Coffee Is Not My Friend

DSC04140
I think my coffee habit started when I was 5 years old. We were living in an apartment in San Leandro, California and, every morning, my nana would wake me for school with a little rub on my back and no words. I’d get dressed, rub the sleep from my eyes, and work my way down the staircase to my dad’s antique rocking chair – a chair with a dark oak frame, velvet cushions, and ornate lion heads made for a big man to grasp as he rocked away. I’d curl up into its massive frame and… wait.

The house was always dark and quiet. I never remember announcing to my nana I was in the chair, but she was always shortly behind my arrival with breakfast: toasted Roman Meal wheat bread with butter and strawberry jam, and a cup of coffee – extra carnation milk (it’s a Guamanian thing) and a bit of sugar. Sometimes there’d be a scrambled egg, but usually not. Toast and coffee was it – and then away I’d go for the two block walk to school.

So, when I tell you I love coffee, I LOVE coffee. Coffee is history to me. Coffee is quiet time with my nana… it’s feelings of peace… it’s comfort and place and simply part of me. I’m one of those people who, literally, dreams of my morning coffee as I’m going to sleep at night. I feel the warmth of the mug between my hands – I hear the sweet morning conversations that will carry over my cup.

Coffee + morning… there’s never been another way.

While we were going through the darkness with the house transaction, however, I found myself drinking more and more coffee than usual. Yes, I’d have it in the morning… but then I’d have it again about 10am, I’d grab another cup sometime mid-day, and (as crazy as this sounds), I even found myself making  a small pot while I made dinner at night!

Coffee… coffee… coffee. It was the easy go to, you know?

Something not right? Drink coffee!

Feeling a little tired? Drink coffee!

Wish you could crawl into bed and cry over all the stress? Drink coffee!

I was easily at 4 mugs of coffee a day – and, if a large mug is really 16-24 ounces (and a ‘cup’ is 8 ounces), that means I was drinking 8 cups of coffee a day. 8 CUPS OF COFFEE. (Gosh, just writing that makes me sick right now.)

Then, one day about four weeks ago, I was standing in the kitchen… exhausted. There were two Starbucks cups of coffee on my counter, both half-finished. I had run out to my car to grab something for one of the kids and, lo and behold, there was yet another take-out coffee cup in my cup holder. I grabbed it, took it into the house, and, as I stood at the sink pouring out the three half-drank cups, it hit me: Elisha, pull it together, girl.

It was in that moment I decided coffee and I needed a break. I was embarrassed to realize the habit that was taking over and surely contributing to my lack of energy and clarity. I had stopped appreciating what I loved and enjoyed because I had stopped being intentional… and, because I had stopped being intentional, coffee had stopped being my friend.

No longer was coffee my sweet morning companion, it was my bane. It was zapping my brain, taking my money, and giving me the most horrendous taste in my mouth at all hours of the day. I felt gross every night.

So, in that very moment, I made the change. Literally, I simply chose different – and, instead of making coffee, I made a pot of green ginger tea.

“It’s better for you”, I told myself. (Agh! But it’s not coffee!)

No, it’s wasn’t coffee – it wasn’t my love; but, it was pleasant. It was so light on my palate. The ginger was spicy, the honey gave me that bit of sweet I needed.

The next morning – it was an intentional decision again: tea over coffee.

And the next day… and the next day.

By the third day my man was asking for some of the tea instead of his coffee.

Fourth day, fifth day… a whole week went by. While I still woke up wanting coffee each morning, I’d say to myself, “Self-control, Elisha… drink the tea.” Moment by moment, day by day, it was a decision I made. If I was out and about where coffee was offered, I’d drink ice water. If I met girlfriends ‘for coffee’, I ordered tea. INTENTIONALLY I choose to say no to what I felt was zapping me – and, after I had suffered through four or five days without it, I wasn’t going to give in and make all that suffering for nothing, you know? (Remember: I LOVE COFFEE. So what I’m telling you was not easy – it took effort!)

