Don’t vs. Can’t: How to Own Your Choices

I once came across a psychological study mentioned briefly in a health magazine.  The study focused on the subtle influence of language on diet.  It found that participants who spoke about their diets in terms of don’t (“I don’t drink soda”) lost significantly more weight than those who explained their diets in terms of can’t (“I can’t drink soda”), even when other factors were controlled for.

This is powerful. Think about it for a minute.

The researchers theorized that usage of can’t unconsciously indicated powerlessness.  It implied that the can’t dieters had some sort of inability, some restraint preventing them from making a conscious choice. The don’t dieters, meanwhile, were expressing empowerment, indicating clearly how they do and do not behave based on personal decisions. They may have wanted to drink soda, but saying “I don’t” expressed their will and neatly precluded further discussion.

Why does this matter? For starters, follow-up discussion is an underrated danger. In the diet arena we all too often behave well on our own but give into friendly social pressure, and this is especially true when sabotage comes in the form of flattery (“Girl, you NEED dessert with your lunch! Just look how skinny you are!”) or encouraged self-indulgence (“Come on. You earned at least three beers tonight, man”). We all want to seem fun and easygoing, and women especially hope to avoid the shame and stigma associated with dieting.

That’s why it’s time to take don’t for a ride…

Imagine I’m at a restaurant with my friends and suddenly announce that I can’t drink soda.  At least half of my uppity friends would immediately call shenanigans on this claim, and some of the more devious ones might even start to think challenge accepted.  The hard truth is that badass people will not accept lame-ass excuses, and a feeble “I can’t drink soda” is the equivalent of a “kick me” sign.

Now imagine I said “I don’t drink soda” and promptly ordered a water. Most people would not blink an eye at this. Of course if someone did happen to ask me “why not?” I would respond to them simply (“It’s too sugary for me”; “I don’t like it”; “health reasons”; etc.), but the key here is that I would not have to apologize, defend, or explain. Don’t is a choice word. It expresses who you are.  People find it easy to question imaginary disabilities, but questioning life choices is a whole different game.

So now take this trick and apply it to anything. You’ll be amazed at how your confidence and efficacy soar. If there’s something you don’t like, say so kindly, firmly, and with minimal fanfare, and don’t forget that the opposite is also powerful (stating what you do and are.) I think you’ll be pleased to discover that your choices require much less justification than you think they do, and that you can safeguard your routines and other priorities without coming across as rigid or obsessed.  Seriously. This week I challenge you to decline an invitation with “I run on Tuesday nights. Maybe Wednesday?” instead of a lame and rambling excuse like “Well I wish I could go to happy hour tonight, but I don’t think I’ll have time because I usually try to run, and running is important to me for my health because blah blah blah.” Etc. Ain’t nobody got time for dat.

I want to end this article with a reminder to my fellow gluten-free and paleo folks, all of whom can relate to the experience of being challenged and questioned for going gluten/grain/etc.-free. People will insinuate that you’re just being trendy; they’ll say that you’re paranoid or really extreme; and horribly, they’ll imply that your health problems are imaginary if you don’t have celiac sprue.

So how do you respond? You don’t, folks. Haters gonna hate. All too often I hear gluten-free folks frantically justifying their gluten-free lifestyle, as though anyone anywhere has a right to give you shit about what you put in your mouth.  

So the next time you need to tell someone you don’t eat gluten, I challenge you to just say, “I don’t eat gluten.” The same goes for sugar or dairy or other foods.  If people ask you why, you can explain your decision, but make sure you’re explaining to educate or bond, not because you’re trying to prove that you are not trendy/arbitrary/insane.

Because really, so what if you were? What if you adopted the difficult gluten-free style for absolutely no reason at all? 

That’s your prerogative.

Own your choices.

You don’t apologize for who you are.

ransacked

Hi friends and family!  Remember me?  😉  Things have been mental here recently because my friend’s home was broken into and ransacked.  The thieves took everything of value from her, including some material that is so irreplaceable and sensitive I can’t even blog about it here. 😦 It affects many people. It affects her livelihood.  They took the both the tools and the fruit of her labor.

Basically, this totally sucks…

If you’re wondering what to do if you get burglarized, what I’ve learned is that you can’t roll over.  The cops will be unhelpful at first and everyone will express a general air of “there’s really nothing we can do…”, but the truth is, there are things people can do. Be a tigress and others will join you.  

All week I’ve helped my friend cooperate with cops (we got a detective to come and helped him figure out what to fingerprint), tell her story to neighbors and the media (because more watchful eyes = better chance of catching them), work out what to do with affected clients, and scour Craigslist/pawn shops/used electronics stores/eBay for any sign of her stolen goods.  In addition to this she bravely posted local flyers, searched dumpsters and other wooded areas nearby where the burglars may have hidden stuff for later retrieval, and registered the serial numbers of her items online and in the police database.  You would not believe how courageous she’s been, even though she now has to move and life is nuts.

