Archive for Nutrition

Hippie Dust: How We Fell In Love

Throw some hippie dust on that!

And so, with that direction bellowed over an enormous bowl of popcorn one fateful evening about 12 years ago, began my love affair with nutritional yeast. Actually, the love began as many affairs do, in a state of acrimony and denial with undercurrent of a tug pulling me toward something inexplicable. My first taste resulted in a somewhat crumply face of disgust as compared to a popcorn bowl full of delicious melted butter and salt with fresh ground pepper. But something about the nuttiness of the unexpected yeast pulled me back. And in no time at all, I was all in.

Nutritional yeast has an enormous benefit to many people over its cousins brewer’s yeast and baker’s yeast. This yeast, grown mostly on beet sugar is an inactive yeast which means it can be incorporated into a nutritional arsenal of a system that is often challenged by other active yeasts. (Of course, ask your doctor or nutritionist their view on this for your health.) Hippie dust is a dynamo of benefits packed into a magic flourish over foods for a nutty, almost cheesy, flavor. Look here:

1. Vitamin B-12- This is a crucial nutrient for the body involved in the production of red blood cells and for producing and maintaining myelin, the protective insulation around your nerves. Most sources of Vitamin B-12 are animal based, so nutritional yeast is a major player in the nutritional well being of vegans and vegetarians. One tablespoon will provide an adult with a full day’s supply of B-12, if you can keep the tastiness to that!

2. Protein- 2 tablespoons of hippie dust contains 9 grams of protein. That’s more than in 1 cup of whole milk (8g), a large egg (6g), or one oz. of beef (7g). It’s a wonderful source of energy for your workout mornings.

3. Fiber- Fiber is one of my personal favorites in terms of gut health and functional digestion. It also helps our systems regulate blood sugar giving us a more sustainable even store of energy throughout our days and at higher levels. Nutritional yeast provides 3 grams of fiber per tiny serving.

4. Gluten Free- Not only a boon for the Vegans out there, but this treat is also gluten free providing all of this power with an anti-inflammatory ease.

5. Folic acid- Nutritional yeast is also a great source of folic acid. Especially important for women out there trying to get pregnant or carrying future citizens of the planet, folic acid is known to prevent spina bifida and other major birth defects. For those not planning to get pregnant, folic acid is still important for its role in cell maintenance and production.

Here’s one of the easiest recipes in the world and it’ll wow your dinner guests as well.

1 head cauliflower
1T olive oil
1t black sesame seeds
1/4c nutritional yeast
Sea Salt and black pepper to taste

Preheat your oven to 350. Take all the ingredients and drop them in a mixing bowl. Toss it with your hands until all is coated. Spread on a cooking sheet with parchment paper or foil and cook for about 20-25 minutes. Cauliflower should be a golden light brown. THAT’S IT!

*Originally, I wrote this article for a wellness site here on the web that I’ve decided not to write for anymore. As it has grown to a pretty impressive size, the site continues to insist on not paying its writers for their work. (COMMON PRACTICE) Not even a dollar. Not with coupons or anything, just “Since we do not compensate contributors for posts, we’re more than happy to include a byline and your brief bio containing links to your website, Facebook, Twitter accounts, which we will promote when your post goes live.” I suppose I got lulled into this belief that I had to continue, after many years as a professional writer, to work for free to promote someone else’s content. In the agreement I found myself also letting my voice be compromised, which is actually my favorite part of writing. When I inquired to the editors about when they planned compensation, fiscal or otherwise, for the writers that wholly drive their content, I got no reply at all.  So I decided to simply write here on my own site and accept that I may stay small, but whatever. At least I’ll stay true. 
This text has been edited from its original form to be reprinted here.

Old School Potato Leek Soup

One of the things I love about winter is the angle of the light. It’s not good for driving and it flees from the low perch too quickly each day, but the way it hitches sideways, a smirking dandy with a walking cane. Handsome, and a little bit lazy. I grew up on the east coast before we were melting the ice caps so rapidly and my life revolved in four real seasons. Year in and year out. Roughly every three months, something changed, and with winter, along with the light, I loved the frost.

Weirdly, here in San Francisco, there’s been frost on the ground every morning for a week straight. That’s more mornings than the rest of the 14 years I’ve lived here all together. In addition to providing shiny surfaces for a sunrise to ping around on, it makes a lady want stews and soups. And this old soup is one of my very favorites. I had a few potatoes and leeks left over from Hanukkah and whipped this up in no time.

The first thing I did was pull all the ends of squashes and celery and onions and garlic out from the freezer and make a vegetable broth. This one was sweet from the squash and so my soup turned out extra comforting.

