Diet Chronicles: Day 4. The Sarcasm Phase

Creative Commons via Haystaak Photography

Creative Commons via Haystaak Photography

If you haven’t had a chance to check out why I’m taking on this crazy food challenge, check out my most recent post here.

Healthy Lying

I have something to admit.  While all your very sweet support was pouring in two days ago, I was sitting in a friend’s house eating a homemade brownie covered in mascarpone whipped cream.  Because when your friend makes homemade brownies covered in mascarpone cheese, you take it.  Especially when there’s wine…and it’s snowing outside…and your football team is losing.  But I let go of the shame with the support of my other friends on the diet and we accepted that diets are not made to make you miserable.

Other than a little cheating last night, I am back in sugar detox-land.  It’s like I restarted the clock.  The exhaustion hasn’t turned up yet, but I feel like a bit of sarcastic shell of a human being.  Physically I feel fantastic,  I can stand up after eating without saying, “Uuuggh”….which probably should have been a red flag to begin with. But all in all, I eat a meal and that’s just that.  I don’t want to take a nap afterwards or sprint to our coffee maker in desperation.

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Maybe There Will Be…Green Beans? Diet Chronicles: Day 2

Creative Commons by Sonja Langford

Creative Commons by Sonja Langford

 

Hey team.  I’m in day two of sugar detoxing.  Things are a bit better than last night. I no longer feel like my stomach is trying to eat its other organ buddies and I don’t want to kick the cats as much.  I also went food shopping for some great options and don’t have to make it through the day on carrots and apples.  Let me back up a bit…

Why the heck am I dieting?

I have always been a little judgmental toward diet-fads, mainly because everyone’s body chemistry is so unique that lumping yourself into a specific food detox doesn’t seem healthy to me.  However, The Whole Life Challenge (and no, they aren’t paying me) is an 8- week challenge/game that several of my friends in the area have been playing on and off for the past year. You sign up, choose a “level” that is right for you, and tally your score each day.  This one appealed to me for several reasons:

  1. It’s well-rounded: In addition to diet, you are also encouraged to record your sleep, water intake, lifestyle habits (such as journaling) and exercise.
  2. There’s no body-shaming.  As well-intentioned as many of the programs out there may be, I can’t get behind a diet change that is motivated by fitting into a socially-imposed body standard.  I’d rather diet to fight the Man, opposed to looking “good” for one.
  3. It’s community-focused: Part of the app is about checking in with your fellow teammates each night.  Would I continue along the path without someone keeping track?  Maybe?  Or I may fall into a corner of the house with a container of peppermint patties and a handle of whiskey by week two.  Didn’t want to take my chances.
  4. And above all: it makes me give up all added sugar.  Judging by the fact that I have a blog titled after the emotional dependency on baked goods, I knew this would be hard for me.  I have always managed to remain relatively slim, but you wouldn’t know it from my diet and exercise habits.  It wasn’t until I started reading about the new research on belly-fat and sugar’s effects on the body that I started to reconsider my dependancy.  So above all, this isn’t about telling other people to change their ways, and no diets should be, but more about testing if I can actually give up something that I’m clearly addicted to in order to change my life-long health.

Sugar Detox…a little bit like the flu

They weren’t kidding friends.  Sugar detox is no joke.  I tried to ease into the sacrifice by slowly cutting it out last week but I usually gave in when it came to all the gluten-related products that I would eventually have to give up on the 16th.  This diet cuts out (among other things) added sugar, dairy, gluten, white potatoes, white rice, and all but one alcoholic drink a week.  A friend of mine on our team purchased a Das Boot for his one drink a week, which is amazing.

Anyway, the first thing I’ve discovered about processed sugar is that it’s in everything.  More specifically, everything I love.  So although yesterday was a struggle, since I didn’t prepare, shopping today was pretty awesome.  Here’s are some pros and cons so far of my sugar break up:

Pros:

  1. My grocery bill was less.  I didn’t grab the cookies I’m emotionally dependent on or the bags and bags and pasta I default to each evening I don’t feel like cooking a complicated dinner.  Also, no bread or cereal!
  2. I made a killer omelette.  I’ve been discovering combinations of food I would have normally covered up with mad amounts of cheese.  Oh yeah, this diet cuts out cheese.
  3. Since I partially started the sugar detox last week, I’m beginning to feel the benefits I’ve read about, such as craving healthy foods.  Also, things are starting to generally taste better- without covering them in syrup.
  4. I’m saving money all around.  No drinking means that I sit at the bar and have an iced tea.  I just assume bartenders around here think I’m pregnant.

