Loving Little Katie

By Katie, 5:22 am

I consider myself to be a pretty nice person. In fact, my senior year of high school I was voted “Friendliest Female.” So it never ceases to amaze me how someone so nice to others can simultaneously be so cruel to herself. :-(

I will be blunt: over the past few weeks I have really been struggling to be my own best friend. I’ve been saying horrible things to myself – about my weight, about my appearance in general, and even about my overall level of worth. I have attacked myself with a level of harshness I cannot even imagine directing toward another human being.

The good news? Deep down I don’t believe a word of that rubbish. The bad news? Deep down I don’t believe a word of that rubbish.

You see, I know that my worth isn’t based on any external part of me. I know that I am loved – by God, by others, and by myself – regardless of any fluctuation in poundage. I know that there is peace and joy in simply being kind to myself. And yet I’m still beating myself up. :-?

So the solution has to go beyond simply telling myself those thoughts aren’t true, since deep down I already know that. If I really want to kick this bout of negative self-talk to the curb, I need a more concrete plan of action. I need to do something.

So I’m pulling out my ultimate weapon: Little Katie.

That’s me, circa 1988.

To show myself – in a very concrete, tangible fashion – just how inappropriate my vicious self-talk is, I’m implementing a new rule: any time I’m tempted to call myself ugly or fat or whatever, I have to tell it to this Katie.

That is, if I can even bring myself to do that. Can I really look at this precious girl and tell her she’s worthless?

Probably not. But that girl is still me. And if I wouldn’t say it to Little Katie, then I really shouldn’t be saying it to the Katie of today either, you know?

But apparently right now I need to be reminded of that. So in preparation for my next fight against that negative inner voice, I’m placing these photos of Little Katie in strategic places: my bathroom mirror, in front of the Bathroom City vanity unit, inside my purse, etc. I’m hoping that the simple act of hanging them up and looking at them regularly will help me remember that I deserve the same kindness and compassion that I would show a small child, or any other human being. If I can’t say it to Little Katie, I won’t be saying it to myself.

Have you ever struggled with negative self-talk, even when you KNEW the thoughts weren’t true? How did you deal with that voice?

AND

What do you think of this idea? Do you think that using baby pictures in this way will help me show myself more kindness and compassion?

**This idea is not mine originally. It comes from the book Life Without Ed, by Jenni Schaefer.

America’s Oldest Fair

By Katie, 5:36 am

Yep, that’s right, the town of my childhood – York, Pennsylvania – is the home of America’s Oldest Fair.

Yesterday I had the pleasure of meeting a reader for breakfast at an adorable little spot in York called Tapenade Bistro. The experience was nothing short of lovely; I left filled to the brim with pumpkin-pecan pancakes and the makings of a new friendship. :-)

Afterward Dave and I headed to the York Fair, an event I attended every year growing up. Here’s a photo montage of the fun we had. 8-)

I officially want a bunny!

Sarah Jessica Porker from “Snouts in the City” just barely beat out Lindsey Loham in a fierce race…I was holding my breath. ;-)

How are YOU having fun this weekend?

AND

Favorite fair food?

Pizza Showdown!

By Katie, 5:15 am

Hello, my name is Katie, and I write a healthy living blog that features an inordinate amount of photos of pizza.

I feel like you can learn a lot about a person solely by their pizza preferences. Is he a thin-crust or deep-dish kind of guy? Is she all about adding extra cheese, extra pepperoni, extra veggies, or all three? ;-)

For years Baltimore Magazine has named my city’s beloved Matthew’s Pizza the #1 gig in town. But this year it dethroned the long-time king, instead ranking the eclectic restaurant and bar Joe Squared the best pizza in Baltimore.

I was flabbergasted, and immediately knew that the situation called for only one response: a back-to-back, head-to-head, ooey-and-gooey Pizza Showdown!

The Rules:

  • We had to compare apples to apples, er, basic cheese to basic cheese. We couldn’t compare specialty pizzas, though we could sample them for fun.
  • We had to try to let go of any biases we had, leaving sentimentality at the door in favor of purely objective pizza judging.

