Coconut Blueberry Pancakes with Orange-Maple-Ginger Syrup

pancakesby Karen Frazier

Pancakes are a sometimes treat for us. I don’t do a lot of low-carb and paleo baking because I don’t want to get in the habit of eating baked goods. I prefer to stay pretty basic. However, from time to time, I get bit by the baking bug. While pancakes aren’t quite baking, they have a lot of similarities. In fact, with a few modifications this recipe also makes tasty muffins.

Coconut Blueberry Pancakes

  • 1/2 cup coconut flour
  • 1/2 teaspoon baking powder
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 4 eggs, beaten
  • 1/4 cup melted coconut oil, plus more for cooking
  • A few drops liquid stevia
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla
  • 1 cup coconut milk
  • Organic blueberries
  1. In a medium bowl, whisk together the coconut flour, baking powder, and salt.
  2. In another medium bowl, whisk together the eggs, coconut oil, stevia, vanilla, and coconut milk.
  3. Carefully fold the wet ingredients into the dry, stirring until just combined.
  4. Heat a skillet on medium-high. Grease it with the coconut oil.
  5. Ladle the pancakes onto the skillet, dropping blueberries on each pancake.
  6. Cook until the pancakes bubble, about four minutes. Flip and cook a few more minutes on the other side. Serve with the syrup.

Orange-Maple-Ginger Syrup

  • 1 cup Truvia (not the baking blend, which has sugar – the stuff in the green jar), Swerve sweetener, or granulated erythritol
  • 1 cup hot water
  • Zest of 1 orange
  • 3-4 slices ginger root
  • 1/2 teaspoon maple extract
  1. In a small saucepan, bring all ingredients to a simmer on medium-high heat, stirring occasionally. Simmer for five minutes.
  2. Turn off heat and allow the syrup to steep for one hour.
  3. Strain out solids.

The syrup won’t be thick like you’re used to, but it will add wonderful flavor to your pancakes.
photo credit: Blueberry & Ricotta Pancakes via photopin (license)

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Cocktail Time: Experimenting with Low-Carb Cocktails

IMG_1582 (1)by Karen Frazier

In the wake of my visit to the Sandstone Distillery last weekend where I obtained some pretty spectacular spirits, last evening I gathered a few friends as a tasting panel and mixed up a few low-carb cocktails. I wanted to play with the flavors and see what I could come up with after really enjoying the flavor of my Orange-Bacon “New Fashioned” last weekend.

The Cocktails

Here, in the order of most successful to least successful (and trust me, they were all varying degrees of tasty) are our low-carb cocktails. Thanks to Andy Skinner, Kasci Lawrence, and my hubby Jim for acting as my guinea pigs! Each of the recipes below makes two to three cocktails unless otherwise indicated.

The Best! – Low-Carb Orange-Bacon Martini

Andy’s comment: “This is bleeping delicious.” Everyone agreed this the best of the night.

  • Juice of one orange
  • Juice of two limes
  • 2 shots Sandstone bacon whiskey (or you can try bacon-infused vodka here)
  • 1/2 to 1 shot of orange spice low-carb simple syrup (recipe below)
  • Ice

In a cocktail shaker, combine all ingredients. Shake to chill and strain into martini glasses. Garnish with orange slices.

In Second Place – but Still Tasty – Low-Carb Rasiltini

Raspberries, basil, anise…what’s not to like? This went down smoothly and had a wonderful flavor. Andy’s comment, “I love how the flavors keep coming long after I’m done sipping it.” He was right. It opened up on the palate endlessly, long after we’d savored our last sip.

  • 4 or 5 fresh raspberries
  • Juice of two limes
  • Juice of one orange
  • 2 shots Sandstone Distillery black gin (or try infusing gin or vodka with star anise)
  • 1/2 to 1 shot of raspberry, basil, fennel-infused low-carb simple syrup (recipe below)
  1. In a cocktail shaker, muddle the raspberries.
  2. Add the lime juice, orange juice, gin, syrup, and ice. Shake to chill. Strain into martini glasses. Garnish with additional raspberries.

Third Place but Yummy – Low-Carb Rosemary Lemon Drop

“Fresh and lemon-droppy,” Jim said, tipping back his glass for more. “Summery!” I noted. That’s what I was going for. “More rosemary,” Andy added, and I agree. I’ve added a touch more rosemary in this recipe than what we had last night to really infuse the flavor.

  • Juice of two lemons
  • Juice of one lime
  • 2 shots Sandstone Distillery rosemary vodka (or infuse your own vodka with rosemary)
  • 1/2 to 1 shot rosemary lemon infused low-carb simple syrup (recipe below)
  • Ice

In a cocktail shaker, combine all ingredients. Shake to chill. Strain into a martini glass. Garnish with a lemon twist and rosemary sprig.

My Favorite – Low-Carb Jalapeño Lime Kamikaze

This was my favorite, although others felt it was a bit too spicy. To tone down the heat, I’ve adjusted the amount of jalapeños used from what I did last night. Feel free to add as much heat as you want. Leaving the seeds from the jalapeños out will adjust the heat levels.

  • Juice of two to three limes
  • Juice of half an orange
  • 2 shots vodka
  • 2 to 3 (or more depending on taste preferences) slices of fresh jalapeño
  • 1/2 to 1 shot jalapeño-infused low-carb simple syrup (recipe below)
  • Ice

In a cocktail shaker, combine all ingredients. Shake until chilled. Strain into old-fashioned glasses filled with crushed ice. Garnish with a twist of lime.

Worth Trying – Low-Carb Blackberry Thyme Martini

I think this one could still use a bit of work to perfect it, but it wasn’t without its charms. Everybody drank it all – there wasn’t any left. “It kind of tastes like bubble gum,” Kasci noted. I agree – it was a bit sweeter than I typically like a drink, but you know what? We were a few cocktails in by this time and may have missed the nuances. The size of my pours may have been off…And it was still really tasty, particularly if you’re a blackberry fan. Perhaps in the future I’d replace the black gin with vodka to have more of the blackberry and thyme flavors with less licorice.