For the broth, I keep a ziplock bag of all the ends of my vegetables to go in as I cook during the week: ends of scallions, squash hats, onion skins, broccoli stalks, cauliflower cores, kale spines… all of it. By the weekend the bag is full and I add 8 cups of water and bring it all to a boil then reduce and simmer for 30-60 minutes. Voila. Broth.

4-6 leeks, sliced
1 small onion, diced
2 yellow potatoes
1t celery salt
1t fresh ground black pepper
2T olive oil
6c vegetable broth or water
2T half and half (optional)
cilantro or parsley to garnish

I like to prep everything before I start. I slice the leeks into coin and soak them in a bowl to get the grit and dirt out.  I peel my potatoes (I used yukon golds here, but I actually think the humble russet works better in this soup. It comes apart easier.) and slice them into quarters, then into 1/4 inch discs. The onion gets taken care of.

In a heavy bottomed pot I throw in the olive oil, and heat it up. Then go the leeks and the onions for about 5-7 minutes, until soft. Then I put in the potatoes, the salt and the pepper. I like mine to have kick. when everything is good and soft, add your broth or water. Bring it to a boil, then reduce and let cook for an hour. You can mash up your potatoes or let them fall apart. I like to leave some hearty chunks in mine. If you like, near the end of cooking stir in the half and half. Then you’re ready for your warm soup!!

Some options: do it with sweet potatoes. Swap the half and half for a hunk of coconut butter to keep it vegan. Take out the onion and use extra leeks. Add garlic. Add a dried chipotle pepper for a smokey taste. You could use a turnip too if you like.

My Article on Quitting Sugar from MindBodyGreen

Quitting Sugar is a tough fight, but it’s worth it.

Sugar is taking a public beating this week, as the internet is crammed with articles on why to avoid it, including Michael Moss’s fascinating NYT Magazine piece on processed foods as well as yesterday’s NYT column column by beloved chef Mark Bittman.

Bittman’s article explores findings from a study that links sugar consumption, not obesity, to diabetes. According to the piece, “researchers found that increased sugar in a population’s food supply was linked to higher diabetes rates independent of rates of obesity. In other words, according to this study, obesity doesn’t cause diabetes: sugar does.”

Going beyond the link, Mr. Bittman finally says from the center of chefdom what health coaches and researchers like Dr. Robert Lustig have been saying for years:

Sugar is toxic.

Which is the best reason to quit sugar.

One of the forty million times I quit eating refined sugar (and hopefully the last), I had the magnificent idea to start a journal and track not just my food, but my THOUGHTS about food. How much of my intellectual life was being held hostage by food obsession? And how much of that chokehold was related to sugar? And finally, what might be available to me mentally if all that room was suddenly liberated for me to use in a less exhausting manner than the vicious mistress of obsessive thinking?

I also decided to do a little research about my sweet tooth and see why I felt so helpless in the glitter of its outstretched fingernails. I found this lecture that Dr. Lustig gave a lecture called Sugar: The Bitter Truth in which he shows us that sugar actually stimulates the exact same region of the brain that cocaine goes to work on. I like to call it the Euphoria Lounge. Who doesn’t want to be transported from feelings of suffering, boredom, fear, or betrayal simply by adding a substance to our systems? It is so much easier than talking it out, going for a run, being present in pain or accepting responsibility for things that are causing us harm. NO WONDER I LOVE SUGAR!!

But my journal revealed that the effects of sugar didn’t end simply with the stimulation. Without indulging in the initial impulse, I was able to keep my brain off the endless hamster wheel of desire and denial. “I want this but that’s bad so I can’t.” and then on an even worse day, “I want this so I WILL and now I AM BAD.” Then the sugar appears and the blood sugar Olympics begin their relentless training: the high, the crash, the craving, and mental gymnastics to deny the desire and so forth. And the whole time the mind is engaged in this cycle actively, countless hours are robbed from our waking lives.

So how do we get off the ride? Here are some basic tools for support in quitting sugar, serving the health of your body, and freeing your mind from obsession so you can go about the fantastic business of living.

1. SOUR: Just like on a color wheel where hues opposite from each other cancel each other out, so too is the landscape of our tongues. Having a sugar craving? Grab a pickle. The sour taste will physiologically kill the impulse long enough for you to make a different choice for yourself and mindfully return to the life you are in the middle of living.

2. SUPPORT: Grab a friend or a posse and do it together. The first few days and even two weeks can be so intense when we try and let go of a crutch that no longer serves our health. It’s ok to ask for help and having a friend engaged in a common goal serves to strengthen the entire team. I see this over and over in my group cleanses, how the power of community creates a momentum for everyone.

3. CHANGE OF SCENERY: When the impulse feels at full banshee-monster-head-banging massive, make a physical move. Walk around the block. Take yourself up and down the stairs at the office. Go swimming. Take the dog out. Move from one room of the house to another. Call up your sugar-free pal and talk it out. Remember the craving will pass. Everything does.

