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Saturday, 15 December 2012

Erring on the Side of the Foolishness and Weakness of God

Words of any 'wisdom' and comfort really fail me now as I continue to watch the footage of the heartbreaking, tragic killing of those 20 children and all the adults and listen to the unfolding circumstances.  

All I know is, during a time like this, and, in fact, upon thinking about how often -- too often -- this type of tragedy has occurred in the past several years -- 61 times, in fact, since the Columbine massacre, I turn to God.

I know  we are living in a skeptical age of all things religious. But, to me, God is not 'religion'. God is real. Or rather, I believe God is real. Because if you ask me if I KNOW that God is real and that God exists and that I have definitive proof -- well, I don't! Not in the way that you and most people want certainty, unequivocal scientific evidence, a binary positive assertion, and logical explanation able to withstand scrutiny under the most rigorous analyses and arguments.

Nope -- no can do! That's why it's called  faith. 

I have faith -- much more than religion.  Don't get me wrong, I'm actually quite a religious person. I LIKE going to church, practicing the sacraments, and praying. I need it. It's what keeps me faithful. It helps me to ground and center myself in the teachings I purport to have faith in. Those would be the teachings of the Bible and in Jesus Christ.

It amazes me how universal and true of all that is Written reverberates to the human condition today! And, ok, much of what is Written is in context to the wisdom of what had already been written, but then, there comes along Jesus Christ -- born in such humble circumstances, living such a common -- really, actually, totally unregal life, hanging out with a bunch of fishermen, and scooting around the towns and countrysides of his world doing his 'thing', and then DYING like a common criminal -- no the death of the worst of criminals of that day -- and He ends up being the King of kings!!!! Yeah -- it ends up, all that He says and all that He came to do -- is that what makes people live GOOD lives, and what gives hope, and love, and  faith in the BEST of what people and what this world can be!

That's what believing in Jesus and God, CERTAINLY, does for me! 

And let me give you that example of the realness of God's Word and what listening and believing in Jesus actually makes me DO.

As you know, I'm a dietitian. I have studied and worked as a nutritionist for more years than not, at this point in my life. I KNOW alot about nutrition and things like carbohydrates, proteins, fats, vitamins and minerals, metabolism, diets, diseases, food, cookery methods, health promotion, etc. and so on. But what good is it if ALL this knowledge and understanding doesn't inspire me to apply and LIVE this knowledge and understanding in my own life, for sure, but also to have what it takes for me to teach and guide and help people I meet and work with to do the same in their lives??!!
It is an incredible witness to me that the TRUTH of nutrition really does bear out! When I choose to eat according to what I have studied is helpful and necessary for my body to be healthy and function optimally and that what makes me feel and look great -- this is GOOD. Conversely, when I choose to negate all the information I've studied and all the practices I KNOW truly work and I start eating junk, overeating all foods, stopping with my exercise and the physical activity I KNOW my body needs to keep it limber, agile, and healthy -- well -- I feel BAD. Furthermore, when I'm feeling bad, I am not very effective and motivated to reach out to my clientele to share the TRUTH about nutrition, health foods and cookery, and fitness, so,  I fail them. It's such a waste of my talent, energy, vocation, and need in the world!

So, in the simple realm of my profession -- there's 'Good' vs 'Bad'. I follow the 'TRUTH' and I'm 'good', I negate the 'TRUTH' and 'bad' results.

And time after time, folks, my natural tendency is to do all the things that make me feel 'bad' -- overeat, go for the high-fat, sickeningly-sweet crap that's out there and put on weight and be less of the person and less of the professional that I am and called to be. Because, I don't know about you, but when I feel like crap, I shun the world. I'm not good to myself nor am I of any use or good to anyone else. Things like worthlessness, self-loathing, self-pity, self-absorption, etc. occupy my time and space --- BAD!

You know what makes me choose for the TRUTH, to carry my cross,  and to walk the right path?? Faith. Plain and simple. The belief in a Caring, Forgiving, Loving, Renewing God!!!  That's what Jesus came into this crap world to tell me, to teach me, to show me, and to die so that all that is BAD in me could be, somehow, redeemed by God to make me new again and on the road to becoming GOOD!!! The more I read about Jesus, the more I realize -- I don't just love Jesus -- I actually LIKE Jesus. He seemed to be really nice, even though He was the Son of God!  He was SO normal -- yet a King!

So, when bad -- very bad things happen in the world, I'm just that much more seeking out to look to God to be there to do what's needed to give hope, comfort, and to bring love back to the world. To the lives and world of those who are suffering through this tragedy, for sure. I pray to God to be side-by-side with every parent, every brother, every sister, husband, wife, son or daughter, mother, father of anyone gunned down -- and to love, comfort, restore, strengthen, renew, forgive and inspire forgiveness! I ask God to send all the right people to be truly helpful and to say the words that are needed to bring peace and love back to the world of the victims of this tragedy and to all of us!

I pray for the world to come back again to having faith in God, and to listen again to Jesus and to the Word.

As I said, I have no proof whatsoever that God exists, but I have equally no definite proof that He doesn't exist!!! 

I DO have MORE proof that all the scientific explanations and knowledge, all the technological advances, and all the wisdom and power of men -- even the wisest and most famous of men -- well -- it all seems to be worth not a whole lot when I look around at what's happening in the world today.

In our needy, broken-hearted, suffering world,  I'm choosing to err on the side of the foolishness and weakness of a Living, Forgiving, Loving, and Life-Renewing God!

For the foolishness of God is wiser than man's wisdom, and the weakness of God is stronger than man's strength.  1 Corinthians 25.

May the Peace and Love of Christ be with you and yours! Make someone Happy this Christmas!

xo mj

Thursday, 23 August 2012

A Great Donut Will Never Love You Back

I love a freshly baked donut.

