Readers, I would like you to meet my latest love: lentils.
Lentils, please meet my lovely readers.
I am on a serious lentil kick lately. I absolutely adore them because…
- they are ridiculously cheap
- they cook quickly
- they are delish!
It started with this Lentil Chili recipe from Whole Foods. Then I moved onto to Christie’s Lentil Sloppy Joes (mega yum!). And then last week, I enjoyed this amazing recipe for Tuscan Lentils with Chicken Sausage from Cara.
Cara, as always, thank you for making my taste buds sing!
Cara’s Tuscan Lentils with Chicken Sausage
adapted from Cara’s Cravings
Makes 2 servings
1 tsp olive oil
1 medium onion, diced
2 medium carrots, peeled and sliced into coins
2 tsp minced garlic
1/4 tsp crushed red pepper (I just used a few shakes)
3 links fully cooked chicken sausage, sliced (I used the spinach and feta flavor)
14oz can diced tomatoes
pinch of dried basil
freshly ground salt and pepper to taste
1/2 cup dry lentils
3/4 cup water
5 oz fresh spinach, roughly chopped
1 tbsp balsamic vinegar
1. Add the olive oil to a medium-large saucepan and place it over medium heat.
2. Add the chopped onions and sliced carrots and cook until they have softened, 5-8 minutes.
3. Next add the chicken sausage, garlic, red pepper, basil, salt and pepper. Cook another 2 minutes.
4. Next add the lentils, tomatoes, and water. Bring the mixture to a boil and then simmer, covered, for 25-30 minutes, until the lentils have fully cooked.
5. Finally, add the spinach and balsamic vinegar. Stir the whole pot and continue cooking until the spinach has wilted, 5-8 minutes.
Chime in if you’re a fellow lentil-lover! What’s your favorite lentil dish?
Trusting our bodies for proper nutrition can be pretty darn scary. I used to be terrified that, left to its own devises, my body would never crave a single vegetable and I’d be left with serious nutritional deficiencies. I’m happy to say that so far that hasn’t happened.
In my mind, the true question is this: if we’re not going to trust our bodies, who are we going to trust? I think that through a simple process of elimination, our bodies turn out to be the most trustworthy ones around.
Who are the other contenders?
1. The first option would be the media. But I ask you, is it really a good idea to make nutritional decisions based on something we see on television or read in a magazine? Let’s remember that the media fueled the exhausting debates about whether or not we should be eating eggs, and whether or not carbs are the devil. Those discussions just went around and around in circles!
2. Another choice is the producers of our food. But there’s an obvious conflict of interest here, right? The people who produce our food are often one-in-the-same with the people who sell us our food. Or, if they’re not the same, the sellers are the only ones we have access to.
It’s no secret that when money is involved, providing food consumers with accurate information isn’t at the top of the priority list. Remember when it was discovered that most commercially-produced food contains anywhere from 8% to 18% more calories than is reported?
3. If we can’t trust the media and we can’t trust the food industry, perhaps we can trust the scientists. Maybe. The problem with science is that it isn’t stagnant. For years researchers will say one thing, and label it the absolute “truth,” and then suddenly other researchers come along and say something completely different.
Case in point: for a long time I’ve been thinking that I am at a higher risk for heart disease because I carry most of my weight around my chest and stomach; I’m an “apple” instead of a “pear.” That’s what science researchers always told me, anyway. But just last month researchers came out and said, nope, we were wrong. There’s actually no correlation between body shape and heart disease. Well, ok then.
I’m not saying that scientists are lying to us. I’m just saying that the research is constantly changing and developing. It’s quite possible that you’ll wake up one day to find that some standard you’ve been living by for years has just been completely discredited.
4. The last option I see is medical professionals. Don’t worry, I’m not about to slam doctors or registered dieticians or anything like that. I think these people play a very important role in our nutritional health.
But to me, that role is to help us get to a place where we can trust our bodies. Their job is to help us navigate through all the muck that makes trusting our bodies so scary in the first place. The end goal is not to rely on a medical professional for the rest of our lives; rather, it’s to have the necessary knowledge and confidence to rely on ourselves.
So, by a process of elimination, I think my body provides the most accurate, consistent information about how to eat for optimal nutrition. The way I see it, the only thing more frightening than trusting our bodies is to trust anyone or anything else.
