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Robin D. Stone is a New York City based psychotherapist, coach and consultant who works to help you achieve your most optimal self. 

Posts tagged local food
Welcoming Spring with Seasonal Recipes
 

Hey Spring!

Come on in – we’re glad to see you!

It’s been awhile, we know, and with winter hanging around well past her welcome, you’ve had to elbow your way onto the stage. Keep pushing – she’ll drag herself out of here soon enough.

We’ve missed you and your promise of everything new and green, of the earth giving way as stalks and stems yawn and stretch their way to the sky.

We are also unearthing ourselves from layers upon layers of sweaters, coats, scarves, socks and hats. It’s good to feel the warmth of the sun upon our faces.
 

And since we’re trying to eat what’s local and in season, it’s also good to see seasonal veggies other than potatoes, squash and beets. We know that seasonal eating is about harvesting what’s grown nearby instead of what’s trucked (or shipped) in from around the globe, so it allows us to support local agriculture. We know that foods grown locally tend to be more affordable. And we know that we’re giving our body a rich and diverse diet because the food we eat changes through the year.


We know that seasonal eating puts us in sync with the earth’s natural rhythms and calendar. Before progress brought us superstores and any food at any time, we ate according to what was local and fresh (or we canned and froze foods when they were fresh). Many ancient healing traditions are grounded in seasonal eating to build health and strengthen emotional balance. 

So, Dear Spring, for the best in flavor and nutrition, we will look for foods in season right now, like arugula and asparagus and strawberries and cherries. We’ll focus on tender, leafy vegetables that represent all that’s vibrant and young. We will celebrate your arrival with asparagus and spinach dishes, and since winter still can’t take the hint, with a big warm hug. 

Tips: Store rinsed asparagus in a plastic bag in your fridge with the bottom wrapped in damp paper towel. Store spinach unwashed, also in a plastic bag.

 
6 Principles of Clean Eating
 

As millions of us toss gunk and junk from the recesses of our apartments and garages in that annual rite known as spring cleaning, consider doing the same for your body: Take advantage of the warmer weather to try clean eating.

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Clean eating is not washing your veggies five times before you peel. Nor is it eating “twigs and berries,” as my son once described some of my earlier, super ambitious dietary experiments.

Eating clean means eating food that’s as close to natural as it can be: unprocessed and without added flavors or excessive ingredients. Imagine grilled shrimp tossed with shallots, bell peppers, lime juice and chili powder; tender new potatoes roasted with olive oil, rosemary, salt and pepper; steamed spinach with garlic, lemon and pepper. Nothing boxed or bagged there. All fresh, all clean, amazingly flavorful and good for you.

Clean eating is not a diet; it’s a way of living. You don’t go “off” this lifestyle; you enjoy experimenting with fresh, whole foods, feeling energized and at your optimum from the premium “fuel” you feed your body.

I learned the concept of eating cleanly when I completed a 21-day nutritional cleanse a few years ago.  When I read the list of foods that were prohibited, I thought, what’s left to eat? But those were the days when I was still preparing boxed rice dishes with seasoning packets (i.e. loads of salt and other stuff you don’t need).

I had to wean myself from those packets, trying new spices and new ingredients. I started reading labels more closely, and came to appreciate simply prepared foods. Clean eating is not as stringent as a “cleanse;” you don’t eliminate foods but you do eliminate ingredients that lead you to feel sluggish, bloated and craving more food.

After only a few weeks of eating cleanly, your taste buds will be “reprogrammed:” Fruits will taste sweeter than before, so you’ll crave fewer sweet treats. A little salt will go much further as your tolerance for sodium drops. Your skin will be clearer, your hair shinier an nails stronger. Oh, and you will definitely lose weight.

To eat cleanly, you can’t just pick something up, or open a package and pour in a pan. With a little forethought, you shop for the week and cook meals to last two to three days. These days my son may say, “what’s this?” when he peers into a pot with a scrunched-up nose.  But then he digs in, with nary a mention of a twig or a berry.

6 Principles of Clean Eating

Eat whole foods – the fewer ingredients, the better. That means fruit and veggies, legumes and nuts are A-OK. For packaged foods, scan the ingredient list. Count the ingredients. Then name them. You’ll probably see many words you don’t recognize. Aim for foods with 5 ingredients or fewer. And if you can’t ID it, don’t eat it.

Cut the sugar and salt. Sugar is toxic. The average American consumes 23 teaspoons of the stuff a day, compared with the recommended daily allowance of just 6 for women, 9 for men. One soda has 8 teaspoons of sugar alone. Americans also eat more than 1,000 milligrams over the recommended allowance of sodium. Get your sugar fix from fruit and sweet vegetables, like carrots and yams. And cook your own meals. When dining out, ask for sauces and dressings on the side so you control how much you eat.

Drink more water and less alcohol. Water hydrates and helps maintain your balance of bodily fluids. Try swapping your soda for a glass of water, and drink a half-glass before a meal to help make you feel full and eat less. Alcohol, on the other hand, can make you dehydrated.