I really enjoy a slice of homemade cake of ANY kind with a beautiful cup of properly brewed tea.

I can still remember the cake that my Italian parents served at my wedding reception for close family and friends -- an Italian Rum Cake made by my Dad's baker cousin, 'Junior'.  It had the most exquisite taste and texture with the perfect combination of a light vanilla sponge with just the right hints of rum, chocolate, custard, and cream and it looked GORGEOUS!  That's the idea of a 'wedding cake' ! It's meant to symbolize what a happy marriage is all about -- a perfect combination with hints of all the good things that we can add to the mix, so as to give joy to all that we can share a piece of ourselves with -- to one another, for sure, but also to family, friends, and everyone we meet along the way. AND, still look gorgeous! Haha!

But, seriously-- think about what I just wrote above. That is -- here's me, on my wedding day -- remembering my CAKE! I admitted in my profile introduction that I'm a 'foodie' -- and so I am. But I am not the kind of foodie who is a fabulous chef (just taste my tofu cheesecake), an expert on all fine and rare food finds, or who can tell you each fresh, foodie market in the world to fulfill all your food fantasies.

I just love great food and have been blessed to have been brought up with always having it around.

Great food was a priority in our home -- not just for ourselves, but, mainly having it to share with anyone and everyone who came to visit. That's just the Italian way! You were 'talked about' if you didn't have something delicious to offer when people came over -- even if they just casually dropped in.  And, it didn't have to be a homemade piece of cake or pie or cookie, etc.  A slice of honeydew with a chunk of cheese and hunk of bread would do just as well -- BUT -- we're talking the ripest, most succulent melon you'd ever sink your teeth into, a fine, aged cheese that you could savor as the perfect foil to the sweet melon, and the freshest, crustiest bread you could get your hands on!

Sounds wonderful, doesn't it? And it was and IS wonderful! One can't help becoming a 'foodie' with this background. But, as I said earlier, calling myself a 'foodie', for me, simply means I have a great appreciation of great food....

Almost too see, I also grew up obese.

In families and cultures where food is made such a priority -- and there are many -- not just Italian -- there's that proverbial 'double-edged sword' ready to strike to bring one or two of the happy 'campers' down. 'Priority' turns to 'obsession' -- NOT good!

In fact, it's downright destructive.  All that was meant  to show love and joy turns into a source of heartache and struggle. What's really dangerous is that often no one knows what's happening until it's too late. That's because, in many cultures -- a chubby child is considered 'normal' -- even a good sign --  prosperity, contentment -- good times!

And not all chubby children become obese -- in fact, it IS normal for pre-pubescent children to go through growth phases when they can look chunky or shapeless, but they are actually right on track. And many children and people are 'self-regulators' and really and truly develop a healthy autonomy about food selection and eating.  But, it's extremely important that parents and family members keep a watchful, YET unobtrusive eye on the behaviors and attitudes that your children exhibit toward food. Because many OTHER chubby children DO grow up to become obese adults and/or people that struggle with eating disorders, food addictions, and often, other addictions.

The travesty is that we are, otherwise, healthy, happy people who set ourselves up for many diseases, disappointments, and frustrations -- all that could have been prevented if our overeating and/or food obsessivness, somehow, could have been caught early -- before it became problematic.

So, I'm not saying that being a 'foodie' is a BAD thing. Just be careful that it doesn't foster an obsession with food -- for yourselves, but also for your children!

'Loving' great food IS about the food itself, yes -- but MORE IMPORTANTLY -- it's about the time and attention into creating great food and in sharing it to give joy and pleasure to others.

THAT actually IS the lasting legacy I have from my very loving, great food-loving Italian parents and family.

And, I feel very fortunate to be a dietitian who truly understands what it means to enjoy food and yet struggle with food. This helps me minister better care to my clients.  It's very important for me to help clients get results and to become not just better-nourished people, but BETTER PEOPLE!!! :)

I STILL love a great donut -- every now and then -- and then I TRULY find joy from it. Believe me!

But, I guess, I MORE love also learning about the how, why, who, where, and what about the donut.  Because I NOW know -- no matter what, where, why, how, and who....

A great donut will never love me back!

Share something good today with someone! :)

Friday, 13 July 2012

Dad grew tomatoes, basil, figs, grapes -- we never knew we were poor!

It's Friday. We've had guests for the past two weeks. They left today. We enjoyed having them and we all had a wonderful time, despite the weather. But, after two weeks of entertaining, we're 'skint' -- as they say here.

It's dinner time. Everyone who's left here in the home is hungry. I didn't do any shopping today -- like I said -- I'm tapped out.

What, me worry?! No way!

I'll make:

* homemade tomato soup,

*tuna salad -- Italian-style,

* and take that great French baguette out of the freezer that I bought a couple weeks ago (when I was in the chips -- although they were 2-for-1), and pop it in the oven.

In other words, I'm channeling my lovely Dad -- miss you Dad!!!!

Fridays were always a feast for us, growing up. Dad would bring in a bucketful of red, ripe tomatoes and a bunch of fresh basil from his garden and get to work making a simple fresh tomato soup that I can almost taste as I just think about it. It was gloriously velvety and had just the right hint of garlic and basil to wake up our taste buds. He would slice the tomatoes, sautee them in some olive oil until they were tender, adding a few cloves of chopped fresh garlic toward the end of the sauteeing process. He would then, let them cool a bit and put the tomato/garlic mix into a blender and blenderize until smooth -- NO straining for him -- he liked to use the whole tomato! He would then tip the mix into a pot and add chicken stock or water -- depending on whether we had any stock -- water worked well, too. He would bring this to a slow simmer. He would season with a bit of salt and pepper and break fresh basil over each bowl as he served it, steaming, with a tiny drizzle of olive oil and a sprinkling of grated Parmesean cheese.

