Food for Thought

Thinking-Out-Loud2

 

A few articles recently got me thinking about food in our culture. I’ve been reading Mark Bittman’s columns in the New York Times for awhile, and he focuses on bringing the focus back to real food. Many of his suggestions for improving the food ‘industry’ are great. But the Times publishes articles on eating ‘this’ and not ‘that’ all the time, and the Wall Street Journal is just as guilty, reporting on research that we should restrict the time during which we eat – until, of course, the next piece of advice rolls around or the government changes its mind again. And these, for a New Yorker, are some of the most reputable publications we look to for news. Don’t even get me started on all the ‘diet tips’ and ‘secrets to weight loss’ that appear on the cover of every girlie magazine around!

One of the many downsides to this constant focus on how we treat food, instead of on just eating food, is that everyone begins to feel like it’s completely acceptable to comment constantly on the eating habits of other people (or even worse, to act like an amateur nutritionist dispensing advice that may or may not hurt the recipient). I get so many comments from acquaintances, ranging from shock if they’re with me at a post-run brunch at the volume of food my sturdy 5′ self can consume, to lectures on eating more when I just have a cup of tea or small glass of wine while out (because they don’t know that I’ve already eaten my fill, or simply am not hungry, and somehow don’t understand my routine of eating when I’m hungry, even if it’s at weird times!). I’m motivated to spread the word that this whole commenting on what other people are eating thing is not okay, unless the comment is (a) how delicious it looks, (b) ‘can I have the recipe?’ or (c) a question about my allergies (which some people hate, but I don’t mind, because some of mine are weird and most people have never met someone allergic to oranges, so I consider it a learning experience). But otherwise, my mantra is live and let live.

Even though I’ve moved past letting those comments affect my behavior, I still think they have a bad effect on promoting distorted body image and eating habits, especially among the young. I used to read those lists of ‘Top 10 Foods to Avoid’ or whatever they’re titling them these days, and suddenly decide that I had to cut out salmon, or something else completely ridiculous, and feel guilty if I slipped up. I’d try to copy ‘guilt-free’ recipes and in the process I didn’t just retain the guilt, I lost the joy in food. Now, I basically ignore everything I see and hear that purports to be advice on food, because the best advice, it turns out, is listening to your own body (and your doctor, of course!) I’m eating way more than ever before as I ramp up my running and add in new workouts, making sure to fuel and refuel properly. Between that and the fact that I need to eat every couple of hours to feel alert and focused, what I eat on a daily basis (showcased in my WIAW) tends to be mostly whole, unprocessed foods (with some ice cream and my own homemade baked treats, of course!) in pretty large quantities – I can put away a LOT of fruit and yogurt! And it suits me just fine.

 

2% Greek yogurt with peanut butter, blueberries, and a crumbled Caramel Apple Cinnamuffin - YUM

2% Greek yogurt with peanut butter, blueberries, and a crumbled Caramel Apple Cinnamuffin – YUM

 

But I didn’t just decide to share my own eating habits as a snapshot of my own life – I want to make it part of my effort to show the world that food means something different to everyone, and that no one should have to deal with other people commenting on what they eat, or feel ‘guilty’ at any time. There are some inspiring reads out there from other bloggers on this same topic, and I’ve linked a few of them here: Better Than Sprinkles on ‘Guilt-Free’, the Pickyrunner Food Story, and focusing on food itself at Running With Spoons. It’s wonderful to know that others out there have the same goal, and it’s my fervent hope that change is possible!

 

 

 

 

This is my Thinking Out Loud Thursday – I’d love to hear your thoughts. Do you ever get frustrated when others comment on your food choices? Do you think we’ve all become a bit too food-obsessed?

 

 

 

© 2015 Renaissance Runner Girl. All rights reserved.

 

Moving Forward in Bites and Bounds

It’s only Wednesday and already I feel as if I’ve done enough this week to warrant a weekend of rest (which is not happening anytime soon, thanks to my recurring insomnia and realization that I’ve tried to cram an entire February of fun into about four days). Between school and my internship, running and yoga, finding time with friends and working on my Junior League volunteer commitment, and recently adding November Project to the mix, life’s been a whirlwind. But like Ferris Bueller (my film hero) tells us, life moves pretty fast, and if you don’t stop and look around once in awhile, you could miss it. Not happening for this girl!

So I’m taking the time this week to tackle a few new challenges. I’m working to raise awareness during National Eating Disorders Awareness Week. I can’t fully describe how healing it was to be able to write about my own experience on this blog, and to have that post hit an all-time high of readership. Even if just one person read it and was encouraged to seek help or to come forward with their own story, I would feel like I was able to make a difference, taking past pain and turning it into something positive and far greater than myself. It’s already been so much more. And as I said in that post, part of moving forward with my life is staying healthy and happy so that I have the energy to enjoy new experiences that I never would have thought possible. To that end, I’m running through the winter (race you to spring!) and hosting my first dinner party, but keeping what’s most important at the forefront of my mind all the while.

 

Salt lasers across the metatarsals

Salt lasers across the metatarsals

Staying motivated this winter has been easier than expected. I don’t mind the cold as much when I’m out on the run. I guess it’s because I’m constantly in motion and keeping my heart rate up in a way that even a brisk walk won’t do (and I walk A LOT). But even I’m getting tired of all the white and grey stuff falling out of the sky and turning to slush on city streets. This morning, I was confused because I thought my sneakers suddenly didn’t match – turns out, the white lines I had begun to think were part of the design are actually salt stains. So I’m happy we finally had a few days above freezing, looking forward to spring, and getting ready to start my runs under a rising sun (though the sunrise is magical!)