When it comes to nutrition, who do you trust? Do you trust your body the most, or someone or something else?
Ah, money. Who knew that such little pieces of paper could cause so much stress? We earn it, we spend it. We make it, we lose it. We love it, we hate it.
I’ve decided to start a new series here on the blog called “Inside My Wallet.” A few years ago (read: after I graduated from college and had to pay my own bills) I became very interested in personal finances. I read books and talked to people and started to get smart about what I was doing with my money.
My no means am I an expert! My financial experiences have run the gamut from shrewd to silly, from insightful to thoughtless. Both sides of the coin (haha!) have taught me that financial health can be just as important as physical or emotional health, which means the green stuff is a perfectly relevant topic to discuss here.
But before I say anything specific about money management, let me tell you exactly where I’m coming from.
My Money Philosophy
I once heard someone say that if you want to know what someone really cares about, just look at his or her checkbook.
It makes sense, doesn’t it? How we spend our money reflects our values. Our bank account is a tangible illustration of what’s important to us.
When I first decided to take a good hard look at my financial situation, I was definitely not happy with what I saw. My money wasn’t going toward the things I said were important to me, things like security and good health and helping others. Instead, it was going toward things like a too-expensive apartment and an unnecessary Starbucks habit.
I figured I would either need to change my spending habits or change my values…and the latter weren’t going anywhere, so the money it was. I kicked the coffee. I moved into a cheaper place. And I made intentional decisions about where that extra money was going to go.
For me this was relatively easy, but for others it can be a real struggle. One way to make it easier is to create visual reminders of what’s really important to you. I’ve heard of people doing things like wrapping a photo of their children around their credit card in order to help them stay on track.
The key for me was really making that connection between money and values. Even today I’m constantly asking myself, if someone were to look at my bank account right now, what would they learn about me from what they saw? Would it be an accurate reflection of the things I care about?
Here are some of the topic ideas I have for the series:
- budgeting (it’s not as boring as you think!)
- handling debt
- buying a house
- getting smart about retirement
- creating an emergency savings
I’m planning to write a post for the series about once a week, so I hope you’ll stop back to read more!
What topic would you like to see covered in the series?
Do you have a money philosophy? What is it?
Have you heard of the (relatively) new website called Body Confessions?
It was created by Diana Spechler under the theory that voicing our struggles, our insecurities, and our shame about our bodies can help relieve it. Especially because in doing so, we learn that no matter what challenge we’re facing, chances are high that someone else has “been there.”
I recently had the opportunity to interview Diana about Body Confessions. Here’s what she had to say.
Tell us about the concept behind Body Confessions.
Body Confessions is a safe space for people to anonymously post their thoughts and feelings about their bodies. The posts aren’t open to comments, but other users can click “Been There” under confessions that resonate with them.
What motivated you to start the site?
I’ve always struggled with my body image. Since I was very young, I worried that I was fat, and worried about what kind of message my body was sending to the world. I worried that I ate too much. I worried that I would never be thin enough. Thin enough for what? Who knows? But I worried and worried and worried. By the time I reached adulthood, I realized that I wasn’t the only one. Everyone I knew seemed to have issues with food and with their bodies.
Because I’m a writer, I wanted to write about this phenomenon. But first, I wanted to study it. So in the summer of 2006, I went to work at a weight-loss camp for ten weeks. I wrote a novel largely based on the experience. Writing frankly and sometimes graphically about the agony of body obsession unburdened me. I’d never really been candid about it before, but while I was writing SKINNY, I often felt as if I were writing in my diary. That’s when a light bulb went on: We needed more honesty! But honesty isn’t easy because it leaves us open to criticism. We needed honesty in a safe space. That’s what fiction writing is to me: I can write honestly about my feelings, but apply them to fictional characters and situations. In a way, the act of writing a novel is anonymous honesty. That’s what Body Confessions is, too.
What’s the concept behind the “Been There” button on the site?
