I Hide My Chocolate

Midlife observations

Category: Eating

Letting Gluttony Lurk


Learning to be a Joyous Hostess

Just as a compulsive shopper cuts up her credit cards and vows never to step foot in Nordstrom, so the binge eater hides from food triggers, avoiding parties or establishing strict rules around acceptable foods and acceptable quantities that can be eaten – and doing penance when she fails.  It is difficult to hide from Thanksgiving.  My heart goes out to all who find this celebration of gluttony to be a struggle.  No matter how many years go by, I remember the struggle (and struggle still).

Yes, phew!  I survived another Thanksgiving.  And even enjoyed much of it.  Now that is something to be thankful for!  Each year it is better.  As I check in politely with acquaintances this week the general response is:  “Ah, Thanksgiving was wonderful, so relaxing!  Lots of food and wine and family!”  Really?  REALLY?  Does anyone ever answer, “NO!  I hate Thanksgiving!  It’s a lot of work and I eat too much and I feel horrible after it’s all over!  Thank God it’s over!”?  A holiday centered on an abundance of food that encourages binge eating.  That’s a landmine for those of us with eating issues.  Consider:

The Anticipation

I, the competitive, ambitious, my-meal-is-better-than-your-meal over-achiever emerges in full regalia.  Thankfully, this trait has been tempered by time and parenthood.  (I am not a joyous hostess.)

Then:  I compulsively reviewed recipes, looking for the perfect one that would make the most delicious turkey and the most amazing dessert.  No shortcuts allowed.  Time was not a consideration.  Neither was effort.  Neither was expense.  I would design an elaborate menu, shop at multiple stores to find the best ingredients, cook for days until there was no way I was going to enjoy eating the food.  I am not sure my guests enjoyed it either because it was too obviously a performance and not about comfort and generosity.

Now:  After having children, I have found I cannot afford the luxury of time to devote to an elaborate meal, nor do I want to.  Moreover, my family is not interested in some new-fangled dessert or trendy turkey-cooking technique.  They want the same old menu year after year.  It was me who wanted to prove what a great cook I was.  Hmmm.  I suppose I can forego gourmet-dom and do the same old menu.

My kids now want to cook and have ownership of some of the dishes.  Hmmm.  I suppose I can give up some control over the meal.  My son now owns mashed potatoes and I “assisted” him (wink wink) with the stuffing and the gravy.   My daughter now owns pumpkin muffins for breakfast as well as sweet potatoes and pecan pie.  My sister-in-law brings pumpkin pie and cranberry sauce.  I make the turkey. (Alton Brown’s recipe for brining and roasting the turkey has been the best method yielding the most delicious results, for me.) Plus a salad and roasted radicchio rounded out the meal this year.  Everything was delicious.  I even allowed myself to enjoy the super-sweet marshmallow-y sweet potatoes, a dish I have scorned in the past.  Indeed, I think they were my favorite dish this year!  In spite of a twinge of guilt, I coach myself to not mind that I am not attempting some new complicated dish this year.

The Eating

I, the obsessive-compulsive calorie-counting nutritionivore – with disordered eating patterns a constant backdrop eager to raise its ugly head at a moment’s notice – enjoy an abundant Thanksgiving dinner?  YIKES!

Then:  As a child, before I took over the kitchen, I remember a quiet boring day with my mother cooking and my father and grandfather watching football.  It was just the four of us.  (My parents were not joyous hosts – and thus I never learned how to be one either.  Perhaps there is still time.)  The turkey was a production, with everyone fussing over whether or not it was done.  My grandfather brought a bittertart traditional cranberry sauce and some pies.  My mother made stuffing.  I waited impatiently all day – so bored and lonely – until it was time to eat.  Finally it was time to eat and I basked in that activity, gorging on all the delicious food.  Everything about the food was pleasurable after a boring, lonely day as a young only child.  When I was old enough to cook, I took control over dessert, perfecting piecrust and elaborate renditions of traditional pies.  But by the time I was old enough to cook, I had become self-conscious of my body.  Gorging on an abundance of food to pass the time or fill the loneliness had led to a normal and normally curvy adolescent body that generated unwanted attention.  Better control that appetite – channel that food appetite into cooking not eating.  Like whack-a-mole, though, appetite cannot be suppressed permanently and will rise up again and again until dealt with.  I remember my first Thanksgiving home from college.  Depressed, I just ate and ate and ate, picking at the turkey, picking at the pie.  It was so delicious and so much more delicious than the cafeteria food.  Trying to fill up with comfort and looking for love that was only available through food – or some achievement.

[Note to all parents, aunts/uncles, teachers and friends of adolescents:  Please help young people stay young and to respect their normal bodies and to be confident no-sayers.  It is painful to be a child with a woman’s body lusted after by older boys and men.]