I cannot wait for the Relief Party we have when we find her stolen electronics…

In the meantime, wish us luck.  Hindsight is always 20/20 but I’m encouraging her not to not to look back, as it’s far too easy to blame oneself because of less-than-stellar security measures. The way I look at it, blaming yourself for getting broken into because you didn’t shut your shades each day to hide your valuables / buy a fancy security system / whatever is like blaming a woman for getting raped because she walked outside at night in scandalous clothing. Should the woman have been more cautious? Yes, but she didn’t deserve to get raped. In my friend’s case we all underestimated the risk, but that doesn’t mean we were asking for the door to get kicked in.

Anyway. I’m glad she’s safe and will continue to support her as much as possible, hopefully in increasingly fun ways. Soon I will post some recipes and photos from fun events! 🙂

Zucchini Buckwheat Spice Muffins

Earlier this week I decided to try my hand at gluten-free baking again. I specifically wanted to use the buckwheat and almond flour I had on hand, and to incorporate the glorious farmer’s market zucchini my father had bequeathed on me. Lots of people gave me zucchini this week, actually… apparently giving people zucchini is a Thing.

I like this Thing.  Please continue giving me food. 😉

Anyway, I also used another gift: this classic and scandalously unhealthy zucchini bread recipe given to me by a friend of a friend.

Before thoroughly reviewing it I intended to just swap out the flours, recklessly hoping that my medley of “dense” flours would not result in semi-edible hockey pucks. Then I noticed the recipe called for more than two cups of sugar, a whole cup of oil, chocolate chips, and sour cream… umm yeah. Many more substitutions had to be made.

I now present you with the first humble recipe I have ever made — gluten-free and dairy-free, but definitely not sugar-free. 😉

muffins

Zucchini Buckwheat Spice Muffins

Ingredients:

  • 1.5 cups buckwheat flour
  • 1.5 cups almond flour
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1.5 teaspoons baking powder
  • 3 teaspoons ground cinnamon
  • 3 eggs
  • 1/2 cup oil (vegetable, grapeseed, or coconut)
  • 1/2 cup cinnamon applesauce
  • 1 cup brown sugar
  • 3 teaspoons vanilla extract
  • 2 cups grated zucchini
  • 1/2 cup pecans
  • Allspice to taste (this is strong spice, so start with 1/4 teaspoon or less and taste until it’s how you like it)
  • Nutmeg to taste (approximately 1/4 teaspoon)

Directions:

  1. Grease a muffin pan (I sprayed mine with coconut oil.) Preheat oven to 325 degrees F (165 degrees C).
  2. Sift flour, salt, baking powder, soda, and cinnamon together in a bowl.
  3. Beat eggs, oil, vanilla, applesauce, and sugar together in a large bowl (a fork and enthusiasm will suffice). Add sifted ingredients to the creamed mixture and continue to beat. Stir in zucchini and nuts until well combined.
  4. To ensure optimal deliciousness, taste your batter as you add in the allspice and nutmeg until you have the flavor balance you most prefer. You may want to omit the allspice and nutmeg and simply add more cinnamon, or you may want to get intense with these and also add ginger for a gingerbread-like taste.
  5. Pour batter into pans (they won’t rise much, so you can fill 3/4 full) and bake for approximately 40 minutes, or until tester inserted in the center comes out clean.
  6. Let cool in pan for 15 minutes or more before gently prying muffins free with a fork. They’re pretty awesome with cream cheese or buttercream frosting, but you didn’t hear that from me.

Go forth! Play around! These are good and much more nutritious than traditional zucchini bread, but still just sweet and fatty enough to feel decadent.

I am thinking another good variation would be to add lemon and almonds or poppy seeds instead of the pecans and spices, or if you do dairy to forgot the nuts and spices for chocolate chips and Greek yogurt in place of sour cream. These are also easily veganized, and could likely withstand the addition of flavored protein powder.

I hope you like them!  You know they turned out right if they’re dense and moist with a rich spiced fragrance and tasty little bits of zucchini inside.

PS: Yesterday was National Zucchini Day, but of course you knew that already. I’m going to generously assume  that the NZD gifts and cards you sent me were simply stalled in the mail and will arrive any day now. 😉

Enjoying August

Augustinst-thyme

I know it’s already August 6th, but don’t worry — part of the reason I’ve been slow to post is that I’ve wasted no time in acting on this list.  I have a tasty g-f zucchini spice bread recipe comin’ soon.  🙂 For now here are some ways I plan to embrace and celebrate August — please share if you have any more ideas!

