Welcome
This is the kitchen where we talk about food, life, and recovery—a spiritual path to healing and peace.

Invitation
You are invited to keep coming back to A Cup of Kindness to share your experience, strength and hope; fears, doubts and insecurities; and to pick up information, inspiration … and have a little fun!

My story
In January 2007, at the age of 51, I joined a 12-step program and began my recovery from food addiction, losing 75 pounds in the process. Read more…

In January 2011, at the age of 55, I began my recovery from a multi-trauma accident, 36 fractures, damaged lungs, and post traumatic stress. Read more…

I am deeply grateful for all the kindnesses, large and small, offered to me in recovery. Here I am... alive… still making progress … still not perfect … finding a new way forward in a growing community of women and men who share a lot in common around food and life.

I hope you'll join me in this kitchen and let me know what's cooking with you.

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Food

What Happened

In January 2007, at 6 feet tall, 230.4 pounds and age 51, I started participating in a very strong 12-step program for food addiction that changed me as a person, gave me a rock-steady spiritual foundation, provided a structure that created all new habits, and stoked me into an engine for losing 75 pounds (95 pounds down from my top weight of 250).

This was a completely different experience than all the diets I had tried for so many years. Not only did I lose the weight, but I’ve kept if off, one day at a time, ever since.

The 12 steps continue to give me good orderly direction. The love of the fellowship and, through the fellowship, the new relationship I have with a Higher Power brought me to sanity when I desperately needed it.

A Cup of Kindness is not a substitute for the life-changing influence of a 12-step program. It’s meant to be a conversation where we open up and find the way our own special fire wants to burn.

So, with the help of my sponsor and my Higher Power, here’s the way I eat. What’s cooking in your kitchen?

What I eat

  • Whole Grains and Potatoes – Brown rice, basmati rice, wild rice (expensive though), corn grits, oatmeal (regular or steel cut, but not instant), quinoa, barley, bulgur, spelt, kamut, kasha, amaranth, buckwheat, and wheat berries, are all great! I recently learned to soak grains for a least an hour or so (sometimes overnight), discarding the soaking water and adding fresh water to cook. I love sweet potatoes. I eat white potatoes less frequently because they are a nightshade plant and perhaps a bit toxic for me.
  • Fresh Vegetables – I never met a vegetable I didn’t like. The starchy, sugary ones I eat in moderation. Eggplant and tomatoes are in that nightshade family. I still eat them, just not so often.
  • Fresh Fruits – They are all sweet and delicious and good to eat.
  • Proteins – Beans, lentils, nuts, seeds, eggs, fish, tofu and tempeh. I rarely eat poultry and larger animals because I’m concerned about the environmental impact of raising them and the suffering that is created by their slaughter (both for the humans doing the work and the animals who are killed). A note about nuts and seeds: raw nuts are recommended, such as almonds, walnuts, or pecans. Raw nuts can be mixed with raw seeds, such as chia seeds, sesame seeds, sunflower seeds, and/or shredded coconut.
  • Dairy – I eat dairy occasionally. I’m especially fond of goat’s milk yogurt. Other dairy foods include hard cheeses like cheddar, and soft cheeses such as cottage cheese, ricotta, farmers cheese, feta, and mozzarella. Milks that work include unsweetened coconut, hemp, almond, hazelnut, and soy.
  • Fats – Olive oil on salads and avocado oil for cooking.
  • Spices, salsa, Dijon mustard – I enjoy these freely.
  • Overall – As much as possible, I bring home local, organic, fresh, wild-caught, sustainably and humanely raised foods. The more I do that, the more I am of service in the world.

What I don’t eat

  • Flour of any kind – All flour, including almond flour, coconut flour and the flour used to make “whole grain” bread. If it says the word flour on the label, I don’t eat it.
  • Sugar of any kind – All sugars including, but not limited to, honey, maple syrup, rice syrup, barley malt syrup, sucrose, fructose, Stevia and like products. I can tolerate a sugar in very small quantities; for instance in bottled salad dressing. If sugar is listed among the ingredients fifth down the list or further it’s OK for me. See my salad recipes for the homemade dressings I prefer.
  • Artificial sweetener – Chemicals without any nutritional value.
  • Caffeine – I’ve quit caffeine for long periods. At other times, I’ve had one cup of coffee a day.

What I avoid

  • Hungry – I eat meals on time to avoid hunger.
  • Angry – Feeling my feelings and expressing my feelings in constructive ways help me to avoid dwelling in a mood of anger.
  • Lonely – I connect with myself, Higher Power, and other people and do service where possible to avoid hanging out in a mood of loneliness.
  • Tired – I’m learning to sleep well every day. Insomnia and constipation are often connected. I use certain supplements to keep regular and avoid being tired.

