Archive for ‘Uncategorized’

July 18, 2017

Form Ever Follows Function

“Whether it be the sweeping eagle in his flight, or the open apple-blossom, the toiling work-horse, the blithe swan, the branching oak, the winding stream at its base, the drifting clouds, over all the coursing sun, form ever follows function, and this is the law. Where function does not change, form does not change. The granite rocks, the ever-brooding hills, remain for ages; the lightning lives, comes into shape, and dies, in a twinkling.

It is the pervading law of all things organic and inorganic, of all things physical and metaphysical, of all things human and all things superhuman, of all true manifestations of the head, of the heart, of the soul, that the life is recognizable in its expression, that form ever follows function. This is the law.” – Louis H. Sullivan, American Architect (1)

Form vs function is an often discussed topic amongst graphic designers, interior designers, product designers, and car salesmen. Asking a client which is more important is a quick way to determine how to appeal to that client. If the client’s priority is function, they will be more concerned with the performance of a car or chair than the beauty of its lines. An ad agency asking the question immediately knows to focus on copywriting more than graphic design. That client simply won’t appreciate superior design more than good design.

Presenting form and function as a dichotomy is a useful shortcut to discerning priorities, but it misses the point of the original concept. Function is always the basis for form. Without function, we do not need form. With that in mind, I suppose it could be argued that there is no function for art or music. I disagree, and I digress. We don’t talk much about form following function in the kitchen, but keeping that concept in mind can be helpful when making food choices.

Let’s start with the function of food.

The most basic function of food is to provide energy. Proteins, fats, and carbohydrates are the macronutrients needed in large quantities to give your body the energy it needs to perform daily activities. The body also uses energy to heal wounds.

Deliberately choosing the optimum amount of protein, fat, and carbs for your metabolism and lifestyle will give you the maximum amount of energy. As far as energy goes, it doesn’t matter how the macronutrients taste.

Cell and Organ Health
Vitamins and minerals are necessary for healthy cells and organs. Without enough potassium, your muscles weaken which can cause irregular heart rhythm. A lack of vitamin C can cause scurvy leading to anemia, exhaustion, pain in the limbs and other undesirable effects. Vitamin D deficiency may lead to rickets or weakening of the bones.

While these and other micronutrients are only needed in small amounts, they are essential if you wish to remain healthy.

Digestive Function

Dietary fiber is important to keep your digestive system moving. Fiber is resistant to digestion and absorption in the small intestine. It helps the colon move waste through the system. Fiber is plentiful in fruits, vegetables, nuts, seeds, and whole grains.

Water plays a part in breaking down large food molecules into smaller ones. It helps your system transport waste from the body. Lack of water can lead to muscle cramps, headache, confusion, rapid heartbeat, rapid breathing, fainting, and even death.

As long as you consume sufficient quantity and variety of macronutrients, micronutrients, fiber, and water, enough rest, and plenty of exercise, your body will function well. It does not matter whether the nutrients look pretty, taste good, or are prepared with love using your grandmother’s recipe.

The form of food may not be important to its function, but if it is not appealing to our senses, we won’t choose to eat it. 

How does the form of food affect our appetite?
Appeal to Our Senses
The science of neurogastronomy measures how the senses work together to enhance our experience of food. Eating is a multi-sensory experience. If you’ve ever walked into an office where someone just made popcorn, you know that you don’t have to see or taste the popcorn to want a handful. When a food causes multiple parts of our brain to light up, we will think the food tastes better. Obviously, we will choose foods that appeal to our senses.

And that’s where things start to get sticky. Form follows function in that we’re wired to find certain foods appealing, but while a juicy fresh peach may draw you in, so will the smell of fried chicken or French fries. And sugary cake, candy, ice cream, brownies, and doughnuts can feel irresistible. Things get even more complicated when you factor in all the manufactured and chemical flavorings or flavor enhancers we encounter on a regular basis.

Just because it’s appealing doesn’t mean it’s healthy.

Fat makes food taste better, but is it healthy? There are differing opinions and conflicting studies. Some doctors will advise you to limit fat in your diet to avoid high blood cholesterol. Others will advise you to limit sugar rather than fat. Trying to stay on top of all newly published nutritional information is difficult enough, but when studies conflict and marketing dollars are spent to promote a particular food industry’s interest, it’s hard to know what to believe.

