Carrie Rubin’s Novel EATING BULL and My Personal Food Connection

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I know I’ve read a great book when I’m still thinking about it months after I’ve turned the final pages. Carrie Rubin’s Eating Bull is one of those books. It is a tightly crafted thriller, told from the point of view of three characters: Jeremy, an overweight, bullied teen whose favorite friend is food; Sue, the pubic health nurse on a mission to sue to food industry for their reckless manipulation of consumers; and, finally, Darwin, the mystery serial killer who is targeting the obese. It’s a mix of mystery whodunit, horror story, and public health crisis all rolled into one.

Many of the characters are suffering some past emotional trauma which is pulled into their eating habits. This backdrop makes these characters seem all the more human and vulnerable. I thought Carrie did a masterful job of telling a horrific story, alongside the complexities of food.

While eating is foremost about survival, it is so much more than that in the modern era of food convenience and choices. Food relates to our health, quality of life, eating habits, social gatherings, and family. Socio-economic factors play a role, too, and often hinder access to healthy food or enough food. Food is not an equal opportunity for all.

After reading Carrie’s book, I pondered this complex issue of food and how it related to my life. More recently, I have attempted a few clean eating challenges offered by my boot camp, because we know exercise isn’t enough and especially as we age. Sigh. On a positive note, I’ve spent most of my life not worrying about calories and meal choices and their impact on my health. Now that I’m getting older, it’s not so easy. So, I took on these clean eating challenges, which meant eating mostly real food, either from the ground or from an animal. While I’d like to be vegetarian, so far I’m not. Nothing processed, nothing out of a box, and very little sugar or salt.

In these efforts to control my eating choices, I could relate to Carrie’s characters in her book. My meal choices of lean protein and vegetables were quite similar to those of Sue. As we are made aware of her restrictive choices, it feels as if Sue, too, is noting them for herself. I also identified with Jeremy’s hunger for more, even when I wasn’t hungry. It’s emotional eating and I never felt this so strongly as I did when everything I loved was removed, especially carbs! I missed snacking. It was tough.

Jeremy’s mother Connie also has her share of challenges of feeding her family healthy options with limited time and resources, not to mention with different needs in mind. Would her son and father eat the same foods, for example? This is a constant struggle with my household and cafeteria-style planning and eating. When I did the clean eating challenge (for six weeks) it meant cooking separate meals for my family, which made it extra challenging. While there may be solutions for all these problems, it doesn’t make them any easier.

What’s more, there’s a public health scenario looming in the story: suing the food industry. I, for one, did not think this was that far-fetched. While it may never happen, I hope Carrie’s book encourages a careful look at their practices.

For example, no matter how much willpower I have, I can’t just have one stop at the Famous Amos cookie box. I just can’t!! One reach turns into three. I lost count of the number of cookies.

Well, they are famous.
Well, they are famous.

And then I saw this video about how America is getting hooked on processed food. You must watch this eye-opening video. Have you ever heard of “Vanishing Caloric Density”? It’s no wonder I love cheese puffs so much!

Talk about reckless manipulation of consumers. Carrie weaves all these complex issues with a serial killer on the loose. All the while, the issues don’t get lost in the story or take over, but add layers of intrigue for a compelling, entertaining read.

It’s no wonder that Eating Bull is the silver medal winner in the Independent Publisher Book Awards (IPPY) for Great Lakes, Best Regional Fiction. Congratulations to Carrie! 

Here’s a link to Eating Bull on Amazon. If you haven’t read it, pick up a copy today.

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50 Happy Things: Bloggers Unite in Flood of Gratitude

This post comes courtesy of Dawn Quyle Langau from TALES FROM THE MOTHERLAND. She had this great idea for bloggers to unite in gratitude. At this time of year, we may start thinking about the year ahead and our New Year’s resolutions. Why not think about the year we have had instead and reflect on the things that made us smile and what we are grateful for. I think we need to do more of this on everyday basis! Thank you, Dawn, for putting this together. If you would like to add your post, instructions follow my list.

The objective is to write out a list of 50 things in 10 minutes time. Setting the timer.