Pizza Night #1

We started with the new kid in town, Joe Squared.

10-inch cheese please!

Ummmmmm, yeah, it was delicious.

The thin crust was crisp without being overly crunchy. The cheese was nice and strong, the sauce light and subtle. My only real complaint was that it was slightly burnt on the bottom, which I’m guessing some people like, but it isn’t my thing.

Into my tummy, I say!

For our specialty pizza, we chose the BBQ Chicken.

Just listen to this topping list: Garlic sauce, grilled BBQ chicken, avocado, corn, Vidalia onions, spinach, mozzarella and cheddar. Whoa. 8-)

This pizza was not being judged, which is kind of a shame for Joe Squared because Dave literally said, “This might be the most delicious pizza I’ve ever eaten in my life.” The combination really was heavenly. I think this is what the Baltimore Sun was talking about when it said that Joe Squared raises pizza “to the level of high art.”  

We left with plenty of pizza in our bellies and huge smiles on our faces. :-)

Pizza Night #2

So now the competition was on.

Matthew’s Pizza is Baltimore’s first pizzaria, and it has received more awards than it knows what to do with. It’s been called “unending bliss,” an “unexpected gem,” and “a slice of heaven.” The great thing about it, though, is that it’s a hole in the wall kind of place, and it’s remained so in spite of all the press. You aren’t razzled and dazzled when you walk in the door; indeed, you think nothing of it…until you take your first bite.

Behold the Both-Cheese Pie.

An amazing combination of hand-grated mozzarella and Reggianito cheeses, cooked until bubbly, on top of a sweet, robust tomato sauce and a relatively thick, doughy crust.

Dag, that looks delicious, no?

For our specialty item we went with the Crab Pie. Yes, that’s right, the Crab Pie!

Is there any possible way this could have been anything less than delicious? It featured lots of crab meat, mozzarella and Reggianito cheese, caramelized onions, and plenty of Old Bay seasoning. A Baltimore girl’s dream. ;-)

The Winner

Folks, this was not an easy decision. Both cheese pizzas were beyond delicious, and I would happily eat both of them again (I fully intend to do so!). But in the end, there could only be one winner, and it was…

Matthew’s!!!

Here’s why:

  • Sauce: The Joe Squared sauce was a bit too subtle for my liking; I prefer the robust tomato flavor on the Matthew’s version.
  • Cheese: No doubt the Joe Squared pizza was cheesey, but the cheese on the Matthew’s pie had started to brown just the right amount…I love that!
  • Crust: Well, this one was actually a tie. I’m usually more of a thin-crust gal, like with Joe Squared, but the thicker dough worked well on the Matthew’s pizza because of the strong sauce. So that one was a draw.

So there you have it, my totally official, definitive, and authoritative (HA!) take on the Matthew’s-Joe Squared pizza competition. It was one heck of a tasty Showdown, that’s for sure! 8-)

Dave and I had such a blast that we’re already planning our next match-up. Baltimore’s best crab cake, perhaps???

Tell me: What’s your preferred pizza style? Thin-crust? Deep-dish? Lots of toppings? No toppings?

AND

Does your hometown have any fun food rivalries like this one? If so, you should treat your taste buds to a showdown! ;-)

Never Back at the Beginning: Handling a Healthy Living Relapse

By Katie, 5:19 am

The term “relapse” is often reserved for people suffering from addictions or disorders, but the truth is that most of us have experienced some kind of relapse at one point or another. With the best of intentions we choose some healthy living goal – to heal our relationship with food, to start a running routine, to spend more time nurturing our spiritual selves – and all goes well for the first week, month, year, or decade.

But then, slowly but surely, the old habits begin creeping back into our lives. Emotionally overeating in front of the television. Trading in the daily jog for more time spent in front of the computer. Hitting the Snooze button over and over, instead of getting up and spending fifteen minutes in prayer or meditation.

For me, the toughest part isn’t sliding back into those old habits; indeed, that part is quite easy. The real challenge is when I decide to get back  on the healthy train, to again start doing the things I know make me feel my best.