 

 

Bakery on Main Carrot Cake Oatmeal goes well with apple spice tea! I also had a Caramel Apple Cinnamuffin on the side...so many oodles of delicious oats.

Bakery on Main Carrot Cake Oatmeal goes well with apple spice tea! I also had a Caramel Apple Cinnamuffin on the side…so many oodles of delicious oats.

But my experiences didn’t just lead me to healing via exercise and eating right. They also taught me the importance of rest and relaxation. There’s a difference between being a bit of a sleepyhead, rolling out of bed anyway, and going out for a pre-school jog or meeting the November Project tribe to start my day off right, and truly pushing myself past the brink of exhaustion. Yesterday I woke up to the latter kind of feeling. So instead of going for 5 miles as planned, I stayed under the covers a little while longer, had a bowl of oatmeal with berries and some tea, and enjoyed a leisurely breakfast before heading off to my internship. It was the best choice I could have made, and this morning I woke up refreshed and ready to get outside and greet the sun.

 

 

That leisure time also gave me a few moments to go over the menu for my dinner party on Saturday. I’ll be serving three courses, making most of the food myself (a few friends are bringing side dishes, but most will provide the wine and laughter!) As I sat there going over recipes and making a shopping list to pick up any ingredients missing from my cupboard, I realized just how far I’ve come. I could never have cooked for other people when I was suffering, the thought of being around so much food was actually frightening, and baking as often as I do now? With all the taste testing? It was out of the question. A few years ago, I read Brave Girl Eating. The author’s daughter struggled with anorexia, and while I don’t have a family that understood my experience in the way that hers did, the idea that food is just too fraught with complications in our culture struck me. We literally have policy debates going on about food, which is necessary but sadly so. While I don’t think that food necessarily equals love, I do think that food is food, and it should be whatever we want it to be – a source of quelling our hunger or experiencing new tastes or something that brings us together with other people. No one should have to feel like their decisions about food are anyone else’s to make, or like they have to justify eating or not eating anything. Hungry for an apple? Eat one! (Even when others think it’s too “healthy” – that’s why I try to share as much of my way of life as possible, because I definitely eat fruits and veggies alongside baked goods and ice cream.) Want some steak frites? Have that instead! Not hungry at noon? Eat lunch at two! Do what works for you, and listen to your own body and mind. This is what I make up my mind to do every day, and so far, so good.

 

The reservoir may be frozen, but I'm secretly hoping one day the sun will overpower it so much it melts into instant spring (like in Narnia...)

The reservoir may be frozen, but I’m secretly hoping one day the sun will overpower it so much it melts into instant spring (like in Narnia…)

 

 

 

© 2015 Renaissance Runner Girl. All rights reserved.

Caramel Apple Cinnamuffins

It’s official: my kitchen is experiencing olfactory overload. So many new recipes to try, and only so much winter break in which to try them!

This latest batch of muffins may seem familiar, cousins of my Banana-Maple-Oat and Apple-Berry-Nana creations. But these include a delightful twist of caramel, invisible in their warm golden-brown tops while infusing the scrumptious first bite. Enjoy!

 

Caramel Apple Cinnamuffins

Caramel Apple Cinnamuffins

 

Ingredients:

1 1/2 cups gluten-free rolled oats (I love Country Choice Organic Gluten Free Rolled Oats)

1/2 large apple

2 large eggs

1/3 cup brown sugar

4 oz unsweetened applesauce (you can also use sweetened and decrease the sugar)

6 oz 2% vanilla or apple Greek yogurt (I love using the seasonal flavors, like Chobani 2% Apple Cinnamon or Dannon Caramel Apple, but unfortunately yogurt makers think we only like these in the autumn – FALSE!)

1 1/2 tsp baking powder

1 1/2 tsp baking soda

1/4 cup caramel sauce (you can make your own, of course – this is the next skill I’ll tackle, but for now I used Stonewall Kitchen Sea Salt Caramel Sauce)

2-3 tsp cinnamon (to taste)

Butter, oil, or cooking spray (for the muffin tin)

 

Instructions:

Cinnamuffin Batter

Cinnamuffin Batter

1. Preheat oven to 400 degrees Fahrenheit.

2. Grease a 12-cup muffin tin with butter, oil or cooking spray.

3. Mix all dry ingredients in a large bowl.

4. Chop up half an apple into small cubes and toss into bowl.

5. Add egg, yogurt, and applesauce.

6. Mix well until the batter is uniform. This should be about 12-15 good stirs.

7. Now, for the caramel! I simply put my caramel sauce in at this stage and mix 4-5 more times so it becomes part of the batter, because I like the flavor throughout the muffin. However, you can also keep the caramel separate and fill each muffin tin about 2/3 of the way, then place a dollop of the sauce on top before adding the last bit of batter. This gives you a caramel center for each muffin, which can be a scrumptious surprise! I just like to mix it in, and then pour the batter into the muffin tin.

8. Bake at 400 degrees Fahrenheit for 15 minutes.

9. Let cool.

10. Enjoy!

 

 

Bursting with apples, cinnamon and caramel!

Bursting with apples, cinnamon and caramel!

 

 

 

© 2014 Renaissance Runner Girl. All rights reserved.