To make a long story short, here I am: back in the light and about four weeks without coffee and, let me tell you: I FEEL AMAZING. I’m not dying for a cup of coffee the way I used to; and, as a matter of fact, I don’t even find myself really wanting it anymore. Truly. I feel brighter, I’m not tired in the afternoons, I don’t have that constant nasty taste in my mouth that coffee leaves. I’m not saying I’ll never drink coffee again. As a matter of fact, just yesterday I ordered a cappuccino while I was writing and it was really, really good… and I only had ONE.

What I am saying, however, is that what I learned in the dark is this: sometimes the things we think we need are really things we should do without. We can get into habits, or patterns, or whatever… and we can crave and desire because it’s just ‘who we are’ or ‘what we do’… and, when we add stress the mix, those ‘things’ can even seem like our very best friends! But the truth is this: “God does not make us timid, but gives us POWER, LOVE, and SELF-DISCIPLINE.”  GOD MADE US FREE PEOPLE – PEOPLE WITH POWER OVER OUR CHOICES. This means when we’re in the dark and we discover there’s something breaking us down instead of building us up, our God gives us the power to change it!

For me in this season, the ‘thing’ I needed to do without was my coffee crutch. And, thanks to the darkness I walked through with my Father before me, I was able to see I’m better off without it.

The conclusion? Coffee is not my friend… but self-control sure is. 🙂

Ginger tea anyone?

If so, here’s what you do:

In a high sided pot, add 2 cups of water, 2 green tea bags, 1 tsp of fresh grated ginger. Bring to a boil. Turn off heat and let sit for 2 minutes.
Add 1 tsp of honey and a bit of milk (if desired)
Pour into your favorite mug… ENJOY! (Oh, and don’t use a strainer! You really want the little ginger bits… they’re delicious.)

FYI: My favorite green tea is the one at Costco:

DSC04139

And, for the ginger: use the back of a spoon to scrape the skin off, then use a microplane (or other fine grater) to grate it:

DSC04146

(NOTE: Green tea alone is like a superfood in a cup… and then you add the benefits of fresh ginger and raw honey! Wowza! Seriously – you’ll feel a difference if you replace your coffee habit with this concoction. I’m walking proof.)

Be the Change You Want To See

I love the gym. Not the floofy classes or the cushy easy-glide equipment, but the plate weights and the dumbbells and the free bars. I love the ‘real’ stuff – the stuff that I grew up with. The stuff that I know… that I understand… that I am comfortable with.

I got out of bed early this morning and hit the gym for the first time in weeks. The reality of my life is this: if I don’t steal the time for myself before the house wakes, I don’t make it happen.

I get tired.

I get lazy.

The ‘things’ of the day begin to suck at my skin and I just can’t get my mind right to put for the energy for a workout.

So, when a morning begins like it did today… me awake, the house asleep, iPod full of the best tunes, lots of sweat, 64 ounces of water before 7:30am, and tingling in my muscles, I am sooo thankful for my early years:

  • I’m thankful that working out wasn’t an option – it just was.
  • I’m thankful that my dad didn’t talk fitness… he lived fitness.
  • I’m thankful that my parents raised me so my body would never be a burden; I was raised to be in control of my physical being.
  • I am thankful the gym was home to me and, no matter how much time passes between my visits, I always return with comfort and ease.

That’s what growing up in bodybuilding did for me: it built a foundation of health. No, I’m not a bodybuilder – and, no, I have no desire to spend four hours a day in the gym… even if I had that kind of time in my day. BUT – growing up in bodybuilding grew a foundational desire in me to never let my body get away from me.

I learned from eating and breathing bodybuilding, day in and day out, that my body will be exactly what I feed it and train it to be. Period.

The funny thing is I’m positive my dad wasn’t intentionally training me all those years. He never pulled out a notebook with goals and milestones and ‘things I must teach my daughter before she’s 18’. He never sat me down and delivered bodybuilding sermons, or pontificated on the value of multiple reps and sets for each muscle group. No – my dad just was who he was and I learned by simply walking through life by his side.

Proverbs 22:6 promises that what we teach our children in their youth is what will stay with them:

“Point your kids in the right direction— when they’re old they won’t be lost.” (The Message Bible)

Or, another way it’s said is: “Start children off on the way they should go, and even when they are old they will not turn from it.” (NIV)

Today, just as I am reminded of the importance of the example I am living for my kids, I hope you’re reminded of the same.