Cons:

  1. I’m exhausted half the time.  I’m told this will pass in two days.  But sometimes people say things to me and it takes a few more seconds to process anything has been said.  So obviously, I’m super cool to be around.
  2. I kinda want to punch a wall.  I asked my husband yesterday if he ever just felt “dusty.”  He thought I was a little nuts. Generally, I feel antsy and uncomfortable.
  3. I’m always a little hungry.  Now don’t get me wrong, I have basically been eating non-stop since I started this.  I can’t seem to stop, and again, apparently this is normal.  Sugar activates your brain’s reward system, assuring you that everything is okay.  So as each meal goes by without this sweetness to fill the void, my brain things something is wrong.  Great.
  4. Last night, the nausea was no joke.  I’ve read that sugar withdrawal is comparable to some drug withdrawal, though I can assume I’m doing better than that, seeing that I can generally go about my day (even if I want to punch something).  But around 8pm I thought I was actually sick.  I finally calmed it down by eating several beets.  Just beets, like a crazy person.

At the end of the day, I’ve always been a huge supporter of listening to your body.  But if my body is telling me to fall back on chemically engineered foods that are sending me into an unhealthy spiral, then I think it’s a good day to tell my body that it needs to see other people (or in this case, food).

Will keep you posted on my occasionally discoveries or inevitable demise into eating Ben and Jerry’s on the floor of our local CVS.  Either way, it helps me to write and hold myself accountable during this crazy project.

Thanks for reading, everyone!

Lazy Sunday Recipe: Corn and Summer Veggie Beer Sauté

This week’s recipe is brought to you by lack of sleep, beer, and the letter B.  For beer!

 

Photo credit- frugal-cafe.com

Cooking when you’re tired and punchy can be tricky.  But you still have to eat.  There are plenty of days when getting in the car and safely reaching the store for any special ingredients in just not an option.  So as I said last week, start with what you have.  Or in this case, look at what you have and figure out how the heck it could become meal.

Corn and Summer Veggie Beer Sauté

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Servings: 4

Prep/Cook Time: Less than 30 minutes

Ingredients:

  • Corn from two fresh ears, kernels cut off before cooking
  • 3-4 plum tomatoes, diced
  • Hefty handful of green beans, chopped
  • Four stalks of celery, halved and chopped
  • 1 zucchini, you guessed it, chopped
  • 1 clove of diced garlic
  • 1/8 can of lager beer- I used Yuengling
  • 1 can of red kidney beans
  • Sriracha to taste
  • One tablespoon honey
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • Salt, pepper, dash of chili powder
  • 1 cup (uncooked) rice of choice
  • 1 secret ingredient (reveled below!)

Alternate Recipe List

  • Corn
  • Beans
  • Whatever veggies you have in the fridge
  • Beer
  • Spicy things

“I just want to fill my mouth with tastes”

After a three hour brunch in our college cafeteria senior year, a wise friend once announced to the group, “I’m no longer hungry, I just want to fill my mouth with tastes.”  Minus the “no longer hungry” part, this is how I approach cooking when I am tired.  I look at things and think, what is my basic human reaction for how I want all these ingredients to come together?  Often, things are pretty delicious when I take this approach.  Other times, I make hot dog lentil soup that sits in the fridge for three weeks.  Sorry, Ben.

As always, start by sautéing garlic in olive oil, it’s a very good place to start.  While you are doing this, chop the tomatoes, occasionally checking that the garlic bits are not turning too brown.  Golden is great, brown is not.  Garlic goes from delicious aromatic pieces of delight to evils burnt bits of coal in seconds, so keep your eye peeled.

Add the tomatoes and toss around.  Grab a bowl and stand each husked corn cob to slice kernels off the ear.  This way, they don’t completely fly around the kitchen.  Add corn to pan.

Chop ends off green beans and chop into small pieces.  The key to a sauté like this, is keeping everything a similar size.  Otherwise, everything will cook at different speeds.  Slice the celery in half longways and chop to similar size pieces as the beans, throw them in the pan.  Do the same thing with the zucchini.