Sometimes the Internet depresses me because it feels like a battle field. Comment sections can get particularly nasty. People hurl some pretty impressive insults at one another under pseudonyms like “SunnyGuy38.” Really, Sunny Guy? Are you that mean in person when you’re attached to your real name and your real face? I doubt it. The anonymity of the Internet can make some people unduly caustic. Because I wanted to keep Body Confessions “safe,” I was adamantly opposed to allowing comments on the site. I did, however, want to foster a supportive environment. I’ve read so many confessions on the site that make me think, “I hear ya!” That’s what the “Been There” button is for: commiseration, validation, and support.
What has the response been so far?
I’m blown away by the response. I’ve had thousands of visitors. Yesterday, I had visitors from 26 countries, which tells me that there’s an absolute need for this site. People really want to vent.
I know the site has received some negative feedback. Some people worry that it’s triggering and that it focuses too much on the negative. What is your reaction to that criticism?
While many users come to Body Confessions to vent about their shame and frustration, others post positive, life-affirming, and even funny confessions. The site is for everyone, and it’s not censored, so people can “confess” whatever they wish. I understand the argument that bemoaning our body flaws keeps us down, but in my opinion, what’s worse is to pretend that everything is fine. If we force ourselves to focus solely on what we like about our bodies, we’re lying to ourselves, which compounds our shame. With that said, anyone who finds the site triggering should by all means avoid it. My intent is to help, not to harm.
What are your long-term goals for Body Confessions?
I hope that more and more people will find out about it, and know that they have a safe place to talk about the things they think they shouldn’t talk about.
Tell us more about your upcoming novel Skinny.
In the aftermath of her Orthodox Jewish father’s death, twenty-six-year-old Gray Lachmann finds herself compulsively eating. Desperate to stop bingeing, she abandons her life in New York City for a job at a southern weight-loss camp. There, caught among the warring egos of her devious co-counselor Sheena, the self-aggrandizing camp director Lewis, his attractive assistant Bennett, and a throng of combative teenage campers, she is confronted by a captivating mystery: her teenage half-sister Eden, whom Gray never knew existed. Now, while unraveling her father’s lies, Gray must tackle her own self-deceptions and take control of her body and her life.
Anything else you’d like to add?
I want to thank you for having me!
Thank you, Diana, for sharing your thoughts with us!
Have you heard of the Body Confessions site before? What do you think of the concept?
Thank Goodness It’s Good Friday!
For Christians, this weekend is a celebration of the most integral part of our faith – the crucifixion, death, and resurrection of Jesus. That sounds pretty serious and dramatic, doesn’t it? And not exactly very personal and relatable. Yet I find very deep, personal comfort in my understanding of the life and death of Jesus.
The basic story is that Jesus came to this earth proclaiming to be the Son of God, doing a bunch of miracles, and preaching about radical ideas like peace and equality and unconditional compassion. At first people thought this was totally cool, but eventually they changed their minds, no doubt because of the influence of some very jealous, corrupt religious leaders.
So they decided Jesus should be put to death by nailing his hands and feet to a cross and letting him hang there until he died. Christians call this act “Jesus dying for our sins,” meaning that he gave up his life so that we can have this awesome relationship with God that’s all about mercy and forgiveness and love.
But, according to the Christian faith, Jesus didn’t stay dead. Three days later he rose from the dead and ascended to heaven, where he came from in the first place. Hooray!
You may still be wondering how I personally relate to this story.
One of the ways it has been explained to me is that when Jesus – this holy being of eternal love – died on the cross, he essentially descended into hell. Some people conceive of this hell as an actual place, and others more as a state of being. Either way, within that hell, Jesus experienced every bit of pain that humans feel here on earth, every morsel of struggle and suffering.
In other words, no matter what I am going through, Jesus has been there. Jesus can relate and identify more deeply than any other person or being I can encounter.
For me, there’s amazing solace in putting my faith in a God that can commiserate with my pain. Not only that, but putting my faith in a God that overcame that pain, and believes that I can do the same.
And here’s the real kicker. The way I understand it, Jesus is a powerful force or an energy that lives inside of me. Tapping into that presence deep in my heart allows me to gather a strength I could never know otherwise. It allows me to access a life of passion and love and sincerity that can only come from a divinity living within me.
So this weekend I am celebrating a story about a man who died on a cross and came back to life, yes.
