Tag Archives: health

Experiments in Food Rule #39

I’m a Maira Kalman fangirl. Some years ago I gave my sister-in-law a copy of Strunk and White illustrated by Kalman, and had to get one for myself. Last Christmas it was Robert’s turn: he received Food Rules by Michael Pollan, featuring Kalman’s quirky illustrations:

The food rules are listed here, though the book itself is worth checking out. One of my favorites is #39:

Eat all the junk food you want as long as you cook it yourself.

The idea is that anything you cook is going to be made with (generally) wholesome ingredients, so by making your own you will cut way down on preservatives, trans fats and Red 40 Lake.

But also, the effort involved in cooking your own junk food is an automatic limiter. Having a Costco-sized box of Oreos in your house can be more problematic than having 18 molasses cookies. Having to make them yourself means unless you have all the time in the world, you will have less on hand. And if your kids helped you make them, they are probably monitoring how quickly they’re disappearing.

We didn’t intentionally decide to follow this food rule—we’ve kinda backed our way into it. During the spring I got on a huge muffin kick and made a different muffin each week: strawberry lemonade, honey oat, pineapple bran. Muffins are a great hybrid food: are they a dessert? Are they a breakfast food? Plus they come in a single size: automatic portion control. Yeah, you can eat multiple muffins at a sitting—

not that I’ve ever done that… ~cough~

But at least you clearly see that’s what you’re doing, as opposed to furtively cutting yourself a bigger slice of quickbread or cake and calling it “one serving.”

Summer is too hot for the oven, so we’ve moved from muffins to ice cream. Robert picked up the Humphry Slocombe Ice Cream Book and has been having a field day. Their flavors are to die for: chocolate malt, fluffernutter, and Elvis: The Fat Years, which is banana ice cream studded with bacon peanut brittle.

(Robert wants me to tell you that the sugar content in some of these recipes keeps them from freezing very hard, so he’s made some tweaks.  He’s also adjusted the level of cream and milk to lighten them a little.)

The good thing about these flavors is a little goes a long way. Their chocolate is SO chocolatey that one serving is plenty. (Did you know that 1/2 cup of ice cream is considered a serving?)

One caveat: this week he made Harvey Milk and Honey (hey, they’re based in San Francisco) which involves raw honey and graham cracker pieces toasted in butter. That one, we could eat pints and pints of. You’ve been warned.

When I first heard about Food Rules I thought great, another scold. But there are so many rules that you can’t possibly follow them all, so there’s a gracious freedom to adopt those rules that make the most sense for you.

OK, you could follow them all, but I’m not sure I want to know you.

What do you think of food rules—Pollan’s or others? Do you have any food rules you follow?

I Kinda Wish I Was Fat

Several months ago I wrote a post wondering whether we could reclaim the word “fat.” I’m still not sure it’s something the culture can or will ever get on board with. But if nothing else, it’s worth pondering as a mental exercise: can we redeem words that have been used to shame?

That question has spiritual implications, by the way.

Anyway, if you were still trying to get your mind around my argument, check out this video (3 minutes) of a woman responding to YouTube commenters calling her fat. (Once again let me remind you that Internet comments are the best proof for total depravity that we have. Score 1 for the Calvinists.)

I almost wish I were still [overweight, fat, BMI 29, insert descriptor here] just to stand with this sassy gal.

BTW, rarely have I heard the words “f*** you” delivered with such joie de vivre. It’s bleeped out, but still. If that offends you, don’t watch.

(h/t: Keith)

Friday Link Love

A Reading from Sabbath in the Suburbs — Yours Truly

Last Sunday I read a short excerpt from my book which talks a little bit about Christian freedom. I chose this excerpt with the July 4 holiday in mind. Freedom gets talked about a lot this time of year, but Christians have something specific in mind when we talk about freedom.

The link above will get you to my most recent 10 sermons at Tiny Church. You can also subscribe via iTunes; search for Idylwood Presbyterian Church. I can’t stand to listen to myself so I rely on listeners to let me know if something is awry in these recordings.

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Speaking of which, yesterday I recorded a Master Class on Sabbath-keeping for ChurchNext. It was a Skyped video conversation, which makes the cringe factor all the greater. I’ll let you know when my class goes live, but in the meantime, check out some of Chris Yaw’s great offerings. What a cool resource.