  • 4 to 5 fresh blackberries
  • Juice of one lemon
  • Juice of one lime
  • Juice of one orange
  • 2 shots Sandstone Distillery black gin (or vodka or gin you’ve infused with star anise)
  • 1/2 to 1 shot blackberry thyme low-carb simple syrup (recipe below)
  • Ice
  1. In a cocktail shaker, muddle the blackberries.
  2. Add the remaining ingredients. Shake until chilled. Strain into a martini glass. Garnish with additional blackberries.

Also Worth Trying – Low-Carb Lime Jalapeño and Avocado Margarita

This one was surprising….it tasted good but was unexpected. It almost had a hint of banana flavor to it – weird given there were no bananas. We used the Sandstone Distillery White Whiskey (which tastes a lot like tequila), but you could substitute tequila here. “It tastes like a fresh garden smoothie,” Kasci said. It was our last cocktail of the evening, however, so who knows how discerning our palates were at that point.

  • Crushed ice
  • Juice of 3 limes
  • Juice of one orange
  • 1 avocado, peel and pit removed
  • 1 shot lime jalapeño low-carb simple syrup (recipe below)
  • 2 shots Sandstone Distillery white whiskey (or tequila)
  • Crushed ice

Combine all ingredients in a blender. Puree until blended.

We also changed up the recipe to the Orange Maple Bacon New Fashioned I made the other day, this time using a maple-ginger infused syrup (recipe below) in place of the pure maple syrup. This made the drink low-carb and added an interesting dimension to it that was equally tasty.

IMG_1581

Andy, enjoying a cocktail and not worrying for even a second about his lab rat status.

The Low-Carb Simple Syrups

I found using these was a great way to add flavor to the drinks. I used Truvia (not the baking blend, which has sugar – the granulated kind that comes in the little plastic jar-thingie and is a combination of erythritol and stevia) as my sweetener, but you could also use erythritol, Swerve sweetener, or, if you’re seeking a more paleo approach, organic raw honey (which isn’t low-carb). Syrups will keep in the freezer indefinitely – just thaw a bit to use them, or you can refrigerate them for up to six months.

Orange Spice Infused Low-Carb Simple Syrup

  • 1/2 cup Truvia (or another low-carb sweetener)
  • 1 cup water
  • 2 one-inch strips orange zest (try not to get any of the white part, which can taste bitter)
  • 1 cinnamon stick
  • 4 whole cloves
  • 4 whole allspice
  • 1 whole nutmeg

In a small saucepan on medium-high, bring all ingredients to a boil, stirring to dissolve the Truvia. Simmer for three to four minutes, stirring frequently. Remove from the heat and allow it to steep for 15 minutes. Strain into a clean container.

Raspberry-Basil-Fennel Infused Low-Carb Simple Syrup

  • 1/2 cup Truvia (or other low-carb sweetener)
  • 1 cup water
  • 6 raspberries, crushed
  • 6 fresh basil leaves
  • 1/2 teaspoon whole fennel seed

In a small saucepan on medium-high, bring all ingredients to a boil, stirring to dissolve the Truvia. Simmer for three to four minutes, stirring frequently. Remove from the heat and allow it to steep for 15 minutes. Strain into a clean container.

Rosemary-Lemon Infused Low-Carb Simple Syrup

  • 1/2 cup Truvia (or another low-carb sweetener)
  • 1 cup water
  • 2 half-inch strips of lemon peel (avoid getting the white part, which can be bitter)
  • 1 sprig rosemary

In a small saucepan on medium-high, bring all ingredients to a boil, stirring to dissolve the Truvia. Simmer for three to four minutes, stirring frequently. Remove from the heat and allow it to steep for 15 minutes. Strain into a clean container.

Lime-Jalapeno Infused Low-Carb Simple Syrup

  • 1/2 cup Truvia (or another low-carb sweetener)
  • 1 cup water
  • 2 half-inch strips lime peel (avoid the white part, which can be bitter)
  • 1/2 jalapeno, thinly sliced (or more or less depending on your heat preference)

In a small saucepan on medium-high, bring all ingredients to a boil, stirring to dissolve the Truvia. Simmer for three to four minutes, stirring frequently. Remove from the heat and allow it to steep for 15 minutes. Strain into a clean container.

Blackberry-Thyme Infused Simple Syrup

  • 6 blackberries, crushed to release juices
  • 1/2 cup Truvia (or another low-carb sweetener)
  • 1 cup water
  • 1 sprig fresh thyme
  • 3 whole black peppercorns

In a small saucepan on medium-high, bring all ingredients to a boil, stirring to dissolve the Truvia. Simmer for three to four minutes, stirring frequently. Remove from the heat and allow it to steep for 15 minutes. Strain into a clean container.

Maple-Ginger Infused Simple Syrup

  • 1/2 cup Truvia
  • 1 cup water
  • 1/2 teaspoon maple flavoring
  • 6 to 10 slices ginger root

In a small saucepan on medium-high, bring all ingredients to a boil, stirring to dissolve the Truvia. Simmer for three to four minutes, stirring frequently. Remove from the heat and allow it to steep for 15 minutes. Strain into a clean container.

Infusing Your Own Spirits

I realize it may be impossible to make it to my local area to get to the Sandstone Distillery, but don’t despair. You can approximate your own versions of the liquors using botanicals and dried spices. Just infuse the spirit of your choice with the flavoring of your choice (using fresh herbs – not dried; whole spices – not ground; and citrus peels without the bitter white pith) for two to three days, shaking it up every day. Then, strain the solids away and use a funnel to put it back in the original bottle – or keep it in a well-labeled mason jar.

Cocktail Time: Maple Orange Bacon “New Fashioned”

by Karen Frazier

IMG_1571This weekend, Jim and I headed out to the Sandstone Distillery outside of Tenino, WA. We were looking for something to do on a rainy Sunday when I thought, “Hey – let’s go tour a nearby distillery.” After a little Googling, I discovered Sandstone, which had this on its website: bacon-flavored whiskey. Bacon. Whiskey. How could I not go? How?