4. ADD MORE PLEASURE: Congratulate yourself each day by furnishing yourself with a pleasure. Giving up sugar is not about living in denial, it is about a new perspective of pleasure. Run yourself a gorgeous bath with essential oils and bath salts for added detoxification, aromatherapy, and muscular relaxation. Bring yourself flowers. Treat yourself to a mani/pedi or give one to yourself. Masturbate. Let’s face it, no one is ever mad about an orgasm.

When I was finally able to let go of sugar, I realized through my journal how much of my mental space had been taken up not just by the sugar craving and acrobatics around that, but by just food obsession in general. My mind is now so much freer to be creative, to be curious and alive. My focus is more clear and my relationships with people are deeper, more authentic and loving. I don’t sit with my friend over tea and wonder how long until I get to eat. I sit with my friend over tea and I think about how nice it is to have time to catch up with such a hilarious woman, and how lucky I am to know her.

Fresh Garden Herb Salad

I am always tricked into thinking that if I don’t have lettuce, I don’t have ingredients for a salad. And no one is trying to trick me, it’s just how I grew up.

Salads. Are. Anchored. In. Lettuce.

Unless they are pasta salads in which case vegetables are only tiny studs on long stretches of starch, and that is not the kind of salad I am talking about.

I happen to be well-endowed in salad possibilities on several fronts. Not to brag. But first of all, I live in California so the climate makes all kinds of produce pretty beautiful and local all year round. Secondly, I fell in love with a dashing Southern butch with many charms, not the least of which is that she’s been a produce worker at the incredible Rainbow Grocery Cooperative for 17 years. Not only is she handsome and handy, She can really hold down a job. PLUS, she knows her vegetables. Which brings me to my third salad bonus which is that Ginger made us a garden in the back yard. So today when I thought that I wanted a salad and I didn’t have anything to make a salad with, I realized that was a thought lodged in my mind from 1982. Greens are much so more than just a three-pack of romaine hearts.

Here we have our rapini, mint, bergamot, oregano, a coupla beet greens and arugula from the garden. I added in some basil and cilantro I had in the refrigerator, plus three purple radishes and a half a red bell pepper. And look:

A big winter salad without a lettuce in sight. I dressed it with a mustard and balsamic vinaigrette and had quite a tasty experience with it. The greens hit so many more notes in a salad like this with bitter and astringent as well as sweet and rich. When a dish hits that many places on your tongue, you can be sure it is packed with that many different micronutrients as well. Here’s a little sampling:

Arugula: It has anti-bacterial and anti-viral properties as well as a great source of Vitamins A, C, and K. Plus it makes a good go at copper and iron.
Basil:Contains essential oils that are proven to be both anti-bacterial and anti-inflammatory. It’s packed with a stunningly high amount of Vitamin A, is an excellent source of iron, and contains a specific flavonoid, zea-xanthin, that helps protect eyesight in elders.
Beet Greens:A fantastic delivery of carotenoids, anti-oxidants, and vitamin A arrive with your beet greens. Vitamin A aids in maintaining healthy mucus membranes is a huge player in healthy vision.
Bergamot and Mint: Help with neusea, gas and hiccups by relaxing stomach muscles.
Cilantro: One of natures richest sources of Vitamin K. This unsung hero builds bone mass by promoting osteotrophic activity in the bones. In addition, this vitamin has been worked into the protocol of the treatment of Alzheimer’s disease.
Oregano: Anti bacteria, anti-fungal, rich in fiber, smells great, and improves gut health through its enzymatic facilitation in our systems. Basically awesome.
Rapini: Huge help in the gut health department delivering a phytochemical known as I3C. This kills the Candida yeast that often overgrows when we ingest antibiotics. It’s also anti-inflammatory for our systems plus it’s sulphur content aids our heroic livers in the detoxification process.

You could also flash saute this mix of greens and serve it with all manner of lovely legumes or grains.

Moving Out of the Sugar Shack: An Online Group Coaching Series

Time to Move Out

Maybe it’s all the news you hear about how terrbile refined sugar is for your body. Maybe it’s the way Type II Diabetes keeps cropping up all over your family tree, and beside you with friends and co-workers. Or maybe it’s the annoyance of being such a slave to sugar, unable to say no even when you truly want to. Whatever the reason you come to this series, you’ll find the information you need to make changes, you’ll get support, use your inherent creativity, have fun, and build community.

This course will happen on your own time with a group that meets online all day, every day, for the duration of our studies. You can literally come to the group at any time to write what you need or share a discovery with the group. This frees all of us up to have our own schedules and make these meanigful changes in our lives as they happen. You’ll also have a coaching call with me every other week, one on one, to support you through this work. In this way, support can also be customized to your needs.