Eat healthy fats. Say yes to heart-healthy monounsaturated and polyunsaturated fats – from fish, nuts, seeds, olive, canola and coconut oils. Eat less saturated fats, which come from meat and dairy products. Run from trans fats.

Cut refined grains and wheat. Switch from white and wheat flour, bread and pasta to complex carbs from whole grains (grains that haven’t had their germ and endosperm removed by milling), such as corn (and yes, popcorn), brown rice, rye, amaranth, millet, quinoa. But steer clear of wheat: it’s known as an appetite stimulant that’s linked to inflammation, autoimmune and digestive disorders.

Eat mindfully. Eat when you’re hungry – not just because it’s mealtime. Eat slowly, and put your fork down between bites. Make a point to chew a certain number of times – aim for 20 – for each mouthful. Consider the aroma and the flavors and textures at play on your tongue. Stop eating when you’re full – well before you’re stuffed.

Clean eating is also about consuming with a conscience: consider the environment, focus on local products and products raised and produced humanely.

Ready to eat clean? Start with one clean meal a day, increasing the meals so that by day three or four you’re eating clean full time. Follow these principles for seven days, then if you can, go for 14, and once there, go for 21. Let me know how you do and what changes you see!

Happy Eating,

Robin

 
Do You Have Multiple Eating Personalities?
 

One client often ordered what her guy did when they dined out. Ribs and mac and cheese was a once-in-a-while treat, she reasoned. Plus, she’d vow to get right back on track.

Whenever another went “home” to visit relatives, she forgot all the newly adopted strategies that helped her eat cleaner, lose weight and feel better. Her pedometer went from 6000+ steps a day (three miles) to fewer than half. She wondered why she returned to her real home feeling heavy, sluggish and sad.

Not wanting to be the subject of colleagues’ constant commentary about her diet, a third client ate typical on-the-road fare whenever she was on the road for work. 

All three suffered from a similar syndrome: multiple eating personality. All three struggled to lose weight.

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The symptom is clear: like a chameleon, you conform to your environment, instead of making your environment conform to you. You morph into co-worker eater, sweetheart eater, or family-size eater, feasting on foods and portions that the new, improved you would you’d never touch. 

Could that be you? Consider the situations below. Then review the counter-intelligence to realize the power you have to control how well you eat and feel.

1. It’s easier to go with the crowd so you don’t have to explain or defend yourself.

Don’t let peer pressure get to you. Ignore comments from the folks who have something to say because your plate has mostly greens and fruit or just a palm-size of chicken (that’s really one serving). “That’s all you gonna eat?” Somebody will ask, and quite loudly too. “Yep,” is all you need to say – if you say anything at all.

2. You can eat like everybody else because you deserve a “treat” now and then.

Find other ways to “treat” yourself that have nothing to do with food. And change your perspective: don’t think about what you can’t eat, but what you can eat because it’s good for you. You’re more likely to stick to healthier eating habits when you feel it’s your choice. So powerfully choose to eat what’s good – and you’ll find it easier to avoid what’s not.

 3. You tell yourself “I’ll make up for it,” or “just once won’t hurt.”

Don’t sabotage your progress. If you haven’t had extra servings of anything in a month, don’t take a second – or third – helping just because that’s what relatives do.  Think before you eat: What does your body need? Note how that’s different from what do you crave or what just looks good. Keep up your exercise routine – invite your fam to come along.

Remember that you you take you wherever you go. So wherever you are, eat “cleanly” – whole, fresh, unprocessed foods with lots of water. Move consistently – cardio, flex, resistance. Cultivate these habits until you do them without a second thought.  The only way to get there is to remain consistent regardless of what changes around you.

If you become a chameleon, you veer off track of your eating and exercise goals. Then you have to start over and work your way back. That can lead to frustration and unhealthy yo-yo dieting and giving up. By forcing your environment to meet your needs, you stay on the path to your goals.

Recently I met a friend for breakfast at a soul food restaurant. After almost a year of eating wheat-free, I no longer have an appetite for pancakes or toast or even grits (made from corn, of course, but they often make me feel as stuffed and sluggish as when I eat bread). Instead of adapting to the environment – really, how can you have a soulful breakfast without grits? – I asked for o.j. and salmon cakes with a green salad and vinaigrette on the side. Yes, a salad at 10 a.m. My body doesn’t know that lettuce and tomatoes and cucumbers are off limits before noon – that’s all in my head. I ate heartily and left satisfied with the protein, fat and carbs I needed to start my day.
Losing weight for good is not easy or simple or quick. It’s a slow, steady process in which each step forward should make the next one easier. Those multiple eating personalities get in your way. Ditch them and you’ll reach – and keep – your goals.

Do you conform to your environment or take your healthy habits wherever you go?

 
Take 2 Doses of "Go Outside & Play"
 

'Language, for traditionally oral peoples, is not a specific human possession,
but is a property of the animate earth, in which we humans participate.'  
David Abram, Becoming Animal: An Earthly Cosmology

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On a bright, sunny Sunday, the crisper, cooler weather enticed my fiancé, Rodney, and me outside to play.