And so, off we went to the distillery, where we were treated to a lovely tour on one of the most delicious smelling places I’ve ever been! Next, they brought out their wonderful spirits and let us taste. Along with the bacon whiskey, we tasted vodka, rosemary vodka, gin, black gin, white whiskey, garlic and chive vodka, barrel aged whiskey, and 124 proof whiskey. All were outstanding and really delicious, and I got excited thinking of all the different cocktails I could come up with.

The bacon white whiskey is made from infusing their white whiskey with bacon from local pigs that actually are fed some of the byproducts of grain from the distillery’s whiskey making process. It is delicious with a smokey bacon flavor that’s not over the top.

The vodka is smooth and delicious. I liked it better than my standard go-to vodka, Tito’s. The rosemary vodka, especially when mixed with a little lemon, tastes like summer in a glass. The gin isn’t overpowering in its juniper flavor and is really lovely. The garlic and chive vodka, which isn’t yet for sale, was surprising and not overpowering. I think I could come up with a cocktail or two for it – or at least a few recipes where I could cook with it. The black gin has a lovely licorice finish because it is infused with star anise (hence the name black gin), and it’s very smooth. The barrel-aged whiskey tastes like a single-malt scotch, also smooth and tasty. And the white whiskey is smooth and a delicious sipper.

We came home with the bacon white whiskey (naturally), the vodka, rosemary vodka, and black gin. And now I start making cocktails. First up was the bacon white whiskey. I think it’s only available at the distillery, so if you’re not local, you may want to substitute bacon vodka or something similar. You could even infuse vodka or whiskey with a few slices of cooked bacon. If you’re a paleo dieter, the drink is sort of paleo if you include a little whiskey in your diet from time to time (raising hand – I do!).

Maple Orange Bacon “New Fashioned”

  • 1 shot Sandstone Distillery Bacon White Whiskey
  • Juice of half an orange
  • 2 teaspoons pure maple syrup (not pancake syrup)
  • Soda water
  • Ice
  • Orange slice

In a Collins glass, combine the whiskey, orange juice, maple syrup, soda water, and ice. Garnish with the orange slice.

I’ll let you know what I come up with as I experiment with the other spirits we brought home.

 

Patty Melt Soup

caramelized onionsby Karen Frazier

I used to love patty melts. In fact, it was one of my favorite things to order when we went out to dinner at a greasy spoon. Celiac disease (and a low-carb paleo diet) put the patty melt out of reach for me, but I know I could find a way to get all the same flavors without it having to be a greasy burger.

Whenever I’m trying to recreate flavor profiles of a favorite dish I can no longer have, my first stop is soup. I figure you can recreate almost any flavor in a soup. In this case, it worked. Patty melt cravings satisfied in a delicious, low-carb, paleo way.

Patty Melt Soup

  • 4 slices bacon, cut into pieces
  • 2 pounds ground beef
  • 2 onions, thinly sliced
  • 4 garlic cloves, minced
  • 1 teaspoon ground caraway seed (use a spice grinder if you can’t find it ground)
  • 2 teaspoons mustard powder
  • 8 cups beef bone broth
  • 2 tablespoons nutritional yeast (optional)
  1. In a large pot, brown the bacon on medium high. Remove the bacon from the fat with a slotted spoon and set it aside.
  2. In the same pot, cook the ground beef, crumbling it with a spoon, until it is browned, about five minutes. Remove it from the fat with a slotted spoon and set it aside.
  3. Reduce the heat to low. Add the onions. Cook, stirring occasionally, until the onions are browned and caramelized, 20 to 30 minutes.
  4. Add the garlic. Cook, stirring constantly, until it is fragrant, about 30 seconds.
  5. Add the beef broth, caraway, and mustard powder, scraping any browned bits from the bottom of the pot with the side of a spoon. Return the ground beef and bacon to the pot. Turn the heat to medium.
  6. Bring the pot to a simmer. Simmer, stirring occasionally, for ten minutes.
  7. If you’d like a little cheesy flavor with the  soup, stir in the nutritional yeast.

If you like more veggies in your soup, add some sliced carrots, zucchini, or any other vegetables you enjoy. Cabbage is also a tasty addition.

Confessions of a YoYo Dieter

YoYoby Karen Frazier

A few years ago, I submitted a piece to Chicken Soup for the Soul called “Being Fat Set Me Free.” It was published in Chicken Soup for the Soul: Find Your Inner Strength, and I heard from many people who told me how much my words had inspired them.

The gist of the piece was this: I’d spent most of my life as a morbidly obese adult, and in gaining and living with all that extra weight, I’d learned to rely on something other than my appearance to develop self-worth. While the article was truthful, it never told the whole story about what it truly felt like to be fat – or what it felt like to gain and lose hundreds of pounds over the course of 25 years.

Currently, I’m about 150 pounds down from my highest weight, and I feel fabulous. I’m active, mostly pain-free, and energetic. At the same time, there’s a little voice in the back of my mind reminding me I’ve been here before. It’s not the first time I’ve dropped a significant amount of weight, although I hope it will be my last.

Being a YoYo dieter requires a lot of hope and optimism – and it also comes with crushing disappointment. In the past, it was always painful as I began the slow slide back into obesity once again.

So many people felt it was their place to comment about both my weight loss and my weight gain. When I was losing weight, I’d get praise. In fact, the weight loss would seemingly become the most praiseworthy thing about me, to the point people would talk about that before and to the exclusion of any and all other accomplishments. And then, as I’d begin the slide into obesity once again, I’d see glee in some people’s eyes and disappointment in others. Once again, for many people it was about my weight and little else.

When I was at the top of the YoYo, “I’m a person!” I’d want to yell. “See me? I’m ME! This weight thing? It’s not me. Look beyond it and see me – no matter what size I am.” But I knew I’d be yelling into a vacuum.

Catching glimpses of myself in the mirror, I’d stop, surprised, and think, “Who are you? That’s not how I feel on the inside.”

This is what it was like for me to be morbidly obese. I was still the same person inside I was when I was small. I felt, experienced, and recognized that every day. Fat was just one thing about me. I was a person. I lived a life of joy and contentment. I had trusting and loving relationships. I engaged in creative activities. I was professionally successful. I worked hard. I was an engaged parent, a volunteer, a busy member of my community, a loving wife, a spiritual being, a loyal and supportive friend.

