Preparing for Autumn’s Contraction

Hello GE Followers:
Today, while preparing for the coming work week,  I thought I would blog about Autumn’s contraction and self-care.  For those of you who may not be familiar with Macrobiotics.  Here is my Cliff Notes (so-to-speak) definition:  Macrobiotics is about Yin and Yang/Expansive and Contracting foods. Traditional/basic macrobiotic practices include eating more whole grains, beans and fresh vegetables, eating regularly and chewing more. If you’d like to know more about macrobiotics, check out the Kushi Institute
Because we New Englanders are heading for cooler weather, it is time to rethink what you’ve been eating.  I am sure like me, you spent the summer eating lots of fresh fruit, summer vegetables and salads and doing little to no cooking.  That is what is so great about spring and summer — it is more conducive to a raw diet.  But now that we are moving into Autumn, it is time to rethink how you should eat for the coming months.  If you shop at a local farmers market, then you know what is in season, and in accordance to where you live.  I received an email update from my local farmer that assorted potatoes, a variety of squash, kale, and onions are a plenty.  They also recommend a couple of nearby apple farms.  Well there you have it, ladies and gentleman.  I live in New England and the items listed above are what is in season so that’s what I should be eating.
Friday morning, before getting on with my day, the first thing I did was measure off 2 cups of long grain basmati rice, 4 cups of water, a piece of kombu, combing together in a pot to soak overnight.  It is important to soak brown rice, preferably overnight, then rinsing and using fresh water before cooking.  Additionally, in accordance with macrobiotics, you should eat short grain brown rice during the spring and summer and long grain brown rice in the fall/winter.  Saturday evening, I made myself a nice huge pot of lentil soup with buttercup squash. Then I cooked the brown rice adding fresh chopped butternut squash.  Both of these squashes were purchased from my local farmer.  I wouldn’t doubt that for those of you who think the only way to eat is to consume huge amounts of animal protein with salad that you’re  thinking, “Oh my God, so many carbs! Evil, evil carbs!”  To that I say, get over it!  Seriously people.  If it wasn’t for The Zone Diet, Atkins and South Beach Diet, you carb-o-phobes would never have given carbs a 2nd thought.  When you were a kid, did you worry about carbs? Yah, I didn’t think so. 
I hate to be mean, but most of the women I work with are obsessed with protein, er, animal protein that is and salad.  Everyday these women consume chicken and salad, chicken and salad, chicken and salad.  Barf!  Enough with the chicken and salad!  Furthermore, no matter what time of year it is, I see these women consume strawberries, blueberries, cantaloupe, watermelon and as previously mentioned,  salad with some form of protein on it.  When I  see this I cannot help but think, umm, ladies, it’s January, where the hell do you think the strawberries, blueberries and watermelon came from?… They sure as shit didn’t come from New England.  I hate to state the obvious, but between the months of October – March, you should not be eating fruits and vegetables that were grown 1/2 way around the world.  If you want blueberries in January, then move to fucking South America! Seriously. 
During most of last winter, whenever we had a catered breakfast meeting the women in my office would descend upon the left over fruit platters that are in the kitchen.  These lovely ladies would offer me fruit and I would say, No thank you. I don’t eat fruits that are no in season.  And of course I’d get the side of the eye look only to hear a snarky remark: “fruit is good for you.”  Yah, it is, but not when it’s out of season in accordance to the climate in which we live.  People need to move past the idea that you need fruits and salad during the winter months.  The body knows what it needs and what it needs is Contracting foods. 
If I may quote one of my favorite macro chefs:  Jessica Porter, “It is the time of year for settling foods. Foods that help stabilize blood sugar and tonify the stomach, spleen and pancreas.  As summer lays down like a panting dog, our bodies need to settle down from all the expansion, in preparation for autumn’s contraction.  This time of year is known as Late Summer and its foods are sweet vegetables, sweet rice and millet. Its taste is (you guessed it) sweet. The harvest is coming in and life is very sweet and abundant…”
I know what you are thinking, “So what should I be cooking/eating?” Well, here’s a snapshot of what I will be eating over the course of weeks/months:
  • Lentil soup with, carrots, onions, garlic & buttercup squash (and don’t forget the kombu!)