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At this point, just add about a tablespoon of sriracha (depending how spicy you like it), along with the honey, salt, pepper, and chili powder.

Toss around and allow to cook uncovered for about as long as it takes to clean up spilling half your beer behind the coffee maker and sugar tins. Let’s say, 5 minutes.  Husking corn is dangerous, friends, use caution.  After this, add the beans.

Here’s where the magic happens.  Add about a two-count of beer, and watch it do that delicious foamy pan-beer thing.  Stir gently, and cover.  Simmer on low for about 10 minutes.

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Now is a good time to get your rice going.  Ben and I acquired a rice cooker  three years ago, and therefore never learned how to make rice like regular humans.  It takes almost exactly 15 minutes, a little more time than you need for the deliciousness to simmer.

When you return from NOT almost falling asleep with the cat on the couch, check out your veggies and taste how it’s doing.  Always taste!  It’s fun AND necessary.  If you want it heavier on the chili power, add more!  If it tastes too much like beer, add a tad more honey.  You got this.  If something went terribly wrong and you’re really not sure what it was, there’s always butter.

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When in doubt, add an egg

At this point, I was irrationally sad that we didn’t have cheese.  I was tired, and no, we didn’t need cheese in the dish, but it sure would make it perfect.  So I needed to substitute.

Once the mixture is the consistency and spiciness that you like, pour the mixture into a nearby bowl.  Not any bowl, preferably one you’ve set aside for this purpose.

Photo credit: properpet.com

Inappropriate bowl.

Keep the heat on low so that your pan will continue to heat.  Since it is covered in leftover amazingness, FRY AN EGG ON IT.  Grab the number of eggs for the amount of servings you are preparing and pop them in the hot pan.  I made mine sunny side up, since successful flipping seemed improbable.  If you take this path, put a lid on it.  Wait until it doesn’t look like a raw egg.

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Build a pretty plate

Here’s the fun part!  Even if you’re tired, some simple tricks can make you look oh-so-fancy.  Because it’s always more fun to eat fancy looking food.  Grab a small dish of any interesting shape, even if it’s shot glass.  This is kind of like making a small sandcastle, but with rice.  I used a small ramequin, which may I point out, is one of my favorite words.  Scoop the rice into the container and flip over onto the plate (like a sandcastle!)

Scoop veggie/corn/beer mixture onto rice castle and don’t worry if it collapses a bit.  It’s still pretty.

Pick up the egg, and lay it across the whole darn thing, like the picture of the pancake in Cloudy with a Chance of Meatballs.

pancake

Last but not least, grab your sriracha and drizzle it over the top of the egg, making it look beautiful and delicious.  Serve, enjoy, and then go get some sleep.

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The War Against Office Snacks

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A few days ago, my boss purchased a fun little candy dispenser from Costco.  We’ve been trying to make our office more welcoming for teachers to come work. So when she came across this awesome little candy machine, she went for it.  We filled it to the brim with Peanut M&M’s and mini Hershey bars and placed it by our door.

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Now overall, this office has been a million more times open minded than anywhere I’ve worked.  I genuinely enjoy the company of everyone who comes by my office, and I am always impressed by how healthy the environment this.  However.  A trend is forming that I’ve seen almost everywhere, from the most corporate hedge funds down to the most liberal middle school.  We’re terrified of snacks.  We think that if we don’t hide them in secret drawers behind the receptionist, that they will force themselves into our stomachs, making a b-line for our thighs!

Ever since we put out these candy dispensers, I’ve had a range of comments:

“You’re evil!”

“That’s so dangerous!”

“No!!  Terrible!  I can’t even be NEAR chocolate.”

“I saw that, did you see that?  Where did it come from?”

Back, snacks, back!

Back, snacks, back!

Yes, I know these are playful comments, I’m not trying to be uptight here.  But let’s back it up a bit.  When I worked at a similar school in the city, the tension between my coworkers and sweets became an outright war.  Someone would buy cupcakes for someone’s birthday and with each bite the room would scream, “Oh I shouldn’t!  Oh this is awful!  Why am I do this?!”  For Christ’s sake eat the cupcake.  Now on top of the processed sugar, that yes, it not excellent when eaten in giant quantities, you are stressed.  So now your body is not only working to break down the sugar, but also releasing all sorts of angry stress chemicals.  All over a birthday cupcake.  If you have chosen to cut back on sweets, or simply don’t like them, that is totally fine.  A simple “No, thank you” will suffice.

