Posts tagged ‘guilt’

March 27, 2018

What’s Worth Preserving?

In the kitchen and in life it’s important to consider what’s worth preserving. After recovering from a severe stomach virus in December, my system has been slowly readjusting to raw vegetables and meat proteins. I’ve cooked a number of dishes that I ultimately couldn’t tolerate. I feel a bit wasteful throwing those away, so I’m constantly faced with a decision about what’s worth preserving.
I don’t have a canner, so preserving food is primarily limited to freezing. I have to confess that I’m really bad at freezing anything other than baked goods. Actually, I’m really bad at remembering to thaw the food.

Of course I open my freezer every day. I get ice out of the ice maker. I grab a handful of almonds I store there. I sometimes grab flour out of it to bake. But those things can be used immediately. A muffin can be microwaved for a few seconds. On the other hand, a roast, Cornish hen, or chicken thighs take time to thaw. That’s where the problem comes in.

I plan when I’m creating or testing recipes. When I’m cooking for myself, I fly by the seat of my pants most of the time. Thawing and last minute cooking don’t mesh well. And I haven’t been pleased with the results I get from microwave thawing. Knowing myself as I do, I work around this weakness by rarely preserving in the freezer.
Instead, I ask the following questions when I’m deciding what to keep:

How much longer will it last?
What I can’t tolerate today, I may be able to in 3 or 4 days. If it will last 3 or 4 days it still has usefulness and I will keep it.

Can I freeze it, then give it away?
My sister falls on the opposite end of the freezing spectrum. It’s her favorite way to store food. Sometimes it makes sense for me to freeze something, then give it to her.

If I cook it, will I eat it?
The answer to this question may lead me to cook the food, but give it away. If I have a friend who is overly busy or has been ill, I can do us both a favor by preparing the food then delivering it to them.

Can I donate it?
A local food bank or food closet may be able to accept fresh food. We have a new local organization that only serves veterans and disseminates quickly so perishables are acceptable. Churches may also be able to use the food to feed members of a congregation.

Should I throw it away?
Sometimes throwing something away is the best decision. If you were raised to conserve, reduce, reuse, and recycle, this may be a difficult concept to absorb.

When I was small, we had very little money. I don’t like wastefulness. It makes me feel anxious and insecure. What’s gone can’t be gotten back and I internalized the idea that I might not be able to afford to replace it. Most of the time, this serves to make me more efficient and less wasteful, but it can also cause me to want to hold onto too many things.

This is the point at which questions about food preservation begin to intersect with questions about what’s worth preserving in life. Should I hold onto every piece of furniture or knick-knack that I remember from my grandmother’s house? Should I keep every blurry photo of my family? Should I hang onto grudges against my aunts and uncles that originated before I was born?

Our experiences and families leave a legacy often left unexamined. But in life it’s valuable to ask what’s worth preserving. Sometimes what we retain is limiting us from having the life we desire. We accept a version of reality that may not have to apply.

When deciding what’s worth preserving in life, I often begin a question with – Can I know for sure that…

Can I know for sure that I won’t have funds to replace my mom’s dresser that has outlived its usefulness?

Can I know for sure I’ll forget the warm feeling I had in my grandmother’s kitchen if I get rid of her cookie jar?

Can I know for sure I won’t see that same smile on my cousin’s face in a different photo that’s not blurry?

Can I know for sure that Uncle John is as rotten as my dad said if I don’t get to know him myself?

Can I know for sure that I won’t find love again if I let go of this relationship that makes me feel really bad about myself?

Can I know for sure that I won’t get that dream job even though I’m only 80% qualified? Should I just stick here where I’m miserable, but secure?

If I can’t know beyond a shadow of a doubt that something is true, then I turn the question around and ask – Is it possible that…

Is it possible that I will find a dresser that’s cherry like my bed instead of a mismatched maple one with a drawer that sticks?

Is it possible that the smell of peanut butter cookies baking in my oven will remind me of the warm feeling I had in my grandmother’s kitchen?

Is it possible that I have 15 pictures of my cousin’s smile in the 5 boxes of photos I haven’t organized because there’s so many to go through?

Is it possible that Uncle John tried to apologize to my dad, but my dad wouldn’t listen and he’d actually love to have a relationship with me and my sister?

Is it possible that I don’t believe I deserve to feel good about myself in a relationship?

Is it possible that a fear of being inadequate is standing between me and the job I want?

If I can’t know for sure and it’s possible that exactly the opposite is true, what am I preventing by holding onto my current belief? Am I cluttering my house with so much stuff that has to be cleaned that I don’t have time to enjoy my family? Am I cluttering my collections with so many extraneous things that the best aren’t easily visible? Am I missing out on a positive, supportive relationship because of someone else’s beef? Am I missing out on a loving partnership that makes me feel I am being my best because I keep trying to make a bad one work? Am I missing out on my dream job by letting doubt keep me from applying?