A new Harvard study shows that small dietary changes like eating more whole grains, vegetables, fruits, nuts, and fish and less red and processed meats and sugary beverages over time can reduce the risk of death. Nature does its part to make vegetables and fruits colorful, juicy, and often sweet. A delicious ripe tomato, raspberry, or pear is full of healthy vitamins and carbohydrates and needs no cooking or adornment to taste good. Both form and function are at a peak when we choose these foods.

fruitForm vs Function

It seems like the dichotomy of form vs function has reared its head again. Many forms of food that appeal to us are unhealthy. That’s why it’s good to make function a constant priority. Good health is the same as optimal body function. Making food choices that maximize optimal body function over time are healthy choices.

Luckily, there are millions upon millions of delicious forms of healthy food from which we can choose each day! Keep the choices simple by prioritizing function, then choosing form.

(1)Sullivan, Louis H. (1896). “The Tall Office Building Artistically Considered”. Lippincott’s Magazine (March 1896): 403–409.

June 27, 2017

Keep Track

If we want to know what we’re really consuming each day, we have to keep track. If we really want to know whether we’re feeling more pain, more anxiety, or more fatigue, we have to keep track. If we hope to focus on experiences that create feelings of happiness, peace, gratitude, accomplishment, and joy, we have to keep track.

At some point when you’ve expressed a desire to improve some area of your life, you’ve probably been instructed by a friend or professional to keep a journal of what you eat or what you dream or how much pain you feel. You may have ignored these instructions. At times, I have too. It sounds like a lot of time and effort and I already have plenty to do. What’s the point?
box list
There are many reasons to keep a contemporaneous record…

If you’ve ever kept a weight-loss journal, you’ve probably surprised yourself. What you thought you ate each day and what you wrote down when you began keeping track may have been significantly different. You also may have noticed that your records were more accurate when you made them immediately following a meal rather than when you tried to reconstruct all of your meals at the end of the day.

If you try to remember Monday’s breakfast in exact detail on the following Monday, it is nearly impossible to do so accurately. It is the same with any memory. As time goes on, the details of an experience become more vague and less accurate. Recording what happens contemporaneously is a great reality check.

In the middle of any difficult situation, it’s hard to step back enough to gain perspective. Writing down what happens each day and how we feel about it gives us the opportunity to review later when things have calmed down. This can lead to valuable insights that would otherwise be lost. 

Over time, a written record may reveal significant patterns related to health – pain levels, hormone changes, symptoms of inflammation, sleep patterns, blood pressure, response to foods, response to medications, or a myriad of other health related patterns. Presenting our documentation to the doctor can help her with our diagnosis and an appropriate treatment plan.

A journal can also reveal patterns of behavior in our relationships, jobs, and self-care routines. It can show us how we respond when we feel dismissed, defensive, afraid, or overwhelmed. This is powerful knowledge! While we may not see these patterns as we go about living our lives, having them revealed gives us the opportunity to make informed choices. I can’t think of anything more powerful than informed choice.

We can’t control the curve balls life will throw us. We may suffer an accident or health crisis or loss of our home in a natural disaster. We may suffer abuse or neglect from our parents. We may lose our jobs because a coworker lies about us. The greatest power we have in these situations is the choice we make about how we will allow these events to affect our lives in the long term.

Until we recognize any lingering pattern of behavior that helped at a difficult time, appreciate and acknowledge both the positive assistance and coinciding limits that pattern creates, we cannot make this choice because we don’t see a choice. That makes the journal an immensely powerful tool for improvement in all areas of our lives.

When we are exposed to something over and over again, we develop the ability to tune it out and tolerate more of that stimuli. For instance, if you move to a new city with lots of traffic noise during sleeping hours, you will eventually become desensitized to the noise and be able to sleep. If the level of noise increases slowly over time, it is unlikely that your sleep will be disturbed.

The same is true with gradual increases in pain, fatigue, and general malaise. Our bodies get accustomed to the discomfort and a gradual increase may not register. We tolerate symptoms that would have been clear warning signs if their onset had been acute. Recording details daily and reviewing once a month can help you give your doctor a more accurate view of changes in your condition.

In order to compose a journal entry, you must shift your focus to the subject you’re recording. If you keep a dream journal, your focus will be dreams. If you keep a gratitude journal, your focus will be on things for which you feel grateful. If you keep a pain journal, your focus will be on recording the specifics of your pain.