Each week we’ll tackle a different topic or angle about the Great White Beast. You’ll get handouts, recipes, and documents to keep for continued support long after the class is over. Together we will do exercises, make recipes, deconstruct cravings, keep journals, and get our bodies moving as we look at our attachment to sugar.

If giving up sugar has been a longtime goal of yours, this course is just the thing to help you.

You can register here and join me on this delightful cruise into the next chapter of your life.

What’s so great about a bean, anyhow? Plus, a recipe.

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Just because the little bite sized superheroes might leave a bit of a scented side-effect doesn’t mean a person should throw these babies out with the bathwater. Of course, to throw out the COOKING water will cut down vastly on the old gas. You lose a bit of minerals that way, but it will help you out at the beginning stages of romance. Another trick to cutting down on the farts is to cut off a 2 square inch hunk of kombu seaweed and cook it with the beans. Now, if I’m making beans as the main course and not cooking them off as an ingredient in a stew, I really like to save the pot liquor, so I go with the kombu. I think the liquid has a ton of flavor and I often cook my beans with a bunch of goods in the broth itself. Some people also swear by the herb Epazote as a cooking enzyme aid.

But let’s get past the farting, shall we?

In general, the darker the bean, the more antioxidants the suckers have to guard your cells against attack. Black beans, adzuki, Anasazi, kidney beans, and red beans all do a great job as warriors of this order. Beans are also a great source of fiber, which keeps everything moving in our digestive systems. Keeping up with digestive health impacts the entire body from mood to energy level. Beans prevent constipation, keep the path clear for a steady production of Serotonin in the gut, and improve the steadiness of blood sugar levels (especially important for those suffering from diabetes). A diet rich in fiber also lowers the levels of bad cholesterol in the system (LDL). This keeps our hearts safer as we age, cutting down on the fat gathering in our vessels and making it easier for us to maintain a health blood pressure for delivering nutrients throughout our bodies.

And that’s not all: Beans contain chemicals called isoflavones that have been rumored to reduce the risk of heart disease, ease the myriad symptoms of menopause and improve the strength of your bones.

PLUS, beans are a powerhouse source of vegetarian protein. Sometimes you’ll hear someone scoff at a bean, bad mouthing it for being an incomplete protein, but that’s where ancient food wisdom comes in. Beans have been served with rice in so many cultures FOREVER: bowls of rice with adzuki beans all over Asia, basmati and mung beans, red beans and rice in South America and on and on. We humans have done a pretty good job historically of being able to hear what our bodies have wanted. Then industrial chemicals came along and kind blew static into the conversation. When we made choices to combine different beans and rices over the years, what we did scientifically was to join two different proteins to create a perfect one. The essential amino acids that either dish lacks alone, come together as a perfect team.

From Flickr user monkeycat62

I do my best to always use dried beans. I am somewhat obsessed with Rancho Gordo beans in particular. Not so much because I’m an irritating foodie, although I certainly have my moments, but more out of urges stemming from my Libra rising. Easily swayed and emotionally moved by physical beauty, this ends up working out way better for me in the kitchen than it ever did in the world of dating. The Heirloom beans from this outfit are such a gorgeous array of colors and shapes, it’s easy to see how artists were drawn make portraits from them. Anyhow, I either soak them overnight rendering a quicker cooking time, or if I have all day I actually love to do a long slow cook to infuse them with flavor. Canned beans tend to fall apart and also they, well, come in cans generally lined with toxic BPA. Eden brand organics DO NOT use that lining so I do keep a couple cans of that on hand for quick situations.

So, how about a nice recipe? You can mess with it until the Super Bowl and perfect your own version to do a healthy dazzle for your guests.

Spicy 3 Bean Stew

1c kidney beans                                                    1 large yellow onion
1c pinto beans                                                      1 sweet potato
1c giant lima beans                                               1 green bell pepper, diced
1 red bell pepper, diced                                         ½ t cinnamon
2T olive oil                                                          4 cloves garlic
2 carrots, diced                                                    1t ground chipotle
1T ground cumin                                                   1T dried oregano
2 in hunk of kombu                                               handful fresh cilantro
5c vegetable broth                                                salt to taste
1t chile powder (New Mexico if you can find it)          1 splash cider vinegar
2 lbs self-canned tomatoes from this summer OR 20 oz + 14oz Eden brand cans stewed tomatoes (BPA free cans)

Rinse and soak all your beans the night before. Start your beans cooking in water with the kombu about an hour before everything else in the pot happens. Skim any foam from the top.

Meanwhile, get a heavy bottomed pot, and sauté your chopped onion and garlic until soft. Add your bell pepper, carrots and all your spices and let everything cook for about ten or fifteen minutes. Add your cider vinegar to soften and stew it all. Add in your tomatoes, your cubed sweet potato. Strain your beans and dump in to the veggies with your vegetable stock. Cook everything in the pot, covered for about another hour and taste as you go. Salt to taste as you go. If the stew is too spicy or too thick, go ahead and add in more vegetable broth.