His Italian tuna salad that he inevitably had made a few hours earlier so that the flavours would meld together by the time we would eat -- consisted of a couple cans of tuna, chopped celery, some of the celery leaves chopped up, too,  and a chopped red onion. He dressed this mixture with olive oil, red wine vinegar, a couple squeezes of fresh lemon, a dash of oregano, and salt and pepper. Sometimes he would add some sliced black olives and also a bit of chopped tomatoes, too -- but that's only if he felt like it.

He also would pick some dandelion greens (translation -- weeds) if he saw that there were enough young shoots -- these were the tender ones and oh, so tasty with some olive oil and vinegar, salt and pepper. He would bring in a whole bucketful and rinse them very well several times -- Lord knows what was traipsing over these weeds through the nights in the humble patch of green we had in our back yard. I'm laughing as I write this because Dad would finally cut the grass after he picked the greens -- making it a 'win-win' -- making my Mom happy while still getting to enjoy and share his delectable dandelion salad with his hungry bunch (Mom, included).

So, with the tomato soup, fresh tuna salad, fresh dandelion greens salad, and the hot crusty bread on the table -- we thought -- WOW -- WHAT A FEAST!

Either we had grapes for dessert or if he could muster up some change from all of his pockets, he took us all out for an ice cream cone.

We LOVED Friday nights. Not only did we have no idea we were poor -- we thought we were the richest and luckiest people in the world!!

And so we were......:)  and still are....

Enjoy your weekend!

Thursday, 21 June 2012

Practicing What I Preach

Growing into the Truth We Speak

Can we only speak when we are fully living what we are saying?  If all our words
had to cover all our actions, we would be doomed to permanent silence!  Sometimes
we are called to proclaim God's love even when we are not yet fully able to live
it.  Does that mean we are hypocrites?  Only when our own words no longer call
us to conversion.  Nobody completely lives up to his or her own ideals and visions.
But by proclaiming our ideals and visions with great conviction and great humility,
we may gradually grow into the truth we speak.  As long as we know that our lives
always will speak louder than our words, we can trust that our words will remain

- Henri J. M. Nouwen

Oh my! When I read these words from Dr. Nouwen this morning, I just said to myself -- "Thank God for God and for Godly men and women"! Henri was such a Godly man whose words have been such an inspiration for me (can you notice?!).  But Dr. Nouwen struggled with so many things in life. Nevertheless, he obeyed his call to God to write, to teach, and to share the good news of the truth about life, humanity, and, of course, God.  Henri's brilliance, vast knowledge, and stellar CV is not so much what draws me to his writings and preaching.  Rather, it is his deep search for God and how, despite and among his many many failures in life, he remained faithful and obedient to his call, bestowed upon him by God, and kept moving on his journey, overcoming as many obstacles as he could and/or learning and seeking through all his hurts and weaknesses, that which could still enable him to boldly proclaim Truth. It is very clear to me that the Voice of God is speaking through Henri's words.  Henri had no choice but to leave the legacy of all the books he's written, the tapes he's left behind, many manuscripts of his lectures, and of course, the hundreds of peoples' lives he has changed through his direct counselling and/or inspirational writings.   What a witness to love and redemption!

And yet, as I said -- he was so very very flawed and THAT'S what inspires me and keeps me going!

In obeying my own call to spread the good news about balanced diet, optimal nutrition, the importance of obtaining and maintaining a best body weight and fat:muscle ratio, and putting food and fitness in proper perspective -- I've had to struggle with my self-doubt and sometimes self-loathing during the times I wasn't fully living everything I was studying, discussing, teaching, counselling, writing about, and now blogging, tweeting, and rooting and tooting!

There were times in my life that I actually shut down to the world because I felt a fraud and hypocrite.  I had all this knowledge, all this expertise, a tremendous ability to make a difference to the lives of so many people who needed me and who had nowhere to go and no one to ask about these issues, and I did nothing.

For me, honestly, it has only been through the grace of God -- support from all the people in my life He has sent to me, situations I have been led to, and yes, even His words directly spoken to me -- that have made me realize that living and sharing the glory of God's Truth is not based on MY perfection! What a total fool and blowhard I've been to think that the truth about nutrition, fitness, balanced diet, and food/fitness egalitarianism was based on ME being the perfect example of all of these realities!

My life started to transform as soon as I recommitted myself to obedience to God's Truth. That transformation and truth includes me knowing that my imperfection is part of the plan to set me free -- to love, to serve, and to be fully 'me' -- the BEST 'me', the 'me' that God sees, through His Eyes!

Peace and Truth Be With You!

Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest.  Matthew 11:28

Sunday, 17 June 2012

EZPZ Pizza made w/Wholemeal Spelt Flour-- Nutrish & Delish

Pizza is a 'trigger' food for me -- ie -- it CAN set me off to start eating all the wrong foods for my body, which then starts the cascade of me putting fat/weight on, which, then results in contributing to make me feel like a dietitian failure. Eeeeekkk -- is that what I want?! Course not.

That's what this recipe is about. It''s a way for me, and hopefully, you, to feel okay about, EVERY NOW AND THEN, enjoying a couple slices of pizza -- THOROUGHLY -- not a lame imitation of pizza, like the  omelet-type or other meat bases or pita or flatbread versions, etc., but a good, satisfying crusty pizza!

Using wholemeal spelt flour in making this pizza base dough, creates a pizza that is higher in protein, lower in refined carbohydrate, MUCH higher in fiber, and higher in many helpful vitamins and minerals, than a pizza made with conventional white flour. So, the nutritional yield and quality of each slice is much better than regular pizza. Also, making pizza yourself enables you to regulate the toppings you put on, as well as the amount of fat you use to grease the pans.