When we focus our attention on something, other things shift and typically our focus begins to define how we feel. Focusing only on pain can easily lead to feeling helpless, depressed, or discouraged. Because of this tendency, I like to keep balance in my records. If I keep a record of pain, then I like to simultaneously keep a record of accomplishments and things that make me feel good. The two-to-one ratio of things that feel good to things that feel bad ensures that I don’t become absorbed by pain.

In order to see all 3 categories at once, I use a colorful plastic box and a tiny notepad. (There it is in the graphic above. Isn’t it cute? Cuteness makes me feel good.) Each evening, I make 3 lists on separate pieces of paper identified by category, then sit them out side by side. Once I’ve seen the lists together, I put them back in the box until the end of the month. At that point, I review.

I recently used Accomplishments, Things That Made Me Feel Good, and Insights as journal categories for a month. I was struggling. I felt so behind that I had lost any sense of accomplishment. The events that put me behind were also making me feel discouraged.

I decided I would record the tasks I completed so that I could gain perspective. At the same time, I’d record anything that made me feel good so that I could deliberately increase those things and thereby increase how often I felt good. Along the way, I knew I’d have a few revelations.

At the end of the month, I felt better even before reviewing the lists. Recording my accomplishments had already given me a realistic view that I was behind because I had too much on my plate, not because I was being inefficient, lazy, or incompetent. Knowing that meant I could direct my energy toward setting better boundaries and reducing my task list. The shift from only seeing the problem to also seeing possible solutions felt positive, optimistic, and freeing.

Catalyst for Change
If a shift from seeing a problem to seeing solutions feels positive, optimistic, and freeing, why are so many of us averse to change? Fearful habits often keep us stuck in miserable places. We may not register a feeling of fear. We may feel the anticipation of another’s disappointment, shunning, cruelty, or displeasure with us if we buck the system, but we express this as family obligation, work ethic, being considerate, or being conscientious. Sometimes we may even call it love.

We may feel reluctance to challenge a belief that we’re not worthy of good things…what if we find out we’re not? We may be sensitized to emotional danger in a way that makes us hyper-vigilantly avoid rocking the boat at home, at work, or with our friends. No matter how we label these fears, our commitment to them prevents us from embracing change.

Keeping a journal, can be an effective catalyst for change. It’s much harder to deny or ignore how we feel if we’ve recorded those feelings when we experience them. By writing events down, we preserve an accurate record for later reference. And using a journal or a box full of lists to focus our attention differently can make it easier to see solutions to long-standing problems.

They say that if we don’t learn from history, we’re doomed to repeat it. I’d rather keep track now so that I have more options later. How about you?

June 6, 2017

Five Rainy Day Comfort Foods

With wave after wave of rain falling this year, I want some rainy day comfort food on hand. What’s rainy day comfort food? That’s today’s exploration.
When I look outside and see a wall of clouds and soaking drizzle, I don’t immediately think ahhh I want a grilled steak. I don’t feel much like eating a salad either. A baked potato, on the other hand, sounds good. Macaroni and cheese sounds even better. Cozy, comforting food preferences seem to accompany gloomy days. But when heat and rain arrive together, my snuggly, comfort food preferences are slightly different than during a winter snow storm.

So, what are my top five comfort food choices for rainy summer days?

Grilled cheese and tomato juice
While hot soup may not sound good on a warm day, a grilled sandwich can still be appealing. In the summer, I like to top gluten-free grilled cheese with spinach or arugula & pair it with cold tomato juice instead of hot tomato soup. A Reuben sandwich also entices on a rainy day, but I rarely have the ingredients available. That means it doesn’t make the list of staples I reach for when rain is in the forecast.

B,L,T and kohlrabi pickles
Another comforting sandwich is bacon and tomato. My grandmother offered these with perfectly crisp bacon, homegrown tomatoes, and a little mayonnaise. She never bothered with lettuce. Bacon, tomato, & lettuce or avocado on toasted gluten-free bread leaves my mouth watering just typing the words. Kohlrabi pickles from the fridge served alongside add the perfect bright spot on a dreary day.
Mashed potatoes with chives
Sometimes I reach for potatoes on a rainy June day. Even though potato salad might be the expected summer preparation, I choose mashed potatoes and leave them a little chunky. Flavored with butter, a couple of tablespoons of half and half, and chives, there’s no need for the added heaviness of gravy.