Now:  My hyper-discipline goes into overdrive.  I take one normal sized portion of everything I like, leaving what is not important to me (mashed potatoes and gravy).  I drink one glass of wine with the meal, not before.  Then when everyone goes back for seconds, I take some salad.  For dessert, I have a miniscule sliver of each pie.  After all, the first bite is the most delicious bite. The day after, I revert immediately to my regular eating, refraining from the dessert leftovers.  No guilt from over-indulgence, no penance required.  (And limited joy derived from the meal.)

The Clean-Up

I, the martyr shows up.  No, No, I don’t need any help.  Don’t mind me.  I’m exhausted from cooking all day, but no matter – go have fun!  I’ll just stand here for another hour by myself doing the dishes – a chore from my childhood that I hate – seething with rage.  Don’t mind me. (I am not a joyous hostess.)

Then and Now:  Yowza, I am still struggling with this one.  I asked for help from my children and my nephew kept me company, curious and appreciative of his aunt.  It’s an improving process, but the rage remains.  What is that rage?  Childhood disappointment in an unsatisfying meal where “children are to be seen and not heard.”  Oh, and then do the dishes.

The Week After

When politely asked how my thanksgiving was, I can now answer:  “I loved the time with my family.  My children are becoming wonderful cooks and kitchen companions.  And I am learning to be a more joyous hostess.”


Kiera’s Pumpkin Muffins

  • 2 cups all purpose flour
  • 1 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1 teaspoon baking powder
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • ½ teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • ½ teaspoon ground cloves
  • ½ teaspoon ground ginger
  • ½ cup (1 stick) unsalted butter, room temperature
  • ¾ cup sugar
  • 2 eggs, room temperature
  • 1 14 oz can pure pumpkin
  • 1 ½ teaspoons grated lemon zest
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 1 cup plain yogurt (preferably Greek-style)
  • 1 cup chopped walnuts, toasted
  • 1 cup golden raisins

Preheat over to 325°F.  Sift or stir together the dry ingredients.  Using electric mixer, beat together the butter, sugar, eggs.  Beat in the pumpkin, lemon zest, vanilla, and yogurt.  Gradually add in the dry ingredients.  Gently stir in the nuts and raisins.  Spoon batter into muffin tin.  (We use foil liners.)  Bake approximately 25 minutes, until toothpick inserted into center comes out clean.

Makes 15 muffins.  Delicious with cranberry sauce.  (Muffins freeze well.)

Grandpa’s Bittertart Cranberry Sauce (the recipe is from the package – so easy)

  • 1 cup water (or orange juice)
  • 1 cup sugar
  • 2 cups fresh, whole cranberries – a 12 oz package

Bring liquid to a simmer.  Add sugar and stir until dissolved.  Add in the cranberries.  Simmer gently until the cranberries begin to pop, about 10 minutes.  Sauce thickens as it cools.

Delicious on muffins and toast (as well as the thanksgiving turkey).

Homage to Hostess

Wonder Bread = Normal

I wanted, desperately, to be normal in a normal household.

I wanted a mother who stayed home like all the other mothers.  My mom, ahead of her time, had a Ph.D. and ran the scientific review committee for NIMH, deciding who merited receiving grant funding for research projects.  She was not home providing after-school snacks like the other moms.

I wanted a sibling.  My best friend in 2nd grade was one of seven kids.  I was so jealous of her tiny cabinet of a bedroom custom built under the staircase, like Harry Potter’s.  My household was quiet, calm, and very orderly.  There were no siblings to fight with.

I wanted to bring my lunch to school instead of buying my lunch every day.  I wanted tunafish (from a can with lots of mayonnaise) on Wonder Bread.  A completely exotic concept in my household.  We had Pepperidge Farm whole wheat bread for toast in the morning and lunch was whatever concoction was on the menu at the school cafeteria.

I do remember that I finally convinced my mother to let me bring my lunch and I was very excited to get a Partridge Family lunch box with a thermos.  I also finally convinced her to buy me Wonder Bread.  I loved Wonder Bread!  I would smear it with butter and eat it simply with just the butter.  Another favorite Wonder Bread snack was to take a slice and smoosh it into a ball.  I am not sure what was appealing about this variation, but it amazed me how Wonder Break was so malleable.  I loved the plasticity.

As part of my foray into lunch-making and filling up that beloved lunchbox with treats, I sampled all the Hostess products at the time.  I did not like the chocolate Hostess cupcakes or any of their other chocolate productions.  I still don’t like bland chocolate items.  But I did and do love vanilla.  Twinkies were my favorite and were pretty much my daily dessert.  Spongey, creamy, gooey, sticky sweet.  I would eat one end and then the other end, saving the middle where the majority of the cream was for last.  Of course, now, I would not be caught dead with a Twinkie.