The Skinny Myth

high school

At a theatre competition in 2004

Ever since I was in middle school, I’ve gotten passive aggressive comments about being thin.  I didn’t break 110 pounds until I was about 18.  I got a lot of, “Oh be quiet, you can eat whatever you want.”  But did being thin make me healthy?  I think I drank 2 glasses of coke with each meal until high school.  I went through my teenage years making an ice cream sundae a night.  No, I do not have some super-human ability to expel all that sugar from my body, it just didn’t hang around as fat yet.  But that doesn’t mean it didn’t negatively affect my body.  Strangely enough, it wasn’t until I became more in touch with my actual hunger and started eating better that I reached a healthy weight (by gaining some).

But I am literally sitting here eating a brownie as I write this, and happily.  I will not spend the whole day guzzling soda or beer and will not have five more brownies after this.  I am just enjoying the damn brownie.  The problem about these casual comments is the dread and body shaming that lie underneath them.

Awareness vs. Body shaming

The sweets in an office are “dangerous” because eating them (apparently against our own control) will lead to something “terrible”, like weight gain. Heavens forbid!  My “beach body” will  apparently not be up to par with those only drinking milk shakes this month.  Our relationship with food often seems like a direct relationship with our physical awareness.  If we took the energy we put into fighting back the evils of chocolate and the need to complete a certain amount of squats in a day, and used it instead to figure out what our body actually needs and how it works, then we may be able to stop fearing everything we consume.  We may even figure out why we eat and what we truly want to eat.

If there is one main theme I have learned from studying Alexander Technique, it’s that our body knows how to take care of itself if we get out of its way.  Once you do, you will know when you need cardio, or to eat some protein, or to stretch.  Forcing a regimen on yourself that is perfect for someone else is like buying a size 10 shoe when you’re a size 7, just because you liked how that specific shoe looked on someone else.  It doesn’t work.

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How I felt when I stopped worrying about my “beach body”

So I will say now, with complete respect to my Beach Body friend representatives, please stop sending me Beach Body invitations.  Without realizing it, you are inferring that I need to alter my body to go to the beach.  And frankly, I am doing plenty to try and get in touch with my best diet and exercise patterns, but I am not going to do them in the name of a bathing suit.  I am not going to go for a run and check my calves when I get home.   I am not going to chart out my calories every time I take a bite.  I am going to continue educating myself on how my specific body responds to sugars and chemicals, and I will continue to find the best way to keep my energy high and fabulous through whatever exercise I damn well please.  But that is up to me, and it is a timely process to find the balance.  So please cool it.

SO!  Snacks!

Let’s begin by cutting back the snack shaming.  Saying that something is “dangerous” infers that no one else around you should eat it either.  And that isn’t your business.  The snacks can exist in your presence, and if you’re not hungry, you don’t have to eat them.  So until you find that happy place and know what your body needs to feel good, cut down on the accusations.  That poor plate of brownies did nothing wrong, and neither did you by eating one of them.

Feelin' good about my recent ability to run a full mile AND drinking that glass of wine.

Feelin’ good about my recent ability to run a full mile AND drinking that glass of wine.

Never Fear 9-Layer Italian Goodness

Don’t fear your kitchen, friends!  I know many people who still say that they shy away from cooking recipes that involve anything past opening a Trader Joe’s bag and throwing it in a skillet.  Especially if you’re a creative type, there’s no reason for this.  You don’t have to own a million cookbooks, scour the internet for hours, or buy fancy schmany ingrediants from Whole Foods.

(This post brought to you by too many days stuck in the house with a cold and our trusty friend, Pinot Grigio)

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The wine bottle in Ben shaped!

Ben and I have gotten to the point in this cold/bug where we want to eat everything in sight.  Unfortunately we’re not exactly on the upswing yet, which leaves us inside all day pondering when our immune systems will kick in and what fresh air feels like.  I suddenly had the urge to fill this food void with cooking.  And I highly recommend this tactic for whatever reason you may be feeling “stuck”.  Creating something, especially something that leads to yumminess, can help you feel less crappy about that stubborn acting career any day.