Pasta with Parmesan
I always keep a package of gluten-free pasta in the pantry. While it’s cooking according to the package directions, I melt a tbsp or two of butter in a skillet or sauté pan. Then I add 1/2 to 2/3 cup of milk, half and half, or cream. I just use whatever I have handy. Once the sauce is warm and begins to bubble, I sprinkle it with garlic powder, salt, coarse black pepper, and add shredded or grated Parmesan. When it’s done, I drain the pasta and stir it into the sauce. The whole process takes less than 15 minutes and the cheesy goodness wraps your insides in comfort.

To make this dish an entrée, I add frozen English peas to the pasta during the last 5 minutes of cooking, then drain and add them to the sauce along with the pasta. If I have leftover chicken, I chop or shred it and warm it in the sauce as well. Chicken, peas, pasta, and cheese makes a complete, satisfying meal.

Ice cream, frozen yogurt, or gelato
I love ice cream any time of year, but I could live on it in the summer when it’s 114 outside and I’m afraid my tires will melt driving down the highway. Even on a rainy day, ice cream makes me feel happy. Sometimes the selection in my freezer leaves me choosing from frozen yogurt bars or black raspberry and chocolate chip gelato. That’s not a bad thing. They’re definitely cold, sweet, delicious little rays of sunshine shewing the dark clouds away.

Those are today’s five winners!

You may have other rainy day favorites – chicken and rice, Pizza Margherita, movie popcorn, or a frozen candy bar. On years like this one, it’s good to keep a few favorites on hand cause the rain keeps popping up, or more appropriately stated – pouring down, in spite of the forecast.

Maybe after our ice cream, we’ll see a rainbow! That sounds delicious.

March 21, 2017

Treating Depression with Diet

Will the medical community begin treating depression with diet? Of course, I hope so. At Cooking2Thrive, we support healthy diet and exercise as a first step in treating and preventing any disease. If that first line of treatment works, there’s no need for the introduction of chemical medications that may have numerous adverse side effects. The use of diet and exercise first also reduces the cost of medical care. Finally, science has begun controlled trials that can show whether diet is effective treatment for specific conditions.
Diet as effective as drugs?

We know that exercise can be as effective as drugs for some conditions. How we fuel our cells is bound to affect how they perform, so in some ways this result doesn’t seem all that surprising. But don’t get too excited yet. One promising study doesn’t mean there will be any immediate change in protocol in psychiatric medicine.

For one thing, this study was small and small may or may not reflect the results you would find in a larger group. Before the medical approach changes, there will need to be larger studies that repeat this result.
It’s food, not drugs.

The good news is that this improvement was driven by food, not drugs. If you suffer from depression, it may be possible to improve your outlook by changing your diet on your own. Do not take this as a license to discontinue any medication you are currently taking without consulting your physician. Some antidepressants must be tapered down in order to avoid adverse reactions. Instead, work with your physician or therapist to revise your treatment plan to include nutritional counseling and dietary change.
In the SMILES study mentioned above, the experimental group received dietary advice and nutritional counseling that included goal setting and mindful eating. The specific dietary recommendations were:
5-8 servings per day of whole grains
6 vegetable servings per day
3 fruit servings per day
3-4 legume servings per week
2-3 servings per day of low-fat and unsweetened dairy foods
1 serving per day of raw and unsalted nuts
At least 2 servings per week of fish
3-4 servings per week lean red meat
2-3 servings per week chicken
Up to 6 eggs per week
3 tbsp per day olive oil
Up to two glasses of wine per day only with meals. Red wine preferred.

In addition, participants were encouraged to reduce intake of sweets, refined cereals, fried food, fast-food, processed meats and sugary drinks, and any alcohol beyond two glasses of wine per day with a meal.

As you can see, there’s nothing radical here. The experimental group was simply consuming the kind of healthy diet that benefits all of us.
I know I told you not to get too excited, but if the results of this study hold true, the news is incredibly exciting!!!

According to the CDC, 3% of Americans (more than 9 million) over the age of 12 had severe depressive symptoms in 2012. Almost 43% of those reported serious difficulties at home, at work, and socially. Of that 43%, only 35% reported having contact with a mental health professional during the past year and those living below the poverty level were 2.5 times more likely to have depression than those above the poverty level. Dietary support can be a powerful way to help the approximately 1.4 million severely depressed people who do not have a mental health professional.

Dietary support and change can also improve the mood and resilience of those who suffer from diabetes, IBS, celiac disease, heart disease, fatigue, reflux, and eczema. All we have to do is overcome our resistance to change.

Okay, I know that’s a big obstacle. And that…is the challenge.