Top with diced fresh cilantro and enjoy. Other toppings: shredded cheese, a dollop of crème fraiche, apple chutney, sour cream, diced scallions, arugula pesto.

 

The World’s Best (and EASIEST) Squash and Cauliflower

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With even less light these days, it can feel like we have even less time. Dark when we wake up, dark when we’re done with work, and often, dark gothic hearts. It makes sense. The change around us from Summer to Fall is a pretty intense one. The physical world we live makes enormous shifts, the weather changes (in this case more drastically and heartbreaking than we’ve ever experienced), and it seems like pretty much everyone around us gets a cold or the flu. This especially sucks for my pals who are parents. The kids get sick. The parents get sick and by the time the whole house is better, it can be time for another mutated bug to make its way back to the doorstep.

I thought now would be a great time to pass on two recipes that are incredibly easy, warming foods for the season and nutritionally fortifying for our bodies. Their easy prep gives you plenty of time to unwind and enjoy them. Plus: they’re both super easy on the old wallet. Win, Win, WIN.

Robust Roasted Cauliflower

This is one of my very favorite recipes. My friend Christa taught it to me, I modified it, and proceeded to eat it every day for like two weeks. You can use the very same method with good result for broccoli, but the cauliflower is special.

It’s difficult to believe how delicious this is. Plus in the nutrition corner, cauliflower is packed with phytonutrients which are, easily stated, substances plants produce to protect themselves. Organic varieties of vegetables are higher in phytonutrients than commercial ones because they have to defend themselves harder against the elements inorder to thrive. The more a plant is forced to protects itself, the healthier and more robust it is sharing its nutrients with us and helping us to them fortify our own systems of protection. These things basically build protection of our cells, defending our systems against all manner of difficult foes: from heat to virus and they buoy healthy gene expression. In addition, cauliflower is an abundant course of source of vitamin C, an antioxidant helps fight against free radicals, boosts immunity and prevents from infections and cancers. It’s also rich in B vitamins to aid in protein and carbohydrate metabolism PLUS it’s a great source of a whole slew of nutrients such as manganese, copper, iron, calcium and potassium.

Plus nutritional yeast, in our house known as hippie dust, packs a punch as well. Its a GREAT source of Vitamin B12 which is especially important for vegans and vegetarians, delivers fiber to the system, as well as offering protein.

How should you cook the damn thing? I’m glad you asked.

1 head cauliflower
1T olive oil
1t black sesame seeds
1/4c nutritional yeast

Preheat your oven to 350. Take all the ingredients and drop them in a mixing bowl. Toss it with your hands until all is coated. Spread on a cooking sheet with parchment paper or foil and cook for about 20-25 minutes. Cauliflower should be a golden light brown. THAT’S IT!

 

Warming Fall Squash

You’ll find me cooking kabocha squash in the photos, but you can use this method and flavor profile for any of the incredible varieties available right now: butternut, acorn, pumpkin, delicata and the list goes on. Squash is perfect for the fall and supports healthy lung function. In fact anything orange does. That orange flash is a sign of beta-ceratene, an antioxidant that supports lung function. (More orange foods to eat in the fall, warding off your susceptibility to colds and flu: carrots, magoes, melons, and sweet potatoes) I’ve added a warming spice mix that also serve to relax the digestive process and help the fiber work more easily in your system.

1 squash (any variety)
1T olive oil
1 anise star
1t black peppercorns
1t white Peppercorns
1t dried lavendar
5 allspice pods
2 cardamom pods
1t coriander pods
1t ground cinnamon

*There will be spice mix left over for you to use in other recipes as you wish

Preheat oven to 350. Slice your squash in half and remove seeds. (You can toast these and eat them later) Massage each half with olive oil. Put all the whole spices in a spice grinder or mortar and pestle and grind. Add in your cinnamon. Cut squash into wedges and sprinkle the spice mix onto them. Place in the over for 30-35 minutes or until the flesh is browned and the squash is soft. (Alternatively you can sprinkle the spice mix on each half, turn the squash split side down onto a foiled sheet and bake until the skin gives when you poke it with your finger) Voila.

Sugar Detox: The Wonderful, The Ecstatic, and the SUPER UGLY, plus bonus popsicles.