And the reason it’s so difficult – at least in my case – is because I always compare myself…to myself. I see where I used to be, where I once was, and I moan that I am not that person anymore. I whine that I am (and I always use this phrase) “all the way back at the beginning.”

That is, until someone very wise heard me whining and said quite bluntly, “do you really think that’s true?”

(Source)

It’s NOT true. No matter how far I fall, no matter how much I feel like I’m back-pedaling, I am not and never will be the person I was at the beginning of my healthy living journey. Even if I look exactly like that person on the outside – even if my behaviors resemble that person’s to a T – I am still not that person.

Going back to my earlier examples:

  • Even when I “relapse” and find myself turning to food instead of asking myself what I really need, I am still so much wiser and more in tune than the person who ate and ate and ate and had no idea why.
  • Even if you used to run marathons but now can barely complete a mile, you are still filled with the knowledge and understanding of running that only someone with experience can have (regardless of how long ago that experience was).
  • Even if I haven’t opened my Bible in weeks, I can still feel comfortable jumping right back into my spiritual practice; I can still learn from my “relapse” and use it as a new point of connection with God.

My point is this: when we decide to pick ourselves back up again after falling off whatever wagon we initially hopped on, we’re never starting from scratch. We may feel like we’re back at the very beginning, but we’re really not. In fact, the very act of falling off is probably a necessary part of the journey, and we’ll only be stronger for it in the long-run.

Have you ever felt discouraged when you lost touch with a healthy habit you used to have? Did you feel like you were back at the beginning?

Did you/can you find ways to turn that “relapse” into a learning experience, an opportunity for growth?

Health in the City: Five Reasons Baltimore’s Healthy Living Campaign Just Might Work

By Katie, 5:02 am

Oh, Baltimore, my home sweet home, how I adore thee.

 (Source)

Poor Baltimore has gotten a bad rap (have you seen The Wire?), but I truly love living in this city. It has so many exciting neighborhoods to explore (of course I’m partial to Hamilton), so many quirky traditions (Hon Fest, anyone?), and a past rich enough to appease any history buff.

But I am not so infatuated with my city that I am blind to its faults. Yes, crime is a significant issue here. Don’t get me started on public transporation. And, of course, there’s the health thing.

According to the health department’s 2010 Health Disparities Report Card, Baltimore City earns an overall grade of a “D.” We received a “C” in cancer, a “D” in heart disease, a “C” in diabetes, and an “F” in HIV/AIDS. In 2008 36% of surveyed residents had high blood pressure, 34% were obese, and 28% currently smoked cigarettes. Sigh.

Fortunately, the city is trying to do something about it. It recently announced a new public health awareness campaign called Heathy City Days, which will begin at the end of September. While there is a part of me that remains skeptical by nature, overall I have high hopes for this campaign, and here’s why:

Five Reasons Baltimore’s Healthy Living Campaign Just Might Work

1. Awareness

Perhaps most simply, the campaign is drawing attention to an issue that otherwise might go unnoticed in light of the city’s other, more prominent plights. In addition, it’s easy for those of us actively involved in the healthy living community to forget that other people don’t live and breathe this stuff like we do. There is value in simply bringing the notions of health and self-care to people’s attentions.

2. Excitement

Again, we need to remember that the word “heatlh” does not naturally evoke enthusiasm in many (most?) people. So if you want to spark their interest, you’ve got to make it fun. How about smoothie samples made in blenders attached to bicycles?

 (Source)

How about a two-hour workout at the Inner Harbor led by Ravens running back Ray Rice?

 (Source)

Sounds like a good time, no? 8-)

3. Teaching How to Fish

You’ve heard the phrase “give a man a fish and you feed him for a day. Teach a man to fish and you feed him for a lifetime.” The city is taking that message to heart; instead of just offering healthy eats, it’s offering a series of healthy cooking demonstrations.

4. Leading by Example

You can’t just talk the talk, you’ve got to walk the walk, right? The mayor of Baltimore is kicking off the campaign by leading her own exercise session – a  brisk walk from City Hall to the Inner Harbor.