Here we go…

50 Things I am Grateful for This Year (2015)

I am grateful for:

  1. My two beautiful boys; their tender hearts and their wicked sense of humor and the boundless love I feel for them.
  2. My husband who still loves me and believes in me and accepts my flawed self.
  3. My family, sisters, brothers and the times we spent together. It’s always special time.
  4. My family watching my son play water polo this year and cheering him on.
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  5. My little one’s precious eyelashes (I want them) and his gentle, creative spirit and watching him dance. Wow, he can dance!
  6. Clean water; where I live it’s pretty good.
  7. The generosity of my mother-in-law; she’s a lifesaver.
  8. Having a glass of wine while I cook and dance in the kitchen.
  9. Having a glass of wine with a friend.
  10. Long walks in nature.
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  11. My sister’s generosity and knowledge and helping get through an IEP process; things could have turned out much differently had she not been there. Thank you!
  12. My guardian angels in true life: Ixchel and Dipali.
  13. My blogging community. I don’t know about you, but it feels pretty real to me. I wish we could all go out for dinner together.
  14. Discovering yin yoga, giving me a peace and awareness about myself; letting me spend time on me.
  15. Getting back into a ballet class and feeling right at home.
  16. My dance teacher Sunny and her genuine smile and all her joking around.
  17. Working out and feeling good about my physical self.
  18. Conversations with my mom on the phone; she has such wisdom.
  19. My furry, feline friends: Shasta, Orangey and Lucky. I’m happy to serve them. They have no idea how much joy they give me.
  20. Feeling stronger about my writing and the creative outlet I have here.
  21. My Friday Fictioneers community. They are so talented and I feel lucky to know them.
  22. Rochelle Wisoff-Fields for leading the Fictioneers every week. I admire her dedication.
  23. Health. My family is healthy and my son is taller than me now. He will eat me out of house and home.
  24. Feeling inspired by other writers. I have so many great things to read!
  25. Family time; watching movies and playing board games.
  26. When my husband cooks a meal.
  27. The sun, stars and moonbeams.
  28. Friends that don’t give up on me.
  29. Going out for sushi with my friend Ann.
  30. Making progress on my book.
  31. Snuggling under a blanket and getting lost in a book.
  32. Swimming in the ocean.
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  33. Downloading and listening to music right away because I can.
  34. Fuzzy socks in furry slippers.
  35. Listening to the rain and not having to go anywhere.
  36. Waking up with the sunrise and feeling productive.
  37. Staying up and watching a late-night movie.
  38. Maple lattes from Peet’s.
  39. A soothing massage.
  40. Napping.
  41. A letter from a friend.
  42. Warm chocolate chip cookies with a cup of cocoa or anything chocolate.
  43. Sleeping in.
  44. Fresh roasted coffee in the morning.
  45. Laughter and for all the people that make me laugh.
  46. Listening to my son play his baritone and how excited he is talking about music, especially listening to him hum the music.
  47. Snuggling with my youngest. I know our days for this are numbered.
  48. Staying in pajamas all day.
  49. Getting away to Napa and living in such a beautiful spot close to so many great places.
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  50. All my friends who are here right now. Thank you!
If you’d like to join in, here’s how it works: set a timer for 10 minutes; timing this is critical. Once you start the timer, start your list. The goal is to write 50 things that made you happy in 2015, or 50 thing that you feel grateful for. The idea is to not think too hard; write what comes to mind in the time allotted. When the timer’s done, stop writing. If you haven’t written 50 things, that’s ok. If you have more than 50 things and still have time, keep writing; you can’t feel too happy or too grateful! 

To join the bloggers who have come together for this project: 1) Write your post and publish it (please copy and paste the instructions from this post, into yours) 2) Click here3) That will take you to another window, where you can past the URL to your post. 4) Follow the prompts, and your post will be added to the Blog Party List.

I hope you’ll join in the fun. Thanks again for being here now and throughout the year. I have made some incredible connections here I never thought possible.

For more posts of Gratitude, visit the Linkup here.

Breathing on Purpose

As humans, we are required to breathe each and every day. Just like the plants, we need oxygen, food and water. Unfortunately, we can’t make our food from sunlight.

But breathing. We have control over this one. Lately, I’ve managed the practice of breathing on purpose. Now, if you don’t breathe on purpose, your body will supply oxygen and do your autopilot breathing for you, otherwise well…we wouldn’t be here right now, would we?