Below is a recipe filled with Parmesan cheese and advice on how not to be scared of preparing food…

A friend once told me that if you like a bunch of ingredients separately, not much can go wrong if you throw them all together in a pot and turn on the heat.  Add wine and a little knowledge of how foods get along, and that’s pretty much where I start.  This was vaguely inspired by some other recipes I sorted through, but in the end, I improvised.  And so can you!

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It’s bubbling!! Hooray bubbling!

Never Fear 8-Layer Italian Goodness

(aka Baked Pasta Florentine Casserole with Parmesan Encrusted Chicken).  Apparently things with spinach are called Florentine because Catherine de Medici was really into Spinach and made it popular in Florence.  I hope some day I am named after cheese sauces made with beer.

Note: Using words  like “encrusted” make you feel and sound fancier in the kitchen

I admit this recipe has a lot of steps, but all of the ingredients are easy to come by and have multiple uses so are worth the money.

Encrusted Chicken

2 chicken breasts (preferably ones not full of creepy hormones, but you know, do what you can)

A bunch of Parmesan Cheese (I used the crappy Kraft stuff but if you use nicer cheese, you can use less salt and it will be crispier)

1 Egg white (If you’ve never separated an egg before, watch this video http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=yAGX-54iR30.  Or come over some time, we’ll separate some eggs!  Hello wiiiine.)

Salt and pepper (and whatever spices inspire you.  Garlic salt always wins)

Spinach Business:

1- 10 oz package of frozen spinach

16 ounces of Ricotta Cheese

8 ounces of Shredded Mozzarella

1 egg

Salt and Pepper

Pasta Layer

Half a box of pasta of any shape (Except like spaghetti or something, that would get in the way.  Think about how you want the bites to feel.  No way to make that sound less creepy, I tried.)

Glob of pasta sauce you have in a jar in the fridge

Tomato Layer

2 large tomatoes

Olive Oil

Oregeno

Salt/Pepper/Other stuff

White wine (Pinot if you’re drinking it too!)

This recipe is all about timing, and it’s a great way to learn about juggling various things in the kitchen at once.  If the timing gets off, nothing bad happens, so don’t fret.  But the better timed it is, the faster you eat it.

1. Pour Wine

1a. (because I forgot to write this before and renumbering is for suckers) Preheat oven to 350.  If you have a convection setting, don’t use it.  It dries out meat.  Who knew!

1b. (again with the forgetting) Begin boiling water for pasta.  Add some salt.

2. Tomato Layer

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Sliced! Fingers intact!

-Get a large sharp knife and slice the tomatoes in medium slices.

-Fill a container with olive oil, oregano, salt, pepper, and whatever your heart desires.  I have this nifty Trader Joe’s grinder that covers everything at once.   I highly recommend it.

-Distribute tomato slices in oil mixture and toss about

-Set aside to marinate (I’ve always said this word incorrectly.  Mer-ih-nate?  Mer-ee-ah-nate?

Note: Don’t refrigerate tomatoes.  They get grainy.

2a. Microwave frozen spinach for 3 minutes.  During the chicken prep, this should finish.  So just toss it in a strainer.

3. Encrusted Chicken

We're in the oven!

We’re in the oven!

-In a small bowl, separate your egg white and place yolk aside for later.

-In another bowl, pour some parm

-dip each piece of chicken in egg first and then roll around in parm.  Place each piece on the bottom of your casserole dish after swishing some olive oil on the bottom.

-You’re gross. Wash your hands.

-Bake for 15 minutes.

3a. At this point your water should be boiling, so throw in the pasta, cook for 7 minutes.  Not longer or it’ll be goo after you bake it.

4. Spinach Business

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This picture is sideways. Do I want to go change it? No.

-Give your spinach in the strainer a good squeeze to get the rest of the liquid out.  I’ve studied that if you’re in a good mood when smushing food around, your meal will taste better.  Worth a try?

-Combine spinach, ricotta, a handful of mozzarella, salt and pepper, and that whole egg from before (both the egg white and yolk).  If you have extra ricotta left over, you can make lemon ricotta cookies, which I’m tackling tomorrow.

Mix it up, put it aside.

