• Something I ate last week: Rasika's Date Toffee Pudding

    What I had for lunch.

    "Of course you can have just one!" -- Nine out of 10 advertising copywriters (privately)

    Here's something I made and ate this week for my cookbook club: Date and Toffee Pudding from the Rasika cookbook. Aka sticky toffee pudding, it is one of my favorites and guess what? NOT A HEALTH FOOD. 

    The directions read "Trim the mounded pudding tops; reserve the trimmings for a snack." Good idea, Mr Sunderam! I will do that.

    And I tell you this in case you feel that certain foods are "triggers" and you must avoid them forever and ever, The End. If ever there was such a trigger for me, it would be sticky toffee pudding. But I can eat one now and be done. And not have another for a long, long time.

    And that was not always true. 

    We all have foods that aren't worth messing with, I'll give you that. But you might find more freedom in letting yourself make that choice never to have something - while knowing that it is a choice.

  • 3 Ways to Handle Difficult Conversations for Overeaters

    Let's get you off that wheel

    A client recently had this common problem: She was expecting a difficult conversation with a difficult person. Anticipating the conversation, and the person’s behavior, was making her anxious.

    And anxiety - surprise! - was causing this client to eat out of control.

    This is a familiar cycle for all of us. It looks like this: 

    Unpleasant event (present or future) -> anxiety -> eating -> temporary relief -> painful physical effects -> shame / anxiety -> repeat, etc., repeat.

    To simplify even further, we could say there are basically three parts to this cycle, and thus three options for interrupting it. There are events, there are feelings, and there actions we take. Which result in more events, more feelings, and more actions. 

    (Some people call this cycle “karma.” I’ve been around that wheel myself perhaps 9,237 times. Ugh.)

    1. You can attempt to control the conversation (event) to control the anxiety (feeling) to control the overeating (behavior). This strategy has a success rate of about 0%, I would guess. Life is a series of uncontrollable events - many of them undesired.

    2. You can allow uncontrollable events - that’s called participating in shared reality, and it’s a smart approach. You can then attempt to control the feelings that follow. This too is kind of a losing proposition. Feelings can be ignored, squished, distorted, indulged, amplified, transmuted or simply experienced as they are - but they cannot really be controlled, because they can’t be prevented or extinguished.

    3. Or, you can take control of your eating. This is a solid strategy with a great chance of success. Events can’t be controlled. Feelings, contrary to belief, can’t be controlled. The real locus of control is our behavior. 

    You could have the worst conversation in the world. A cop could come to your door and tell you your kid was in an accident. Your husband could tell you over morning coffee that he’s moving to Australia - alone. Your landlady could call and say she’s sold your apartment and you need to be out in two weeks.

    Anything can happen, and you can still decide that donuts will not be your response to catastrophe. How do you do that? How do you simply change your behavior?

    That’s what we do here. We replace chaotic eating with a flexible-but-structured approachWe take control of our eating by dismantling the binge habit.

    What happens next is that we find better ways to work with unpleasant events and tricky emotions. In the absence of chaotic eating, better options appear as if by magic.

    Titelprent van het pamflet: Iamertiens Oft Aventuersche berouw Clacht gedaen aen den Ouwe trouwe Geus, 1619, anonymous, 1619, Rijksmuseum. Used with permission.

  • Something I ate last week: Supermoon Bakehouse

    What I Had for Lunch 

    "80% of primate neurology is devoted to checking out what the rest of the community had for lunch. It's how we're wired." --Dian Fossey I'm guessing

    You know how when social media was new, people used to say "I don't wanna know what you had for lunch"? I could never understand that. What are you, not a primate? I always want to know what you had for lunch. 

    ​On that note, here's something I ate last week, at Supermoon Bakehouse on the Lower East Side:

    And I tell you this so you know that

    1. I'm not some perfect clean-eating diet guru ladyperson (I hate the idea of "clean" eating; it's basically diet culture) and

    2. there is delight and deliciousness on the other side of an eating disorder and

    3. you can eat this shit without being overweight and

    4. you can eat this kind of thing for breakfast (or two of these things, which is what Iactually did) and still have salad for lunch because you feel like salad, not because it's payback time.

  • What you eat in Vegas stays in Vegas

    What you eat in Vegas stays in Vegas, right?

    Oh wait I have that wrong. That’s not how it works at all.

    I used to pretend that what I ate on holiday didn’t matter. Like I would have a magical reset the day after I flew home. Lalala, didn’t happen! <- better not step on the scale tho, missy.

    Or Thanksgiving, or Christmas. It’s exceptional, after all! Why should it count? Christmas is a day for eating whatever you want; that’s why Santa puts chocolate in your stocking! Treats: the reason for the season.

    I meannnn … right?