  • Long Grain Brown Basmati Rice soaked and cooked with Kombu (I primarily eat this for breakfast, sweetened with Brown Rice Syrup)
  • Kidney Beans, soaked with kombu, and cooked with onions
  • Butternut Squash Soup seasoned with miso, curry powder, rice milk.
  • Cannellini Beans (soaked with Kombu and cooked a variety of ways, sometimes as a soup, sometimes not)
  • Roasted potatoes and turnips
  • Roasted Butternut squash with dried cranberries
  • Quinoa (cooked/prepared in various ways)
 and the list goes on. 
Now, for what I will not be eating during the coming weeks/months: Citrus, Tomatoes, Salads, and any other vegetable that are normally grown in the spring/summer months. 
If you eat in accordance to what your body needs to survive the various seasons, you will find that you will not have cravings. When I eat a balanced macro diet, I almost never crave sweets or any type of junk food or comfort foods from my past pre-macro, pre-vegan days.  If you’re following a macrobiotic diet correctly, cravings should be a thing of the past.  I often hear women say, “I’m giving up sweets, or I’m only eating protein.”  Sigh.  Your body just might surprise you,  if you give it what it wants. During the cooler months, your body wants foods that are going to keep it grounded, warm, and sustained throughout  the winter.  Ever wonder why some people are always cold?  Well if you’re eating summer foods, which are cooling btw, in the middle of winter, well there’s your answer.  Ixnay the effing salads, fruits, especially tropical fruits and eat hearty meals, and not only will you feel warmer and satisfied, but I would bet, your cravings will diminish. 
I never start my week with the following statements: I am giving up sugar -or-  I’m only going to eat protein -or- I’m not eating any breads.  Nonsense. I keep a bowl of assorted dark chocolate in my living room and  I rarely dip into it. I see it. I know it’s there but I’m not craving it. Why? Because I follow a macro diet which keeps me balanced.  Sometimes situations arise where I must dine out or am unable to eat my macro meals and I have noticed that when I do not follow my macro diet, not only do the cravings emerge, but so do the headaches, fatigue and irritability.  As for bread.  I bake or buy fresh bread all the time.  I enjoy it, especially during the cooler months and I cannot imagine giving it up.  There is nothing like the smell of fresh bread baking in your oven.  And if you think you need fancy equipment to mix bread dough, think again. My mother and Nona used to make fresh bread every day using good ole fashioned elbow grease. 
There are lots of books written about seasonal eating. If you have time, pick one up.  I can even make recommendations if you’d like.
Now let’s talk about Self-Care.
Vitamin D:
Where we live makes a difference in the amount of vitamin D we can obtain from sun exposure. That is to say, the distance we live from the equator.  If you live north of the 30th parallel in the northern hemisphere, or south of the 30th parallel in the southern hemisphere, the sun is not strong enough for about half of the year to produce vitamin D from sun exposure.  What that really means is, the further you are from the equator, the shorter the vitamin D season gets.  Back in 2007, my doctor advised I take Vitamin D3 1,000 iu supplements.  I have been taking these for years as well as recommended them to friends.  I cannot speak for everyone else, but I have noticed a remarkable difference in how I feel when I take my vitamin D3 consistently.  My favorite brand is:  Jarrow’s Formulas  
L-Lysine & L-Tyrosine:
Call me crazy, but I swear these two powerhouse aminos have kept me from catching a cold.  L-Lysine is necessary for production of antibodies, hormones and enzymes and L-Tyrosine is important for cellular growth. If you’ve ever taken Airborne, you will see that L-Lysine and L-Tyrosine are two main ingredients. One thing I should mention is these two supplements should be taken on an empty stomach. Absorption is blocked if taken with food, especially protein. 
I had a pretty hectic past couple of days.  So instead of attending one of the various cardio/body sculpting classes at my gym, or pounding away on the elliptical, I chose to take long, looooong walks.  It was just what my body needed.  We all have to do what is right, but when I am stressed (which takes a toll on my body), I prefer to be kinder to my body. Rather than beat myself up by taking some super amped up workout class. I prefer walking and ballet exercises.  Do what works for you, but exercise is key in keeping you healthy, especially during the winter months. 