It could be that some of the things I’m holding on to are costing me dearly. By asking a question and then turning that question around, I can quickly identify things in my life that are not worth preserving. Sometimes they seem so obvious, I wonder how I could have been so blind.

One thing I know to let go of is guilt; another is shame. I will make mistakes. I will make decisions of which I’m ashamed. I will fail. I can hold onto guilt, shame, and failure and in the process lose my best self or I can let them go in order to learn, improve, and shine in my life. I choose to let them go. Some things just aren’t worth preserving!

November 9, 2012

Haste Not Waste

Have a pantry full of mac & cheese, snack cakes, stuffing, pasta, complete boxed meals, flavored rice mixes, breakfast cereal, packets of instant oatmeal, biscuit mix, pancake mix, muffin mix, cake mix, and granola bars? Can’t stand the idea of it going to waste? I hear you. I hate wasting food.

If you are hesitant to begin an eating plan that lowers your carbs and sodium, or eliminates chemicals, starches, sugar, or gluten while the pantry is full, remember that it’s never too early to start getting healthy and the shelf life of boxed food is l-o-n-g. As you continue to consume foods that harm your system, your resolve to make positive changes can begin to wane, especially when you feel bad. How can you bridge the disconnect between your desire for better health and your guilt over wasting food? What if you can make haste without waste?

Instead of waiting until you’ve used the food you have on hand to start a healthy eating plan, consider donating that food to those in need or to those who you appreciate. Look around your community for the opportunity that best fits your values.

In my city, it is possible to donate food to a nonprofit food bank, a homeless shelter, and several church food pantries. There are online groups like Freecycle that allow members to offer any sort of item at no cost to other group members. Some local fire stations accept food donations giving you a chance to take your kids to visit the firemen when you drop off the food. Not only can your children learn about personally helping others, they can get a first hand view of a public service career.

For those of you with ample storage space and advanced will power, move the processed food items out of your pantry into long-term storage. Pull out and cook these items when you attend a potluck or donate to a bake sale. Do not replenish this store and soon your supply will be depleted.

If you feel you need one last hurrah before choosing a healthy path, have a party. Let the menu consist of the mismatched processed foods you have on hand. Create a memory card for each dish that says things like: Thank you Frosted Mini Wheats for making my leftover milk sugary sweet; thank you mac & cheese for making me feel like a 10 year old again; thank you granola bars for keeping my shirt clean when I eat in the car. These cards will be great conversation starters as you and your friends travel down memory lane.

Once you’ve emptied the pantry in a guilt-free manner, there will be room for healthy replacements. Once you let go of your old eating habits, you will have the energy to replace those habits with new ones. You are important. Your health is critical to your well being. You cannot afford to continue to delay. Now is the time to make haste, not waste.


April 8, 2012

How can change begin when you’re struggling?

First I started feeling frightened – a sort of antsy, anxious feeling at the edge of my awareness.  I noticed that I felt hungry, but I wanted to be very disciplined about my meal times so I decided to wait awhile before eating.  I passed the time by reading an article on anorexia (interesting choice don’t you think?) and looking at some photos of me that I had just uploaded to my laptop.  

 Soon after daylight savings times begins each year I have one of these days.  I feel like my natural body rhythm is out of sync.  Oh who am I kidding, I have days where I feel out of sync at least once a week, but I like to blame daylight savings time.  Anyway, it was Saturday and I hadn’t made a plan for the day.

 I found myself feeling hungry and dissatisfied with how I looked in the photos punctuated by a vague awareness that I may share some emotional characteristics with anorexics, plus I felt anxious and unproductive without a goal for the day.

 How often do I feel this way?  Not often.  But to ask how often and stop with that is to miss the point. The reason I don’t often feel anxiously unproductive is that I manage that anxiety by preventing it.

 A preventative approach?  “That’s good, you say.  How do you do it?”  Now before you get ready to start making a list of what I do so you can do it, please read further.  

 I’m a pretty smart cookie and I can make even the most convoluted adaptation sound good – especially to me. Remember we’re talking about fear of change.  So here’s my pattern:  I fill each day with a To Do List no one could possibly complete.  Once I’ve gotten through 75-80% of the list, I allow myself to feel okay about stopping from exhaustion.  I also congratulate myself for being productive thereby making me more likely to repeat this pattern again and again.  Don’t get me wrong, I get lots of outside affirmation for this pattern of behavior as well because I can handle massive amounts of work without blinking an eye.  No one has ever called me lazy.

 The pertinent question isn’t whether I’m productive or whether I’m well-adjusted to societal expectation.  The real question is:  Is this structure that I’ve created to keep me from feeling anxious also preventing me from being true to myself, experiencing joy, and connecting with people in a fulfilling way?  In other words, is my self-protective system for anxiety prevention actually keeping me anxious and stuck along with preventing me from making change?  