When I eat

  • Three times a day.
  • Nothing in between – I don’t snack or eat part of a meal in advance of a meal or later in the day after a meal. I find that taking a hot drink can be restorative between meals.
  • Not more than 6 hours apart – I have set aside the noon hour every day for lunch. If I have an appointment during that time, and it can’t be changed, I carefully consider the circumstances and decide whether I will eat before, during or after the appointment.
  • Please note that, for health reasons, some people follow a stable, committed, weighed and measured food plan of more than three meals a day, and/or a snack.

How I eat

  • Preparing the food by my own two hands as often as possible
  • Sitting down at a table with the full meal prepared and set before me
  • Taking a moment after sitting down to appreciate the people at the table (including me!) and all those who brought the food to my table (bird, seed, earth, bee, sun, rain, farmer, worker, truck driver, purchaser, cashier, employer…) and the hands that prepared it (usually mine!)
  • A prayer of gratitude and the Serenity Prayer
  • Eating with enough bare attention to know, “I am eating this delicious, nourishing meal.”
  • Eating peacefully. I actively note and let go of negative thoughts and/or conversations if they arise.
  • Eating with the knowledge that the Creator is feeding me and I am feeding the Creator in me.
  • Concluding the meal with another prayer

How I weigh myself

  • On a digital scale
  • Once a month while losing – My husband had to hide the scale from me during this time. He took it out once a month so that I could weigh myself. I never found the hiding place and believe me, I tried.
  • Once a week while maintaining – This has been much easier. I weigh every Sunday morning – no more or less often.

How I found my goal weight

  • I started in January 2007 without a set goal.
  • Once I learned a calculation to set my goal, I dreamed of being this slim, but I didn’t imagine I could really get there. I’m still amazed to be at a weight under that goal.
  • Here’s the calculation for women: 100 pounds for 5 feet, plus 5 pounds for every inch over 5 feet, plus 5 pounds for those over 50 years of age. For me, at 6 feet tall and over 50 years old, that meant 165 pounds was the “right” weight for me.
  • Like many people on this program, I became an engine for weight loss and gave away more than enough weight and exceeded my goal. I went down to 155 pounds before I started coming back up. I found that I was most comfortable physically, mentally and spiritually at 158 – 160 pounds—under the goal I thought I would never achieve.
  • After the accident in January 2011, while in the hospital for 4 months, my weight went down to 120 pounds. Not a pretty picture. I eventually came up in my weight.
  • I used to gain 20 pounds and not even notice a difference. Now 2 pounds makes a difference in how I feel.

How I commit the food

  • Every night, for two years, I wrote down the food I would eat the next day and committed it to my sponsor the next morning. This guaranteed that I had the food I needed right at hand and a plan in place. No more obsessive thinking about what to eat.
  • Since then, there have been long periods of time when I have not written down my food; and other times when I’ve gone back to the practice of committing and writing down my food, especially when my weight has started to creep up.
  • The practice of writing down my food proves to me that I’m on track. It keeps me honest with myself. I feel more confident and positive when I know I’m on track.

How I weigh and measure

  • I use a DIGITAL food scale. I weigh my food to point-zero-zero. For instance, one ounce of cereal is 1.00 oz. Not 0.95 and not 1.05, but 1.00. I use my tendency towards perfectionism for this one purpose. It feels really good to me.

How I shop for food

  • I plan ahead and always have the food I need on hand.
  • I have a grocery list based on my food plan to keep the refrigerator and the pantry stocked. It’s a saved document in the computer that we update, highlight and print out to take with us each time we go shopping for groceries.

How I cook

  • I rarely cook full meals!
  • I cook in batches. When it’s mealtime, there’s everything we need, already made, in the fridge, ready to eat. However, unlike some other batch cookers, I don’t freeze things and I don’t have a set regimen of cooking a certain amount every Sunday. I just stay ahead of the game by one or two days.
  • That’s not the way it used to be. I thought I liked to cook when I started in my food program, but I soon realized that we almost always ate out or ate carry-out and I rarely cooked. I was not too good at organizing a shopping list, or cooking a meal and getting it all on the table at the right time.
  • Now I really do love to cook. It’s a peaceful, happy time of day… either early in the morning or after my evening meal… or whenever I have 15 minutes or so. It’s catch as catch can.
  • I’m not actually preparing full meals ahead. I’m cooking components of meals. I roast a few pounds of vegetables and maybe a turkey breast. Gregory grills chicken or fish. (Yes. In our household there are gender differences in cooking. Gregory does the grilling and the cleaning up. Nice.) I cook a pound of dried beans, 3 cups of our mixed grains and/or bunches of greens in my beloved pressure cooker. Then, when it’s mealtime, we compose our plates from what’s already made.