5.  Chicken is done!  If not, sit back and have some wine.

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We’re out of the oven! Okay, the chicken will stop talking now.

-Take it out of the oven and slice into cubes.  If you slice against the grain of the chicken, it will be more tender.  Also, don’t fret if it’s not fully cooked, there’s time later.

Turn oven back on to 375.

6. Pasta is done! If not, you know what to do.

-Strain and add that glob of tomato sauce.  It gives it a little extra moisture.

7. The fun part

-You can really layer this how you like but this is what I did, from bottom to top:

Pasta, chicken, spinach business, thin layer of marinated tomatoes, pasta, chicken, spinach business, rest of tomatoes slices (I poured on the rest of the oil mixture on everything), mozzarella and Parmesan cheese until covered.

-Cover entire casserole dish (I didn’t have tinfoil so I put a cookie sheet on top.)

-Bake for 30 minutes, remove cover, bake for 15 more minutes.

-Casseroles should settle at room temperature for a little bit to congeal so depending on how much wine you’ve had, try to give it 5 minutes.

-Also, turn off the oven and stove.  Drinking and cooking can be sneaky.

SERVE WITH WINE!

And there you go, it’s been an hour and you’ve created something!  And now get to eat your art!  Hell, maybe you even wrote a blog post while it was cooking!

8. Continue to drink wine, wrap cat.

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Here Comes the Sun Doo Doo Doo Doo

I started out having a pretty negative week.  On Wednesday, I had one of those “Me against the world” days.  A former job was a week late in paying me, my parent’s insurance company had a “computer glitch” and therefore couldn’t cover me (you read that correctly), another job that pays me in cash wasn’t able to, and the I generally was feeling pretty angry at the world.   Essentially, until Thursday morning, I was broke.  Broke broke.  So yeah, not a great mood.

I am very thankful that Wednesday night things turned around a bit, as they tend to do before I write a blog post.  After getting screwed over by the insurance company, I moped home and bought a scratch off ticket in protest of my bad mood.  And what would you know?  I won enough money to go to my dance class I couldn’t afford.  If you need an affordable dance class at a WONDERFUL studio, trek out to Astoria to Astoria School of Fine Arts.  On Wednesday and Thursday night, Roy teaches, and you don’t want to miss it.  This man could make Eeyore cheer up and dance

IntenSati

The next day, Christina encouraged me to go to an IntenSati class.  What is IntenSati you ask?  Oh!  Well, it is basically a mixture of zumba and the yelling of self-affirmations.  You scream chants about how awesome you are while you punch the air and do pretty intense aerobic moves.  At first, I felt pretty odd.  I couldn’t get Richard Simmons out of my head.  But not even ten minutes into it I was a self-cheerleader kicking and yelling away with everyone else.  By the end, my week had turned around and the whole way home, I couldn’t help but look for the signs of hope around me.  And not just in my own life, but everywhere.  So I did some research…

 

Proof things are getting better…

The IntenSati class was so inspiring that I have made it my goal for the past 24 hours to find as many signs as possible that the attitude of society on the whole is getting better; and by better, I mean more positive, more compassionate, and more balanced.  It’s very easy to find the negative, especially in a harsh city like New York.  It’s also easy to only find negative and discouraging signs on the news and internet.  When I googled different topics about the overall health of Americans, I mainly came across articles about the increase in obesity and depression.  Which is interesting, because with a little digging, there are studies saying the exact opposite, they just get buried by the negative ones.  My opinion may seem naive.  I am not saying to ignore the obvious problems today, just to combat them with hope.

The Gallup Study:

Gallup is a worldwide research and analysis company which, among many other things, has been surveying a selection of people in the US, UK, and Germany for the past several years on their optimism and mood.

http://www.gallup.com/poll/154892/Americans-City-Optimism-Reaches-Four-Year-High.aspx

This article is particularly interesting because the studies show that since the economic crash in 2008, the Optimism levels with each person’s local area has surpassed what it was before the crash.  If you go to the site, check out the many other articles and studies, they’re very fascinating.  What’s my point?  Perhaps even when there are so many unsettling things in the world as a whole, there are many shifts nowadays toward a healthier lifestyle and more supportive community. 