My Neti Pot:
I cannot live without my Neti pot.  If you’ve never tried a Neti Pot, then I recommend you run out to Target and pick one up. Once you use it, and get used to using it, you will find you cannot live without it.  I know I can’t!
and lastly,
I cannot stress this enough.  Bears hibernate during the winter months for a reason.  And we should too.  Rest is critical during the cooler months.  Drill yourself into the ground by trying to keep up a pressured pace, and watch how quickly your body will breakdown.  If catching colds is a common occurrence with you, then you might want to reassess your lifestyle.  Rest and sleep are critical for maintaining maximum health.  If I am tired, I listen to my body and rest.  I don’t give a rat’s fuzzy what everyone else is doing.  If my body says, “Hey slow down.” then I am going to listen to it.  The pace I keep during the spring/summer is different from pace I keep during the winter.  It is what works for me, find what works best for you.
In closing, by eating what is in season, in accordance to the climate you live, and buying local, you will be doing your part in helping mother earth and if that doesn’t leave you with a warm and fuzzy feeling, then I don’t know what will.  🙂
Yours truly,

Farmer Worker vs. Gym Rat

Today after work, I stopped at White Barn Farm ( for my produce. Shopping at White Barn Farm (WBF) is my Friday after work ritual, along with shopping at Whole Foods, (which as previously mentioned, I affectionately refer to as Whole Paycheck).  When I arrived at the WBF, the place was hopping. I arrived about 45 minutes before closing time (7 p.m.). The sun was low in the sky, casting a red dusky hue.  I filled up my WF reusable shopping bag and stood in line awaiting my turn to pay.  As I stood there, I noticed all the people who work at the farm were preparing to pack up the farm stand.  The owners of WBF are a young 30-something couple who recently wed this past July.  They are you quintessential crunchy, nuts & granola couple – adorable! As I stood there, I found myself staring at one particular farm worker: a woman, in her mid 30s.  I was gob struck by how fit and muscular she was, but not in the way you might think. She was sinewy.  I could immediately tell her muscular body wasn’t a result of many hours spent in the gym; on the contrary, it was due to the physical aspect of her job working on the farm.  She had that v-taper, strong wide shoulders, with a broad back.  It was the type of body you would have if you did what she does for a living.  As I watched her lifting heavy boxes of produce, loading up a truck, I also noticed how tan she was. At that moment, I began to survey the other farm workers. I noticed they too were all in incredible shape, not gym rat shape, rather, you could tell they had difficulty keeping weight on. They were muscular, lean and tan, but not the kind of tan you see from someone who spends hours on the beach and time in a tanning bed. The type of tan these farm workers had was the type of tan you would see on a heavy construction worker. It is that kind of tan you get when you perform hard labor, in the sun; it was a sun mixed with salty sweat tan.  Call me crazy, but there is a difference.  These people were not orangey tan, they had a cocoa brown color that said healthy, not Shake ‘n Bake
Anyway, back to where my head was at.  As I was staring at these workers, I couldn’t help but notice how healthy and happy they were. Everyone was joking, smiling, all the while loading up the trucks with boxes of produce from the farm.  Without realizing it, I was staring mostly at the woman I mentioned above. I was so taken in by how how healthy and fit she was, that I just couldn’t take my eyes off of her.  Now, I don’t mean this in a lesbian way, not that there’s anything wrong with lesbians. I like lesbians. They are not bamboozled by men the way we straight women are.  But I digress…  Because I was staring so intently, she took notice.  She gave me a big smile and said, “Hi.”  Snapping out of my reverie, I said, “Hi.” back, giving her a big toothy smile. And then I felt embarrassed.  She took it in stride, continuing on with her work. 