At the top of the YoYo, I was terrified to go to the doctor, because no matter what was wrong with me, every conversation was about my weight. Went in for a broken arm? “Lose weight, fatty – that arm wouldn’t be broken if you were thin.”  And so, I put off going to the doctor for those times when I couldn’t hold out any longer. And then I sat in the waiting room, dreading the scale. In the exam room, I’d flush with shame when the inevitable conversation came up. And it always did.

I had some “friends” who felt it was okay to discuss my weight freely under the guise of concern. “I am so worried about you,” they’d say. “I want you to be healthy, you know.” These are the same “friends” who, as I lost weight, seemed to drift away or develop resentment when they could no longer make themselves feel better by pointing out to me that I was fat. As if I didn’t already know that.

At the top of the YoYo, I often felt invisible, and I liked that. At other times, I felt conspicuous as people surreptitiously stared and judged. One day, I was walking through Macy’s behind two women. As we passed through the plus size department, one pointed out the clothing on the racks to her friend and started laughing.

“Look how gigantic it is,” she said to her friend, stopping to touch a large sweater on display.

Then, she caught sight of me as I continued past her. She looked at me and smirked. As I passed, she said loudly to her friend, “Fat ass.”

I wanted to stop and look her in the eye and tell her that at least I was a kind and compassionate person who would never make a remark like that. Instead, I put my head down, burned with shame, and continued walking with my heart pounding in my ears and my face hot.

Once, when the YoYo was just starting to rise, I was lying in the sun by the pool at my apartment building. There were two young adult females splashing in the water nearby. One kept ducking under the water, gathering water in her mouth, spitting it at me, and saying, “Look, I’m a whale.” That was my first taste of how some people treated overweight individuals.

When the YoYo was rising, I was shopping for a wedding dress. I was probably a size 12 to 14 at the time, significantly heavier than my size 3 frame had once been. In the bridal shop, I went to the size 12-14 rack and started looking at dresses. I saw a salesperson eyeing me from across the room. She approached with a frown and asked how she could help, one eyebrow cocked high.

“I don’t think you’re in the right section,” she told me. And then she pulled a size 20 dress from the rack. The style was ugly and the fabric worse – it looked like a potato sack, and I told her it was too big and really wasn’t my style.

“You just need to learn what’s available to you and stop trying to be something you’re not,” she told me, sniffing and walking away. I realized in that moment she’d decided if I wouldn’t fit within her definition of what I should be, then she felt I wasn’t worth helping. It was at that moment I decided instead of a having a wedding, I’d get married in a chapel somewhere with no one else in attendance.

Those were the early days when I was still learning to navigate the waters of being fat. Those were the days when I earnestly tried everything I could to lose weight, such as very low-calorie diets and lots of exercise. Those were the days when I was hungry, exhausted, irritable, sore, bewildered, sad, humiliated, confused, hopeful, and optimistic. Those were the days when seeing myself in the mirror was a shock, because I didn’t feel any different inside.

When I was at the bottom of the YoYo, I always received positive reinforcement from others. But I still felt the same inside. The only difference was that the size of my ass was smaller. It was bewildering people considered that an accomplishment but barely noticed any of the other, truly amazing things I had going in my life. At the same time, I would feel euphoria associated with chiseling down my size and squeezing into smaller jeans. I’d also feel apprehension, because I was waiting for the other shoe to drop. Waiting for the YoYo to rise once again.

When I was at the bottom of the YoYo, I stopped being invisible. I both reveled in it and missed it at the same time. People were kinder, more engaging. People provided positive reinforcement.

Once when I was at the bottom of the YoYo, I had been doing some intense volunteer work – spending about 50 hours a week volunteering in addition to doing my regular job and raising my kiddo. Someone I respected came up to me and said, “I am so proud of what you are doing.” I thought that person was talking about the volunteer work, and I started to discuss it. “No,” that person said. “I mean the weight loss.”

Why is that more worthy of comment than helping others, I wondered. And so it went.

At the top of the YoYo, I often felt I was betraying myself. At the bottom, I often felt I was betraying my community, because instead of accepting myself as a fat person, I was behaving as a “good fatty” in the eyes of society and doing what it took to lose weight. Losing weight, I heard, meant I didn’t truly have self-acceptance, and I was also telling other fat people they shouldn’t accept themselves as overweight either.

One day on the bottom of the YoYo, I walked out the side door of my office building and saw an overweight woman sitting in her car eating. Our eyes met through her windshield. I smiled at her, but I saw the shame flash in her eyes. In that moment, I recognized her as me. She was eating alone in her car, feeling shame for the simple act of providing her body with fuel. I have been her possibly hundreds of times – eating alone somewhere and praying nobody saw me and judged me harshly for the simple act eating.

I can’t tell you how many times I ate a meal with thinner “friends” who had plates piled high with processed junk foods while lecturing me because I was eating a single chicken leg. Or felt it was okay to comment on my weight as they shoveled junk foods into their mouths. Or offered what they surely felt was well-meaning advice about exercising while they sat at home watching television and eating popcorn.

And I allowed it. Somewhere, I’d gotten the idea my body was fair game for others to discuss, and that because I was fat, the state of my body was open for commentary.

On the bottom end of the YoYo, it appears my body was open for commentary, as well. Men have often felt free to sexualize my body. I’ve heard how amazing my rack is. I’ve been told my ass is juicy and squeezable. I’ve been catcalled on the streets, propositioned by strangers in bars (or even walking down the street), and grabbed without my consent. I’ve had women call me a skinny bitch or assume I am sexually promiscuous because of my figure. I’ve been slut-shamed because of the way I looked. These interactions feel just as icky as the fat shaming.

I’ve had “friends” who have dismissed me on both ends of the YoYo. I’ve had other “friends” who have just shifted the content of their negative commentary depending on whether I was fat, skinny, or in-between.