  • Bask at the pool before it closes
  • Go to a lavender farm
  • Go berry picking (blackberries, I hope?!)
  • Go to farmer’s markets for peak summer produce
  • Eat and cook with said produce — peaches, zucchini, basil, etc.
  • Do something on a river (canoe, kayak, rope swing) if time allows
  • Have a bonfire and make s’mores
  • Celebrate “Back to School” by taking a nostalgic walk through campus, acquiring a confidence-boosting new outfit, and getting organized/re-energized for the year (even though I’m not a student anymore!)

I’d like to add things like ‘go to a county fair’ and ‘take a mini roadtrip,’ but my August weekends will be delightfully occupied with pre-wedding festivities for a friend.  Hopefully you will have time to do the things that I cannot! 🙂

I also have a long DIY To-do/Wish-list… hopefully I can share some of it soon.

Now let’s turn off our computers and go bask!

inst-pool

Hello, August

Happy first day of August!

f;pwers

August is one of my favorite months.  We get to enjoy all the richness of summer while also savoring foreshadows of fall. The days remain hot and lazy, but in Ohio at least the humidity declines, and so the sky gets bluer and sunlight takes on a dusty golden quality.  Sometimes, we get a huge copper-colored moon.  The grass gradually becomes crisper and more fragrant underfoot, and unseen cicadas return, loud and reassuring.  I like how alive the air feels in August.  It’s calmer than July, not as sweltering and sticky, but it is not yet drowsy with fall.

In summer I also revel in the seemingly boundless harvest here.  Though Ohio farmer’s markets may not be as dazzling as those in California, we nonetheless feast on corn and zucchini, cucumber and eggplant, green beans and peppers, peaches and nectarines, plums and cherry, corn and melon, apricot and honey.  And more. There are so many good things to eat.

I am determined not to let this pass me by.

So, what am I going to do about it?

Starting today I am going to start making resolutions focused on taking advantage of every month’s simple pleasures and unique opportunities. Think New Year’s resolutions but smaller, and more focused on enjoying each month’s pleasures than on trying to improve myself.  Believe me, I spend enough time trying to improve myself.  Why not appreciate what’s already perfect? Besides, I believe that cultivating happiness inherently makes for a better individual.

I will make a separate post of August resolutions later, as I want more time to think about them.
Do you have any suggestions?  What should I do to ensure I thoroughly enjoy August before it’s gone?

simple pasta

Tonight was the first evening I have spent alone in a long time.  It’s funny to realize that given how lonely I felt last summer.  Partially this frenetic lifestyle’s a bad thing — I need to slow down more and try to catch pool time and farmer’s markets before autumn comes. I’ve also been a slacker on fitness — still have yet to learn where to run around here — and crappy at writing my brothers.

Ah, well.  Balance is a pendulum in motion, and I am currently grateful and proud to have been so creative and social this summer. I do intend to slow down on dating sites, though… life gets really hectic with all these biddies barkin’ up my tree.*

Now, food for you:

pasta

This is quinoa pasta randomly purchased for me by my dear friend’s Mom. Isn’t that a sweet gesture? 🙂 Because I had to use up leftovers I sauteed half a yellow onion, an heirloom tomato, half a pack of baby bella mushrooms, and a large garlic clove in olive oil,then dumped these goodies onto my pasta when they were fragrant and browned. I then got fancy and picked herbs from my garden (basil, spicy oregano, one super-hot chili, and thyme), shredded them, and generously heaped them on top.

Finished with sea salt and a lovely parmesan + red pepper flakes medley (they carry a beautifully designed line of fancy parmesans at Giant Eagle — you can sort of see mine the background), this is a  simple but delicious way to make pasta without all the sugar and artificial weirdness found in pasta sauce. Try it with whatever veggies and herbs you like and let me know what tastes the best, and don’t forget to eat frozen concord grapes for your desert. Perfection! 🙂

*Note: The phrase “all these biddies barkin’ up my tree” was unexpectedly uttered by my friend Paul when asked about his love life. I couldn’t not share it with you.

pretty risks

This weekend I took a risk. I’ll be telling you more about it as it develops, but for right now suffice it to say that I’m broke and excited. I owe a lot of thanks to Meg of She And I Photography for pushing me out of my comfort zone, and supporting me in shameless creative nerdiness of all kinds. Meg is indeed the bomb.com. 🙂

flower crown

Related to this risk is my first flower crown. I tried to pick elegant colors that a bride would like, and to make it big but not as all-out boho huge as I was secretly imagining. A huge and colorful crown will come, but let’s take one risk at a time.

bridal finds

Next we have a sneak preview of some of the vintage gorgeousness I purchased at an antique mall. So beautiful…

megshouse

… And finally, it’s difficult to put into words how dreamy Meg’s house is, but here is a photo that conveys it well. Rustic wood and white-washed surfaces abound, drenched in ample silent and attention-hungry cats.

Perhaps I’ll share a POF Highlights update with you next. 😉