When I heard that Hostess was having trouble in January, I surreptitiously bought a box of Twinkies and brought them home.  Imagine my family’s surprise!  We looked at them skeptically.  We each cautiously took one and unwrapped it.  The stickiness was still there, as my fingers immediately had twinkie cake stuck to each pad.  We each took a bite.  My husband and son took another bite, ultimately finishing theirs.  My daughter rolled her eyes and refused to deign to eat another bite.  I understood why I loved them at the age of 7, 8, 9, but I could not bring myself to finish it.  It was not worth the calories or the guilt associated with indulgence.  The box went to the back of the snack shelf – where I finally threw it out just recently.  (I am pretty sure my husband had several more between January and August.  After all, they are not preservative-free.)

My last memory of being completely attached to a Hostess product is of eating Hostess Apple Pies for lunch in 10th grade.  Indeed, that is all I ate for lunch in 10th grade.  One Hostess apple pie.  Every day.  That was the year I went from growing into a curvy young woman to disciplining myself into a rail thin ballerina.  I craved the syrupy sweetness and didn’t want to forego dessert by wasting calories on nutrition.

When the news hit last week that Hostess may not continue, I joined the outpouring of nostalgia for the snack food of “normal” 1970’s suburban childhood.  Of course, now, I am proud of my mother’s achievements; cognizant  of how my not-so-normal childhood has shaped who I am today; and fully aware that no family is “normal.”  My mother was wise to let me experiment with food as she patiently waited for me to outgrow my love of Hostess as I matured.

I spent the weekend wondering about an adult version of a Twinkie.  If you got rid of the too-sweetness and the spongey airiness, could it be pleasing?  I am not a patient baker any more; could it be easy to make?  I turned to the bible, Julia Child’s Mastering the Art of French Cooking and read, re-read, and re-read the recipe for her Butter Spongecake (p 669).  No way was I going to follow all those directions!  Then I got out my Joy of Cooking encyclopedia and reviewed their sponge cake instructions (p 670).  Definitely simpler.  I tackled it, with some Julia Child nuances (butter!), but made a key mistake.  I substituted regular flour for cake flour.  The batter was dense and the cake was heavy.  Then I wondered about what to fill the cake with.  Vanilla Buttercream?  Vanilla Custard?  I settled on Vanilla Whipped Cream.  The outcome was a pleasant cake with delicious vanilla-ness, reminiscent of Twinkie, but not as gooey and not as sweet.  Time to grow up.

Twinkie Cake for Grown-Ups


  • 4 egg yolks
  • 2/3 cup sugar
  • 4 Tablespoons butter, melted
  • 1 ½ teaspoons vanilla
  • 1 cup cake flour
  • 1 ½ teaspoons double-acting baking powder (Julia does not approve)
  • 4 egg whites
  1. Preheat oven to 350°F
  2. Beat egg yolks for about 7 minutes, using an electric mixer, until they are light yellow and creamy in texture.
  3. Beat in the sugar, butter, and vanilla.
  4. Gradually, beat in the flour and baking powder.
  5. In a separate bowl, beat the egg whites until they form soft peaks.
  6. Fold the eggs whites into the cake batter until gently mixed.
  7. Spread the batter into a 9” cake pan (lightly greased and floured).
  8. Bake for 25-30 minutes.  Cake is done when it is lightly golden and begins pulling away from the pan.  Cool.

Vanilla Whipped Cream

  • 1 cup heavy whipping cream
  • 2 Tablespoons confectioners’ sugar
  • ½ teaspoon vanilla
  1. Chill pan, beater, and whipping cream for 1-2 hours prior to preparing.
  2. Whip cream, sugar, and vanilla together until thick.


  • Slice cake in half horizontally.  Spread the whipped cream over the bottom layer.  I used about 2/3.  Place the top layer over it.  Dust with powdered sugar.  Offer any remaining whipped cream as an extra dollop on top.


  1. 8-10 normal servings
  2. 12-16 sliver servings for those of us with fear-of-indulgence issues

Waiting for Con Ed

My Empty Refrigerator

As news of Hurricane Sandy’s ferociousness dominated our area two weekends ago, I alternated between frenetic anxiety (gotta get batteries!) and scornful denial (damn media hype!).  When schools announced their closure, I scoffed at their overreaction, but decided I better get a lot of laundry done.  Just in case.  In my hyper anxious mood, I needed to work off the adrenalin – my son and I went for a walk/bike-ride around the neighborhood Monday morning.  The wind kicked up while we were out and branches started falling.  Hmm, maybe this IS serious.  After all, my sister-in-law is usually right and she said this one would be bad.  I began to panic.  “Aidan, we need to go home!”  We headed home, taking some “before” photos along the way.  Just in case.

I decided to make dinner early.  Just in case.  We frequently lost power in storms and I figured we would lose power this storm as well.  Around 5:00 I set the water on to boil for pasta.  The wind was supposed to be quite bad after 8:00 pm.  Plenty of time for a pre-storm dinner.