5. Accessibility

One of Baltimore’s biggest challenges – in terms of health and many other issues - is the extreme disparity between the city’s wealthier residents and its poorest ones. For example, this Baltimore Sun article notes that the average life expectancy is over 80 years in some Baltimore neighborhoods, but less than 60 in others.

That’s why it’s so important that this campaign be accessible to everyone. The health fairs, screenings, consultations – all free of charge. (It’s funded by a donation from a health insurance company, the ironies of which I won’t discuss, at least not today.)

It is yet to be seen whether these Healthy City Days will have an impact on the well-being of my beloved Baltimore. I’m really hoping something positive comes out of these efforts, and that more and more of my city’s residents will come to know the joy of feeling good and living well.

Is your home city or town a healthy one?

AND

Do you think that where you live can have a significant impact on how healthy you are?

Easy Shrimp and Artichoke Salad

By Katie, 5:04 am

I know I’ve said this before, but sometimes my favorite way to “cook” is just to throw a bunch of great ingredients together and let them do their thing. This shrimp salad recipe is one of those that is so delicious primarily because I barely did anything! ;-)

What you’re seeing is a pretty unadulterated mix of shrimp, artichoke hearts, black olives, chickpeas, and red onion. The whole combination is dressed very simply with olive oil, lemon juice, sea salt, red pepper, and a touch of cumin.

When I said I did nothing to cook this dish, I meant it – I actually used pre-cooked shrimp! Talk about taking the easy way out! 8-)

Well, actually, I did do something: I waited to eat it. I made this in the morning and did not consume it until dinner, because the blogger who inspired this recipe recommended giving at least 4 hours for the flavors to marinate. I think this was worthwhile because the lemon flavor was more infused into the shrimp, but if you decide to dig in right away, it will still be yummy!

Easy Shrimp and Artichoke Salad
From Branny Boils Over

Ingredients
12 oz. shrimp, cleaned and peeled (I used pre-cooked)
3/4 cup black olives
14 oz. can artichoke hearts, drained
2 cups chickpeas
1 medium red onion, chopped
1/4 cup parsley, chopped
1/3 cup extra virgin olive oil
3 tbsp lemon juice
1/2 tsp crushed red pepper
1/4 tsp cumin
sea salt, to taste

1. If your shrimp isn’t pre-cooked, place it in a saucepan with enough water to cover by 1 inch. Bring pot to a boil, turn off, and let cool.

2. Whisk together olive oil, lemon juice, crushed red pepper, cumin, and salt. Pour over shrimp.

3. Add the olives, artichoke hearts, chickpeas, red onion, and parsley. If you’d like, let mixture marinate in the refrigerator for at least 4 hours.

*If desired, serve over a bed of mixed greens.

Do you ever take the easy way out with meat and seafood and buy the pre-cooked stuff? I usually don’t because it’s more expensive, but sometimes the convenience is too tempting to resist!

AND

Do you have a favorite recipe that is less about “cooking” and more about simply mixing great ingredients together?

Too Much Food for Thought

By Katie, 5:13 am

For a long time I thought that the way I acted around food – counting every calorie, meticulously weighing/measuring every morsel, planning my meals hours, days, or weeks in advance – was totally normal. I didn’t realize I even had an issue until I stumbled across a random list of disordered eating symptoms, one of which was “constantly thinking about food.”

And it dawned on me that I thought about food more than I thought about anything else. :-(

For awhile I brushed it off as merely a hobby, or even a passion; I told myself I enjoyed thinking about food and planning out my meals, so there wasn’t any harm in it. But eventually I came to realize that there is an important difference between having an interest in food and being obsessed with it.

While it’s healthy and normal to think about food when, say, I’m hungry, or when I’m cooking or meal planning, it’s not all that great to think about food a gazillion times in between those events. And I’m not talking about thoughts of excitement over a new recipe I’m trying or happy memories of last night’s dinner out with friends. I’m talking about using an exorbitant amount of mental energy to calculate and recalculate – over and over again – everything I’ve eaten that day, or reviewing my “plan” for the rest of the day four or five (unnecessary) times.

Have you ever found yourself doing that???