Add more of toppings like fresh mushrooms, peppers, zucchini, eggplant and less of fatty meats, like pepperoni or salami. If you DO add the meats, dot much less than is normally found on pizzas -- you're making it yourself so you have more control. Anyway, these fatty meats are what make a pizza unappealingly too greasy.

Use light mozzarella and other light cheeses. Using a mix of light mozzarella and light sharp cheeses, like aged cheddar, actually yields a tastier pizza. Aged cheeses don't melt as well as mild cheeses, but they melt enough to give a lovely texture to your bite. And, of course -- again -- because you're making the pizza yourself, you have control to add much less cheese than you normally find on pizza -- you can have as much taste and satisfaction without the 'over-cheesing' factor! Even if you use some normal fat cheeses, using light cheese, to any degree, reduces the fat content of your pizza considerably!

Making the tomato sauce yourself -- just from either a can or carton of plain crushed tomatoes or passata, with a bit of olive oil, and seasonings is MUCH BETTER than the too-oily processed tomato sauces often used in making regular pizzas. Your simpler version actually results in a fresher, more robust, 'tomato-y' taste.

This pizza has all the taste and gusto plus the great feeling that you've eaten healthy.  You DO have to control HOW MUCH you eat, as you would do with anything.

More good news about this recipe. The cost of the 4 pizza (maybe 5, depending on how thick or thin you roll out the dough!)yield you get from this recipe -- is much cheaper , probably a third of the price you would pay if you would order a similar amount of pizzas.

It's also a recipe that is so easy to make and lends itself to getting everyone on board to help out -- making a real party out of just the preparation and cooking phase.

Pizza made with Wholemeal Spelt Flour

Preheat oven to highest temperature --

Dough for crust:

3 x 7g sachets dry yeast

2 cups bread flour (can use all-purpose flour, but will get softer crust) -- about 230 gms

4 cups wholemeal spelt bread flour -- about 500 gms

1 Tablespoon rock salt

tepid water

olive oil

In a large bowl mix both your bread flour and wholemeal spelt flour together with the salt.
In very large bowl, add all sachets of dry yeast.  Add enough tepid water and stir into the dry yeast granules so as to make the yeast into a thick liquid. Tip in a bit of the flour/salt dry mixture and start incorporating into the yeast/water mixture until all the dry ingredients become wet and  keep adding the flour mixture whilst adding more tepid water until all the dry mixture has been completely incorporated into a moistened mixture making a large dough ball. You will keep having to scrape the bowl as you form your dough. When you have a moistened dough ball -- add a bit of extra flour -- either normal or spelt flour right into the bottom of your bowl as you kneed the dough, just a few more minutes, making it assuredly a formed ball, with a bit of elasticity.  Now set it in middle of bowl. Cover the dough ball right in the bowl with a piece of cling film that you have oiled with olive oil on the inner side. This enables small droplets of oil to drip evenly over the dough as it's rising.  Cover the bowl with a dark tea towel and place the bowl in a dark place to rise for at least 2 hours, better 4 or more. (You can even put the dough in the refrigerator to rise overnight, but always make it rise at room temperature for at least a couple hours before you refrigerate).

Once dough is risen, take it out of the bowl onto a floured large cutting board or work surface. Kneed the dough ball for a few minutes.  Now you are ready to cut pieces off this large dough ball to make your pizzas. Start with cutting about a fourth of the dough ball. With a floured rolling pin, roll this smaller piece out to a round and then carefully place onto an oiled round pizza tin.  Stretch out the dough to fit up to the rim of the tin.  You can, of course, use a rectangular cookie tin, but the round pizza tin makes the base easier to manage at this stage, fyi!

Add some tomato sauce, cheese, and toppings of your choice. Always sprinkle some parmesan cheese, drizzle a bit of olive oil, and a dash of oregano over the whole pizza, no matter what toppings you have added.

Place in the hot oven for at least 12 minutes -- when toppings are bubbling and cooked -- take spatula and check that under crust is done and crisp. You may need a few more minutes. What you want is a crispy, well-done crust, not burnt or raw inside. (So, baking the pizza should take no longer than 15-- perhaps 18 minutes.  The quality of your crust depends alot on how thin you've rolled it out before you placed on the pizza tin.  Try to make it as thin as you can without it stretching out too much which could result in making holes -- this you DON'T want! The good thing about making your own dough is that you have 3, maybe 4 more attempts to get it perfect! Your first attempts will still be delicious and edible, but your last pizza -- of course, when everyone is already full, may well be your best :). Don't fret -- pizza  freezes very well -- so, by all means, freeze uneaten pizzas for an easy meal at another time!)

Take pizza out and let rest before transferring to a large cutting board to slice up and enjoy!

Monday, 14 May 2012

#Weightofthenation Weighing On My Mind

Wow! This 'Weight of the Nation' report has really hit me hard.

It's not that I'm surprised by any of the data or insights.... nor by the urgency of how and why we must address the obesity epidemic -- once and for all -- effectively, assuredly, assertively, overtly, pervasively, etc. etc, -- for economic reasons, for our national and international health and well-being, for our sanity, our security, for our children, for the future of the nation, the world, the universe!!
 Heck, I've known all that -- for YEARS!

THAT'S what's got me rattled!

That is, I feel like a total jerk! I'm a person who has been invested in the fight against obesity my whole life -- both personally and professionally and who, in fact, got INTO my professional field to DO something about preventing obesity! Yeah, right -- look at me -- look how great and effective I've been!

I would rather walk around with a big 'F' on my forehead than mope around, as I've been doing, with the feelings of co-existent sadness and anger that I have in my heart.