Around 5:20, we lost power.  Shit!  Spoiling my dinner!  Not to be thwarted, we all hopped into the car, prepared to head to a local restaurant for dinner.  We couldn’t leave our street.  One tree up the hill had fallen on a telephone pole and knocked out the electrical wires and transformer.  Another tree down the hill had fallen, knocking out more wires and blocking the road.  We were trapped.  Truly, it was shocking – too dangerous, indeed impossible, to drive.  Shaken, we went back home and made the best of our candlelit dinner of room temperature leftovers and discussed possible sleeping arrangements.  We decided on mother-daughter and father-son.  Somehow that seemed the right combination for body warmth, love, and parental protection during a windy scary night.

The next day we rose with the sun (late for me, around 7:30 am) and began our vigil.  Waiting for Con Ed.  And wondering.  How bad is the damage?  What can we do?  But first, coffee.  As someone who is attached to my routines, I feel unmoored when my schedule is disrupted.  I vaguely remembered being able to make coffee during the last outage.  Aidan had insisted we could light the burners last night, but we didn’t listen to him – the baby of the family.  Sure enough, he was right.  Two burners worked in this way.  Coffee and oatmeal for breakfast!  That kept me busy for a while.  That and pacing to the window to see what, if anything, was going on outside.   Around 11:00, we embarked on a walk through the neighborhood to see how everyone fared.  Many neighbors were doing the same thing, in shared dismay.  Trees and wires down throughout the neighborhood, with several houses severely damaged by trees that had fallen on them.  It was awful.  We were lucky.  We had no damage and we were okay. 

Back home and it was time for lunch.  Gotta use up the cold cuts.  Grilled turkey, ham and cheese all around.  Daytime was okay:  we had enough light; we bundled up to stay warm; we kept busy.  And we had hopeful energy.  Stay positive!  Stay busy!  We’re lucky!  Tuesday night’s candlelit dinner was pasta with more leftover sauce.  The boiling pot brought the temperature up a degree.  We huddled around our battery-operated dvd player and watched Ratatouille.  We saved Finding Nemo for Wednesday night, crying over a father’s love and the beautiful connection between beings.

Wednesday my husband trekked to work and the kids and I began our new outage routine.  My daughter and I took a yoga class every morning while my son read his book in the warmth of the sitting area watching over our charging electronic devices.  I was so happy to be in the presence of people!  But as the week wore on, more people got their power restored and returned to normal and I felt isolated in our misery.  Remember, we’re lucky!  By Friday, when the yoga teacher purred about how tragedy brings out the best in people I felt like screaming.  ”Are you kidding?  People are about to kill each other selfishly cutting each other off in gas lines!”  I think tragedy brings out the most primitive emotions in people.  Much of it good and caring, but not all of it.  I wish I were a wise, compassionate, loving yoga teacher.  Oh yeah, I AM a yoga teacher!  I have to remember that!  But I am also a selfish human who wants her electricity back so she can blow-dry her hair, eat her regularly scheduled foods, and drive to her favorite activities without worrying about a gas shortage!  Lucky White Suburban Woman Is Miserable does not make a good headline.

I guess we’re all going to get generators.  That ought to be good for the environment.  Huddled in our individual houses with our gasoline-powered generators rumbling noisily away.  At least we’ll be able to run our hair-dryers.

I am struck by the people who are galvanized to action during disasters.  They deliver meals and clothing to the afflicted.  They open their houses to anyone who needs a meal or a shower.  They open their arms and hearts to all.  My instinct is to hunker down – stoically.  No I don’t need anything, but don’t expect me to give anything either.   My way is a meager way and not the example I want to set for my children.  So, we gratefully accept the hook-up to our neighbor’s generator, powering our heating system for a few hours a day so the house is warmer.  So, we gratefully accept my sister-in-law’s generosity with food, warm beds, hot showers (and a working hair-dryer).  I am not sure how we pay back their generosity.  Perhaps it is simple.  We say thank you graciously and pay it forward. 

By Sunday, I gave up on salvaging anything from the freezer or the refrigerator and threw it all away.  The 5 year old caramel topping for ice cream.  The caper berries I bought when I couldn’t find capers.  The vacuum packed smoked salmon from a Harry & David gift basket – about 10 years ago.  I suppose some of this stuff lasts forever.  But I threw every bit if it away.  Time to move on and start fresh.  It does feel good to have an empty refrigerator, poised with new possibilities.  I cleaned the freezer compartment.  It had never been cleaned.  There was a gogurt from when the kids were little – also about 8-10 years old.  And ancient frozen waffles.  One package of regular.  And one package of whole grain.  And a melted ice cream sandwich.  All gone.  It was sad.  It was freeing.  Time to move on and start fresh.