The noise surrounding weight is loud, and it is often difficult to filter. If you listen to it, it just might make you a little crazy. On the one side, you have people telling you to be a bold, proud, fat person. On the other, you have people shaming you for being fat, stereotyping you, treating you as if you aren’t a person at all. The media is loaded with messages about weight. Being too fat or too thin is treated as a moral failing. People have no compunction about commenting on your appearance, no matter how you look. And no matter how self-assured you are, that noise is nearly impossible to completely filter.

Right now, I am on the down side of the YoYo. Not at the bottom, but in a place where I feel well, energetic, and vibrant. In the back of my mind is that little voice always there at the bottom of the YoYo – the one that warns me my weight may rise again. It feels different this time – like this is a permanent change, but I’ve felt that way before. I’d like to believe I’ve got it dialed in – that because this time I’ve made changes for my health that happened to affect my weight instead of making changes for the sole purpose of losing weight, the YoYo won’t start to rise again.

But here’s what I know to be true. Regardless of where the YoYo is, it isn’t a determinant of my self-worth. Certainly being fat has provided me with amazing benefits. It has taught me to focus on health instead of weight. It has moved me away from being appearance- focused, helped me find self-acceptance and self-worth in a world that values appearance above all else, made me compassionate towards myself and others, and many other amazing things. It’s taught me not to judge and showed me I can’t possibly understand who someone is by looking at their appearance. Size doesn’t determine worth, and regardless of whether anyone’s YoYo stays down or zips back up to the top again, what matters is that I treat myself and others with kindness and compassion, listen to my body’s signals for good health, live a life of purpose, respect others’ journeys, and find joy in each moment.

So while my body has often been on a YoYo, the rest of me is not. I have reached a place of equilibrium where I am settled in myself, the noise around me has quieted, and I can meet my own eyes in the mirror knowing I am trying my hardest every day to be the best person I possibly can.

photo credit: Tom Kuhn SB-2 splash yoyo via photopin (license)

A Step-by-Step Approach to Find Your Best Way to Eat

12308868834_ea348220c6by Karen Frazier

If you’ve read any of my blogs or cookbooks in the past, then you’ve probably seen me say this: There’s no single dietary approach that works for everyone. There’s only the diet that works for you. Everyone has their own unique biology, so trying your buddy’s diet that is so fabulous for them may not work for you.

I get emails all the time from people who read my cookbooks asking about some ingredient – whether they can have it, or why it is in the recipes. My response to the emails is always similar: It depends on your body. You need to take some time to discover how that ingredient affects you.

Over the years, I’ve tried all kinds of dietary approaches. I’ve eaten low-fat, low-calorie, gluten-free, dairy-free, vegan, vegetarian, low-carb, paleo, paleo low-carb, intermittent fasting and probably a few others, as well. Each approach brought changes – some for the better and some for the worse, but there wasn’t a single dietary plan I followed that left me feeling as fantastic as I do right now.

So what changed? I personalized my diet, discovering which foods nourished and supported my own unique biology, and which didn’t.

While it takes time and some effort to personalize your diet, it can be done. The trick is to strip your diet bare for about 30 days (follow an elimination diet), and then slowly start adding foods back in to see how they affect you.

Step One: Learn to Listen to Your Body

Before you start, it’s important you learn to listen to your body’s signals. Keep a journal of food, activity, and how you feel. It doesn’t need to be complicated  – just write everything you consume, write your activity, and note if you feel energized, sleepy, sore, irritable, hungry, cranky, or any other physical or emotional symptoms and feelings. As you do this, you may notice patterns emerge after you eat certain foods.

This journaling does something else, as well. It teaches you to tune into the signals your body is sending. It teaches you physical, mental, and emotional symptoms aren’t just “normal” variations, but that they are messages from your body to you. Listening is the first step.

Step Two: Learn What to Eliminate

In the elimination diet, you’ll be removing foods that may cause reactions. It’s a whole big list, but bear in mind you won’t necessarily need to eliminate all of it forever. Rather, you’ll eliminate it for about 30 days and then slowly add things back in to see what your body tolerates. Here’s a list:

Processed Foods

This includes pretty much anything in a bag, box, or package. A partial list:

  • Cookies, crackers, chips, and snack foods
  • Pasta and pre-made pasta sauces
  • Candy
  • Pre-made foods or food mixes, such as Rice-a-Roni
  • Fast food
  • Baked goods like bread, donuts, cakes, and pies
  • Canned pre-made foods like chili, soup, pasta sauce (with the exception of organic broth)
  • Foods that have long lists of things you can’t pronounce, such as preservatives, artificial colors and flavors, binders, and emulsifiers
  • Protein bars
  • Meal replacement shakes

Dairy Products

This includes both fermented and non-fermented dairy, including:

  • Milk
  • Cheese
  • Ice cream
  • Yogurt
  • Kefir

Soy

This includes all forms of soy including:

  • Tofu
  • Edamame
  • Soybean oil
  • Soymilk

Grains

All grains including (but not limited to):

  • Rice
  • Quinoa
  • Wheat
  • Oats
  • Bulgur
  • Barley

Nuts

All nuts including but not limited to:

  • Peanuts (which are actually legumes)
  • Walnuts
  • Pine nuts
  • Pecans
  • Cashews
  • Almonds
  • Hazelnuts
  • Brazil nuts
  • Pistachios
  • Nut butters

Sugars and Sweeteners

All sugars and sweeteners with the exception of stevia. This is includes but is not limited to:

  • Sugar
  • Honey
  • Molasses
  • Maple syrup
  • Corn syrup
  • High-fructose corn syrup
  • Rice syrup
  • Aspartame (Nutrasweet)
  • Sucralose (Splenda)
  • Saccharine
  • Acesulfame-K (acesulfame potassium)
  • Sugar alcohols like erythritol, xylitol, and others

Nightshades

These are fruits and veggies that include:

  • Potatoes (white, not sweet)
  • Tomatoes
  • Eggplant
  • Bell peppers
  • Chili peppers
  • Tomatillos
  • Goji berries

Legumes

This includes but is not limited to:

  • Beans (with the exception of green beans)
  • Lentils
  • Peanuts
  • Soybeans and edamame
  • Peas
  • Chickpeas