Eventually I realized that if I wanted to heal my relationship with food and myself, I needed to stop thinking about food so darn much. Sounds easy, right? Not exactly. It’s a bit like the whole “pink elephant” thing; the minute I told myself to stop thinking about food was the minute I couldn’t get my brain to think about anything else!

 (Source)

So I focused on two strategies:

1. Find a replacement or distraction.

I once heard this described through a baby analogy: if a baby is playing with a choking hazard and you take said hazard away, the baby may start to cry because he wants his comforting toy. But the baby will be much calmer once you’ve replaced that choking hazard with something more suitable, like a stuffed (pink?) elephant. ;-)

Similarly, we can’t simply shut off our minds; instead, we need to replace the obsessive, unproductive thought with a healthier, more positive one. When I found myself thinking about food obsessively or unnecessarily, I immediately focused my mind on the present moment. Was I eating? Was I cooking? Was I meal planning? No, so I didn’t need to be thinking about food. I did need to be thinking about the book I was supposedly reading, or the essay I was writing, or even the conversation I was currently involved in. I stopped my mind from drifting to food by focusing on the present moment.

2. Uncover whatever it is the thoughts are concealing.

I quickly discovered that I wasn’t simply obsessed with food; rather, I used food thoughts to prevent myself from thinking about those things I didn’t want to mentally engage with – anything from the fact that I was procrastinating on my homework to the emotional frustration I was feeling over a struggling relationship. I used thoughts of food to cover up both large mental barriers and small frustrations.

Simply recognizing what was really going on in my noggin made a world of difference.

Overall, I think the line between having a healthy passion for food and having an unhealthy obsession with it can be a blurry one. As one reader so accurately stated in an e-mail to me last week, “while food can be enjoyable, memorable, etc., life shouldn’t consist of planning your next meal before you’ve even had breakfast.”

Have you ever found yourself thinking about food a little too much? How do you stop yourself from going down an unhealthy thought path?

What I Wish I’d Known at 13

By Katie, 5:08 am

You’re probably familiar with Dove‘s Campaign for Real Beauty, through which the beauty product company is attempting to change the way that women feel about themselves by changing the way they are portrayed in advertising. It all started with this popular ad, which featured a variety of shapes and sizes rather than the traditional, idealized model standard.

Dove also created a series of very powerful videos, including Onslaught and Evolution, that highlight the way our society’s media system influences – and manipulates – our understanding of beauty. If you have never viewed these videos, I highly encourage you to do so…and then share them with others.

Now Dove has created the Movement for Self-Esteem, which focuses on encouraging and motivating girls to feel confident and reach their full potential. They created this video called A New Vision in connection with the movement, and it emphasizes the connections between mothers and daughters, between women and girls. It encourages those of us who have struggled with our self-image to pass along the lessons we’ve learned to the next generation, to try to spare them some of the pain we have endured.

The campaign is also asking people like us to share what we wish we’d known at age 13. And so, in honor of this effort, I present to you…

13 Things I Wish I’d Known When I Was 13

When I was 13, I wish I’d known that…

1. Trying to be someone I’m not is never a worthwhile endeavor.

2. My mom is a very wise woman.

3. Outward beauty has more to do with confidence than anything else.

4. Not all boys (and men) are jerks. There are men who can view and treat women with respect.

5. When it comes to makeup, accessories, and time spent on AOL Instant Messaging, less is more.

6. It’s hard to do the right thing because sometimes it means standing alone. But those are the times doing the right thing is most important.

7. Five years from now I won’t remember most of the things I’m stressing over today. And if I do, I’ll probably just think it’s funny.

8. BUT being a teenage really is hard, so I shouldn’t listen to people who try to minimize or discount my struggles.

9. Crying until my eyes are sore is a perfectly acceptable – sometimes even welcome – reaction to many situations in life.

10. Saying my daily prayers is a habit I should never break.

11. Sometimes I should say “yes” when I want to say “no.” And other times I should say “no” when I want to say “yes.” There is great power and peace in knowing the difference.