But more than that, I am celebrating the idea that I am deeply connected to my God through both life’s pleasures and its pains. I am celebrating the notion that love and peace and compassion are victorious, particularly in the depths of my heart. And I am celebrating the fact that within me there is a spirituality and holiness that cannot be contained or subdued by any struggle I face or any challenge I meet. Jesus – now living within me – overcame all of it already.
What are you celebrating this weekend?
Fact: I used to really want to be a size “blank.” Like really really.
It didn’t matter to me that my original weight was perfectly healthy. It didn’t matter that it was easy to maintain. I still wanted to be thinner. I would do everything in my power to reach that smaller size – restrict my eating, overdo it at the gym, obsess over every morsel of food I ate. Eventually I got what I wanted; I reached my dream size.
Guess how long I stayed at a size “blank”? I think it was about two months. Two very short months. I blinked my eyes and was right back at the weight where I started.
Of course this frustrated me; I had worked hard, hadn’t I? I had followed the rules, right? I was keeping my body tightly under control, wasn’t I?
Then I learned about set point, which gave me a whole new perspective on my weight.
“Set point” is the idea that when we fight against our bodies, trying to make them succumb to our wishes, our bodies don’t just sit back and passively let themselves be controlled. No, our bodies fight back. They know the weight where they are most comfortable, and they will fight to stay there.
When we lower our weight by dieting or increase it by overeating, of course our body size responds to that. But our bodies will also let us know that they aren’t happy. When I was under my set point, I was always tired and cranky, and constantly craving decadent foods. My body was pushing me to gain the weight back. When I was over my set point from eating emotionally, I continuously felt bloated and uncomfortable because my body was urging me to tune back into its signals.
It’s really difficult to maintain a weight that’s too far from our set points because our bodies keep saying, “Listen to me! I won’t let you do this! I will make you feel miserable until you pay attention to my needs!”
In the end, I had to turn inward and ask myself why I wanted to be a size “blank” so badly in the first place, when it was obvious my body was more comfortable elsewhere. I had to choose between being a size that was more “fashionable” – and yet made me feel miserable – and a size that was less model-like but a whole lot healthier for me personally.
I had to decide if my body and its set point were going to be my enemy or my ally. I chose the latter.
Do you think our bodies have a “set point”?
Last week I realized that I have been writing a blog about whole-self health for almost a year and a half and have never once written about sex.
That doesn’t seem right, now does it?
I fully believe that being healthy inside and out means having a healthy sex life, although what that looks like varies greatly from person to person. But it isn’t as easy as it sounds when you consider all of the myths and misconceptions that are floating around out there.
Let’s talk about it, shall we?
Eight Common Myths about Sex
1. Sex isn’t a big deal.
Well, I just flat-out disagree with this. I think sex is a very big deal! How can something so powerful not be a big deal?
I talk a lot on this blog about honoring our bodies, loving ourselves, and respecting others. Are those not the three most important ingredients in the recipe for a healthy sex life? If we’re going to take our physical, mental, emotional, and spiritual health seriously, we better we taking our sex life seriously too.
2. Sex is just for men. Men need it but women don’t.
UGH! This frustrates me to no end.
Yes, there are differences in how men’s and women’s bodies are physically wired. But the idea that women don’t want or need sex is ridiculous. I have heard so many women complain that they wanted sex more than their male partners, but didn’t feel like they had a right to ask for more. Because they weren’t supposed to feel that way.
It’s very possible that one partner in a relationship wants sex more than the other, and the gender doesn’t really matter. What matters is that you are talking openly and honestly about your sexual needs and desires so that as a couple you can reach a mutually acceptable place.
3. All men care about is sex. They cannot control their sexual appetites.
Sure, there are some scumball men out there who look at all women as sexual objects. But most men actually aren’t like that. Most men are, you know, civilized. Sex may be a priority, but it isn’t the only priority.
Of course, once you have an experience with a scumball it can be really difficult not to view all men through that lens. But we have to remember that lens is a cloudy one.
4. You shouldn’t have sex.
The “sex is evil” message can be pretty strong. If you’re not married, then it’s a sin. If you are married but want to have sex a lot, then you’re a pervert. Bad, bad, bad.