Industrial Seed Oils and Hydrogenated Fats

This includes but isn’t limited to:

  • Soybean oil
  • Canola oil
  • Corn oil
  • Vegetable oil
  • Peanut oil
  • Cottonseed oil
  • Shortening
  • Margarine
  • Safflower oil
  • Grapeseed oil

Gluten

Gluten is sneaky. It’s obviously in gluten-grains like wheat, barley, rye, and some oats, but it also shows up in unexpected places, like:

  • Soy sauce (unless specifically labeled gluten-free)
  • Mustards (read labels)
  • Malt
  • Beer
  • Soups, sauces, and gravies
  • Imitation crab
  • Restaurant scrambled eggs and omelets

Beverages

While you’re in the elimination phase, your best bet is to consume water. Avoid other beverages, including:

  • Juice
  • Lite beverages (like Crystal Light)
  • Regular and diet soda
  • Energy drinks
  • Coffee (except decaf)
  • Tea (except herbal)
  • Alcoholic beverages

Step Three: Plan to Eliminate

Next, it’s time to plan. By nature, I’m not a planner, so this step is not an easy one for me. If you are a planner, however, you’re going to be in heaven! It’s time to get organized.

Stock Your Pantry

Stock your fridge and pantry with the foods you’ll be eating over the next 30 days. While it may vary for you, these are the foods I recommend on an elimination diet.

Organic Vegges

If you can get seasonal produce, even better! Stock your fridge with veggies, such as:

  • Dark leafy greens like spinach and kale
  • Cruciferous veggies like cauliflower, broccoli, and cabbage
  • Root veggies like onions, beets, and carrots
  • Other green veggies like asparagus and artichokes
  • Sweet potatoes
  • Summer and winter squash, including acorn, butternut, zucchini, spaghetti, and patty pan squashes
  • Mushrooms

Organic Fruit

Stock your fridge and pantry with low-glycemic, organic fruits, such as:

  • Avocado
  • Berries (except goji, as noted above)
  • Lemons and limes
  • Apricots
  • Peaches
  • Nectarines

Animal Proteins

If you can find them, choose organic, pastured sources of animal protein, including:

  • Eggs
  • Poultry
  • Wild-caught fish
  • Wild-harvested shellfish and mollusks
  • Beef
  • Lamb
  • Organ meats
  • Pork

Herbs and Spices

Herbs and spices will help bring flavor to your foods. These include, but aren’t limited to:

  • Cinnamon
  • Allspice
  • Nutmeg
  • Cloves
  • Ginger and ginger root
  • Cumin
  • Turmeric
  • Coriander
  • Oregano
  • Tarragon
  • Basil
  • Parsley
  • Thyme
  • Garlic
  • Sea salt
  • Pepper

Expeller Pressed Oils and Unprocessed Fats

The goal with fats and oils is to find those that aren’t refined through an industrial process. Good choices include:

  • Avocado oil
  • Extra-virgin olive oil
  • Extra-virgin coconut oil
  • Macadamia oil (expeller pressed)
  • Duck fat
  • Lard
  • Tallow

Flavorings

Your diet doesn’t have to be flavorless. You can add some of the following flavorings:

  • Citrus zest
  • Vinegars (with the exception of malt)
  • Dijon mustard (read ingredients)
  • Mustard powder
  • Salsa (check ingredients)
  • Coconut milk
  • Organic broth (buy canned or make your own)

Seeds

You can also use seeds, such as:

  • Chia
  • Flax
  • Pumpkin
  • Sesame
  • Sunflower

If possible, remove temptations from your kitchen. If it’s not possible to get rid of all the processed foods, then at least keep them in their own separate spot so you don’t see them and aren’t tempted by them.

Step 4: Enlist Support

Let your family and friends know what you are doing and why. Explain you are working to find a diet that works for you so you can be in good health. Ask them to please not try to tempt you with foods outside of your elimination diet.

Step 5: Eliminate for 30 Days

Once you’re ready, get started. Eat the allowed foods only for a full 30 days. Give yourself that time to truly clear your body of any substances it doesn’t respond well to. Don’t worry about counting calories or macronutrients. Eat when you’re hungry, drink lots of water, get plenty of sleep, and engage in gentle exercise as your body allows.

Step 6: Journal

During the 30 days, keep a journal, noting what you eat and your symptoms. Note positive changes. Please note in the first week or so of the elimination, you may feel a bit worse as the toxins work their way out of your body – although some people notice an immediate change for the better. Stick with it for the full 30 days.

Step 7: Re-introduce Foods One at a Time

After your 30 days, you can start to reintroduce foods and food groups. It’s important to do this one food at a time so you can note how it feels in your body. To reintroduce:

  1. Choose a single food from one of the eliminated groups, such as cheese.
  2. Eat a little bit of cheese (an ounce or so). Wait 24 hours, noting any symptoms.
  3. If you have symptoms, no more cheese (or whatever food it is).
  4. If you don’t have symptoms, eat a little more of the food at a couple meals.
  5. Watch for the symptoms again. If you have them, stop – that food isn’t compatible with your body.
  6. If no symptoms, then try another food from the same group. So if you’re having dairy, try a little yogurt.
  7. Wait 24 hours. If symptoms, that food group probably isn’t your friend and you’ll want to avoid it.
  8. If no symptoms, spend the next week trying other foods from the food group and noting any symptoms. If you don’t have any, you can assume that food group is compatible with your body. If you do have symptoms, note which foods from the group cause them and avoid those.
  9. Repeat after a week or two with the next food group.

Using this process, you’ll gradually get a picture of which foods work with your own unique biology, and you can adapt your diet accordingly.