12. Every moment spent chasing external beauty rather than recognizing and cultivating internal beauty is a wasted one.

13. I am deeply loved, even beyond what I can comprehend. My life will be about learning to understand and accept that love, and then passing it on to others in a multitude of interesting ways.

YOUR TURN!

What do YOU wish you’d known at 13? What would you go back and tell your 13-year-old-self if you could?

My Prayer for September 11

By Katie, 5:28 am

Dear God,

Let us stop for a moment today and remember.

We remember the terror, the panic, and the pain that was September 11, 2001. We remember the lives lost and the families that mourn those lives. And we remember the courage and the bravery shown by many who never before thought of themselves as courageous or brave.

In our remembrance, let us feel gratitude. Let us say an extra thank you for our countless blessings and freedoms, both as Americans and – quite simply – as human beings. Let us say thank you to those who respond to this ongoing struggle on our behalf.

We also pray that you open the door for healing, as individuals and as a nation. Though many years have passed, the wounds are still open, the pain is still sharp.

And, above all, give us the strength to respond to the hatred of this world with an attitude of love. Love isn’t always easy to cultivate, and yet it is what we are called to do, each and every day. Help us to develop love everywhere we go, amidst mercy and justice, amidst joy and pain, in times of struggle and in times of calm.

For where love is planted, peace can grow. Love conquers all.

Amen.

Sweet Potato and Bacon Salad

By Katie, 5:06 am

I know that summer is practically over, but don’t put away your grill just yet! (Or prepare your handy indoor grill!) 8-)

Because I’ve made an important discovery: the combination of sweet potatoes and bacon – odd as it may initially sound – is an awesome one.

For those of you thinking, “Wait, I thought this was a healthy living blog, why is she showing us bacon?” let me say that bacon is not the enemy (and I’m not just talking turkey bacon here!). Because it is intensely flavorful, it’s a great addition to a veggie-based dish; you can incorporate relatively small amounts to provide a bit of gusto while still keeping the overall profile a nutritious one.

Proof is in the classic combination of bacon and Brussels sprouts (seriously delicious!). While I don’t know if the bacon-sweet potato combo tops that one, it certainly comes close!

I just know Jessica would be proud of this dish. ;-) Oh, and did I mention it’s originally from grill-master Bobby Flay? Yeah, so you know it’s good!

If you’re not planning on grilling anything else alongside of this, the indoor grill might be a good bet because the potatoes are boiled first and then just finished on the grates, for less than 10 minutes. But this meal would be fantastic served with a bunch of other grilled veggies and some crusty bread.

Sweet Potato and Bacon Salad
Adapted from Bobby Flay, originally seen on Lele Lurves Plants
Serves 6 as a side dish, less as a main

Ingredients
3 large sweet potatoes
2 tbsp olive oil, plus some for brushing the grill
6 oz. bacon, diced
2 shallots, thinly sliced
1/4 cup red wine vinegar
1/4 cup fresh parsley, chopped
1 tbsp fresh rosemary, finely chopped
1 tbsp fresh thyme, finely chopped
salt and pepper, to taste

1. Clean the potatoes and boil them until they are cooked through but not too soft, about 20 minutes. You should be able to poke them with a fork with just a little resistance. Drain them and set them aside to cool.

2. Meanwhile, cook the bacon in a lightly-sprayed pan over high heat. Cook until crispy, 5-7 minutes. Remove with a slotted spoon and place on a plate lined with paper towels.

3. Add the shallots to the hot pan, turn the heat down to medium, and cook for 3 minutes. Add the red wine vinegar and cook for another minute or so. Remove the pan from the heat and add the olive oil, herbs, salt, and pepper.

4. Slice the cooled potatoes into 1/4-inch thick slices. Grill over medium heat for 5-7 minutes, until slightly charred on both sides.

5. Place grilled potatoes in a bowl and toss with the herb mixture. Sprinkle with bacon.

What other ingredients do you think make bold, flavorful additions in small amounts? I like to use strong cheeses because a little bit goes a long way!

AND

Are you a year-round griller, or do you confine it to the summer months? Do you have/use an indoor grill? We have a George Foreman, which is nice but a pain to clean!

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