Does anyone realize how many young people – particularly girls – have been scarred and traumatized because they’re told how bad they are for giving away the most precious gift they have, their virginity? The message that sex is the most horrible thing you can possibly do has given many of us a major guilt-complex.
Now I’m not saying everyone should just be going around having meaningless sex; for that, see myth #1. I think there’s a way we can talk about sex – and the importance of the decision to have it – without demonizing those who have experienced it at a time we deem inappropriate or too early.
5. You have to have sex.
Just to make things more complicated, we often get the message that we have to have sex right alongside the message that it’s evil. What?
The decision to have sex is a complex one. There are countless forces and pressures weighing on you, and it can be difficult to sort it all out. Not to mention that many of us have experienced some kind of sexual trauma that can make sex uncomfortable or even frightening.
Sometimes the healthiest sex is no sex at all, you know?
6. Sex = Intercourse
This one bugs me because it assumes that everyone is heterosexual. Also, I know plenty of teenagers who believe that it doesn’t matter what they do sexually so long as they don’t have intercourse before marriage. But that doesn’t really make any sense to me. That makes it sound like sex is only about one certain physical act, instead of about the host of physical and emotional factors that play into it.
7. Sex is a purely physical act.
Based on the above, it’s obvious that I don’t conceive of sex as purely physical. That’s also why I don’t define “sexy” as synonymous with “naked.” The act of sex is a really complicated mixture of physical, mental, and emotional factors, and that mixture can vary from time to time depending on the mood, the players, etc.
8. You shouldn’t talk about sex (and I shouldn’t be writing this blog post!).
If you’re absolutely horrified that I wrote this blog post, then this one is for you!
I get pretty exasperated with the fact that our society is willing to talk about sex all the time on television, in movie theaters, and in pop music, and yet the idea of having a mature, open conversation about sex seems downright terrible and uncomfortable. Heck, the idea of having a mature conversation about sex with your partner is foreign to many people. If you’re not willing to talk about sex with the person you’re having sex with, something ain’t right, you know?
I’m not condemning people who are shy about sex or who see it as a private thing; I totally get that, and I respect it. But someone has to counteract all of the harmful messages that are out there already, right? If we don’t start talking about it in a mature way – emphasizing its seriousness and importance – then the only messages available are the ones outlined in the myths above.
And we can’t have that.
In sum, my views on sex are pretty consistent with my views on everything else: we all deserve to be happy and fulfilled. We all deserve to have our needs met. We all deserve to be treated with love and respect, both in and out of the bedroom. There’s no definitive way for this to happen, no singular way it should look or feel. The key is figuring out what’s best for you and your partner personally, and recognizing that you deserve to have that kind of sexual satisfaction in your life.
What do you think? Are you appalled that I wrote this post? Or maybe really glad I did? What do you think about any or all of the myths? Did I miss any that you’ve heard or experienced?
Today I turn 26 years old. Yep, that means my birthday is the day after my husband’s. Fun!
All the birthday talk has me thinking more generally about birth and re-birth, and I love the idea of taking it a little less literally…
According to my mom and my birth certificate, I was born on April 18, 1985 at something like 5:43 a.m.
But I think it could be argued that this birthday is merely one of many days I have experienced birth and re-birth.
What about my birthday in the spring of 1993, when I formally declared myself a child of God?
Or the spring of 2007, when – as a mature adult - I fully realized I actually am a child of God?
I was definitely born in the summer of 2008, when I re-made my life as a joint one with my husband.
And I was born again shortly after that, when I woke up to the possibility of a life without dieting.
It could be argued that I was born the day, around age 2, that I fully recognized my own reflection in the mirror. Or maybe my birthday is the day, around age 22, that I stopped fighting what I saw there.
And we can’t forget the day I started listening to my own voice and following my own dreams instead of someone else’s. There was lots of birth going on that day.
The way I see it, every day is a chance for a new birth in our lives – a chance for reinvention, discovery, and growth. We are awakened anew day by day, minute by minute, moment by moment.
So when I blow out the candles on my birthday cake, it is not merely a celebration of the fact that my physical body emerged from my mom’s on April 18, 1985. It’s also a celebration of the hundreds of times I’ve been born and re-born since that time.
Yes, today is my birthday. But you know what? Tomorrow could be too.
When is one of your many “birthdays”?