Breathe and Listen

Our bodies actually take good care of us. If we listened to our bodies, we would all probably be in wonderful shape, both physically and mentally. Still, some days, life takes over and pushes us over the edge. Those are the days we might catch ourselves and remind ourselves to breathe. Take three deep breaths, you say, and you can handle any situation. Calm yourself. Collect yourself. Recharge.

Whether it’s in the form of autopilot breathing or the intentional de-stressor, breathing is our friend. When we breathe on purpose, we are training our body to initiate this kind of deeper breathing all on its own, the kind of breathing you ask yourself to do when you feel stress or anxiety.

Only with my recent introduction to yin yoga have I been able to breathe on purpose and to make a connection between mind, body, and my environment. I’m a novice, but I feel it’s really made a difference in my life with only a couple of months of practice.

Let’s try some breathing

Here are some things I’ve learned:

Get comfortable: Lay down on your back or relax in a sitting position; dim the lights, and if you like, play some soothing music (check out the sample video). Feel the earth under yourself, no matter where you are.

Ocean breath: Close your eyes, start with an inhale from the belly and an exhale out the mouth with an ocean breath, as if you might fog up a window, but it doesn’t need to be as forceful as that. The inhale should come from a deeper place than your autopilot breathing. Let it fill your chest.

Breath In/Out the Nose: Resume more relaxed breathing in and out the nose; relax the jaw. Feel the space between your neck and shoulders. If you need a release, try an ocean breath.

Let the thoughts float away: You mind will race. Let the thoughts come and go. Think of them as leaves floating away. I have a visual for you below. 

Focus on your breath: Don’t worry if you lose your breathing. Just bring it back and resume the ocean breath.

Environment: If you mind is racing, check in with your environment. This helps you to be aware of your present moment. What noises do you hear? Do you feel the air over your skin? Make note of it and bring back your breath.

A specific focus: Sometimes a focus on something specific can be the breathing. Can you hear your heartbeat? Check in. You can also do some internal chanting: An “Ah” on your inhale and an “Om” on the exhale. Whatever sounds you choose.

Try a specific length of time: Try breathing for the length of a song and increase it as you like.

The most important thing is to relax. This is time for you.

Let the thoughts float away:

Breathing on purpose has given me that clarity of focus not unlike those matrix-like moments when the action slows and you can focus on the separate parts from the whole. That clarity of focus is you listening to your body.

Tune in next week when I will talk about how this listening to your body can help improve how you listen to the people in your life.

Here’s some soothing music from Garth Stevenson:

 

The Myth of Multitasking

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Multitasking is a catch-all word that signifies success, adaptability and, above all, is a common descriptor on hopeful job applicants’ resumes. Friends, do you want the truth?

Our brains don’t like to multitask. In fact, they hate it and reject it. They’re simply not wired to behave in such a manner. 

Research shows that humans can only think about four things at once. And if you think you are multitasking oh so successfully, chances are you’re just not. You just spilled your coffee while you looked at that guy crossing the hall, checked an email, mistyping a word and meanwhile, while trying to hold a conversation on the phone, you didn’t hear the last two sentences. You look busy and productive, sure. How is this really going?

It’s impossible to multitask. Your brain will accommodate multiple requests by doing what’s called “spotlights.”  At most, the brain may dual-task, and divides and conquers to complete those two tasks. But two complex tasks are the limit. If you add a third task, the prefrontal cortex will simply discard one of the tasks. It’s no dummy. The results show that the brain has only two hemispheres available for task management and can only take two tasks at a time. Simply put, it needs both hemispheres to successfully complete a task.

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Unless you have superpowers and several arms…well, humans are just not equipped to multitask.

As further evidence, I kid you not, while writing this post I attempted to cook dinner and burned it. Oh, what a bumble! Personally, I know that I am drained when I take on too many tasks and it usually takes me longer to complete any one task. There’s research on that, too.

Multitasking is regarded as a badge of honor by today’s youth and likely encouraged as the new “norm” by their peers. A study out of Stanford identified two separate groups, “heavy media multitaskers” (HMMs) and “light media multitaskers” (LMMs). Both groups were asked to decipher relevant information from the environment and irrelevant information based on memory, all the while switching their tasks. You guessed it, the heavy group did worse. What’s more, those who multitask actually think they’re great at it!