The 90/10 Principle

Once you’ve got it all dialed in, how different foods and food groups affect your body, you can begin to make healthier choices that will help you attain better health. Once I did that, I started using what I call (and maybe others do, too?) the 90/10 principle. I try to eat cleanly (that is, with foods that don’t affect me) 90 to 95 percent of the time. Occasionally, I may allow myself certain foods, such as a little sucralose, dairy, or an alcoholic beverage. There are some foods, however, that I consider deal-breakers (I never eat them) because they have such a negative effect on my body. Your deal breakers may be different than mine, but mine include:

  • Gluten (I have celiac disease)
  • Sugars of any kind (I’m super carb-intolerant and the weight just piles on)
  • Fast and processed foods
  • Grains (same reason – carb intolerance)

Tips

The following tips can help you:

  • Drink tons of water to flush out toxins.
  • Engage in gentle exercise.
  • Listen to your body and heed its signals.
  • Don’t skip the food/symptoms journal. It’s easy to forget, when you’re feeling well, how poorly you felt before.
  • Get plenty of rest and sleep.
  • Talk to your primary health care provider before you start any new food or exercise program.
  • Have patience with yourself. If you slip, start over.

Remember also that you’re seeking what works for you, here, not for somebody else. You are creating a sustainable, lifetime eating plan that supports and nurtures your good health.

Helpful Links

hashisYou may find the following links helpful:

You’ll also find great recipes on this blog that meet (or can be adapted to meet) a variety of dietary needs.

Final Thoughts

The process is involved, but well worth it. I hear from a lot of people who follow an elimination diet and reap the benefits of better health, fewer symptoms, and more vitality. This isn’t about weight loss – it’s about creating a healthy environment within your body where you can thrive with the best health possible.

Questions? Leave a comment below or contact me.

photo credit: Braune Champignons via photopin (license)

On Living in My Body

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Back in my body after years away.

by Karen Frazier

I used to think it was difficult having a body like mine. Then, one day I realized, it wasn’t difficult for me to have my body – it was difficult for my body to have me as the driver.

Until recently, I never did a great job at listening to my body’s signals. As it tried more and more frantically to get me to pay attention and treat it with the respect it deserved, I gathered my will about me like a defiant six-year-old girl (with apologies to any non-defiant and well-behaved six-year-old girls), stomped my foot, and figuratively told my body I wasn’t about to let it boss me around.

That was one battle of wills I was bound to lose.

My body told me (and so did my doctor) I was allergic to dairy. I ignored it and ate dairy. I got sicker and developed chronic inflammation and autoimmune disease.

My body told me it wouldn’t tolerate gluten. I ignored it and continued eating gluten. I developed chronic, severe digestive orders and malnutrition.

My body told me I was pushing it too hard with long, punishing hours at the gym. I ignored it and pushed even harder. Like flipping a switch, one day my body said, “Nope, we’re done here.” I developed chronic exhaustion, pain, and exercise intolerance.

My body longed for gentle, supportive movement. I sat sedentary in my chair and moved as little as possible for more than 20 years. I grew fatter, weaker, sicker, and more exhausted.

My body told me it wanted fewer chemicals and toxins in my food and environment. I ignored it. My hormonal and autoimmune disorders worsened. My health became a gordian knot.

My body told me it wanted fresh, organic, sustainably raised unprocessed foods. I ate processed and fast foods instead. I developed regular migraine headaches and found it virtually impossible to lose weight, no matter how little I ate.

The more I ignored my body’s signals, the more my vitality and life force drained away and the more limited my physical world became.

During my years of illness, and even before I got sick, I often told people, “I don’t really feel like I inhabit my body,” and this was certainly true. Because I felt my body betrayed me, I lived in my head, inhabiting spiritual and cerebral while ignoring the physical. I reasoned that what was important was the core of who I was – my personality, my creativity, my spirituality, my kindness and compassion, my friendships and relationships, and all other aspects of the mental, emotional, and etheric realms. I figured as long as I focused on those things, what was happening in my body didn’t really matter. I wouldn’t let it define me.

Yet, regardless of how I desired  to not let my body define me, my physical limitations kept me away from doing many things my soul longed to do. Like dance (“I’m dancing in my head,” I’d reason), or walk on the beach and dip my toes in the water (“I can see the ocean from here and that water is probably cold,” I’d tell myself), or spend time with loved ones doing much more than sitting and chatting (“At least we’re connecting,” I’d think).

While I thought I was content, living in this world that existed outside of my body, the universe was sending me other signals. Many mornings, I’d awaken from dreams where I’d be running again (I used to do 10-mile weekend runs for fun), lifting weights, dancing, riding bicycles, or just moving freely, joyfully, and without pain. A vacation with my extended family found me sitting on the deck of a lake cabin in Idaho with my parents instead of inner tubing and jet skiing on the lake with my siblings, husband, kids, nieces, and nephews.

I was missing out on life in very real ways because I had created the belief it was okay if I didn’t live in my body.

I wish I could tell you what changed. I can tell you the moment when the switch flipped more than 25 years ago and my health began to crumble. I was 23 years old. I was at the gym early in the morning on a leg extension machine. I started my morning feeling mostly fine, if a little tired.

I was wearing a neon pink ball cap (it was the 80s) with my hair in a ponytail out the back, size three shiny spandex tights, and a black patterned spandex tank leotard (80s, people – 80s – and thank God there were no leg warmers involved – although I was wearing white high-top Reeboks). I’d finished teaching a 6 AM step aerobics class and was getting some weight training in before my 9:30 AM class. I extended my legs, and I felt something somewhere in the core of my body snap. It was as as if my life force drained out of me into the seat of the weight machine.

Suddenly, I was exhausted and overcome with emotion. I started to shake. I got up from the leg extension machine, went into my office, and sat with my head down on the desk. I was overwhelmed and sat shaking and crying – not understanding why – for quite some time.

Nothing was ever the same with my physical health after that morning. Working out made me sick. I gained weight rapidly no matter how little I ate. I developed all kinds of health issues doctors could never quite figure out. And I slowly left my body and moved into my mind and spirit.

That moment remains so clear in my memory, but the moment I decided to move back into my body is a bit murkier. I’m not sure how I made the choice to do it, although I understand the reasons why it happened.

For years, I’d try to lose weight with various diets. Looking back, I understand the attempts to lose weight arose from a feeling of lack or of not being enough. I felt tere was something about me (my weight) that wasn’t good enough, so there was something about me that needed fixing. I’d have success for a while, until something else would happen in my life and I’d start to feel I was somehow lacking again. The weight would come back on.

