Here we are in March, where days of sun give hope for spring and colorful crocuses push through the stiff dirt in protest of those long dark winter days. It’s also the month where we’re focusing on health.
I was asked to talk to you all about my tips for how I stay healthy and to be perfectly honest, at first I laughed. Me, talk about health?! I ate ice cream last night and have a roll of cookie dough lounging in the the fridge because you never know when the urge might strike. And then I started thinking a little deeper, beyond my sugar cravings, and realized that I do have a lot to say on the subject.
First of all, I have no rules. There was a time when I put a lot of limits on the way I eat. You know what happened? All I could think about was food. All day long I would sit, hungry, dreaming about the food I told myself was off limits. I’m terrible with rules. Give me a rule and I’ll obsess over it. I thought about food day and night and yet never felt satisfied. I limited myself so much that it became my obsession. When I broke a rule I felt terribly guilty and shameful. These rules took the joy out of food and nearly made it my enemy.
With a diet of no rules, however, I can think more clearly about eating that cookie. Do I really want it? Today, maybe yes. But I don’t sit around dreaming of the cookies I can’t have, so I don’t crave them nearly as much. When I do enjoy them, I savor it—feeling good about its sweetness. I don’t fret over the calories. I enjoy the moment and move on.
I also listen to my body. I know that I feel much better when I eat meals laden with fresh produce. There’s no denying it. I feel strong, alert, energetic and healthy. I like that feeling. So when I’m not feeling those things, I take it as a sign that I need more vegetables and good food. Those are the times when I pack the blender with fresh spinach and toss in an apple, carrot and lemon juice.
When you listen to your body you are also aware when it says, “I’m done.” There’s no need to keep eating when I’m full. Again, when there are no rules it’s much easier to avoid overeating because you have no reason for an unhealthy binge. You’re free to stop and look forward to the next meal when you’ll feel hungry again.
I practice radical moderation. What’s so radical about it? Sometimes even my moderation needs moderation. I’m a firm believer in Julia Child’s great quote, “Everything in moderation, including moderation.” There are vacations, birthday parties and holidays which make healthy eating difficult. Enjoy the party then the next day recover with salad. I’m not talking about plainly dressed greens here. Even salads can be fun (see recipe above).
Just like everything else in life, it’s all about the little decisions. Do I really need to find the closest parking spot? Why don’t I take a few moments to walk around the block? Is that second latte the best idea? One cookie really is enough, mostly. These little decisions add up to big changes over the course of a few months, years and a lifetime. It’s not about big, radical changes that fall by the wayside before dinner is ready. It’s about a lifetime of little decisions that value yourself, your health and the health of your family.
One last thing before you go make the salad. People often ask how I teach my kids about health. I live a life following the advice I just gave you. My kids are watching. They see me choosing to walk to the store rather than drive, they see me happily enjoying a produce-packed smoothie and a colorful salad for dinner. They also see me enjoying a bowl of ice cream. I want my kids to see food for the gift it is. Not a burden or a set of rules that need to be governed. My desire is for them to respect food and to love their bodies well. I teach them by doing the same for myself.
SALAD OF CARA CARA ORANGES, AVOCADO AND FETA
Adapted from The A.O.C. Cookbook Serves 4
Ingredients for the Salad:
2 Cara Cara Oranges, peeled and segmented
1 head Romaine washed and cut into thin ribbons
2 heads of Endive (optional) cut into thin ribbons
1 ripe avocado
1 cup crumbled Feta
1 cup chopped cilantro
1 tablespoon toasted sesame seeds (optional)
Ingredients for the Dressing:
1 large, ripe Haas avocado
Zest and juice from 1 lime
1/4 cup water
1/3 cup olive oil
Pinch chile flake
Directions for the Dressing:
Combine the avocado, lime zest and juice and water in a blender or food processor. Process until completely smooth.
Pour in the olive oil and pulse just to combine as you don’t want to bruise the olive oil or it will taste bitter.
Add a pinch of salt and chile flake. Taste and adjust seasoning.
Combine the clean greens in a bowl and toss with enough dressing to coat. You will have leftover dressing. I like to give the greens a pinch of salt too. Seems strange, but I assure you even lettuce perks up with a bit of seasoning.
Add the orange segments, avocado, cilantro and feta. Finish with the sesame seeds, if using.
Well covered, extra dressing will keep in the fridge for a few days.