You see, about 25-30 years ago, I was the person who was actively, aggressively, enthusiastically, fire-in-my belly ALL OVER THIS issue and what I KNEW would come to the situation we see today had we not started to GET MOVING and get on track to address the burgeoning increasing weight of people AND their poor dietary attitudes and habits.

 As a young dietitian, I was uber-sensitive to the effects of what TOO MUCH FOOD could do to a person. I was BORN a beautiful, HEALTHY girl, but  WAS overfed and under-active as a child. I grew up obese, with all its humiliations and health-debilitating issues. But, THEN, after studying dietetics (duh -- that's what I had to do to 'GET IT'!), I finally learned the joy of balance! Well, anyway -- here I was, practicing away -- in hospitals, in clinics, in universities -- happy,happy... and, sure enough -- I started to notice. People -- ALL KINDS OF PEOPLE -- black, white, rich, poor, 2nd generation, 3rd generation, etc, etc., men, women, AND... sad, sad ,sad...CHILDREN -- increasing intake of foods from not only the BASICS -- in ever-whoppingly increased portion sizes-- but ALSO of all the ever-dazzling array of FAST FOODS, CONVENIENCE FOODS, MICROWAVEABLE MARVELS OF FOODS. I saw that people were feeling as 'nonchalant' and 'normal' and even 'effusively happy' about TOO MUCH food as I had been growing up in a family of Italian immigrants who found our sense of identity, worth, and 'love' around food and alot of it! I started to notice that people were getting as 'reliant', dare I say, 'addicted to' food as a means to provide them with much more than WHOLESOME nourishment for their bodies and 'souls'. Yes, there IS a wonderful feeling of being able to provide for one's 'daily bread' that 'feeds' the soul -- and it should not be overlooked when it comes to putting the joys of food in perspective -- but, people were getting DISPROPORTIONATELY attached to what foods could do for them, emotionally and psychologically, as well as physically/physiologically.

And the food, drink, and restaurant industries LOVED IT!!  The 'weights' of the people of the nation began to skyrocket, at the hands of the entrepreneurial American spirit. At first, for, say, about 10 -15 years, it was a steady, albeit, even a bit insidious rise, until about 10 years ago when everyone, including all the 'experts', started to notice that more and more people were just overweight! Moreover, more and more people were, also,super-obese!

I really don't believe it was the conscious intention of the food, beverage, and restaurant industries to make this happen. Or maybe I just want to believe that!

 Life was good. Many people were quite prosperous, or well on their way. Companies just dove in and worked, relentlessly, at producing products that the general public WANTED -- good-tasting, easy and quick, and ALOT of it -- pizza, dazzling-flavored soft drinks, outrageous cakes, cupcakes, muffins, sandwiches and subs of all sorts, even foods touted as being 'healthy', and 'light/lite' (remember 'Snackwell's Syndrome?!) -- and the 'food environment' became an almost unavoidable source of excessive kcalories, sugar, saturated fats, and sodium. These substances became entrenched in our lives and embedded in our palates and taste buds. In fact, I feel quite truthful to say, in my own situation, it wasn't all the Italian/Mediterranean foods that my family cooked and fed me that so much made ME and so many of my siblings and other relatives obese -- it was all the EXTRA 'junk' we were eating as our parents, aunts and uncles sought to make us feel like 'real Americans' as they bought and fed us the likes of snack-pack puddings, cheeseburgers and fries, hot dogs and tater-tots, chips, and store-bought cakes, cookies, and pies. In my situation, my parents often 'surprised' us with these treats AFTER we had just finished a beautifully cooked and served fresh, homemade Italian 3-course meal!!

Anyway, as I stated earlier, I don't think there was ever a 'plan' to have a global obesity epidemic -- I just don't think we quite understood (and, for that matter STILL don't understand) how efficient is the capacity of the human body to make and store fat! We also under-estimated the pull of human nature to succumb to anything and everything that is, ultimately, not really in the interest of ourselves and the general public! Likewise, when it comes to the health of our children, I truly believe that no parent ever intended or would ever, intentionally, put  their own child in harm's way or at health-risk. Yet, the fact of the matter is, with the food environment/supply, evolving as it was, the process of normal care and feeding your child/children meant 'overfeeding' and feeding all kinds of 'wrong', low-nutrient, high kcalorie foods. Also, as all this was happening around food, TV-watching began to increase PLUS the further tech boom of computers. This meant that people were sitting more -- on couches (thus, born was the 'couch potato') and behind computers -- for work, but also for entertainment, educating, and communicating. Thus, the combination of less physical movement with the increase in  kcalorie, sugar, fat, and sodium intake by large cross-sections of the population, meant increased obesity incidence. This is actually the EASY part of the epidemic to understand.

What complicates and frustrates us is that there is NOW a whole generation of people (baby boomers) who have taste preferences, food 'requirements', and, actually, bodies that are  (patho)physiologically CHANGED so as to function in whatever ways possible to prefer and sustain the obese state! This, in turn, results in all the complications associated with obesity: 1)many diseases and conditions like diabetes, hypertension, CVD, metabolic syndrome, etc. etc ; 2) inability to comply with dietary changes that  makes one successfully lose weight and keep it off  3) 'needing' food to 'satisfy' emotional, psychological issues and not just hunger, 3) getting people to change their cooking and eating habits for themselves AND their families  -- which means their CHILDREN. This last point is particularly poignant as we address the current obesity epidemic and contemplate what we need to do to arrest it.