Who WE are is who are children will become.

  • Our view of food will be their view of food.
  • How we handle trials will be how they handle trials.
  • How we value our bodies will be how they value their bodies.
  • How we love our spouse will be how they love their spouse.
  • How we respect ourselves will be how they respect themselves.

What WE do and who WE are matters far more than what we say.

  • We can’t preach ‘be kind’ if we ourselves are unkind.
  • We can’t preach ‘be healthy’ if we ourselves are unhealthy.
  • We can’t preach ‘be modest’ if we ourselves are immodest.
  • We can’t preach ‘be humble’ if we ourselves are full of ourselves and puffed up with pride.
  • We can’t preach ‘have faith’ if we ourselves are faith-less.

So today, mamas, let’s walk strong with eyes wide open. Let’s be the women we hope our girls will become.

Let’s be kind so they will learn kindness.

Let’s be generous so they will learn generosity.

Let’s be forgiving so they will learn forgiveness.

Let’s be patient so they will learn patience.

Let’s be bold so they will learn boldness.

Let’s be joyful so they will learn joy.

Let’s be thankful so they will learn thankfulness.

May our homes be where our children eat and breathe life and love and Truth, day in and day out…. so when they grow old, they will not depart from it.

My Out-of-Character Purple Quinoa Soup

We’re officially into summer, but here in Oregon the rain hasn’t stopped. It’s been dreary – just a little chilly. So, last night I decided to make soup for my family to warm us up from the inside out.

I had a beautiful head of red cabbage that I sautéed with some garlic and onions and then simmered in chicken broth. I added cooked quinoa and I seasoned the soup with cinnamon, fennel, and bay leaves. I added a little fresh lemon zest, a dash of sea salt and pepper, and served it with some fresh diced cilantro over the top. It was hearty, chalk full of nutrients, and the flavor was absolutely divine!

The one thing I didn’t bank on, however, was that my beautiful cabbage would go crazy in the pot. As it simmered, my good intentioned meal went from a pot of deliciousness to a big lavender-colored stew. The more lavender it got, the more my stomach sank. Yes, it smelled amazing – and it tasted amazing… but let’s get serious: no matter how spectacular my intentions and the flavors were, it was purple soup.

DSC06788

Even my man, who loves everything I cook, opened the pot and gave me a look like, “You serious?”

“It tastes amazing,” I said encouragingly. “I know it doesn’t look so great – but wait til you try it.”

I ladled it into bowls for everyone and, as the kids approached the table and saw servings of purple, I got one, then two, then three, “What is this?”

Again, I let out a little laugh (and a prayer they’d eat it since I had no backup plan) as I said, “You’ll love it – I promise!”

Long story short, my prayer was answered and everyone finished their dinner. Surprisingly, there was no complaining, no sounds of disgust – they just ate. Their eyes were half closed with every bite – but they ate nonetheless. (My man even went back for seconds.) Then, as they left the dinner table satisfied, and warm, and full up on nutrients, I even heard, “Gosh, mom, that wasn’t as bad as I thought it’d be.”

But, can I tell you something?

I was absolutely shocked they ate that soup. S.H.O.C.K.E.D. It was the ugliest bowl of soup I’ve ever consumed in my 40 years of life – and, hands down, it was the ugliest meal I’ve ever put in front of my family in all the years I’ve cooked for them. Maybe it’s just me – or us… but purple is not meant for soup. Purple is meant for hydrangeas, or skittles, or a snazzy handbag that gives a pop of color to a boring outfit. But soup? No thanks.

DSC06791

So, what gives then? How is it that my family got past the ugly flag that soup was waving and managed to discover it really was tasty?

I am convinced my family got past the ‘ugly’ because they know my ‘cooking character’. They enjoy my cooking night after night. They see the groceries I bring home; they know the flavors I play with; they’ve grown to trust how I put ingredients together; and, they are confident I cook, not to punish them, but to satisfy and nourish them with all things good. They’ve seen my ‘cooking character’ in the kitchen so regularly that, in spite of this total bomb, they knew they could trust I would never in a million years serve something that tasted disgusting… and that meant they simply ignored the ugly flag and dug right in.