Self-promotion aside… away we go:

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Three Great Stop Motion Shorts Not to Be Missed — Colossal

These are utterly charming. Three short films featuring 1. the primordial soup (err noodles), 2. a teeny tiny road trip, and 3. straight pins with character. [Photo is an image capture from one of the videos.]

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The Busy Trap — New York Times

I can’t tell you how many people sent this my way. And for good reason; this piece has Sabbath written all over it:

Busyness serves as a kind of existential reassurance, a hedge against emptiness; obviously your life cannot possibly be silly or trivial or meaningless if you are so busy, completely booked, in demand every hour of the day. I once knew a woman who interned at a magazine where she wasn’t allowed to take lunch hours out, lest she be urgently needed for some reason. This was an entertainment magazine whose raison d’être was obviated when “menu” buttons appeared on remotes, so it’s hard to see this pretense of indispensability as anything other than a form of institutional self-delusion.

Lately I am trying to stop talking about how busy I am. For one, because the comment has become so ubiquitous as to be meaningless. It’s the “umm…you know” of the 21st century. But also because the author is right; busy has become a status symbol. Henri Nouwen said that the Christian life is a steady process of downward mobility. So… I’m done.

(For that matter, I heard myself use the phrase “killing time” the other day and was immediately appalled. What a dreadful thing to say!)

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I Took a Web Detour and Now I Feel Better — New York Times (again)

I am pretty convinced that our 24-7 digital culture is doing serious things to our brains. But this is a nice counter-testimony:

Stressed out, on a deadline, I was frustrated to the point of uselessness and began to post a handful of items to Twitter and Tumblr. For a while, my mind and fingers wandered aimlessly around the Web. When I grew tired of this, I turned back to my assignment, completed it and turned it in. The entire detour took less than 10 minutes, and it seemed to make me more efficient.

…[S]ometimes I’ve found that losing myself in the Web can be invigorating. Instead of needing to turn off the noise of the Web, I often use it to calm my nerves so I can finish my work.

I have felt that. Even more effective is a run or a shower, though—at least in my experience.

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A Health-Care ‘Judas’ Recounts His Conversion — CNN

I love the story of Wendell Potter, a former Cigna executive who became an outspoken advocate for health reform based on his experience.

Thousands of them had lined up under a cloudy sky in an open field. Many had camped out the night before. When their turns came, doctors treated them in animal stalls and on gurneys placed on rain-soaked sidewalks.

They were Americans who needed basic medical care. Potter had driven to the Wise County Fairgrounds in Virginia in July 2007 after reading that a group called Remote Area Medical, which flew American doctors to remote Third World villages, was hosting a free outdoor clinic.

Potter, a Cigna health care executive who ate from gold-rimmed silverware in corporate jets, says that morning was his “Road to Damascus” experience.

“It looked like a refugee camp,” Potter says. “It just hit me like a bolt of lightning. What I was doing for a living was making it necessary for people to resort to getting care in animal stalls.”

Though this article does not say so, it was a relationship with a Presbyterian church that helped inform his change of heart.

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I’m gratified by the Presbyterian angle, because on the other hand we have…

Five Reasons Denominations Are Passe — David Lose

I’ve been following our denomination’s General Assembly all week and it’s been a bit of a mess, frankly. David’s post is prescient, and strong medicine.

Inordinate amounts of funding are spent on maintaining denominational structures and bureaucracies, money that could be spent on mission. Even though every denomination I know has in recent years cut way back on spending, eliminated various divisions or boards, or extended the times between major assemblies or conventions, denominations are still expending vast sums of money to prop up dated denominational bureaucracies. Would it not make sense to conserve resources by efficiently combining structures? Are seven or eight struggling denominational publishing houses better than one robust one? Where there are three beleaguered denominational seminaries in a single region, might not one healthy pan-denominational school suffice? (And we haven’t even started on congregations!) Think of what might happen if the savings were channeled to funding creative media campaigns that didn’t extol the virtues of one denomination but taught the Christian faith.

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Have a wonderful weekend, everyone, and stay cool.

Eight Weight Loss Tips

People often ask me how I went about losing weight over these last several months. I feel very sheepish because I don’t have a good answer, and the stuff I do is in no way original. It’s a very unromantic combination of diet and exercise. No meal replacement. No expensive powders or weird smoothies. Just eating good food in the right proportions and running or walking 4-5 times a week.

That said, here are some tips that have been most useful for me.