As I said earlier, I knew this would happen -- I predicted it to my colleagues and co-workers in the mid-80's. But folks who were at the university hospital where I worked, who were in 'high-places' and 'powerful', at that time, thought I was 'over-reacting' and 'off-base' and that there were so many other departments and medical issues that needed attention and money -- MUCH more so than my self-assessed 'burgeoning pediatric obesity problem'. So, I was shot down when I proposed proactive projects and programs for pediatric obesity.  Even though I had done my research and had evidence to show increased incidence of not just obesity and overweight among children from all races and SES, but also of probable untoward effects/symptoms included among other medical conditions, like hypertension, disordered eating, bowel issues, hyperglycemia -- 'TPTB' (ie -the powers that be) insisted obesity was not a serious pediatric reality.  So, what did I do?! I backed down!

And I truly believe, it was the legacy of MY OWN OBESITY issues that made me think that everyone else was smarter, more sensible, more objective, and BETTER than me!  I sold out. I dropped the ball!. I thought, for sure, that all these more 'powerful' and knowledgeable 'others' in influential positions, would eventually, in the next few years -- well, at least, by 1995 -- realize the need to address the pediatric obesity problem. I actually felt I had to 'get away' from the whole issue and get some perspective and reflect on what all these 'others' were trying to say to me. I stayed active, in my own practice, and was quite successful in my own circles with helping both children and adults, lose weight and EFFECTIVELY keep it off and/or understand and practice healthy/wholesome fresh balanced eating. But, I was living in Europe by then. People here generally, already, eat wholesome and balanced, and are physically more active.
But, by 1998, I noticed incidence in pediatric and general obesity continuing to rise in the US -- my home country --  as well as increased, stubborn, recidivism in sustaining effective weight loss and maintenance, naturally, also becoming more and more prevalent, among both adults and children. I became quite concerned and felt I had to try to do something! SO, again, I wanted to DO something!  I went back to school and researched for another three years, gathering statistics and data and developed a protocol to proffer a program to get nutrition and RDs active in schools! This was in 2001. I was told, then, by internationally known obesity 'experts', and by a few professional associations that I thought, for sure, were invested in addressing the obesity epidemic that this would 'never fly' --  getting dietetic and nutrition professionals in schools was too 'political' and wasn't going to ever happen. Even a Yale 'obesity-expert' professor, who I thought would be amenable to my pleas to DO something more practical, yet pervasive for childhood obesity sufferers, was extremely patronizing and condescending toward me as he told me the problem wasn't 'so big'!  It was almost as if there was a whole culture of 'obesity experts' who had evolved over the years who were making their OWN livelihoods on the back of the obesity epidemic!  But, AGAIN, I retreated back -- thinking that 'others' were better than me!

And that's why I write this today!I want to acknowledge that it's never too late to become part of the solution of a problem -- regardless of setbacks and obstacles.

THANKFULLY, I have been blessed to have quite a few mentors and supporters, along the way, who have given me fantastic feedback on my work and what I was trying to achieve. But, more importantly, I'm extremely hopeful and thankful that the issue HAS COME TO LIGHT -- and there are many people now dedicated to truly addressing the issue, effectively and assuredly.

The environment has changed in many ways so as to help and enable people to make better choices -- both in their food selections as well as in ways to increase their physical activity. More choice for healthy, fresh foods are available and made convenient and easy to reach. Excellent food labels are now mandatory and are becoming more streamlined and consistent as we learn more and more what works best to inform and HELP folks make better selections. Health-care professionals are becoming better educated and equipped to deal with the issue of weight management. Dietitians are gaining a more active role and bigger voice in helping to link their valuable knowledge and expertise in ministering care and education to people AND to doctors, nurses, and the health media. We have a long ways to go, though -- making neighborhoods safer, making portion sizes smaller, making healthy, fresh foods even more affordable and accessible, increasing access to nutritional education and counselling -- among many factors that could make the difference as people seek ways to shift their behaviours from health-inhibiting to health-promoting.

The key, in my opinion, at this point in time, is to get people to change their behaviours from eating too much and moving too-little to eating just enough and moving more. People will need help and support to do this.

And, if anyone has FINALLY now learned -- the power of ONE is incredible! If YOU want to make a difference -- YOU CAN!!! No matter what your own history or limitations -- you are part of the change! That is the real power!

Things happen the way they happen. Just like if you've been overweight and/or obese and you've lost and gained weight again and/or have failed at every diet you've ever tried. Today is a new day and a new opportunity to get it right and YOU WILL!

 So, if YOU are reading this, I beg you to start today! I KNOW your body is used to being heavy and wants to stay there. IT will do whatever it can to undermine your actions to change. YOU have to discipline yourself and keep on track. It is NEVER too late! You CAN do it. And if you think you can't do it for yourself -- if you find it just too overwhelming -- do it FOR YOUR CHILDREN! Get your children to eat healthier, move more and prevent them from either getting obese or STAYING obese. The earlier a person loses the weight and KEEPS IT OFF and/or learns and PRACTICES healthy eating and activity habits and primes the body to BE FIT and STAY FIT, the less likely that person will be to suffer from fighting a life-long weight problem. They will be 'normal' weight and they will BE SELF-REGULATORS of their dietary needs and physical activity needs. Their bodies will WORK FOR THEM in keeping them within a 'NORMAL' , if not OPTIMAL, weight and fat:muscle ratio. And, YOU, the parents of these children will be responsible for making that happen for your children!!  Keep in mind, though, that if YOU, YOURSELF think it's too difficult for you to lose weight or keep it off, and you find, that even though you do whatever you must do for your children, you still stick to your own bad habits -- MAKE THE EFFORT TO CHANGE!!!!  Because, children learn MORE FROM EXAMPLE than anything else and if they see you TRYING, they will be that much more apt to continue to follow healthy lifestyle habits themselves!!

Success begets success in this effort to eradicate the obesity epidemic!