Another one of my favorite articles is from Learnvest.com, a site geared toward women managing their personal finances.  The article summarizes that a generally positive attitude in your community actually improves your local economy.  Just like we chanted while stomping around in IntenSati, believing that things will get back can actually make things better in reality.

http://www.learnvest.com/2011/10/find-your-happy-place-how-optimism-affects-the-economy/

 

 

Signs of Awesome:

I started writing this blog post with the idea of having tons of great statistics backing up that the world is great.  As positive as I am feeling, I didn’t have the best luck.  It’s slightly too big of a topic to google (i.e. “Is the world getting better?”).  So I went on my lunch break (temping today) and contemplated how to go about this.  I keep coming back to the small things.  What directly affects our day-to-day life are the common things we interact with.  So perhaps the above articles can be explained by those.  Below is a list of my “signs of awesome” or things that reinforce my happy hypothesis:

1. FOOD GLORIOUS FOOD!

We live in a time of food celebration!  With the development of the “foodie” community, a better awareness of international food trends, and an encouragement for healthy choices, I am very thankful to be eating in today’s world.  Turn on the food channel: both men and woman are chefs.  It is now an art to eat in a healthy way with interesting and unfamiliar ingredients.  I know obesity is still a major problem, but I have hope we are moving in the right direction.  These are simple examples.  But you get my drift.  Keep your eye out.  Vegetarians are taking over:)

I am also thankful for places like Trader Joe’s, where I can buy organic dairy free ice cream at 10pm at night for $3.  Why?  Because I’ve never eaten it.  And it’s yummy. And then I can chat with the cashiers who are happy as clams because they get full benefits for working part-time hours (we chat a lot).   I also can eat at places like Pret A Manger, who donate all of their food to the homeless at the end of the night and promote eco-awareness.  I also can go down to the 30th avenue farmers market in Astoria and get a slew of produce I don’t even recognize for under $5.  My point is that it’s becoming “cool” to not eat endless amount of processed junk.

2. Kid Music.  And kids in general.

I keep a Pandora station on in my art class on Thursday afternoons called “Tweens.”  Everyone knows the words to everything.  I started to notice that the general themes of songs geared towards teenagers are very positive these days.  And trust me, a room full of 12 nine-year old girls singing “Firework” is pretty exciting.  I also had the chance to hear Lady Gaga’s mother speak at an event I attended several months ago.  They have started the Born This Way Foundation, a group empowering youth and fighting against bullying.

I also did a project with them at the end of last semester asking if they could invent one toy that would help another human being, what would it be?  I got this idea from a TED talk.  The class of 1st and 2nd graders were ecstatic.  Many people created inventions that helped the blind and deaf (apparently this is the first thing that comes to mind when you’re 9 and you think someone needs help.  Fair enough.)  I also got ideas for toys that instantly cheer you up if you’re sad, magical transporters that connect you with the people you love, and food machines for the hungry.

And so, I have hope in the next generation, even those on the Upper East Side.

Social media.  Yes, social media.

No matter what the older generations say, I am thrilled that we are a society that can communicate so easily with one another.  All the options may not solve things like loneliness or feeling alienated, but there are benefits on the surface if viewed positively.  I worked with students from all over the world, primarily from countries that are dealing with a slew of serious problems.  And to see every now and then on Facebook that all is well with them is something that I am very thankful for.

Because of Facebook, I know that when I end a show or a job, it doesn’t have to be the last time I hear from that person.  I know when they are in a show, getting married, or visiting NYC.  I disconnected myself a little bit  from Facebook after the stress it caused in college, so I have to say, a balance is very necessary. 

THIS BLOG!  This blog has been one of the most supportive factors in my artistic growth.  A year ago, I was mortified the first time I posted something.  I only told about 10 people this even existed.  The knowledge that people are now willing to take the time to read my writing, give me feedback, and even hit the “like” button on Facebook, sends me to the moon.  I am now writing a play and a book about the camino.  So my advice for those who feel uncomfortable about starting to write: people are overwhelmingly supportive if you give them something of yours to support.  What you need to say may be what someone needs to hear.  So write it.

I would LOVE LOVE LOVE if we kept a conversation going about what positive things give you hope.  Something big or something that seems small.  Either way, I do feel that if we all even make the smallest effort to believe things are getting better, it will continue to grow in that direction.

Here’s to hope for more happiness!