Trying too Hard

I was doing a seated twist in yoga the other night.  I’m really not good at these.  I like the laying down twists so much better – and not just because I’m laying down (although that’s a bonus) but because gravity does so much of the work for you.  This is helpful when you have not only a terribly inflexible spine, but also boobs that have a tendency to get in the way.  Anyway, I was pushing myself into the twist, trying to keep my left hip on the ground (really, this pose is so much harder than it looks) when I heard a little voice say:

“Stop. Trying. So. Hard.”

No, it wasn’t God.  And I don’t think it was my right kidney, although it was probably screaming something similar at this point.  It was that little part of me (ok BIG part of me) that is just tired.  Tired of me pushing so hard for everything ALL THE TIME.

I read all kinds of yoga blogs where the people writing them say how they learn all kinds things about themselves during yoga or because of yoga or whatever.  I never thought I’d be one of those people.  I love yoga, I love what it does for all of me, but I’m not one of those people who has revelations during yoga either.

I wouldn’t really call this a revelation.  My body was just tired.  I’m not one of those who goes crazy pushing myself in fitness, but I had been hitting the power yoga pretty hard lately.  And I was trying really hard to keep up with the people next to me who did inversions in between vinyasas.  (Nope, I didn’t get that far.)  I had to pull back, to let my body do the work.

I’ve been thinking about that ever since.  Stop trying so hard.  Where else do I push to hard in my life?  Right.  Everywhere.  I pretty much go all or nothing on most things I do.  Sometimes this makes me really good at things – like my diet right now.  It also makes me a hard worker, a dedicated student, and a good friend.  It also means that I burn out.  Fast.

I’ve dealt with a lot of burn out in my life.  When I was in my early twenties, after working one too many 60 hour work weeks, I quit my job and moved back to Sacramento.  I was burnt out.  I was so burnt out that before I quit, I got strep throat so badly that I was out for nearly 2 weeks.  Back then I didn’t believe that my health was a reflection of what was going on in inside.

Now I know that it’s true, and as I deal with a different layer of burn out – not necessarily job related (although that’s part of it) – but health and life related I think about this a lot.  Stop trying so hard, Carmen.  Your body knows what’s best.

Try this – it’s really good with pork chops.  And while you peel the layers of artichoke you can take your mind off trying so hard.  These are pretty hard to screw up.

Sauteed Baby Artichokes with Garlic

1 lb. of baby artichokes (the fresh kind from the farmer’s market)

1 garlic clove, thinly sliced

Pinch of red pepper flakes

1 swig of olive oil

1 swig of chicken stock

Lemon (optional)


Have you ever prepared baby artichokes?  They’re really easy.  Peel off the bottom couple of layers of leaves until you get to a light green color.  Trip the bottom a bit, and chop off the top 1/2 inch or so with a sharp knife.  Cut in half.  Put cut artichoke halves in a bowl with water and a bit of lemon juice or vinegar.  This sounds labor intensive but really goes pretty fast.

Heat up a heavy bottom frying pan and add a swig of olive oil.  When the oil heats up add the garlic and pepper flake, and fry until it starts to smell good.  Add the artichoke halves and try to get them all cut side down.  Let them hang out for about 5 minutes or so, stirring a few times.  Add a swig of chicken stock (or white wine), stir a few times, and put on a lid.  Let them steam for a few minutes.  They’re ready when you can poke the bottom easily with a knife.  Serve with a squeeze of lemon, if you want, or a really big glass of white wine.  Or both.


I judge you by what you eat

English: Paul Draper thieving wine from a barr...

In my quest to use the most random pictures ever, here is another. I just like it because this dude is so excited to drink wine. I understand, man! Image via Wikipedia

You’re probably all wondering where I’ve been.  I mean, here I was, counting down to this momentous event, and now it’s come and gone and you haven’t heard a word.  Blame it on the trials of modern technology — i.e. my slow computer and using an internet connection that is not my own and therefore I have no control over it.

I survived.  I had a few glasses of wine (Friday AND Saturday), had a rather wicked headache over the weekend (which could be from the alcohol or from me throwing my neck out, probably a bit of both) and am back at work.  I still feel pretty good (well, to be honest, I’m a little sleepy today, but that’s from not sleeping well due to screwy neck.)  Life is good.  I’ve had a few things that I couldn’t eat before (yes, I know, that isn’t how I’m supposed to be proceeding) and thoroughly enjoyed every bit of it.

I’ve also learned a few things and have a few pieces of advice to pass on to you if you should ever decide to embark on a similar experiment:

(1) Be very clear when you are eating somewhere else about what your limitations are.  People don’t judge you by your food choices as much as you think.  I had a lunch meeting yesterday and ordered a salad and the catering company decided that I could eat dairy and I ended up with a lot of cheese and blue cheese dressing.  I ate around it very carefully and would normally feel weird about it, but since they knew about my allergies it wasn’t an issue.  If you can’t eat gluten, say so.  If you can’t have dairy, tell them.  But keep in mind…

(2) Don’t make a big deal out of your food.  Seriously, this will be the only subject you will talk about, so try to minimize the annoyance factor and don’t FREAK OUT if something has a little dairy on it.  Remove it as best you can and don’t comment too much.  It’s very annoying to those around you, and potentially yourself.

But also…

(3) Everyone and their mother (especially their mother) is going to comment on your food.  Seriously.  Everyone wants to know what you’re eating and then when you tell them they’ll say “Oh!  That looks good!” in that tone that implies that they are shocked that something can be delicious and good for you at the same time.  This will happen all the time.  You will be very grateful for your quiet meals at home without commentary.