This time, there was no decision to lose weight, although there was a growing sense of truly choosing to be healthy because I deserved to feel well and live a full life. That choice came not from feeling like I needed to be fixed, but from a place of self-love where I desired to be whole. It’s a subtle distinction – choosing to fix something that is wrong versus making a self-loving choice not out of a feeling of brokenness, but rather a desire to treat myself with care.

Once I made that choice, it became easier to pay attention to my body’s signals. The gluten and dairy were the first to go. As I felt a little better, I replaced processed foods with healthy whole foods. I removed chemicals from my environment and my food supply. I listened to what my body asked of me for the first time in years. I started walking a little. I started participating in my life in physical ways I had been unable to do for more than two decades.

Slowly and deliberately, I moved back into my body. I started to heed its signals. I sated its hunger with wholesome foods. I honored its desire for movement with Nia, dance, walking, yoga, and other activities. I listened to its desire for recuperation with plenty of restorative sleep.

Now here I am today. I live in my body, my heart, my mind, my emotions, and my spirit, and my life has opened up. I engage in joyful exercise, I eat delicious foods, and I participate in life. I understand now that in order to truly be whole and fulfilled, I can’t ignore any part of the triad of body-mind-spirit. I have to honor and love each exactly where and how it is in order to walk my path.

 

9 Fun Workouts That Don’t Feel Like Work

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Getting ready for some tribal belly dance.

by Karen Frazier

When I was a 20-something, I’d beat my body into submission with hours of grueling weight training, running, and cardio equipment. While I liked how the exercise felt when I was done, there was something joyless about it. I didn’t love it. I didn’t even really like it. But I did it day after day because I felt like I had to. It became just another thing I had to do, instead of something I looked forward to doing.

I also believe it played a role in developing 25 years of autoimmune disease that caused me to gain weight (lots of it) and rendered me unable to work out. During those years of heavy exercise, I failed to heed my body’s signals. I believed in the mantra, “No pain, no gain,” and I worked myself past exhaustion and pain in pursuit of a physical ideal. There was no joy, just work as I grudgingly rose at 4:30 every morning to get to the gym for hours of exercise.

And then I was ill for 25 years. I developed exercise intolerance. When I worked out, my body rebelled, and I was left feeling even sicker and more pain-rideentn than if I didn’t exercise at all. I was trapped in a downward spiral, all because I failed to listen to my body’s request for activities that brought pleasure and joy instead of pain and drudgery.

I’m not saying that for everyone, conventional workouts are drudgery. I know many people who love weight lifting, cross-fit, cardio machines, and similar exercises. If these workouts bring you joy, then by all means keep them as a part of your life.

However, what if you’re like me, and you don’t really like it? What if your body is sending you signals begging you to engage in activity that brings you pleasure and allows you to experience joy? What if you found a workout you loved so much you couldn’t wait to get to it another session, and another, and another?

For me, finding those joy-filled workouts has been just the key for regaining my health (along with the foods in the recipe articles on this website, of course.) And so, while I encourage you to seek your own joy in finding unconventional forms of exercise, I offer a few suggestions as a place to start.

#1: Nia

This is the workout that brought me back into daily movement. It’s a combination of dance, playing like a kid, martial arts, and many other forms of exercise. Nia, which you take in a class (or you can order videos) emphasizes working the body’s way, tailoring movements to your own level, bringing your own style of dance to the routines, and experiencing the pleasure and joy of movement. It’s also a great cardio and strengthening workout, and I love the way it feels in my body and my soul.

#2: Belly Dance

I never saw myself as a belly dancer, but here you have it. I adore belly dancing. I’ve recently started taking tribal belly dance classes, and I love it. The movement comes from learning to isolate muscle groups, and it’s great for your core muscles. It’s also all about women dancing together and engaging in the Divine feminine, so for me there’s a lot of joy associated with it. Plus, you get to dress up in cute, swishy hip scarves that jingle.

#3: Swinging

I’m talking about the kind you did when you were a kid – not spouse swapping (although that’s probably pretty good exercise, too). Head to the park and hop on a swing set. Pump your legs to go as high as you can. It’s great for the core, and it feels freeing and fabulous.

#4: Dancing – of Any Kid

While I list tribal belly dance and Nia separately, I think any kind of dancing is a wonderful workout. Sign up for ballroom dance classes or salsa lessons with your partner. Turn on music and dance around the house in your underwear. Go out dancing with friends. Just move. To music. It feels fantastic, joyful, freeing, and fun.

#5: Sports

It doesn’t matter if it’s tennis, racquetball, ping pong, kick ball, basketball, dodgeball, or any other sport. Find a sport you love and participate. Join a recreation league. Run around like you did when you were a kid.

#6: Playing

Remember when you were a kid and you’d play frisbee, roll down hills, climb on the monkey bars, spin in circles, fly kites, ride bikes, roller skate, and dozens of other activities that were fun and allowed you to blow off steam? What’s stopping you as an adult? Take time every day to engage in active play – with your kids, with your dogs, with friends, with family, or even by yourself. Move with joy, and your body will respond. So will your spirit.

#7: Hiking

Get outside and move. In nature. While appreciating nature. Taking local hikes or walks is a great way to gently encourage your body to move.

#8: Water Sports

Whether you’re kayaking, canoeing, waterskiing, swimming, or rowing a boat, you’re exercising. But it’s so much fun, you hardly realize what you’re doing. Water sports are great exercise that can also provide you with moments of zen if you remain present time focused in what you’re doing.

#9: Biking, Skating, and Scooting

Whether it’s a skateboard, scooter, inline skates, bicycle, unicycle, or long board, if you’re making something with wheels and no engine move, you’re getting a great workout.

Just Move!

What’s the trick to bringing joy to your exercise routine? Just move. Move while it feels good in ways that feel good in your body. When your body tells you it’s time, stop. If your body wants to work harder, play harder, slowing down or stopping as your body signals you it’s ready. By finding activities you love, you can give your body all the exercise it craves without needing to engage in workouts that feel like work.