 I know some of you will object to the idea that we willfully create structures of protection that we then become afraid to challenge.  Your response may be to say that you know you use anger to protect yourself, but that’s what you learned growing up in an explosive family and while you may lead with anger, you’re never abusive like they were so what’s the big deal?  Your response may be to feel way down deep that you ARE your persona of protection and it is YOU. To allow one thought of you without that persona attached may be to imagine that you will disappear, die, cease to exist, never have love, or be shunned.  If this is the case, it will feel extremely important for you to prevent that thought from reaching your consciousness and you’ll be willing to use any means necessary to prevent such an occurrence.  If that nagging thought should rear it’s ugly head in the back of your mind, you’ll reach for a distraction so fast you may not even realize what you’ve done.

 It is often at this point that our relationship with food enters the picture.  Some of us use food as a distraction from anxiety or discomfort.  We immediately reach for a sweet treat to fool our brain with a sugar-induced euphoria.  Some of us are aware that we need a distraction so we’ll go for a walk or go to the gym.  Then we believe we deserve a reward or can afford a few extra calories, so we’ll eat an extra yeast roll with dinner.  Some of us will add guilt to the formula.  We feel guilty for eating the treat or rewarding ourselves. Then guilt feeds anxiety which sends us back into our protective structure where the surroundings feel familiar.  

 With all these complicated entanglements, our brains may immediately react to a suggested change in diet as if we are being threatened with death.  According to Cynthia Kupper, Executive Director of the Gluten Intolerance Group, surveys of Celiac patients have shown that a high percentage of those diagnosed believe their Celiac diagnosis to be worse than a cancer diagnosis.  In reality those patients are not facing surgery, chemotherapy, radiation, a need for dangerous medication, or immediate danger of losing their lives.  It just feels that way.

 Now let’s go back to that recent Saturday I was facing without a plan.  Was it tempting to fall back into my normal pattern?  Of course it was.  But it seemed like the perfect day to explore a different possibility.  I decided to change the question I constantly ask myself from what do I NEED to do today to what do I WANT to do today?

 What did I want?  I wanted to lessen my anxiety.  I decided to begin by feeding myself since for me hunger works as an emotional trigger. I also know that when I am in the kitchen preparing food my brain settles down and that vague sense of hunger subsides so I decide that cooking is a good way to move into the day in a different way. I was wanting a really tasty cheese cracker to eat with the soup I had in the fridge, so I grabbed some cheddar cheese, some parmesan cheese, the almond flour and some butter.  As I began to cook I felt myself relax.  Forty-five minutes later, I  plopped on the couch in front of some reality TV with a bowl of crackers beside me.  Yum, the result of asking what I want was deliciously cheesy and crunchy.*

 How did I feel?  I had a much better outlook on the day.  I felt less scared, more full, and like being more kind to myself for the rest of the day.  I could have moped through the day annoyed and dragging my feet, as I have been known to do when I’m not willing to push myself down the To Do List,  followed by feeling guilty on Sunday thus allowing myself to get right back to needing to prevent anxiety by overproducing. Instead, I began what turned out to be a relaxing, renewing weekend by asking myself a different question and being willing to follow where the answer led.

 Big changes really are that simple. They can begin by simply stopping yourself from what you “normally” do.  Knowing this may help you if you are struggling to remain gluten-free.  Our brains trick us into thinking change is hard because we get stuck in the patterns we formed early on to protect us… and we’re scared… and scared feels dangerous.  Always remember – big change is just lots of small changes added together and it’s okay to feel scared.  Once you are willing to feel your fear long enough to do one thing differently, you will have discovered the secret to embracing change.  Rest assured you will not lose yourself in the process, it just may feel that way for a brief moment as you begin to let go of old patterns of behavior.

 The other thing you should know is that I was able to shift fairly quickly on that recent Saturday because I have spent several years preparing myself and learning how to be comfortable with, and let go of, those stories I tell myself that hold me back.  And you will soon be able benefit from my experience so that you can have success with change in a much shorter period of time than I did!  I have taken those years of experience and developed a set of emotional and social support tools to guide you along the way.  They’re called the Cooking2Thrive® Essential Utensil Support Tools and they’ll soon be released for publication. Wouldn’t it be easier to take that first step toward change if you knew that there was a guide to prepare you for the next step and the next?  That’s just what you get with the Essential Utensil Support Tools.  Be the first to learn the secret to becoming your best, healthiest self without a struggle.  Keep checking back here.  We’ll let you know the minute they’re released and how you can get them!  


Cheese Crackers

Empire Waist Cheese Crackers


*My cheese crackers are now called Empire Waist Cheese Crackers and they’re fantastic!