And the more health-promoting products, programs, and services YOU DEMAND, YOU the PUBLIC DEMANDS -- the more industries, companies, governments, and stakeholders from all the sectors of the powers-that-be, will have to be in order to SUPPLY those DEMANDS!

That's the 'Win-Win', my friends!

There are SO may people, online, who have excellent FREE resources to help you. 

I am more active than ever in doing whatever I can to enable and empower people to make the changes they need to make in order to get fit. If you need any help, whatsoever, please don't hesitate to contact me!  The good thing about getting MY help is that you don't have to buy my book because I haven't written one, you won't get my secretary first because I don't have one, and you won't go through an electronic filter before you reach me, as I don't have one of those either.

I just lifted a  HUGE WEIGHT off my mind! Thank you, #Weightofthenation!!!

:) Mary-Jo R. Overwater-Gervasio, MSc, MMSc RD

Sunday, 6 May 2012

MJ's Wholemeal Freshest Ever Carrot Bread

It's still raining here AND it's cold!  I was looking out the window this morning while eye-ing up the two fresh oranges in my fruit bowl. I also remembered that I had 2 bags of grated carrots in the fridge that were due to expire today. I bought them at Waitrose thinking I would make a carrot&raisin salad should we be invited to an impromptu BBQ for bank holiday weekend. With no invites and no BBQs in sight, I felt inspired to take matters into my own hands. I wanted to bake something nice for afternoon tea, BUT I wanted it to be healthy, fresh, and light. Here's what I came up with. It's easy, fresh, and best of all, you need NO MIXER and you prepare it in ONE BOWL! Toward the end of the recipe, I say to let it cool for at least 15 minutes, but within 8 minutes, my family were slicing away. They thoroughly enjoyed it and I think yours will, too. Have fun and peace be with you!

MJ’s Wholemeal Freshest Ever Carrot Bread

Preheat oven to 180 degrees C, 350 degrees F. Lightly grease and flour a 23-cm spring form pan or 9-inch cake tin

Moist and delicious, this is a sweet bread or a hearty cake. I used orange pulp/flesh (scooping it out with a small spoon)and juice from fresh oranges. This kicks up the vitamin content, but it also serves to decrease the sugar and fat ingredients, which, in turn, makes the bread lower in kcalories, carbohydrate, and fat AND higher in fiber, than other carrot cakes. Enjoy!


1 cup wholewheat flour
1 cup self-rising flour
½ cup all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon baking soda
½ teaspoon baking powder
1/2 cup sugar, granulated -- can be brown or white
¼ cup  sugar, dark brown
1 Tablespoon ground cinnamon
1 teaspoon ground allspice (can use nutmeg if you don’t have allspice)
½ teaspoon salt

4 eggs
½ cup corn, safflower, sunflower, or vegetable oil
2 fresh oranges, cut in half
1 teaspoon vanilla
3 cups grated raw carrots
½ cup chopped walnuts (optional)

Sift all flours, baking soda and powder, spices, and salt together into large mixing bowl. Add sugars.  Add eggs, the juice of  the 2 oranges and the pulp/flesh of the 2 oranges, as well, the oil, and vanilla. Mix with a wooden spoon until dry ingredients JUST moistened. Then fold in carrots and nuts.  Pour into prepared pan. Bake 30-40 minutes or until bread springs back to the touch and/or butter knife inserted in middle comes out clean. Let cool at least 15 minutes.

Makes 12 servings.


Calories:   306.2
Protein:   6.369 g
Carbohydrate:   39.4 g
Dietary Fiber:   3.372 g
Total Sugars:   17.2 g
Total Fat:   14.6 g
Saturated Fat:   1.639 g
Monounsaturated Fat:   6.573 g
Polyunsaturated Fat:   5.383 g
Cholesterol:   70.5 mg
Trans Fatty Acids:   .031 g
Trans-monoenoic FA:   0 g
Total Omega-3 FA:   1.535 g
Total Omega-6 FA:   2.145 g
Alcohol:   .12 g
Calcium:   79.1 mg
Copper:   .179 mg
Iron:   1.802 mg
Magnesium:   33.3 mg
Manganese:   .316 mg
Phosphorus:   164.8 mg
Potassium:   245.7 mg
Selenium:   18.7 mcg
Sodium:   180.4 mg
Zinc:   .839 mg
Vitamin A (RE):   902.3 RE
Vitamin A (IU):   5368 IU
Vitamin A (RAE):   292.2 mcg
Retinol:   23.2 mcg
Vitamin C:   9.421 mg

Wednesday, 25 April 2012

Nutrish & Delish: Mixed Green Bean Soup -- Lovely For Spring!

It's spring -- yay!  It's lovely to have a bit of rain -- it just makes everything feel fresh and lush. But while looking outdoors, one can feel uninspired to cook anything light and healthy. People seem to want to bake (and EAT -- with a nice cup of tea or coffee) cakes, cookies, and brownies. Well, guess what -- I want to get into a bikini this summer!! Ok, I probably won't really buy and wear one -- modest 'Milly' that I am -- but I would like to be ABLE to pull it off, should I go through some post mid-life crisis or if someone is insane enough to dare me to. Sooooo, when it's rainy like this AND, actually, still chilly -- if not downright damp, here's something to put together that is warming, tasty, super-healthy, but still very much bursting with spring flavours and goodness.  Hopefully, a cup or bowl or two of this will help you get through the rainy days and keep you from gobbling down the fattening, sugary sinker fare that you will regret eating.