My favorite story about this was the other day at work.  I eat some weird stuff for breakfast (as you know) and was enjoying my meat and squash when one of my students came into my office.  She says whatever she’s thinking and it usually isn’t socially acceptable.  “What’s that SMELL?” is what she said, and when I replied that it was my breakfast she said, “That sure doesn’t smell like breakfast!”  Yes, you are right.  But I swear it’s just food.  (My boss thought this was hilarious.  It was probably what he’d been thinking for weeks.)

I’m usually rather food judgey – but that’s mostly because I love food porn.  Yes, I judge you a little by what you eat (sorry) but that’s only if you’re eating all fast food or something.  Mostly I’m jealous.  But it’s amazing to me how many people feel it’s appropriate to comment on what I’m eating.  And actually, I think it’s a little sad.  Does that mean that we’re so used to “convenience” food for lunch that a real meal is that surprising to us?

So I guess the moral of this story is that you need to expect others to judge you by what you eat but no more than what you usually judge them.  Or, you can just stay at home all the time and not eat anywhere in public and then you’ll not only avoid accidental gluten/dairy/soy/high fructose corn syrup poisoning but also other people all together.

Clearly I’m still working a few things out.

I made it!

Today is officially 30 days.

I have gone 30 days without a lot.  But I’ve got to tell you, these past 30 days have FLOWN by.  Really.  It seemed like it was the fastest month ever.

And I feel fantastic.  FAN-FREAKING-TASTIC!  There were two weeks in the middle there where I was really worried I was doing the wrong thing.  But I think it was my body expelling all the bad stuff and getting used to the good stuff.  Now I feel energetic, happy, ready to take on the world.  The other evening when I was driving home I actually thought about going for a walk — that I might even be able to run.  Run?  That hasn’t happened in a long time.  I did a rather sweaty power yoga workout at home instead.  It felt great.

I really like my new eating habits (I’m not saying “diet” knowing that usually means “this is the way I’m eating to lose weight”).  I know I bitched about it next week, and I will need a cheat day here and there, but for the most part eating this way really works for me.  Protein and veggies make my body run really, really well.

It’s been a good experience to take a step back and reconnect with my body.  To feel it from the inside out.  I know that sounds hokey, but really, try it.  Try right now to feel the inside of the your fingers, your toes.  How do they feel?

I didn’t think it was possible to do this before 30 days ago.  I knew I felt bad, that I was sick, but I didn’t really know what was happening to me.

I’ve had several friends tell me that they couldn’t ever so something like this for 30 days.  And if you’re thinking the same thing, I’m here to say the opposite.  Of course you can.  The only thing standing in your way is you.

I’m going to have a glass of wine tonight with a couple of friends.  I think it’s well deserved, don’t you?

Diets, rules, and other things that drive me crazy

Olive oil from Imperia in Liguria, Italy.

Image via Wikipedia

In my search for new and interesting things to eat, I am looking at more and more Paleo and Primal food blogs, posts on Pinterest, etc. to find ideas.  I’ve learned about GAPS and there was another one but I don’t remember the name.

I’m having a flashback to 7 years ago or so when my mom and I went low-carb.  Yes, I’m going to say it.  This all sounds remarkably like Atkins.

Now, before you Paleo people get all primal on me, hear me out.  Your diet consists largely of non-starchy veggies, meat, and fat.  I just pinned a sandwich that was guacamole between two pieces of bacon for Pete’s sake.  (And if you’re wondering, yes, I will make it, and yes, I will report back.)

Last night I spent at least two hours reading about how to go primal and paleo and GAPS, etc.  It kind of made my head hurt.  There are just so many RULES.  For those of you who know me well you know that the thing I hate most in this world (other than pigeons) are rules.  Not laws or things like that, but someone saying “you can eat this, you can eat that” etc.  This is probably why it took me at least a year to finally come to terms with the fact that gluten makes me sick.  This is why any old diet will not work for me.  I march to the beat of my own drummer.  Or my own fork.

I decided today that I will continue to read the food blogs because they have really great ideas.  But the “how to start eating Paleo” links are going to stop.  After a week of thinking about it, I’m not convinced I need to go strictly Paleo.  I might cry if I never see sushi or pasta (even if it’s made with rice pasta) again.  I can be done with the corn, but rice?  Please, please let me keep my rice, even if its only once in awhile.  And every once in a while, I think I should be able to eat a piece of chocolate, damn it.  And you want to know why?  Because it’s really f&*%$ing good with red wine.  And a good bourbon.  (Yes, yes, I know, GLUTEN.)

Because the truth of it is that I love food.  All kinds of foods.  And I think there are ways to incorporate lots of different foods without labeling anything as “bad”.  Do I operate better on a high protein/low carb/no processed food diet?  Of course, and I will continue to eat that way 99% of the time.  But I’m not going to let someone label me based on what I eat.  And I’m sure as hell not going to be one of those people who annoy servers at restaurants.  I’m bad enough with my no gluten/dairy issues.

And you want to know what else?  I’m freaking cooking with my olive oil.  I’m Italian. My grandmother will roll over in her grave if she ever heard that I wouldn’t cook with olive oil.

I’m going to go eat a kiwi fruit now and pretend that it’s a piece of dark chocolate.  Maybe chocolate will be my second thing added back in my diet before eggs (in case you were wondering, wine is first.)