After a week of oatmeal for breakfast, grilled cheese & omelets for lunch, and pasta & assorted leftovers for dinner, the most delicious meal we had this past week was (leftover) black bean chili served over brown rice. 

Black Bean Chili

  • ¼ cup olive oil
  • 1 onion, chopped
  • 2-4 garlic cloves, chopped
  • 2 bell peppers, chopped
  • 1-2 Tablespoons of chili powder
  • 1-2 teaspoons of cumin
  • 1-2 teaspoons of oregano
  • 1 link of chorizo, chopped (optional add-in for meat-eaters)
  • 2 15 ounce cans of black beans (use the liquid)
  • 1 16 ounce jar of salsa (whatever is your favorite brand and level of spiciness)
  • 2-4 Tablespoons of pickled jalapenos (adds tang more than heat)


  • Cilantro
  • Cheddar Cheese
  • Sour cream

Heat oil in heavy skillet over medium-high heat.  Add onions, garlic, bell peppers.  Saute until onions soften – about 10 minutes.  Stir in chili powder, cumin, oregano – 2 minutes.  Add in Chorizo, beans, with liquid, salsa, and jalapenos.  Reduce heat and simmer – 15 to 30 minutes.

Serve over brown rice with desired toppings.  Makes terrific leftovers!  You can stretch out this meal by varying the ratio of rice to chili.

Serves about 6

What Would Happen If I Didn’t Eat Breakfast?

The Most Important Meal

It is ingrained in me that breakfast is the most important meal of the day.  I can recite the reasons touted in all the women’s magazines that I have read (voraciously) and worked for (diligently) all my life. 

  • Breakfast fuels your body, revving metabolism and allowing you to focus.
  • Willpower is high in the morning, allowing for healthy food choices and optimal nutrition at breakfast, while minimizing less healthy choices throughout the day.
  • Taking time for breakfast allows for a mindful approach to your day.

Besides, there are some days when the only reason I get out of bed is to have that cup of coffee and to eat.

It was my mother, not magazines, who instilled the breakfast habit in me.  Or rather, an extreme fear of not eating breakfast.  As a girl, I would get headaches.  Lie-in-the-dark, too-nauseous-to-eat migraines.  My mother would anxiously hover over me.  She would massage my temples, read to me, spend time with me.  In retrospect, these headaches had many components:  family dysfunction, school stress, perfectionism, anxiety, dehydration, less than optimal nutrition, less than optimal physical fitness, hormonal changes.  I certainly learned that a good way to let people know that the world was too much for me was to shut down with a headache.  My mother worriedly enabled this behavior.  “It’s too much.  Stay home.  Rest.”  She dragged me to many doctors – because doctors knew best.  I was medicated for migraines with Cafergot – you had to anticipate when a migraine was coming on so that you could nip it in the bud with the medication.  (Starbucks wasn’t on every street corner then.)  I was also diagnosed as having hypoglycemic tendencies.  (Don’t we all get irritable and shaky when we are hungry?)  Thus began my fear of not eating enough.  I had to have just the right quantity of food and combination of nutrients to feel good and prevent a headache.  Balance the fear of not eating enough with the fear of eating too much and imagine the anxiety that resulted!  Not to mention a complete disconnect between feeling hunger and satisfying that hunger appropriately.  And now, add in my daughter who cannot and will not eat breakfast … truly karmic.  May we all learn our own bodies and find our own way.  My way is not her way. 

After many (many) years of experimenting with breakfast – food choices, quantity and timing – my personal favorite breakfast that makes me feel good all the way until lunch is some kind of whole grain cereal or bread with protein, fruit, strong coffee, and – most importantly – some time to enjoy it (and digest it). 


I am ALWAYS disappointed with store-bought granola.  Bear Naked – blech!  The only store-bought that is worth its price and its calories is Early Bird Granola.  Even better, is making a batch of your own homemade granola.  It is not difficult and it is so delicious!  Here is my favorite recipe, adapted from a recipe by Melissa Clark in the New York Times:

  • 3 cups old-fashioned rolled oats
  • 1 ½ cups raw pistachios, hulled
  • 1 cup raw pumpkin seeds, hulled
  • 1 cup coconut chips or coconut flakes
  • ½ cup honey
  • ½ cup olive oil
  • ½ teaspoon cinnamon
  • ½ teaspoon cardamom

Preheat oven to 300 degrees.  In a large bowl, combine all ingredients.  Spread mixture on a rimmed baking sheet in an even layer and bake for 45 minutes, stirring every 10 minutes, until lightly golden and toasted.  Don’t overcook.   Granola keeps in an airtight container for 2 weeks. 