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I’ve quit doing a lot of things in my life. Smoking took a few times. Like 6. Each time I picked up, I chose a new brand, the last one being hand-rolled numbers that smelled sweet and earthy twirling into a column between my thumb and two fingers. I’m hoping this last effort from a few years back will do it for good. I quit smoking weed, I dunno when that happend, it just went away. I quit coffee a few times, have it only on the rare road trip because something about crappy road coffee with radioactive French Vanilla creamer still appeals to me. Also

Love/Hate

Dunkin’ Donuts coffee whenever in Boston is a must, also French Vanilla. (I don’t want you to get the idea I don’t know anything about coffee, although it’s ok if your impression is that, like summer vacation, I have no class. But I do take my decaf cravings to irritatingly divine local micro roasteries.) I gave up crystal meth and dreamed about it for weeks, making nights long and not so restful. Also falling by the wayside came pretty much the rest of the DEA Schedule II drugs, watching America’s Next Top Model, apathy, dating assholes, and you guess it, refined sugars. And guess which one was the worst?

This stuff makes me INSANE

Correct.

The gosh dang SUGAR.  More difficult than giving up the dashing butch rogues even. Why bother? It made me so crazy. I would watch myself polish off a whole pound of gummi bears, eating even after my tongue started to fritz out. I’d plow through chocolate forgetting entirely to enjoy it, and pastries would find their way to oblivion in my hands, only at the last few bites, me realizing I hadn’t any recollection of the beginning, sometimes leading me to try again with another. I’d miss conversations with people trying to discern if I was looking casual while angling to get enough pie, then worry that everyone noticed how weirdly I ate the entire shared dessert. Plus the kicker was I had no FREEDOM in the matter.

Everybody loves Tim Riggins.

Now, I am a lady who believes wholly in choice. I am a feminist who believes we women can have health at any size and when we have peace, our bodies will respond by asking for what they need and reside in healthy places if we give them that. But in the throws of sugar, I had no choice. I was simply a disembodied hand reaching for themed sheet cakes from Safeway. It started to really piss me off that not only did I feel unhappy in the feminist body I was dragging my great life around in, but also that I had to reckon with the fact that after I had dumped all these chemicals, I still had this one completely controlling me. I was kind of sugar’s little plaything. And so little by little, I tried to get out from under it. The short of it is, it took a few tries.

5 days worth of this.

It felt like shit. Sugar detox is no joke: scorching headaches, bouts of total rage, entire acres of real estate in the mind occupied by what feels like a prison of No Fun for the rest of time. Aches, creaks, lethargy came round calling, the likes of which I had not experienced since the crystal meth left my system, plus just good old fashioned self-pity.

And then there’s the after: about five days later, my brain began to clear. Then it actually kept clearing. My focus got sharper and sharper. My energy went nuts, like I was high but with no tweaker feelings at all. I just woke into the world, clear and energized, ready to do my thing. My insane cravings for sugar waned and oddly, so did my cravings for other things: chips and pizza and cheeseburgers. It isn’t that I never got them, it’s that they registered as clues rather than commands. Cheeseburger daydreams, which I’ve been having constantly during the first 5 days of this cleanse, translate to protein. When I get enough, the craving vanishes. I get to have choices about the protein I take. Chips usually mean I want crunchy things. This also, for me, indicates I’m stressed out, irritated, or annoyed. So it also indicates a trip to the gym or a run is in order. In the mean time I can crunch on carrots or bell peppers or the best crackers ever, Sami’s (gluten free) millet and flax chips. Pizza means I have good taste. WHO THE HELL DOESN’T WANT PIZZA!?!? And for the most part, I rarely eat the iconic things that come up if they are going to impact my well being. And if I do choose to have them, it’s not because I am caving in. I get really good stuff, eat it slowly, savor it, ENJOY MY LIFE, and the gifts that taste and texture have to offer. The 15 pounds I dropped when I quit sugar helped as well. It was nice for my wallet because I didn’t have to shop for new clothes. I felt more comfortable moving in the world, and I finally got some idea of the weight my body felt the best at. It had been years since I had any clue, if ever.

The other thing that happened is I got more creative with food. I began cooking more, reading labels and understanding the way my body felt in reaction to things. Agave came around as the world’s next answer to living without the all powerful sweetness of life, but that also made me feel cracked out. Turns out it’s processed much like corn syrup so that makes sense. But brown rice syrup tasted great and I felt fine eating it. Small treats of maple syrup and honey also work for me. Whole fruit is my favorite. And like I said earlier, lately I’ve been obsessed with popsicles. All the ones I make are sugar-free and pretty delightful. These ones have quite a kick:

Put about 3/4 c of pineapple hunks, an 8oz. container of raw coconut water, a knuckle of ginger and 1/2 a cucumber in the blender. Whirl it around and then freeze your pops. Makes 5. And each has 25 calories. If you care about that kind of thing.