While attempting to do a task, I’m convinced the mind can think about a whole host of things completely unrelated to the task at hand. My yoga teacher suggests that you can think about 13 things at once and I believe her, but often it feels like much more than that. Do you have moments when you feel your brain might explode with too many thoughts flying around?

Here’s a test. Next time you feel overtaxed with too many thoughts, write them down in a list. No need to make them perfect, just them out of your head and on paper. 

Actually writing them down will slow your thinking, but what’s more, you’ll see you may not really be thinking of as many things as you feel. It’s more likely that anxiety is playing a role. It likes to get in the way. Anxiety is very bossy and is also responsible for shallow breathing and irrational thinking.

So, okay the simple solution must be to think and do one thing at a time, right? It turns out, people may have more trouble with that one. I have some ideas about this. Tune in next week, when I talk about my new passion. Breathing on purpose.

In the meantime, if things seem a little harried, stop and check in. Give yourself grace. You’re just human, after all.

photo credit: Multitasking in the Park via photopin (license)
photo credit: High-Octane Villain via photopin(license)

Buck It Up

“Are you going to grab this bull by the horns or not? Well, are you?”

“Yes,” I said. I looked up from my fumbling fingers on my lap. I see he was unconvinced. Perhaps, if he could look into my eyes, he’d know I meant it. I’ll do my very best. Buck it up.

It wasn’t quite the bedside manner I had hoped for with my doctor, suffice it to say, especially considering our topic was menopause or possible menopause. Since we met in his office and not in the clinic room, he left the white coat behind. He appeared casual in a baby blue jogging outfit, energized as if, in fact, he’d jogged to work or perhaps jogged in the clinic hallways between appointments. Someone got enough shut-eye. Hint: it wasn’t me. No white lab coat meant no awkward, intimate check-up. Just the straight talk.

“If you want to eat a piece of pie with some ice cream you need to run a seven-minute mile to earn that.”

“I can’t do a seven-minute mile. Did I tell you about my aching back?”

“That’s not my department,” he said. “Motrin up.”

I half expected a bird to fly through the window and perch on his bushy eyebrows that were likely to sprout wildflowers at any moment or perhaps something less nurturing. He’d just as easily lead a marching band, swinging a baton, with that happy frown of a grey mustache; or else take part in the generous drinking of ale on a hillside, pausing to twirl an inevitably soaked beer-foamed mustache.

“Are you drinking?” He must have read my mind. “A glass of wine is just empty calories. Two or three of those a week and that’s an extra thousand calories a month. An extra pound a month. Think about that.” A delightful thought. “You decide. The choice is to work out twice as much or eat half as less.”

It occurred to me that my steady fitness regime of dancing, running, swimming, and the boot camping I had endured my whole life had been thwarted in a matter of months. Canceled out. So it goes, in the search for missing estrogen our bodies think they’re helping by producing more fat, gently coaxing the estrogen like it really deserves it. In discovering this fat, the body is fooled into thinking it has found its missing estrogen.

What a load of crap is this? Hormones are wicked and stupid. That’s what they are. And mean. This bears repeating. Hormones are wicked, stupid and mean. And unaccommodating and dishonest and confused. Deep down, they’re tricksters. If I could pull their hairs, I would. Hard. So there. That would probably hurt me though and I suppose they don’t have hair anyway. I’m at their mercy. Dammit, Jim!

Doc went on to tell a rich tale about his stay in Brussels when he was a med student there. I spaced his big reveal, you know, the whole purpose to his story. Having trouble concentrating again? Another point for menopause.

“Seven percent of women hit menopause before the age of forty,” he said, checking something on his computer.

This affects me how? “Before forty, you say?” I’m on the other side of the tracks now, doc, and further down. If I do the basic math and round my number, I get 50 AND 40 ≠ 50. We’re definitely not talking anything before 40. All of a sudden, forty seems so…young.

We agree to a full panel of labs before I hear a light tapping on his door. Our time together was up.

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On an unrelated point, but vital to any conversation, have you heard of the new gene-editing technology called CRIPSR? Here’s the fascinating article all about it. It’s said that it will change medicine forever. I hope they find the cure to cancer because they should definitely concentrate on that. Fingers crossed. Please find the cure to cancer. But after they figure out cancer, they really should figure out a way to rewire women’s hormones. We really got the short end of the stick here. Yeah? I think so. I’m sure it would be a simple task, right?