How I eat it:

  • 6 oz of yogurt (I mix 50-50: half Vanilla with half Greek Nonfat Plain)
  • ½ cup of Granola
  • Fresh berries


  • 2/3 cup of All Bran Cereal  (you get your fiber with this option!)
  • 1/3 cup of Granola
  • Vanilla Soy Milk (I prefer Silk, not the light version.  Vanilla soy milk has more flavor than cow’s milk when combined with cereal and prevents any digestive discomfort related to lactose first thing in the morning.)
  • Fresh berries


My version is not very sweet, but extremely satisfying.  I make it while doing other things in the kitchen so it has time to simmer.  The only annoying thing about oatmeal is cleaning the gloppy pot afterwards. 

  • 1 ½ cups of Vanilla Soy Milk
  • 2/3 cup of Old Fashioned Oats (not quick, not instant, not steel-cut)
  • 1-2 Tablespoons of sugar (to your taste.  I find that as I eat less and less sugar that I don’t like things that are too sweet.  A virtuous circle.)
  • 3-4 Tablespoons of dried fruit (I prefer golden raisins or dried apricots or dried tart cherries)
  • A sprinkle of cinnamon

Bring soy milk to a simmer.  Add oats, sugar, dried fruit, and cinnamon.  Simmer 5 minutes.  Watch that the milk doesn’t boil too hard and overflow the pot.  A mess.  Turn off heat and let sit for 5-10 minutes, absorbing the liquid.  Stir occasionally.  Play with timing to get the right consistency to your liking.  I like it thick and creamy, not too liquid-y.


1 large serving or 2 normal servings

Raisin Toast

Cinnamon Raisin Bread is so decadent it should be considered dessert.  My favorite kind from the Vermont Bread Company is as healthy as it gets.  I toast it and spread it with almond butter and then sometimes top this concoction with a bit of pumpkin butter.  This makes for an unbelievable sandwich for lunch as well!

Whole Wheat Bagels or English Muffins

Thanks to my friend Judy, I now top my whole wheat bagel or my whole wheat English muffin with goat cheese and a bit of orange marmalade or tart cherry jam.  I eat this on the weekends when I give myself permission to splurge on a bagel.

Shredded Wheat

My easy go-to breakfast is Shredded Wheat ‘n Bran (65 mini squares;  Yes – I count them), Vanilla soy milk, and sliced bananas.  Healthy, quick, tasty.  


Scoop coffee into French Press.  Bring water to boil.  Pour water over coffee.  Stir gently.  Steep 4-5 minutes.

Serves 2 large mugs

Escarole and Beans

Invite People In To Your Food Weirdness

People with disordered eating patterns, like me, are prone to eating alone, secretly.  Eating alone makes me feel sneaky, a guilty pleasure.  I can eat as weirdly as I want.  When I was at the height of my eating weirdness I would eat an entire large honeydew melon in one sitting.  It was sweet and filled me up but had almost no calories.  And it was huge!  So it took a long time.  I liked stringing out my meals.  It was a way to avoid feeling empty.

I still look forward to meals alone when I can eat my weird meals:  secretly, silently, selfishly.  However, it has recently occurred to me that my weird meals are not so weird and that maybe it would be nice to share my weird meals with other people and not worry that they think I am weird.  One of my favorite dinners when someone in my family is out and I don’t have to make a more formal family meal  is a large plate of escarole and beans.  It satisfies my desire for a large quantity of food.  It is tasty and healthy and very satisfying.  No one else in my family is interested in eating this dish with me.  My family is used to my odd food choices, but other people are not.  Now when a child’s friend or a niece or sister-in-law want to stop by on “Escarole and Bean Night,” instead of coming up with an excuse about why they can’t come over I invite them in.  They don’t necessarily share my meal – but I share with them some of my eating issues.  I can laugh at myself and share more of myself, which deepens my relationships.  On a recent night, instead of setting up my son and his friend at a separate table with their pizza, the three of us ate together.  Them with their pizza and me with my escarole and beans.  And we talked about God.  And what we hope and believe about God.  (I believe that holiness is the love between people.)  Amazing things happen when you invite people in.   

Escarole and Beans

1 large bunch of escarole (1 lb or more), leaves washed and spun dry

2 cloves of garlic, sliced thin

3-4 T olive oil

1 jar of cannellini beans, imported from Italy preferred, approximately 12 oz

Sautee garlic and escarole in olive oil.  Take your time with this process.  The more you sautee the escarole the richer the flavor.  I do it on low heat and let it cook for about 30 minutes, while I do other things in the kitchen.

Add beans and their liquid.  Sautee the beans with the escarole for another 10-15 minutes.

The desired consistency, for me, is not too much liquid.  This is different than the more traditional Italian version which is much soupier.  The escarole exudes water.  You want to cook off the liquid and almost brown the escarole and beans in the olive oil. 

Experiment with cooking times, temperatures, and escarole:bean ratio!


