Do you get cravings? I do! In fact, right now I am diving in to a bag of my favorite tortilla chips – Late July Sea Salt by the Seashore multigrain tortilla chips. It’s been a long day at the computer, writing my newsletter for July which is due out the end of this week. Yikes! I needed some easy energy and the brand new bag was calling my name. Does that ever happen to you?

What else do I crave, food-wise? Well, I was craving green veggies this week. I had been out of town and meals were – light, scattered, and not full of green stuff. So I wanted salads! Besides, it’s hot and salads make a cool, no cook meal often in our house. Sometimes I crave chocolate – just a piece of a good quality, dark chocolate bar. Wine – I sometimes crave a nice glass of red wine with pasta, or while I’m cooking. (I have a small poster of Maxine saying “I love to cook with wine, sometimes I even put it in the food” hanging on my refrigerator!) About four or five times a year I crave a good burger – usually I avoid beef but when this one hits, it’s pretty strong. Peanut butter calls me at lunch now and then – a good PB&J never hurt anyone, right? Soups when it’s chilly or I’m not feeling well. Cheese is another food I usually avoid but sometimes I’m driven to buy a hunk of cheddar and dig in. Not to say I don’t eat these foods other times, just that sometimes the pull is strong.

Do I indulge? Normally, yes, for two reasons. One, I feel like my body knows better than my mind at times, and I should listen to it. Maybe I’ve been unknowingly short-changing some nutrient element of food or using it up more than usual, so my body says “get some of this.” Two, I believe moderation is best in most things, so a little treat of chocolate or a burger is good for the soul. Asceticism generally leads to even stronger cravings. We always want what we ‘can’t’ have, right? It’s why so many ‘diets’ fail – they are too restrictive and often not right for the person trying the diet.

That said, these cravings don’t rule my life, they don’t cause guilt – because they are not constant, overwhelming, and harmful. When people have any kind of addiction, it can be so powerful they give over control of their life to the addiction. The cravings of which I speak are not addiction-related. If you crave something now and then and aren’t restricted medically, then go ahead and indulge! If the craving begins to rule your life, that’s another matter. But an occasional splurge is harmless and only you can decide the degree of its strength. Mostly, I think you’ll feel pretty darn good and move on with life.

So what if you have cravings for something you should not eat due to a medical condition? Like diabetics who crave dessert after every meal, or lactose intolerant individuals who really want some cheese or a glass of milk? Or what if you swore off alcohol (not addiction related) and really want to join a friend in a glass of wine, or you decided to switch to a plant based diet but that burger smells so good?

  • Willpower is essential. Many people believe they don’t have any but really what is often lacking is conviction, not willpower. If you don’t really believe in the reason you are avoiding a food it will be harder to pass on the craving.
  • Substitute something else. I might go for peanut butter on crackers when a cheese craving hits, or a handful of fresh or frozen berries instead of that ice cream dessert.
  • Distract yourself. When I am staying away from wine but feel the urge, I will make a cup of tea. The preparation occupies my mind – filling tea kettle with fresh water, getting the mug out, choosing a flavor of tea. Then I can peacefully sip the tea and no longer care about the wine.
  • Support and accountability are helpful. Maybe your friend will agree to help you by not having dessert when dining with you, and will remind you why you aren’t eating sweets.
  • Know your limits – can you have a little bit or none at all? If none, don’t keep any of the food or beverage you need to avoid nearby, and try to steer clear of places it is featured. If you are diabetic and absolutely love ice cream, don’t keep any at home and stay out of ice cream parlors! If you are refraining from alcohol, stay out of bars.

Mostly, just don’t let a craving make you feel like a failure, even if you give in to it. It’s normal! You’re human! Let it go and carry on.

20161108_simple-pleasuresSome of my favorite things:

  • Getting up early when the world is quiet but for the birds.
  • Holding a sleeping baby.
  • Lunch with friends.
  • Meaningful conversations with someone with opposing views.
  • First sip of fresh-brewed coffee.
  • Wine tastings and winery tours.
  • Saturday night card games with family.
  • Curling up with a good novel and a cup of tea.
  • Looking at old pictures.
  • A satisfying workout, especially done outdoors.
  • Lending a hand to someone in need.
  • Rainy days in the desert.
  • Cooking a new recipe that turns out great.
  • Baking bread.
  • Cold beer on a hot day.
  • Working on my latest hobby project.
  • Meeting someone new and really clicking with them.
  • Hiking in Dreamy Draw Park.
  • Getting help from an unexpected source.
  • Finding $20 in a jacket pocket.
  • Pictures of Penny.
  • Trying a new restaurant that hits the mark.
  • The sound of ocean waves.
  • Sunsets in Phoenix

What are yours?