Last weekend we took to the trails at the Celery Farm nature preserve, a 107-acre freshwater wetland in Allendale, N.J. (he’s a New Jerseyan by way of Brooklyn, and the outing was his idea). We walked for an hour or so in the late summer sun, climbing observation towers and checking out the chipmunks and butterflies scurrying here and there, and the turtles, herons, and mallards hanging out on Lake Appert. We also took more than a few self-ies (or us-ies, depending on your perspective). And we stopped to listen

When was the last time you actually listened to a forest, or a meadow or a field? Listened to the trees shhh-shhhing? The crickets sceeting? The hawks cawing? The earth breathing? You have to be still to hear, and it’s worth being still because they have so much to say.

Yes, we boosted our vitamin D from time in the sun, we upped our heart rate by ambling over roots, twigs and stones; and we spent good time enjoying each other’s company.

We also connected with the universe. Being outside, surrounded by nature, makes me feel grateful to be alive, and humbled to be a small part of this never-ending cycle of birth, life, and death. It reminds me of how we humans are but bit players on this broad stage of species; in our absence the show definitely will go on. I appreciate my time here, my place in this space, and my fellow inhabitants, and I leave de-stressed, and with my head cleared of cobwebs of less important things.  

As a city girl, I don’t venture outdoors enough. My idea of getting out usually is a walk along the Hudson River and a jog around my Harlem neighborhood track. That’s good, but it's not exactly connecting with the universe.

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If doctors prescribed an escape to the park, to a trail, or even to a community garden, we’d all be better off for having stopped to listen and cultivate a closer, more meaningful relationship with nature, with the universe and with ourselves. Of the three, we humans stand to benefit most of all.

On our way back to his home, Rodney and I stopped at a farmer’s market to pick up ingredients for that night’s dinner (grilled chicken legs and thighs, summer corn saladGreek salad and garlicky guacamole). As we headed to my home in the city later that night, I wondered what the herons and mallards were saying, and looked forward to returning to hear them again. 

 
For Healthier Eating, Try Something New!
 

I’m studying health in a graduate program where we work on campus one week of the semester – “in residency” – and then the rest of the time from home. In mid-February, I was in residency at Goddard College’s bucolic campus in the heart of Vermont.

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Suffice it to say that they eat differently up there at Goddard, especially compared with my culinary experience in undergraduate school. No greasy pizza, no fried potatoes or piles of pasta, and thank goodness, no “mystery meat.”

Most dishes were smart, simple preparations of meats, whole grains, and whole, fresh vegetables.

My lunch one day was a tender miso-ginger infused baked cod with a shredded-carrot-topped kale salad. Dinner one night: curried tofu and chickpeas and carrots, a gorgeous green salad with beets and apple slices, and chunks of honeydew and cantaloupe mixed with cilantro and feta.

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I’d never tried curried tofu, nor a melon-feta salad. And while there were some standbys that I recognized (grilled chicken breast, roasted carrots), I took advantage of the variety and stepped out of my culinary comfort zone to try something different, like sauteed rainbow Swiss chard and roasted Brussels sprouts with my quinoa and chicken.

Each dish opened my eyes (and other senses too) and made me eager to taste new flavors and combinations of foods. And boy did I taste. I filled my plates and left each meal full and satisfied (topped off by decadent desserts). I had enough energy for late-night studying and early-morning workshops, and when I came home at the end of the week, my scale showed that this way of clean eating agreed with me.

Paul Somerset, the campus’s affable and colorful executive chef, said that being an adventurous eater was just as important as watching your calorie and fat intake. “Being adventurous is about eating what’s available – what’s local and what’s in season,” he said in an interview during my residency. And in the dead of winter, “what’s available now is a lot of root vegetables, like potatoes, sweet potatoes, carrots, parsnips, rutabagas, beets.

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“So the question is,” he continued, “how can I cook beets every single night and make it interesting?” One answer: a bright-red beet“hummus” made with lemon juice, olive oil and parsley.

Being adventurous is also about tweaking your favorite recipes to make them better for you, Chef Paul said, noting that just about everybody seems to be following a diet trend from vegetarian to raw to gluten-free.

“The good thing about that is that it has people asking about their food and connecting what they eat to their bodies. They’re asking, 'What is it? Where does it come from? How is it prepared? Do I enjoy it? Am I healthy?'”

Some of Chef Paul’s tips to mix up your menu: 

  • Try healthy substitutions in traditional recipes … like using coconut or almond oil in your collard greens. “It’s not fatback,” he said, “but it’s an oil that’s good for you.”
  • Go “gluten-light:” Instead of gluten-free bread, he suggested, “avoid bread altogether in favor of whole grains and rice.”
  • Balance it out: “Have a slab of ribs with your special barbecue sauce, but made with less sugar … and then go heavy on veggies the next day.”
  • Embracing new foods doesn’t always mean to give up or change up less-than-healthy favorites beyond recognition. Some dishes you can’t mess with, like fried macaroni and cheese. “If you’re gonna have it, then it’s gonna be the real deal – not light cheese or anything like that," he said, and quickly added: “But you can’t have that often. Only like once a year, because that shit will kill you.”

Chef Paul sent me home with a few of his great recipes. Try them and let me know what you think!