Cherry Cilantro Sunflower Dressing

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Did I mention I am on a cleanse right now? Well, I am. Not only am I on the cleanse, I am leading the cleanse with 16 hilarious, devoted, disgruntled, creative and real people. Among our symptoms in the first 3 days are “screaming headaches”, stupifying fatigue (that’s my main one), intense cravings, crazy dreams and bouts of pointed rage. No one really feels too great yet. The first few days of a cleanse are kind of a shitshow. It’s like life, really: get through the shitshow to center stage, until inevitably, the tides turn again and then you gather your resources and sally forth.

The point is to give our bodies a break, let them reboot and do the real work of moving out all the toxins and stagnation to let new energy in. Once we spend a few short weeks slowing down, refocusing, and making choices based on what we’ve learned, our bottoming out doesn’t have to be as low after that. We being to crave healthy foods and activities. We have really great skin. We have way more energy. And we’re funnier. As if you thought that was even possible. Win/win/win.

As part of my intention setting, I’m in the process of kickstarting my novel again in preparation for some shows to promote the new Sister Spit Anthology, and also because I am going to finish the damn thing and publish it. The task of crawling back into the book is an emotional one, seeing what I left behind to languish and how coming back to it is also a reckoning with coming back to myself of that time. So here we are, and here we go. The Cleanse is a perfect time for this because I have a great deal of support from those people around me also doing it, PLUS, there is no way to lose when one engages a creative act. Even “failure” becomes its own reward, creating opportunity from nothing, an alchemy of art at each point of choice.

So as such, I eat an enormous salad every day. Bigger than my head. And these salads call for dressings. People: YOU NEVER HAVE TO BUY SALAD DRESSING AGAIN! I began my romance with homemade dressings from Alice Water’s The Art of Simple Food where she gives her basic vinaigrette recipe. Here it is.

Pour 1T Red wine vinegar into a small bowl. Add salt and freshly ground pepper. Stir to dissolve the salt, taste, and adjust if needed. Use a fork or small whisk to beat in a little at a time: 3 to 4 T extra virgin olive oil.

Variations: 1. Add a little pureed garlic or diced shallot or both to the vinegar. 2. White wine vinegar, sherry vinegar, or lemon juice can replace part or all of the red wine vinegar. 3. Beat in a little mustard before you start adding the oil. 4. For part of the olive oil, substitute a very fresh nut oil, such as walnut or hazelnut. 5. Heavy cream or crème fraiche can replace all or some of the olive oil except not on this cleanse! 6. Chop some fresh herbs and stir them into the finished vinaigrette.

I’ve made about a hundred variations since then and for real have not purchased one bottle of dressing since I read this. Not one. Shelf dressings are expensive and more often than not, packed with crap you don’t need. Also not nearly as tasty as your home efforts will be and they are so easy. Yesterday’s went like this:

8 pitted ripe cherries
4T olive oil
1T sunflower oil
2T red wine vinegar
1T balsamic
1t raw sunflower seeds
1 clove garlic
1/4 t crushed white peppercorn
1/4t ground cumin
small handful of fresh cilantro

Blend. Drizzle onto your salad and toss thoroughly.

Interview for Original Plumbing with Thomas McBee

This is an interview I got to do with the brilliant writer, Thomas McBee on the Original Plumbing website for Amos Mac and Rocco Kayiatos‘ print magazine dedicated to the sexuality and culture of FTM Trans guys. It was Halloween of last year, but health is timeless.

 Holistic Tips with Coach Seinberg

by THOMAS MCBEE on OCTOBER 31, 2011

I’m a little woo. That’s become clearer since I returned to the East Coast after spending my formative mid-to-late 20s in NorCal. I regularly use my Android to find out the moon signs of near-strangers, and if I could be reborn anything, straight up–I’d want to be a mystic. So, when I began taking T in June, I got interested in holistic care for some of the more common side effects. I bought tea tree shampoo to deal with my oily scalp, ate tons of bananas to increase potassium for my cramps, and listened to my body when it told me I need like like 10 gallons of water in order to function. I focused on meditating to work with hormonal rebalancing and I increased lean protein to help deal with my sudden desire to eat like I’d never see food again.

My instinct to do this got me thinking: a lot of us feel deeply connected to our bodies for the first time in our lives, and it follows that now would be a good time to develop habits of self-care that are empowered and healthy. I’ve been working hard around to do so, but not everybody has been immersed in the world of slow food, Traditional Chinese Medicine, and acupuncture, so I thought I’d do a little practical alternative medicine/nutrition information gathering and bring the woo to you.

For help, I spoke to my friend, the brilliant Sara Seinberg, Holistic Health Coach. Here’s her explanation of her work:
“I help clients discover and live the lives they have always known they could have: healthy, energized, honest, authentic and joyful. Using nutrition as a starting point, I work with clients to employ new ways of eating that support making these amazing changes and provide sane and sustainable modes of self care for each person.”