Note: Please don’t rely on this for medical advice. I’m exaggerating and leaving out whole chunks of our conversation. I’m poking a little fun at my doctor because I can’t help myself. He would get a kick out of it.

photo credit: 077/365 Day After Pills 031809 via photopin (license)

I am a Superwoman Aglow with Liebster Love and Epic Awesomeness

I’m feeling love vibrations in the air…

It must be the the Liebster love granted to me by the charming Kylie from The Life of Kylie, and from the exotic Whitney at Charms of a Gypsy. Thank you, ladies. I’m honored.

Also, I’ve been bestowed the Epically Awesome Award of Epic Awesomeness, courtesy of David Stewart at The Green-Walled Tower. David and I go way back in blogging time; I would surmise from day two of blogging. David is masterful at telling wondrous stories often in the sci-fi and fantasy genre. Beware, he’s fond of the dark. Don’t say I didn’t warn you. You must check him out. Thank you, David.

And guess what else? You guessed it…I am a Superwoman…

I got third place in the Superwomen Super Challenge! This was a six-week challenge I entered with the Superwomen Boot Camp I joined about eight weeks ago. I love this Boot Camp because it pushes me. We do workouts I would never attempt on my own.

The Super challenge revolved around exercise and following a healthy menu. I don’t like to use the word “diet.” Participants were awarded for two separate categories for loss in body fat and in weight.

With my third-place prize, I lost three pounds and gained $140! Okay, maybe this doesn’t seem like much. I can’t buy a new car, but extra money is a bonus. And three pounds seems trivial, but hey man, I just have more muscle now. Didn’t you know strong is the new sexy?

I thought I would impart some wisdom from my experience of the challenge. I mean I did win the 3rd prize and all. Maybe you’ll find this useful.

Things I Learned in the Challenge and Want to Keep Doing

Go for the protein in the morning: Having protein first thing in the morning can shape your whole day of eating. If you’re not much of an eater in the morning, try a protein shake. Other options include: Greek yogurt, raw nuts, eggs, or a little almond butter or peanut butter on your wheat toast.

Healthy snacking is a good thing: I discovered I loved the chips and crackers…but that much of it was emotional eating. If you can try to eat mostly healthy snacks like fresh fruit, veggies with Hummus, nuts, string cheese, cottage cheese, you won’t feel depleted by the time you have a meal. The key again is a little protein throughout the day.

Introducing the Green Smoothie: The recipe is basically one cup of water, banana, frozen fruit of your choice, and 1-2 cups of spinach (put in blender in that order). Blend.

My sister asked me if you really needed a blender for this. Well, if you can mash together spinach leaves and frozen fruit, have at it. Maybe you have some magical powers. Otherwise, yes, this does require a blender. I recommend frozen fruit for icy coolness. You can try strawberries, blueberries, peaches, mango, grapes, oranges, pears…whatever you fancy. You can also use kale instead of spinach. And if you don’t frozen fruit, of course, you can use ice in a pinch.

Here it is…Ta Da!

Try the smoothie for breakfast or as a snack.
Try the smoothie for breakfast or as a snack.

Side note: The Green Smoothie will vary in color depending on what type of fruit you use. The smoothie can appear green or brown….but just don’t look it at it. It’s actually really nutritious and delicious.

Exercise and healthy eating is a win-win: Exercising made me want to eat better.  It has a kind of domino effect. On the other hand, I think it’s more difficult to eat healthy if you’re not exercising. Eating the right foods helped me get through these workouts.

Here fishy, fishy: Try to eat fish such as salmon, high in Omega-3s, a couple of days of week. I always felt more energetic after eating fish. You can also get Omega-3s from flaxseed added to your Green Smoothie or from a supplement.

Treat yourself: Reward yourself for your healthy eating with a little treat. A piece of chocolate cake or an ice cream? Whatever it may be, enjoy it guilt-free.

And, finally…

Hydrate, hydrate, hydrate: Never leave home without your water. You never know…the zombies could be around the corner….it might come in handy for survival.

I’ve felt like I’ve had a lot more energy! Maybe even if you just take one thing away from this, you will you too. Peace out.