    That’s how I used to think, anyway. Then one day I just stopped drawing a veil of willful ignorance over anything I ate. 

    I started seeing how very many exceptions I was making - not just on vacation or at Christmas or when in great bakery cities like Paris or Portland, Maine. I started seeing that the truly unusual day was the day I didn’t make some allowance for “exceptional” circumstances.

    The point is, I saw it, and my brain saw it, and we looked at it together. I think I probably said Brain, are you seeing what I'm seeing? and my brain said Yep. Sure am.

    And I could never un-see it again.

    Naturally, I still eat bakery goods - if they’re good. And I hope to go back to Paris someday.

    But I will know that anything I put in my body there will be coming with me.

  • An easy way to shop and prep a week's worth of lunches

    As promised, here's a formula for shopping and prepping a week's worth of lunches.

    Is it glamourous? Decidedly not.

    Is it simple, easy, repeatable, nourishing and tasty?

    YES + YES + YES + YES + YES!

    Plus, what's really great about this way of eating lunch is it makes room for glamour at dinner. You've had your 5 a day already! Now you might relax a little. Put some nice Irish butter on that nice French bread, and not worry too much about it.

    Anyway, here's how I get lunch set up at the beginning of the week, so I'm not panicking and spending way too much money at the deli counter for food that's way too salty, way too rich and way too processed:

    Here's what I pulled out of the fridge at the end of the week. I always assess what's there before going shopping. (Where "always" means "what I do now.")

 Then I found more stuff later, as always. (THAT "always" means "always.")

    I want some kind of one-bowl situation every day, because I'm working and I don't have time to be fancy. This bowl will virtually always have these elements:

    • protein, usually chicken, tuna, eggs, beans, salmon, or a dinner leftover (about the size and thickness of my palm), but could be cheese like feta or queso fresco, in which case about half that much
    • complex carbohydrates, usually vegetables of various colors, chopped, raw or roasted, sometimes steamed but that's a last resort, invariably including some white or sweet potato (about 2-3 closed fists' worth). So that typically means broccoli, cauliflower, romanesco, purple cabbage, green cabbage, Brussels sprouts, arugula, spinach, romaine, other lettuces, chiles, peppers, zucchini, cucumbers, tomatoes.
    • fat, usually olive oil (I don't measure, just drizzle), sometimes olives, sometimes avocado

    Figure on 2-3 discrete vegetables for each meal. So if I'm planning to feed just myself for the week, that's between 15 and 20 units (or hunks) of vegetable for the week. For me, a head of broccoli is at least 4 units of vegetable. A Kirby cucumber is half a unit. A small sweet potato is 1 unit, a large is more like 2. You'll get to know what your units are very quickly.

    This is what I picked up on the first trip. I underbought and had to go back for herbs and things, but I live in a village and the store is close.

    I always get eggs if there are fewer than a half carton. Always a few cans of tuna in the cupboard. And I'll usually get a packet of 3 chicken breasts (air-chilled, if affordable and available) to sauté all at once, freezing some.

 You'll need 7 units of protein for the week.

    So I concentrate on food that can be prepped all at once, like

    • washed and chopped and eaten raw, like a lot of these veggies
    • or steamed or roasted in the oven
    • or boiled, like eggs 
    • or sautéed, like chicken
    • or just crumbled, like feta

    Then you can toss it all together in a bowl. Put your fat on top - olives, oil, avocado, nuts. Maybe a thumb's worth. Maybe 2 thumbs. Plus some nice salt and pepper, harissa from a jar, sriracha, or whatever you like.

    It's rather repetitive! And that's perfectly okay for a weekday lunch. These are tasty, filling and totally portable.

    So here are some of the lunches I had last week, good, bad <- terrible, actually! - and middling:

    ☝️may have been the worst lunch I have ever made. Come to find out, Savoy cabbage doesn't last months like regular cabbage does. Jarred artichokes, also no.

    But this
    ☝️was good, especially with the last-minute aïoli my sous chef Mr Jones made. 

    ☝️one was fantastic: baked sweet potatoes broiled with feta and chile flakes, plus a green gazpacho. (Had to go back to the store to get herbs for that.)

    And here's☝️a lunch that's really representative: Basically a Greek salad with avocado and sweet potato to make it filling.

    Finally, a recipe I use every week. It's delicious and dead easy:

    Sautéed Chicken Breasts 

    • Heat a skillet
 over med/high
    • Add some olive oil, salt and pepper
    • When the oil is hot, add the chicken breasts and let them sit there for 5 minutes

    • Turn them over, turn the heat down a bit, cover, and sauté another 5 minutes

    • Remove them and rest them on a cutting board for 5 minutes for the juices to be reabsorbed
    • Slice and pop them in the bowl! You can chill or freeze what's left.

    (Times will vary a little depending on the size of the breasts; you'll get to know.)

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