With all that said, I turned off the kitchen lights last night with this quote floating through my mind:

My soup? It spoke really, really bad of me last night. Thankfully, though, I’ve lived out enough love in my kitchen that no one believed it to be true.

Why I Eat Quinoa.

I eat quinoa in practically every meal. Truly.

I eat it because it’s easy. It takes me seconds to put on the stove and it cooks by itself while I’m making breakfast or dinner. Then, I just store the big batch of it for an instant meal when I’m ready.

I eat it because it’s versatile.  I can eat it warm, or cold. I can put it with my greek yogurt and fruit, or I can make it savory with eggs and spinach. I can replace noodles in my soups with it, thicken vegetable stews with it, and turn it into the base for a phenomenal salad with every vegetable imaginable.

I eat it because it satisfies my appetite. It is filling, sustaining… it satiates me for hours.

I eat it because it makes me feel amazing. I feel light, energized, CLEAN.

Yes, I eat it because it’s ‘healthy’… but ‘healthy’ is hard to swallow if ‘healthy’ brings burden and frustration and confusion. And that’s what most ‘healthy’ trends do these days: burden people with dos and don’ts, calorie counts and carbohydrate components. Most ‘healthy’ talk these days goes against real food and, instead, tangles our mind in the pit of nutritionism, categories, and diet trends.

Quinoa is simple; it’s ancient. It causes me no burden, frustration or confusion.

Eating quinoa is like pulling out my favorite pair of blue jeans and dressing up or dressing down depending on my mood. It’s one of nature’s true superfoods; it was fed to Inca warriors as they headed out to battle thousands of years ago… and it is a prized food of endurance athletes around the world today.

No, I may not be a warrior with armor on, and I may not be running an organized marathon this afternoon. But, as a partner to my husband, a mom of three, a business owner, and a woman who never takes one breath for granted- I am a runner, a warrior, an athlete… and my calling requires physical strength, mental focus, and endurance.

That’s why I eat quinoa.

So this world can keep its diet trends, calorie counts, nutritionism talk, and confusion… I’ll have none of it. Instead, I’ll stick with my best friend, quinoa… and, I’ll be free, and powerful, and fit… and ready to take on the world.

Anyone care to join me?

Rebel on,

-e.

 

Training Eaters

When I talk about quinoa, or SmartyBars, or meals that I cook at home I am often asked, “…and your kids eat like this?”

My short answer is ‘yes’. But, what I am always sure to help them understand is this: I’ve trained them to eat ‘this way’.

The dictionary defines training as, “bringing a person to an agreed standard of proficiency by practice and instruction; activity leading to skilled behavior.’ Yes, my goal is to get my kids to eat well, but my larger goal is this: equipping my children with the skills they’ll need make healthy choices when they leave my home someday (or when they’re at a birthday party, or a friend’s house, etc.).

With this in mind, it is a day in, day out exercise in healthy choices that has made my children lovers of vegetables, fresh fruits, beans, nuts, fish. I buy what I want them to eat; I cook most of what they take in so that I can control the salt and the sugar content (so that they know what the real taste of food is); and, most importantly, I don’t offer any other options when it’s meal time. It’s been this way since before they could feed themselves.

Training, by nature, takes time. It takes dedication, commitment, and a understanding your goal. Look at Walmart, for example. Last year Walmart announced that it was working on a 5 year plan to reduce sodium and added sugars in it’s packaged foods. Why so long? Because it takes people time to get used to new tastes; taste palates need to be retrained. The same thing applies in our families.

Every taste of food we offer our children (especially those that predominate our diets) plays into their training. (This is where SmartyBars came from, actually: a desire to control the taste palate of my little guy so that he wasn’t ‘trained’ to need the added sweeteners and flavors.) Additionally, let’s not forget how what we – their trainers – eat also plays a huge role. When it gets right down to it, our children aren’t just listening – they are watching. They are watching what we eat, how we eat, when we eat… and all of that plays right into the eaters we are training them to be.

Thanks for being here.

Rebel on, -e.

