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.

Energy
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.

Hydration
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?
doughnut
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.

http://www.artic.edu/research/louis-sullivan-collection

https://www.biography.com/people/louis-h-sullivan-38593

http://www.woundcarecenters.org/article/living-with-wounds/how-your-diet-can-aid-in-wound-healing

http://www.mayoclinic.org/diseases-conditions/rickets/symptoms-causes/dxc-20200468

http://spoonuniversity.com/how-to/how-senses-impact-your-dining-experience

http://ajcn.nutrition.org/content/105/1/85.abstract?sid=26fe028f-b992-4db2-8550-2db9ac671a52

https://www.theguardian.com/society/2014/oct/07/fat-not-bad-studies-misleading-scientists-say

https://www.hsph.harvard.edu/news/press-releases/improving-diet-quality-over-time-linked-with-reduced-risk-premature-death/

July 9, 2017

Five Easy Ways to Freshen Up Your Summer Menu!

teaHere are five ways to freshen up your summer menu! When it’s hot and humid, the last thing you want is to eat is a heavy meal. Fresh, cool, and light seems much more appealing. My preference is to live on gelato in the summer, but that’s not really practical. Of course, I’d be happy to add ice cream, fresh peach granita, or banana popsicles to the menu – again, not exactly practical.

So what are some easy ways to freshen up your summer menu?

Salads
Many of us default to salads as our lighter fare for the summer. Salads are a great place to showcase seasonal fruit and fresh herbs. Strawberries, blueberries, and peaches are all great additions to spring or bitter greens. It’s also a great time to use tomatoes as a base for Insalata Caprese! Mint and watermelon pair well with salty feta cheese while a salad of cucumber and dill will lighten up the meat off your grill.
caprese salad
Cold Soups
Cold soups can fill you up while cooling you off. I love gazpacho in the summer! The traditional version has a tomato base, but you can also begin with watermelon, cantaloupe, cherries, or strawberries. If you’d rather have a milder flavor, vichyssoise made of potatoes, leeks, cream, and broth may fill the bill. One of my favorite cold soups combines honeydew, cucumber, and jalapeño peppers.
honeydew soup
Chilled Condiments
In the winter, it’s comforting to add complimentary flavors to your dish by serving a warm, thick sauce or gravy. In the summer, pico de gallo, salsa, chimichurri, tzatziki, raita, or another cold condiment will add layers of flavor without the heaviness of gravy. I recently made chimichurri with baby arugula instead of parsley. It was delicious with grilled steak!
asparagus guac
Iced Drinks
Icing down anything when the thermometer hits 100º just seems reasonable – coffee, water, lemon water, juice, gin, and vodka are commonly served with ice. In the South, we also drink a lot of iced tea! Adding muddled mint or cilantro and leaving out the sugar makes the tea even more refreshing.

Cold Desserts
Summer is the perfect time to serve chilled banana, tapioca, or rice pudding. It’s also a great time for no-bake fresh fruit pies. My mom made a fresh peach pie that makes my mouth water every time I think about it. And really, there’s no need to cook – a bowl of fresh fruit topped with a tiny bit of plain yogurt sprinkled with cinnamon and nutmeg can easily satisfy your sweet tooth in the healthiest way possible.

Freshening up your summer menu with chilled food and fresh produce is practical, easy, and delicious! Give these 5 ways a try.

July 4, 2017

Being Gluten-Free Doesn’t Mean You Have to be a Wet Blanket

flagIt’s a holiday and nobody wants a wet blanket at the party! I am qualified to give Fourth of July advice because I once lived in a house with patriotically colored shag carpet. I’m not kidding, the house had red, white, and blue carpet. When I lived there, my family hosted a Fourth of July party at which invitees were asked to design a new flag or write a new national anthem.

Participation was enthusiastic. One couple extended a dog food bag between two poles and barked their national anthem. One couple displayed a Butter Side Down flag and read Dr. Seuss’s “The Butter Battle Book”. Two young men representing the Nation of Lost Children waved inflated condom flags on their heads. (I didn’t say the party was reverent.) No one took things too seriously and no one was afraid to participate.

It’s been a long time since I’ve been to a party like that. Cell phone cameras, social media derision, and an increasingly thin cultural skin has put a damper on lots of good-natured fun. With this new starting point, I feel even more responsibility to make sure I remain gluten-free without throwing a wet blanket on the party! You may feel the same way. My approach to gluten-free party fun is practical.

Family BBQ
Many Fourth of July celebrations include a family barbecue in the backyard, around the pool, at the lake, or on the beach. The key word here is family. You know your family dynamics. While I prefer to default to the direct approach, sometimes long-standing dysfunction means directness gets rewarded with punishment. If you believe that your requests will be ignored or your contribution unwelcome, you still have options to make a family gathering work for you. Let’s explore several possibilities.