Mixed Green Bean Soup

2 medium onions, diced into chunks
1 garlic clove, minced
2 celery stalks, diced into chunks
2 leeks, diced into chunks
1 large or 2 medium winter carrots, diced into chunks
3-4 cups mixed green peas and beans (I used Waitrose frozen green pea&bean mix) -- green peas, lima beans, garden beans, etc.)
1-2 cups soybeans or edamame (I used shelled, frozen from Waitrose)

1 T olive oil
1 liter fresh stock -- from chicken, beef, fish, or vegetarian -- whatever you prefer

fresh thyme, to taste (about 2 T is nice)
1 bay leaf
oregano (1 T dried is nice)
salt and pepper, to taste (1/2 tsp salt and 1 tsp pepper should be enough)

Lightly sautee onions, leeks, celery, and garlic together until just soft. Add stock. Add carrots and beans and bring to the boil. Let boil SOFTLY for about 10 minutes (this releases the 'gas' from the legume-type beans) and then lower to simmer for another 30-40 minutes. All will meld together beautifully while still giving the beans some bite.

You can serve with fresh grated Parmesean cheese on top and some crusty bread.

I can't have the bread -- maybe someday!!


Thursday, 8 March 2012

YOU are a treasure

Living the Moment to the Fullest

Patience is a hard discipline. It is not just waiting until something happens over
which we have no control: the arrival of the bus, the end of the rain, the return
of a friend, the resolution of a conflict. Patience is not a waiting passivity until
someone else does something. Patience asks us to live the moment to the fullest,
to be completely present to the moment, to taste the here and now, to be where
we are. When we are impatient we try to get away from where we are. We behave as
if the real thing will happen tomorrow, later and somewhere else. Let's be patient
and trust that the treasure we look for is hidden in the ground on which we stand.

- Henri J. M. Nouwen

Someone (it was my high school Latin teacher, in fact) once told me that I was a 'treasure' and that no matter where I went in life or what I did, I must never forget that and that people would be 'discovering' me with 'awe and appreciation' over and over again all my life. Although I was somewhat flattered by her words, then -- I never really understood what she meant -- until now!

You see, I was always rather shy -- and not OVERTLY confident. I WAS confident in a quiet way and extremely consistent and attentive to detail and correctness in my studies (which bode me VERY well for subjects like Latin), but I never ever wanted to call attention to see, I grew up....obese.

FAT was the thing people noticed about me first and the most and THAT was the first thought and impression, and perhaps, lasting thought and impression of 'me' -- not my beauty or my intelligence or my sense of humour, my quick wit, my smile, my laugh, my capacity for fierce friendship, compassion, and love. To the world, I was just 'a fatty'. Being reflective and uber-conscious on this fact, even as a child and teenager, I knew this, thus, I just 'laid low' and kept to myself -- never really getting into the whole game of 'promoting' myself in the popular circles. Of course, as a defense mechanism and to deflect from my obesity, I developed a wicked self-depreciating sense of humour which made people laugh uproariously and this did make me popular with the people who did decide to get to know me. The operative dynamic here is that people were not automatically attracted to me because of my physical appearance. In those days, the prevalence of obesity was about 1/20 children/teenagers -- so there were a few of us in that same boat, BUT, there were other people with OTHER issues -- bad skin, nerdy, bad hair,sexual ambiguity, or whatever -- that kept THEM from being in the popular crowd -- and we all found each other! So, I did manage to always have friends and a social life, albeit with the 'alternative' crowd -- the people who, for some reason or another, ALSO had to try harder, to be smarter, to dig deeper to somehow find the treasure that we all had within. Most of us who had to experience our 'rude awakenings' earlier in life, actually, have fared well and have gone from strength to strength as we've travelled our life journeys. A few of us have not done so well -- gotten caught up in drugs, drink or other ways of coping with never really feeling accepted, embraced, loved, or admired for who we are.....never really 'graduating' from those horific days when you felt that not only your treasures, but you, yourself , were kicked and bashed around the schoolyard like a football or dodgeball, from one rabid, taunting 'player' to another.

So, those of us who DID make it through -- was it because we just persevered patiently through all the suffering until it just miraculously ended one day?

Not at all! It NEVER ends, does it? Life is a series of obstacles that have to be dealt with and overcome. Some of us learned this quite early in life and some, a bit later, but no one is spared! Patience IS an important virtue, but it is not passive! True patience requires ACTION -- reflection, strategizing, and doing what needs to be done to live fully, productively, joyfully!

It is only when we live EACH moment to the fullest and find joy in who we are NOW that we realize that whatever we have about ourselves that makes us different is that which makes us a UNIQUE, but STRONG member of humanity. When we embrace that difference in order to help/enable us to discover, challenge, and strengthen ourselves -- we SHINE to the world and for the world. We, in fact, make the whole of humanity that much stronger and connected!

So, for me -- through my obesity, I have learned so much about foods, nutrition, and my body. I also knew that staying obese was not an option for me if I wanted to be healthy -- in body, but also in spirit! I knew that to be fully committed and connected to life and society, that I would have to lose the weight! The image that I had of myself within was not in harmony with the image that I portrayed to the world, when I was obese. There was this stark dissonance in who I really was and who the world saw me as. So, I worked hard (and still do) to change that about myself. It had required (and requires still!) ALOT of patience, but it wasn't going to miraculously change on its own! I have had to work at it! I make active, disciplined decisions every day of my life to eat balanced and just enough for my body's needs, I exercise, I pray through periods of temptation, I stay informed and get involved in programs and initiatives that help 'equalize' the access to adequate food and hydration for people in my local, but also global communities.

For all the years that I spent looking for what I THOUGHT were the treasures that life had to offer,I DO know it has been so liberating and really really true joy discovering and releasing all the treasures that I DID have, right under my nose, deep within me -- the person I AM -- all that I had been selfishly 'hiding' from the world.

Perhaps had I not been obese, I would never have discovered the 'treasure' within -- I don't know!