 

5 Steps to Training Conscious Eaters

This week on twitter I was reminded of a this great quote:

We are walking billboards. If we are overweight and out of shape, lack vitality and enthusiasm, we are telling the world on our billboard, “I don’t care.” On the other hand, if you take care of your body by giving it proper nutrition and exercise, you will exude vitality and enthusiasm. Your sign will read, “I have pride, I have discipline, I take care of this God-given body, it’s my moral obligation.” -Jack Lallane, from his book Revitalize Your Life: Improve Your Looks, Your Health & Your Sex Life.

Growing up in a bodybuilding house this idea that we are “walking billboards” was always top of mind. Why? Because people are watching. Yes, whether we like it or not, others are watching our “example”. How we talk, how we dress, how we look, where we go, what we do – it all says something about what takes priority in our heart. We are a total package… therefore, if we are to have positive influence on others, we musn’t just be talking – we must be WALKING. Our life must say something – and, when it comes to whether we care about our health and fitness, what people see on the outside speaks louder than anything that ever comes out of our mouth.

Now that I’m a wife and mother, my “walking billboard” has grown to include my husband and my children. How they are “nourished” in my home is reflected in who they are – physically, emotionally, spiritually. I am no longer able to just think of health in terms of what I need and want… I must consider what “my tribe” needs and wants. Health and wellness is a family affair… and, if I want my family to be healthy and well, it all starts with me and the habits I cultivate in my home.

One “rebel” habit I am cultivating in my home, for example, is “conscious eating”. How? With these five basic steps:

First, regular meals at regular times of day. We have regular meals at regular times of the day: breakfast in the morning, lunch at mid-day, and dinner in the evening. No matter what our schedule, we do our best to all eat at the same time, and eat the same things; no one gets to “opt-out” of what’s be prepared for the family. And, when the kitchen “closes” after dinner, there is no more eating – period.

Second, proper portions. I serve my children on smaller plates/bowls than adults eat off of; smaller bodies need smaller portions. We rarely serve seconds – if there is still hunger after a meal, then we bring out fruit to top it off.

Third, listen to (and understand) your body. I once heard that the French word for “full” is actually translated, “I no longer have hunger”. This is what I want my kids to understand – that you don’t have to be “full” after a meal, you simply have to “no longer have hunger”.

Fourth, we have clear family definition for what a snack is. In between our regular meals, we have “snacks” – a nutrient dense nibble of whole food that will fend off hunger and provide the energy we need between meals.

Cookies and milk is not a snack.

A bowl of ice cream is not a snack.

A fruit snack is not a snack.

A sugar-laden granola bar (or protein bar or meal bar) is not a snack.

A bowl full of chips is not a snack.

None of these are a snack in our home because none of them fit our definition of snack: a nutrient dense nibble of whole food that will fend off hunger and provide us the energy we need between meals.

So, what is a snack?

Whole fruit is a snack. Nuts are a snack. A bowl of edemame or sugar snap peas is a snack. Crackers with peanut butter is a snack. SmartyBars are a snack. A slice of turkey or a piece of salami with cheese – that’s a snack.

Fifth, everything gets a plate. Nothing gets eaten unless it’s first put it on a plate (or in a bowl) – why? Because seeing how much you are serving yourself is key in understanding how much your body needs to “no longer have hunger”. I want my kids to see what they are consuming, not eat mindlessly.

I share all this because today is a great time for you to think about a couple of things: 1) are you happy with your “billboard”; and 2) if not, what is ONE step you can take to begin remaking your “billboard”?

Just one step… that’s what it takes to go in a new direction.

Rebel on, sister.

Elisha

Be Intentional…

Be intentional today. Think about what you’re eating before you eat it. Don’t just eat because of a “craving” or because of “convenience”, eat because what you choose to eat is going to get you one step closer to being who you want to be. Right choices are made second by second by second – and never forget: what we put in, we will get out.

Stop. Think. Choose.

 

The Food Pyramid of Common Sense

I don’t listen to “experts” when it comes to how to eat healthy. Why? Because if you’re going to listen to experts, how do you know what “expert” to listen to? “Healthy” to one is not “healthy” to another;  a “proper diet” to one is not a “proper diet” to another. Some say supplements, others say no diary, and others say nothing but protein.

So what’s a mom to do? I go with common sense.