Sounds good! So, what should transitioning folks keep in mind? “Cooking at home might be the single most heroic action of self care a transman can take,” Sara says.

“Cooking at home guarantees that your food is prepared with care and with as many organic ingredients as possible. In the big picture, it’s also of note that cooking at home cuts costs, even organically, as compared to eating out. You can choose healthy oils to cook with (cold-pressed and organic), whole grains, and eat as much in-season, fresh produce as you can. When buying produce, choose food that has traveled the least, and looks the most interesting to you.

“Chew more. Your body will adjust to the food entering it and respond at a respectable rate, cutting down on overeating and intestinal distress. And try to always eat sitting down, but in your car doesn’t count. Eating is the thing that fuels your ENTIRE LIFE. If we respect it, our lives will reflect it.

“Put as many colors on your plate as possible: dark greens, yellows, and reds. More colors equals more nutrients. And of special note to all transmen, especially vegetarians: avoid soy. It is one of the most genetically modified crops in our country, and it is often over processed. It also contains phytoestrogen (plant-based estrogen). Try almond milk or hemp or hazelnut, switch out your tofu to quinoa, a superhero, as a perfect protein.”

Raise your hand if this is news to you. I am shocked. Soy! Fattening, and full of estrogen and modified crops. Boo.

“And while we’re talking about it, guess what else has estrogen in it? Beer, people. According to the phenomenal herbalist Dori Midnight, ’3.5 oz of hops contains 30, 000- 300,000 IU of estrogen, including estradiol, which lowers T and binds to free T in bloodstream, making it unavailable.’

What should trans guys in particular focus on in our diets?  ”Most Americans in generally amble through the world in a state of dehydration to some degree. With the introduction of T into the system along with the stress of a massive change in life, flushing out toxins is imperative. Try to slowly add water consumption into life. Tote a stainless steel or glass water bottle with you. Its presence and weight serve as a reminder to drink it. You don’t have to push yourself from one glass a day to eight. Work slowly in a way that you can maintain. Go from one glass to two. Do that for four or five days. Then try three. And so on.

“Also, in the world of H2O, when cooking your whole grains at home, make sure to rinse them first. Phytic acid is contained in the hulls of nuts, grains, and seeds and is indigestible in our systems. And even more, it is a bully of an acid that renders the body incapable of absorbing Iron and Zinc, which are important for our health, especially for bodies in transition.

“For extra intense hippie cred: sprout that shiz. Sprouted grains retain their natural plant enzymes which are beneficial for helping digestion. In addition, sprouted grains support the growth of good bacteria, help to keep the colon clean, and are high in protective antioxidants, which bind to free radicals in the system, man.”

What else does Coach Seinberg prescribe for a body in transition? Duh.

“Exercise, exercise, exercise! Stretching is of terrific importance, with muscle mass increasing and shifting locations as well. Keeping your  body stretched out will ease the pain of growth spurts and provide some good time for sustained and even breathing, bringing your mind into a more serene place to have multi-dimensional perspective on all the changes you are shouldering.  Aerobic work for raising the heart rate can be a productive place to put temper management skills into place and creates a better sleep environment.

“While you’re at it, the pesky second round of acne you may be suffering through will find a valiant opponent in sweat. This salty work partner cleans out pores and tightens skin. In addition, physical endurance work can translate well into the bedroom for newly brightened libidos. Just saying’

“If you have always been a person who liked exercise, try to switch up your routine some. Add in strength work or tack on ten minutes to your cardio routine. If you are new to moving your body, give yourself room to grow. If you have the opportunity to work with a trainer, do that. If that’s not possible, find a support group online or add an affirmation app to your phone for support.

“Start with realistic goals you can stick to. Maybe decide to do ten modified push ups a day with a friend and text each other each day when you finish. Get off the train one stop early and walk further. Take the stairs. Work your way up. You’ll be surprised to find out just how much your body can do, how great it feels, and to realize how much impact exercise has on your life not just during it, but for the other 23 hours a day as well. Star right where you are. Start today.”

Right now I want to run home and work out, which means Sara’s work here is done. But what about supplements?

“There are great medical and supplemental resources out there for transmen. Intended for other doctors, Dr. R. Nick Gorton and Dean Spade Esq. penned Medical Therapy and Health Maintenance for Transgender Men: A Guide for Healthcare Providers which is also helpful for transmen who, like so many, have had less than ideal experiences with the world of healthcare. It is available for free online.

“Another book I love is The Family Herbal, a classic by Rosemary Gladstar which can guide people to herbal remedies and support for a stressed system. Finally, The Male Herbal by James Green gives men recipes for tinctures and tea and a comprehensive plant based cornucopia of information for herbal health.”
Thanks, Coach Seinberg! If you’d like to talk to her more about your personal healthcare goals, consider becoming a client!  And dudes–be well! The world needs you.