1 very large serving, or

2-4 normal servings, with bread to soak it all up

I am Afraid of Vacation

I am afraid I will gain weight. 

I have been lucky enough to take many wonderful and adventurous trips that have involved beautiful places, joyful connections, new pursuits, as well as dangerous risks to me and people I love.  My biggest challenge with vacation is not the risks involved but my neurotic fear that I will gain weight.  At home, I exert extreme control over what I eat, when I eat, how much I eat and how active I am.  I know exactly what I can eat to maintain my weight.  On vacation, I lose that perceived control.  I like active vacations because I know that at least I will be able to work off extra calories from restaurant dinners.  I also prefer to have some access to a kitchen so that I can make my own breakfast or keep healthy snacks on hand.  So, while it is wonderful to have a break from everyday life, I find it very stressful and difficult to fully relax.  So difficult, that I usually lose weight on vacation because I over compensate for my fear of gaining weight.  Over the years, I have learned a lot about what works for me when it comes to eating and vacation.  Some tips:

Do Drink Water.  (Isn’t this the first tip on any wellness list?)  When traveling, your routine is disrupted and it can be easy to become dehydrated, leading to headaches, fatigue, and constipation.  Drinking water will help you feel better, regulating your mood and your appetite.

Don’t drink too much alcohol.  When on vacation, it’s like a party every night and easy to drink too much alcohol.  Alcohol lowers your resistance to temptation and increases the likelihood that you will overeat.  Alcohol disrupts your sleep and impacts your energy level.  You will sleep better and be more active if you don’t drink too much.

Do eat.  Eat consistently.  Try to eat as normally as possible.  Keep a few snacks handy.  My favorites include yogurt, almonds, and dried fruit.  Keeping hunger at bay will help prevent overeating at restaurants.

Do enjoy what you eat.  I struggle with allowing myself treats.  At the breakfast diner, I choose oatmeal.  At the lunch café, I choose grilled chicken.  At the dinner restaurant, I choose grilled fish and only one glass of wine.  When everyone happily decides to go for ice cream, I am not happy.  I don’t like ice cream.  I am embarrassed that I can’t join in the fun.  And who doesn’t like ice cream?  What kind of weirdo am I?  The flavor is not intense enough.  The fat content makes my stomach gurgle unhappily for hours.  (A bit lactose intolerant? or years with a difficult father who inflicted portioned amounts of ice cream regularly?)  I tried tried tried to relax and enjoy ice cream on my recent vacation.  I did not succeed.  The Swiss Chocolate at Spinnaker’s in Jamestown, RI was a big disappointment.  Bland and uninspiring.  But I ate all of it.  Unhappily.  When we went to Ben and Jerry’s in Newport another night, I relied on my go-to healthier option.  I had a sugar cone with a small scoop of mango sorbet.  Under 250 calories and fat free.  I was so much happier with this, but really didn’t need it.  Perhaps I need to eat ice cream with Alan Richman.

Don’t finish it. The first bite is the most delicious one.  Like money, a certain quantity of food is essential for survival.  But more money does not yield more happiness.  Similarly, more food does not mean more happiness.  Indeed, when we overeat, we tend to feel bad physically and emotionally.  After satisfying our need for survival and our desire for deliciousness, the enjoyment of food tapers off.  Notice that the first bite is where the anticipation and flavor is.  And how much more delicious it is when you are hungry.  Enjoy that first bite fully!  Then, notice how quickly you adapt to the taste.  Once your hunger is sated, you are simply ingesting calories.  Notice when you stop being hungry and when the delight of the taste fades.  It is time to stop eating.  Plus, you will be left with a feeling of virtuousness for not overeating!

Do pretend.  Pretend to be an active, cheerful, energetic person, game for anything – even if you are not.  (I am not.)  You will be more active.  You will meet more people.  You will have more fun.  Being active and trying new things will distract you from thinking about food and eating too much.  After all, what better time than on vacation to try a new way of being?

My Chocolate Stash


A Secret Pleasure

I eat it alone.  Secretively.  I take a bar of dark chocolate and examine the calories and the size of the bar.  I calculate how many 100-ish calorie portions I can divide the bar into.  I break the bar into that many pieces.  I keep one piece out to eat and carefully wrap the remaining pieces up to save for another day.  I need to put them away right away so I am not tempted to eat more than my 100-calorie portion.  I sit and enjoy my chocolate, illicitly, placing a small amount on my tongue and letting it warm up in my mouth so I get the full intensity and complexity of the flavor.  Sometimes I forget to pay attention to the taste and mindlessly pop the chocolate into my mouth.  I am very disappointed when the chocolate is gone and I realize that I didn’t savor the moment.  I feel gypped and want to eat more later.

