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.


Roasting, or How I learned to Love the Squash

One thing is for sure.  To be on this crazy diet you have to like your vegetables.  Scratch that, you have to love your vegetables.  And believe me, you get pretty sick of the standard veggies after you’re eating them three times a day, every day.

I’m lucky.  I like most vegetables.  I’m also lucky to live in Northern California where we probably have the best produce year-round in the US.  One of my favorite things to do on the weekends is go to my local farmer’s market and get the best produce around.  And for cheap!  This isn’t an inexpensive diet to be on, and being able to buy directly from the farmers makes a HUGE difference as far as cost.  I also like that I’m able to support my local farmers, ensuring that they are able to make a living and continue to provide good produce for the masses.  There are lots of other benefits to buying local.  Many local farmers (at least in Nor Cal) are organic, ensuring that we don’t get any added pesticides in our diet.  This is really important for anyone, but especially for those of us coping with compromised digestive systems.  Buying local also puts much less stress on the environment.

You can get just about anything at my local farmer’s market — olive oil, dried fruit, almond butter, flowers, chicken, rabbit, lamb, beef, honey, and my new favorite purchase, oysters.  Last Sunday I came back with a TON of food for about $20.  I bought:






purple broccoli

navel oranges



collard greens

3 squash – delicata, acorn, and something that looks like the delicata and the acorn had a baby

1/2 dozen raw oysters

I’m pretty comfortable cooking all these vegetables, with the exception of the beets and the squash.  You see, for all my “I’ll eat anything” there are two things I really don’t want to eat… squash and beets.  And no, I don’t really know why.  Other than they’re icky.

But squash fills you up, is kind of sweet, and nicely rounds out a meal.  I had to overcome the squash.

For the past week or so I’ve been doing the standard thing that I think my mom (was it my mom?  I don’t even remember anymore.) taught me ages ago – cut the squash in half, scoop out the innards, put in a baking dish skin side up with some water in the bottom, throw in the oven.  This was working for me.  It was basic, but good.  Really made a good breakfast, and an edible bowl for things like my Garam Masala scented pork and apples (recipe to come).  But you know what annoyed me?  There was all kinds of squash stuck to the rind that I couldn’t get to!

And then my mom taught me something else brilliant.  You can eat the rinds!  WHA??

So, here’s my tip for you.  Don’t ditch the rind.  Here’s what I did: Wash the outside of the squash (I used the delicata).  Cut in half lengthwise (this obviously wouldn’t matter for round squash), scoop out the innards, and slice into about 1/2 inch pieces.  Toss with olive oil, salt and pepper.  Roast.  I used a 350 degree oven for about 20 minutes.  Super, super delicious!  Nutty, savory, slightly sweet, and YUMMY!  My mom suggested doing this for the delicata, but according the Women’s Day magazine, you can do it for acorn as well.  I’m assuming it will work for the baby of these two also.

My life has changed forever.  I no longer fear the squash.

Next challenge… beets.  Wish me luck.

To learn more about eating local, check out my friend Amber’s blog Awake at the Whisk.

(There would be pictures, but my computer is not cooperating with me.  Maybe I can get them up tomorrow at work.)