I both look back and wish we could have done something to make her stay. He sees how much I still miss her almost every day. I think he feels as if he took me from her. Maybe he did, in a way. Afterall, she was the first one to "give me away." My Dad will do so in May, but she was the first.

Thursday, February 7, 2013

Dear Ladies (And Bubby and Kurt)

This past weekend, you were kind enough to throw me a bridal shower. At the age of 30, when everyone a few years younger and a few years older is going through some sort of transition or major life change, I don't get many afternoons with 15 of my favorite people in one room. We've spent our time since high school and college falling in love and getting married, committing more time to building a life with lovers and partners. We've moved across the country to find ourselves or to return home again. We've taken jobs that have swallowed us whole for weeks at a time and trips to distant corners of the world. Some of you have had children and have bought homes in the suburbs. Some of the stories we've written together have been broken into chapters, the print faded on worn pages torn at the corners. And now we write new chapters only in the breaths between "life," but rarely are all the characters present.

This weekend, you gave me the gift of time with some loved ones that have helped me write epic chapters. I was reminded of how full my life is because of you. To my sisters, childhood and college friends and people that have made California home -  you lift me up and make me feel young and strong and smart and funny. You make me proud of who I am. Your honesty and authenticity make me feel normal and loved and most of all, lucky. I draw my strength and wisdom from you.

Promise me we'll find enough space between getting old and taking life too seriously to keep writing chapters together. Please.