There wasn’t an ounce of fat on one person who worked at that farm.  Although the owners are not vegan, they only eat meat and poultry from a local farmer up in Vermont, who sets up shop every Friday at the Farm Stand.  The owners told me, the only time they venture into Whole Foods is to buy pantry items and/or items they do not grow (such as lemons).  There is something to be said for people who live off the land. They appear to be completely, utterly sublime.  Isn’t it funny that 300 years ago, we all used to live like that? My how far we have come. I often question if progress is always a good thing. 
Imagine how healthy everyone would be right now, if we all had to work in the fields, growing our own food, raising our own farm animals instead of sitting behind a desk, pushing paper and slogging our guts out in a gym. Imagine? It blows my mind to think that the only exercise some people get, either walking to/from their car every morning and evening or the exercise they participate in at the gym.  I would bet, the folks who work at WBF probably never step foot inside the steel construct of a gym, and yet they looked healthier than any gym rat I’ve ever seen. Put them toe-to-toe with any trainer and these farm workers would blow any Mr. Joe Universe out of the water.  Where Joe U. may have in size Mr. Farm Worker has in s-t-a-m-i-n-a.  Hey, don’t get me wrong, I’m just as guilty. Back in my early 20s a friend convinced me to join a gym. Not long after joining I met an All Natural Bodybuilder, who will remain nameless but will be given the name Dude for this blog post.   I approached Dude. I told him I wanted to look like him — muscular — thinking back to the photos I had once seen as a kid of
Lisa Lyon  If you do not know who
she is, click on the link above. Lisa is one of the first female bodybuilders. So Dude happily took me on as a disciple of bodybuilding, teaching me everything I needed to know about food, diet, training. I was hooked on bodybuilding. I poured through Muscle & Fitness magazines becoming a huge fan/follower of Sharon Bruneau (Love her!)  I have to give Dude his props, he changed my body.  I looked great but psychologically I wasn’t happy. Three years later, after the novelty bodybuilding wore off,   I parted ways with Dude, continuing on with the gym minus the bodybuilding focus.  Since that time, I have been a gym rat going through cycles of  being diligent for, say… 6 months, then slacking a bit for a couple, then getting back on the wagon, so on and so forth.   That is the way my life has been in regards to exercise. I went to the gym because I had to, not necessarily because I enjoyed it.  Don’t misunderstand, I love exercise. What I hate is the drudgery of the gym. I hate that whole atmosphere and yet I go and have gone for years.  If you were to offer me a lifetime trainer, all expenses paid at the gym, I’d have to say, “No thanks.” It’s not where my heads at.  I’m all about being healthy and fit, but I’m not going to do what I used to do and that was spend 6 days a week in the gym. Fuck that! I take ballet 2x a week which satisfies my psyche as well as my body and I hit the gym 2x a week spending 1 hour — that’s it.  That said, I always make it a point to walk, take the stairs, etc…  The rest of the time, I focus on soul searching — trying to be a better person, reading and learning as much as I can about various topics of interest. I also work on my spirituality.  I talk to God almost every day.  He’s the dude I rely on the most.   Now, if you were to offer me a chance to work outdoors, doing something constructive, like farming, which would keep me in shape, yet not being the sole focus, then hey, I’m on board!  
How I envied those farm workers.  They all appeared so utterly satisfied and happy.  I could tell they loved what they were doing and it fulfilled them.  How freakin’ awesome is that? Although I am happy with my job and I love my boss, I cannot say that my career fulfills me.  That’s why I take ballet. Have become a vegan. Involve myself with animals rights. Volunteering to help animals via donating money or fostering, as well as finding ways to reduce my carbon footprint.  These things fulfill me.  
So why the title Farm Worker vs. Gym Rat?  Because if we all had to work for our food, we would be by far, better off, healthier and probably happier.  The earth would be too.  I have read that people who garden are happier psychologically. Apparently, there is something about working with the earth, being outside in the fresh air that does our mental well being some good.   My goal next spring is start my own garden.  If you live nearby, and lack the land to grow your own garden, but would like to, give me a ring, maybe we can work something out where we combine efforts and split the cost. 
Something to think about…
 Until next time…

© 2011 GiRRL_Earth

Next Post: as promised I will blog about how bottle caps, as well as lids to jars cannot be recycled.