See, if I just look around me and study creation there are great clues on how our Creator intended us to eat – what I tell my kids is the “food pyramid of common sense”:

1) Fruits, vegetables, nuts, seeds – these are all in abundance and easy to harvest and eat without any processing or preparation. Therefore, the foundation of our daily diet should be based on these things.

2) Eggs, milk. These are animal products that are abundant and, therefore, are a good source of protein on a daily basis. (I put cheeses and yogurt into this category since processing these items can be homemade without a factory.)

3) Fish and chicken. Easy to catch, easy to prepare… but not so easy that they need to be part of our daily intake.

4) Red meat, pork. Based on how difficult it would be to catch and prepare one of these animals if we had to do it ourself, we eat these things occasionally as a compliment to our overall intake.

What I just laid out is the foundation of how we eat as a family. Whole. Real. As simple as possible as often as possible.

Here are some habits I practice in my home:

About 90% of what we consume is homemade.

Not a lot of salt, rarely, rarely much processed sugar. (Unless, of course, we are making a batch of homemade cookies or fresh whipped cream!)

I buy the highest quality food my budget can afford at any particular time; I buy organic fruits and vegetables as often as possible. (I love frozen organic veggies – a little more cost effective if you buy them in the bulk bags.)

I keep what I want my children to eat the most of in plain view: fruit all over the place, nuts in see-through containers at eye level in the pantry.

What I don’t want them eating without permission is kept in our “naughty cabinet”. The “naughty cabinet” is where we keep crackers, chips, candy (if we have it), cookies… the “treats” in our home. If the kids want any of these things they must get permission first. (I’m a big believer in training kids how to enjoy treats in moderation. So, while we enjoy our “treats”, they are “treats” and not to be consumed without thought.)

Common sense eating has served us well – and it has also helped me to raise a little tribe of kids that truly LOVE good food – all food. We don’t have food fights around here, I don’t make separate meals for people, they eat their veggies as happily as they eat an apple. And, best of all, my kids are healthy, lean, strong, smart.

So be encouraged today. Now that 2012 is here I know many of you are probably trying to kick off better eating habits in your home… but don’t allow all the voices out there overwhelm you! Take a step back, breathe – take cues from nature and let simple common sense be your guide.

What’s A “Meal”?

My dad’s gym was right next door to our neighborhood market and, come lunch time, he would send me over to grab our “lunch” – fresh shrimp and a lemon. The ladies there knew us well and so would always help – and back I would go to our weight room where we would unwrap the shrimp, squeeze lemon juice over it, and eat it up with a protein smoothie on the side. Quick. Easy. Lunch.

This was always how we ate in our family. A “meal” was rarely a plate of food with a starch, a protein and a vegetable all prettied up and perfectly separated on a plate; a “meal” was also never so heavy that we walked away “stuffed”. No, our meals looked more like this:

A bunch of raw radishes and a chicken breast.

Hardboiled eggs, grapes, a couple pieces of wheat bread.

Shrimp (like I already mentioned) with a smoothie or some fresh fruit.

(These are the meals I mention because they are the earliest meals I remember as a child.)

This “training” I got growing up set the tone for how I eat now and how I am training my kids to eat:  sometimes a “meal” isn’t a full plate of food. I want them to learn this because, in our fast paced life, “busyness” is too easy of an excuse to eat like garbage. So, in our home when we’re pressed for time, we still eat in a way that shows them by example that whole, simple foods are the go-to.

Sometimes a “meal” is a couple slices of rolled up turkey, fruit and a handful of almonds.

Sometimes a meal is a peanut butter sandwich on seed bread and a banana.

Sometimes a meal is a bowl of roasted veggies, a few slices of chicken and a glass of milk.

This is an important concept for my kids to live out because I want them to go into the world on their own with a habit of reaching for the “good stuff” – the simple whole foods that energize us without wearing us down, that nourish us as we were created to be nourished.

Does it mean we never, ever eat fast food? Of course not! BUT – fast food is neither the norm, nor the habit. And, it is a choice we make – not something we “fall” into.

So, be encouraged today. If you want to eat healthier in your home, maybe one step is simply transforming your mind about what a “meal” has to look like.

Rebel on, elisha