  1. Log everything you eat. I use MyFitnessPal, which tracks food and exercise. I’ve also heard good things about LoseIt. The bar code scanner makes it fun. Over time I’ve gotten less anal about logging absolutely everything, but that’s because I’ve got an intuitive sense of where I am. Is that a pain? Yes. Are there days I get sick of logging everything? Absolutely. Would I rather deal with the hassle of logging than backsliding? Yes.
  2. Weigh yourself every day. Studies show that regular feedback is key to achieving goals. I think the conventional wisdom used to be a weekly weigh-in, but that’s not enough input to keep me going. That said, expect ups and downs. Look at the forest, not the trees. But look everyday.
  3. Invest in a kitchen scale and measuring cups. Portion size is everything. It’s amazing how much I can fudge my portions if I try to eyeball it.
  4. Be around people who will support, not sabotage.
  5. This is a lifestyle, not a short-term goal. Which means I eat delicious things that are “bad” for me, and I do it with some regularity. My friend Jay, who’s done a great job with weight loss, put it well: “Be sensible more often than not and you’ll go in the right direction.”
  6. Then again, I’m a moderator, not an abstainer. Figure out which one you are and be that.
  7. Another tip from Jay: when you’re at a restaurant and are starting to pick at your meal after you’re full, sprinkle water from your water glass all over the food. Weird but it works. I’ve done similar things, including (gasp!) throwing away the rest of something that just needed to be out of my house and my life. (See: leftover tubs of frosting after a kid’s birthday.) Sorry, starving children of the world.
  8. Dessert, alcoholic beverage, or a day off from exercise: pick two on any given day. You’ll likely stay in range, but you can still enjoy life and be flexible to the needs and desires of the moment.

Do you have any tips you use? Share in the comments.

Image comes from this post, which I featured recently on Link Love

Holy As a Weekend Is Spent

Meet Jacob, a special friend and member of my church whom I visited this past weekend in Minnesota. Jacob, age 7, had a bone marrow transplant 180 days ago. That’s a milestone, but the celebration was rather low-key—we played some Wii (he kicked my butt) and I took his mom out for beers and pub food.

At this point, it appears that the BMT has halted the spread of the ALD, which is cause for rejoicing in heaven and earth. I am so thankful to the as-yet-unnamed guy in his mid-40s who was a perfect match, who gave Jacob a second chance. We will be having a bone marrow registry drive at Tiny Church in November, near the one-year anniversary of Jake’s transplant.

Unfortunately, Jacob has been in the hospital since day 60 or so. He’s had a whole host of issues to deal with since transplant, including graft v. host disease and all kinds of other stuff. You know those drug commercials where they list all the weird, random side effects? And when you ask the doctor she says, “Eh, I have never seen that happen.” Jake seems to have a talent for being the one who gets the weird complication or side effect. He is, to borrow a phrase, the 1%.

You can read his incredible story here, although the latest entry is about me and how I came to be called to Tiny. So let me return the favor by telling you a little of what I saw this weekend.

I saw a kid who was clearly feeling crummy but who complained exactly twice. Who doesn’t like physical therapy but who does it. (Sadly, I missed his 2 laps around the floor on the bike on Sunday.) Who speaks up for himself, who’s assertive to say what he needs or wants. Who swallows handfuls of pills each day, and pillcams the width of a Sharpie.

Who was stronger on Sunday than he was on Saturday.

I also saw a mother whose frustration and fatigue with the situation has gotta be out of this world but who responded with patience, love and attentiveness to her son. Who spends every day and night with him but who takes time away each day because that’s the healthy, faithful thing to do. Who is very plugged into what’s happening with her daughter back home in Virginia and who can’t wait until she comes out for the summer, even though that means an increase in logistics.

Who went shopping for a wedding shower gift, for heaven’s sake.

It’s a cliche to call people like this brave. I’m not even sure that’s the right word. Because they would answer, What choice do we have?

They do have a choice, though. They can become bitter and defeated and curved into themselves—and who would blame them?—or they can write a journal entry that says, “Enough about us—another family here needs our prayers and thoughts right now.”

One of my articles of faith is that people going through hard times are under no obligation to be inspiring to the rest of us. They have every right to be cranky and imperfect, to shake their fist at the heavens.

And when the opposite happens—when grace happens—well, there’s nothing for a pastor, or a person, to do but to notice it and name it. To breathe, bask and behold.

~

Title is a riff on a Carrie Newcomer song (video). “Redemption everywhere I look.”

UPDATE: Fixed the link to the family’s CaringBridge site.