Volunteer to bring an appetizer, side dish, or dessert.

I like this option because it’s a chance to change preconceived notions about gluten-free food. Ask if the host has specific dish in mind then, without mentioning it in advance, bring a gluten-free version that knocks their socks off. When you get a compliment and casually mention you made it gluten-free, you can see light bulbs go off. I love it when that happens!

Bring a favorite family recipe.

My Aunt Opal and my ex-husband take a slightly different approach. They arrive at parties bearing family favorites. While they hostess may not have been expecting it, the minute word spreads that Aunt Opal brought a cherry pie, excitement builds. If you make a mean GF version of your grandmother’s pound cake, just bring it and see what happens. Save a portion for yourself in a discreet separate container so you have a desert option available. If the hostess doesn’t want to serve the rest of the cake alongside her desserts, you can eat your portion and leave the rest as a hostess gift.
grill
Make it easy for the host.

If your sister-in-law begins to fret that she isn’t sure which hot dogs are gluten-free, offer to bring a package so she doesn’t have to read labels. If she doesn’t like that idea, ask if she’d mind saving the package until you have a chance to read it. Either option takes the burden off the host and puts it on you. Making it easier for the host means anticipating your presence at an event won’t put a damper on the party planning.

Don’t whine.

Whining is a definite wet blanket. Even if you believe that your sister was deliberate in failing to provide an option for you at the family bbq, don’t whine at the party. Feel however you want to feel and vent about it later if you’d like, but don’t let her see you sweat. This will take away her power to ignore, dismiss, or torment you and it will allow you to continue to receive invitations to extended family functions. Next year, you don’t have to be available for your sister’s party at all!

It’s much easier not to whine when you’re not hungry. If your family is unreliable, approach the family party as though it’s being hosted by a distant acquaintance. Be prepared by stashing a small cooler in the car filled with your food. You can excuse yourself to eat at the car, or fill your plate from the cooler depending on the circumstances.

No matter how difficult or uncomfortable a situation, it is absolutely okay to take care of yourself. If you do so in the most considerate way possible and a family member becomes irritable, rude, hateful, or cruel, it may be time to reexamine the health of your relationship with that person.

Sometimes it is difficult to see family members as they really are. It can be absolutely heartbreaking to recognize that those you most want to love, protect, and nurture you don’t have your best interest at heart. Unfortunately, the pertinent question may be whether you should sacrifice your well-being or limit your contact. I encourage you to protect your physical and emotional health even if a relationship doesn’t survive. Independence Day is the perfect time to become independently healthy!
food truck

Community Festival

Some towns have 4th-of-July festivals with concerts and fireworks. There’s a lot to enjoy even if you can’t have a funnel cake. A little preparation will allow you to relax and have as much fun as everyone else.

Investigate.

Many festival details will be available on community calendars, in the media, or from the local Chamber of Commerce. Knowing which food vendors or trucks are participating in an event gives you a chance to review menus or contact the vendors for information. There may be plenty of gluten-free options available on site.

Be prepared.

In the heat of summer a lightweight, easy to carry cooler bag is a great investment. With your potato salad on ice, you don’t have to worry about it spoiling. There are backpack styles, messenger bags, and rolling coolers. If your town frowns on outside food at an event, a baby food pack may be in order. If it prohibits outside food, try contacting the organizers for an exception.

Have a fallback plan.

In my family, too hungry comes along with shakiness, irritability, and confusion. If you don’t want a wet blanket squelching your fun, it’s best to never reach that point. That’s why we always have a fallback plan. When it’s impossible to determine what will be offered and bringing food is prevented, we pre-eat.

At one time pre-eating was the standard plan for gluten-free party participants. It’s slightly less necessary now than five years ago, but sometimes it’s still the best option.

Bring a positive attitude!

Of course the real key to having fun whether or not there are gluten-free options is choosing a positive attitude. Many times the only difference between having a fun time or an awful time is making the decision to see all the positive and ignore most of the negative.

Alternative Plans
At other times, you may not be able to wrestle a positive attitude. That’s okay. If you are in too much pain, are exhausted, or simply don’t have enough support in your life at any given time, an event may feel like an additional burden rather than a fun escape. An alternative plan can help keep you connected, but lessen the burden of investigating and planning.

If eating leftovers and taking a long hot bath while everyone else is at the festival makes you feel renewed, that may be a better choice. Offer your friends or family a compromise. After some renewal time, you will plan to join everyone later for drinks and fireworks.

Have fun!

You’ll always have more fun when you can relax and be present in the moment. Planning just enough to make sure your basic needs will be provided for can alleviate anxiety and allow you to focus on the fun of seeing how far you can spit a watermelon seed, spray water with the hose, or shoot a bottle rocket.

Happy 4th! Have fun!

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…

Accuracy
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.

Perspective
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. 

Patterns
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.

Tolerance
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.

Focus
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?