This is the month when reminders to be thankful are all around. Not that we should need them from card companies or department stores! But we do often get so caught up in our day-to-day tasks  that we forget all the little things that make life rich. You may have seen magazine articles or social media posts about starting a gratitude journal – writing down every day three things for which you are grateful. It’s a nice idea, a way to recall the good things in your life if you run into a rough patch. Being grateful doesn’t have to be formalized in writing. You can also just take a few minutes before you go to sleep to utter gratitude for your day. Maybe the weather was great; the dog obeyed all commands; you got a nice compliment from someone. And being grateful isn’t only for big or material things, celebrate the simple pleasures because these are what string together to make for a fulfilling life.

Image courtesy of Yongkiet at FreeDigitalPhotos.net


20160802_food passionI have a passion for food. Not in the “I live to eat” way – that sounds too much like gluttony. The reverse – “I eat to live” – sounds too boring, too sad. Food should be celebrated! Enjoyed! Appreciated! Gathering around a table with friends and family to eat, drink, and laugh – what is better? Serving lovingly prepared food – is anything more rewarding? Eating foods you never had as a kid or that are prepared in a very different manner – how interesting is that? Going to the farmers’ market and finding new-to-me produce and learning how to prepare it is a joy.  Going to the farmers’ market and finding tried-and-true produce and learning new ways to prepare it is a joy, too.

To be able to create delicious and satisfying, or disastrous, creations from a pile of ingredients is my most fun cooking, although not always repeatable! I often use recipes as inspiration, sometimes following them closely, sometimes deviating a bit. Sometimes the recipe is just a hint and my imagination takes off from there. And sometimes I just look at what I have on hand and create something entirely new. If it turns out great I may write it down for a second run but mostly I forget and never get it back the same way! Some of my inventions have not been worth writing down – I have to admit to some total *fails*. Once upon a time I would have been reluctant to wing it, but one day some of my siblings were at my house and while I thought I had nothing to feed them, my sister said “pshaw, you have all kinds of stuff here – let’s cook!” An hour later we had dinner!

I no longer self-proclaim to be a ‘foodie’. After reading several descriptions of the term I realize that is not me. With apologies to those who do claim this label, I was too fast to grab the title without looking into it. What is a foodie? Depends on who you ask, of course, and their interpretation of the word, but in general it describes someone who is very interested in food and unusual ways of preparing food. Wikipedia states “A foodie is a person who has an ardent or refined interest in food and alcoholic beverages. A foodie seeks new food experiences as a hobby rather than simply eating out of convenience or hunger.” The Urban Dictionary has some interesting takes on defining it – most are not complimentary!

The importance of food to me is more than my enjoyment in preparing and eating it. It is important to me that food available to us be real food, and clean food – not genetically engineered, not overdosed with pesticides, not from animals raised in horrid conditions, not overly processed. It is important to me that all people have access to real and clean food. It is important to me for people to know that food does not start in a grocery store, that people work hard to grow our food, pick it and pack it, ship it, and prepare it for our purchase.

What is not so important is the individual nutritional content of a food. The “shoulds” and “should nots” of fad diets are not important. The debates between raw and cooked foods, organic and non-organic, vegetarian and vegan are not important.

People, relax! Eat a variety of colors and textures. Consume foods that help you feel great and avoid those that don’t. Portion the amounts your body and lifestyle need to be your best. Enjoy your food! Be grateful for your food! Appreciate the people who bring your food! Develop a passion for food that reflects a healthy relationship with it! You will be surprised how well your body responds.

20160510_beautyWhat is beautiful? How does one define beauty? It’s very subjective, right? Whether talking about beautiful people, places, or events, it’s a very personal opinion. And, even the meaning of beauty/beautiful changes when describing tangible vs. non-tangible. By that I mean a ”beautiful” person or place is someone or thing we see and appreciate; a “beautiful ceremony”, while it may have been held in a lovely setting, usually means it was a moving experience. We know beauty when we see it! Yet what I find ‘beautiful’ may not strike you as such. The culture of our childhood colors our concept of beauty.  Our experiences in life may reinforce those concepts or may change them.

But in our American culture today, we are more and more often told our idea of beauty is wrong. The collective “They” who seem to decide standards of beauty, who sell us beauty – They want to keep that definition ever changing, ever shifting. Their true definition of beauty is – money. Money is the only beauty They see. Money for selling products or ads for products. Money for bonuses from successful selling. Money for convincing us that we are not beautiful without Their product/idea/program. Beauty is more fashion, more cosmetics and surgeries, more gym memberships, more gadgets, newer house and furnishings, newer car, and more ads for all those things.

The sad thing is – so many people believe Them. We think we are not beautiful, other people are not beautiful because we don’t fit the advertised definition of beauty, which is ever-changing. We’ve all read the stories of teenagers, even pre-teens, who take tragic steps because they feel ugly and therefore unlovable. Almost every image of ‘beautiful people’ is too perfect to be real, but kids don’t always recognize that. And how many of us, especially women, who are over 40 or 50 or 60 believe we are beautiful? Pick up any magazine and even the models who are ‘older’ are air-brushed and photoshopped to perfection that no real 60 year old has. Then They try to convince us our homes are not beautiful enough! House Beautiful magazine. Phoenix Home and Garden magazine. I don’t think I’ve ever read either one without a serious case of house envy!