Very dark chocolate is my favorite.  I go as high as 85% and like the bitterness but I find the flavor is more delicious and mellow in the 70%-75% range.  I don’t really like a lot of add-ins or flavorings, though coffee is a nice touch.   My current favorite is Chocolate Santander, 70%, with coffee bits.  It is not bitter or stale or hard or too thick.  The texture is smooth and it truly melts in your mouth.   

Why am I alone when I eat chocolate?  I am embarrassed to enjoy food in such a sensual way.  Good girls don’t enjoy.  I am embarrassed at my need to control the quantity and the experience.  My weirdness will be discovered.  And besides, if I am not alone, I am expected to share!  Sharing messes up my schedule of allowable chocolate portions.  But, as my husband pointed out – he teasingly outed me and my chocolate stash long ago – it is more fun to share.  Truly it is.  And he still loves me in spite of my weirdness.  Now, I just buy more chocolate and share it as much as I can.  After I measure out my portion…

Dark Chocolate and Weight

I know it is not news that dark chocolate is good for you, but it can help you control your weight.  For me, reserving and looking forward to a treat of dark chocolate every day functions as a signal.  The meal is over – time to stop eating the meal because it’s time for my chocolate!  And it keeps me from eating other types of desserts that have more calories and are not as healthy.  The intensity and the complexity of the flavor are deeply satisfying.  If you focus on the experience, you don’t need a lot.   

My Vacation Fix 

On vacation last week, I got my fix of dark chocolate at a boutique in Newport, RI, Destination Chocolate.  After placing each individual beautiful truffle on delicate china saucers (I chose the 75% pure dark chocolate), Carl coached us on how to optimize our chocolate tasting adventure.  TWO BITES!  Take one bite and place it on your tongue.  Notice the flavor.  As it melts, press your tongue to the roof of your mouth.  Fully finish the first bite before taking the second bite.   After that, it’s up to you to enjoy!

Eat Here Now


To be mindful means to act with intention.  To eat mindfully means to eat with intention.  Every time you eat, pause a moment.  Even close your eyes.  What is your body feeling right now?  Name what you feel.  Acknowledge what you feel without judgment and take it in.  What are you feeling emotionally, right now?  Name your emotion.  Acknowledge your emotion without judgment and take it in.  Notice your breath.   Breathe.  Ask yourself:

  • Am I hungry? 
  • What does my body want to eat?
  • What does my body need to eat?

There are many answers to the question, Why am I eating right now?   Be aware of your reasons for eating.  Some of the reasons I eat are:

  • Habit – I always eat at this time. 
  • Fuel – I am rushing to work, tennis, yoga, and need to eat something quick.
  • Family – My family is eating a meal together. 
  • Desire – I opened the refrigerator and the grapes looked cold and sweet.
  • Responsibility – No one else is going to eat it.  So I better eat it instead of throwing it away.
  • Chore – I am doing the dishes and my son left a big piece of gooey lasagna on his plate.
  • Love – My daughter cooked it for me. 
  • Social Obligation – There is a birthday party in the office and I am expected to eat cake even though I don’t like stale flavorless store-bought cake.
  • Temptation – The fresh homemade moist delicious cake is sitting on the counter with 1/3 of it left.  I will just take another sliver.  And another.  And another.
  • Emptiness – It distracts me from sadness, doing something I am avoiding, loneliness.
  • Health – It makes me feel like I am doing something productive.  And healthy!
  • Hunger – I am hungry.

Make a decision about what to eat.

Establish a place to eat.  Set your place.  At a table.  Eliminate distractions.  Don’t read.  Don’t eat at your desk, working.   I know.  You don’t have time.  Neither do I – I eat at my desk most days.  But let’s try to do it differently today.  You and your nourishment deserve your time and your attention.  Plus, you will feel more satisfied and eat less food if you pay attention and honor your self and your meal. 

When you eat, eat slowly.  Look at the food.  Smell the food.  Taste the food.  Chew the food.  Swallow the food.  If you allot yourself a healthy amount of calories every day, then your food intake is limited.  Enjoy it.  Pause and ask yourself how your body feels.  Are you still hungry?  Does the food taste good?  If the answer is no, stop.  If the answer is yes, continue. 

When you are finished, end the meal.  Clean your place.  Establish your next activity.  Closure will create boundaries around meals, eliminating mindless eating and snacking and allow you to move your focus onto something else other than food.

I remember loving to eat orange slices as a child.  I would stick them in my mouth making a funny orange grin with the peel.  Then I would bite into the space between the peel and the fruit, the juice squirting into my mouth.  I am reminded of this delight when I read Thich Nhat Hanh’s essay on eating a tangerine mindfully [Thich Nhat Hanh, The Miracle of Mindfulness, Eating a Tangerine (p5)].  He cautions how easy it is to pop section after section into our mouth without tasting the fruit or finishing each bite.  Eat each section before taking the next section. 

Try eating a piece of fruit with your full attention and notice how delicious it is.

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