Yet, one person’s palace is another’s idea of ostentatious. What I think is a beautiful car may be quite ugly to your eyes. The blond with perfect teeth, hair, and body is one’s person idol and another person’s image of bland. In certain African and Asian cultures neck rings are worn to give the appearance of an elongated neck, and I’m sure you’ve seen pictures of people who wear bone piercings in nose and ears. In these cultures those looks are considered beautiful.  My sister-in-law often posts pictures of “crones” – usually very elderly women, often in rural areas – and some are extremely beautiful, though not in the Madison Avenue sense. They have a beauty that comes from within, from living a long and maybe hard life but still living, from gathering wisdom. The point is – beauty is much more than physical appearance, and beauty has so many definitions and variables depending on culture and convention and personal opinion. Look beyond the physical and see the beauty within. Find the beautiful in everyone; sometimes it is hidden. See your beauty.

“People often say that “beauty is in the eye of the beholder”, and I say that the most liberating thing about beauty is realising that you are the beholder. This empowers us to find beauty in places where others have not dared to look, including inside ourselves.” Salma Hayek

 

Image courtesy of Aleksa D at FreeDigitalPhotos.net

smile‘Your attitude determines your altitude.’ This or one of its variations is usually seen on motivational posters or presentations in regards to employment, climbing the ladder, achieving financial success. Yet it certainly applies just as well to our personal lives, to how we perceive ourselves and our satisfaction with our life and its various aspects.

Have you ever read this poem: “Children Learn What They Live” by Dorothy Law Nolte, Ph.D.? In part it goes like this: “If children live with criticism, they learn to condemn. … If children live with tolerance, they learn patience.” (Nolte, 1972, lines 1, 9). The sentiments in this poem could certainly be re-worded to read ‘if you practice criticism you will learn to condemn; if you practice tolerance you will learn to be patient.’ In Ayurveda, too, we learn that our five senses are the gateways to perception, and that the sensory perceptions you take in you become. If we take in nourishing experiences that balance us and create a quality of well-being, we will be healthy. If we choose perceptions that will make us unhappy and lead to feeling toxic, we create an unhealthy body and mind. Our minds accept all the seeds we plant, and all the seeds we allow to be planted by forces outside of us, even if unintentional.

How you see people, events, yourself, and life’s problems is your attitude towards them. We can wallow in what we perceive as “bad” or “imperfect” about those things, thus building this negative perception into our personality. We can exercise this negative attitude, allowing it to stop us, hold us down, and keep us from having joy. And from having friends, as who wants to be around such constant harping?!

Or we can recognize and rejoice in the “good” about those things. I’m not talking about positive thinking here but actually examining aspects of our life and truly seeing the good. Not just believing good things will happen, but recognizing the good that already exists. (Good, bad – just adjectives, subjectively used to describe our perceptions.) This attitude – seeing the good – opens your heart, expands your mind to see infinite possibility, and frees you from the negativity that drains you and those around you.

Take a look at these areas of your life – your health, job, family relationships, spiritual life, finances, social life, education, and level of physical activity. Which do you perceive as “great” or “doing fine”? And which are areas of your life that may not be humming along quite as smoothly as you’d like? Celebrate and express gratitude for the former! And then examine the latter. Not everything in our lives will always be perfect or great; plus our own interpretation of what makes “great” may change from one era of our lives to the next. But really consider those not-so-great areas and ask yourself – is it only my attitude towards it that makes it seem so bad? Am I letting one factor that I perceive as negative outweigh what would be considered positive? Have I developed a habit of bad attitude? If you answer ‘yes’ to these questions, it’s time for an attitude adjustment. (Not the temporary, after work kind!) Let’s say it’s your financial situation that is troubling. To what degree? If you have lost your job, used all the unemployment benefits, maxed out credit cards – this situation is beyond attitude and I hope it can be rectified soon. But if you are able to pay your bills yet are discontent about your purchasing power or savings amount or income level, ask yourself why. Is it because you are a certain age and think or are told you should have more? Are you trying to keep up with the Joneses? Are you trying to outdo a competitive sibling or friend? Then examine this deeply and check if there is truly any validity in those beliefs for you. Does having more make you a better or happier person, really? Can you accept that your worth as a person, spouse, parent, friend is not based on numbers of dollars? Change your attitude about money and worth and you will find greater content in your life.

Does it take time and effort to examine and change your perceptions? Yes. But, “If you don’t make the time to work on creating the life you want, you’re eventually going to be forced to spend a LOT of time dealing with a life you don’t want.” (Kevin Ngo, Let’s Do This! 100 Powerful Messages to Help You Take Action) Improve your attitude and your satisfaction altitude will soar!