Sick day plan

  • A previous sponsor and I made common sense plans for sick days.
  • If my stomach is upset (hardly ever!) and raw fruits and vegetables are hard to digest, I have an extra 6.00 oz. of cooked vegetable with my meal instead of a raw salad. I bake apples, make applesauce, heat and mash banana, or simmer compote of fruits on the stove with a cinnamon stick to eat as my 6.00 oz portion of fruit. I do these things regularly when the weather turns cold or when feeling chilled.
  • If meals are too large when I am really, really sick, I divide them into smaller more frequent meals just for that time.
  • When it’s just not possible to eat regular food, I use good quality, clear, unsweetened apple juice (not cider) to make my own gelatin; drink warm broth; and eat chilled, jellied consommé. These are the same foods I use when prepping for tests, such as a colonoscopy.

How I travel

  • I bring my food journal, scale, insulated lunch bag, flatware, paring knife, and a bamboo bowl.
  • I call ahead; choosing accommodations with a kitchenette; or at least a refrigerator… and a microwave if possible; and I find out where I’ll be able to shop for good quality food as soon as I get to town. (Most hotels will provide a fridge free of charge if you say you need it for medical reasons.)
  • I pack the meals I will need to eat before reaching my destination.
  • I’ve learned that airport security considers yogurt to be a potentially dangerous liquid; so I leave it out.
  • I make a grocery list while I’m on the plane.
  • I go to the food store after checking in and confirming there is a fridge in the room.
  • If driving a long distance instead of flying, I use a Colman Cooler to pack meals.

WHAT I ATE TO GIVE AWAY THE POUNDS

These are the amounts of food that worked for me to lose weight. Although I cried for the first week as I went through withdrawal from my drugs of choice—flour and sugar, I was never starving and I quickly adapted to this amount of food.

Losing weight felt scary at times, unfamiliar, as if I was losing a part of myself. The Serenity Prayer and talking with my fellows who reminded me over and over again that I’m doing this just for today helped me move from fear to liberation, happiness, confidence, and joy!

Simple is best. When I was losing weight, I ate a single fruit at a meal instead of fruit salad. I had one cooked vegetable at a meal rather than mixed vegetables… unless I had a small amount of leftover vegetable from another meal, then I did combine… but only as necessary.

The simplicity was absolutely essential to my recovery. Even today, when my food gets too complicated, I find that I am more anxious, less secure, and more doubtful of my recovery.

Once I hit the three months mark and I hadn’t yet reached my goal, I added a grain to lunch—very important for healthy hair growth and good skin condition.

When I reached a few pounds under my goal, my sponsor and I worked together to figure out what foods to add. We added one food weekly until I could tell I was taking in the maximum capacity of food to keep to my goal weight. After about a year, we were able to cut back on these massive amounts. I no longer needed that much food to keep to my right weight. We continue to adjust the food as necessary with the help of nutritionist-clinical herbalist-coach-educator Rebecca Snow. Rebecca has met with a number of clients in our same 12 step program for food addiction. Check out her website at http://rebeccasnow.com. You can meet with Rebecca in person or consult via phone, Skype or FaceTime.  Rebecca specializes in Lyme Disease, chronic illnesses, and weight loss. She works frequently with individuals in 12-step food programs.

I’ve been a vegan in this program and it’s totally do-able. Currently I eat eggs, fish and occasionally dairy and I’m OK with that.

Morning Meal for Weight Loss

  • Grain
    • 1.00 oz cold cereal made without flour of any kind, such as Ezekiel, shredded wheat, or Uncle Sam’s.
    • OR cooked grain made from 1.00 oz oatmeal, corn grits, or buckwheat; or 4 oz cooked amaranth, brown rice, or quinoa
  • Protein
    • 2 eggs have great nutritional value. Very few people are sensitive to the cholesterol in eggs
    • OR 6.00 oz beans, lentils, tofu or tempeh
    • OR 8.00 oz unsweetened yogurt. I love goat’s milk yogurt. My favorite cow’s milk yogurt is Seven Stars low fat plain yogurt. I sometimes add spices to my yogurt–cinnamon, nutmeg, allspice, cardamom, and ginger.
    • OR 8.00 oz unsweetened milk of all kinds, including cow, goat, hemp, almond, hazelnut, etc.
    • OR 2.00 oz hard cheese, such as cheddar
    • OR 4.00 oz soft cheese, such as cottage cheese, ricotta, farmers cheese
  • Fruit
    • 1 piece or 6.00 oz fruit

Lunch Meal for Weight Loss

  • Protein
    • 4.00 oz meat, poultry or fish
    • OR 6.00 oz beans, lentils, tofu or tempeh. I ate vegetable protein at least several times a week.
  • Vegetable
    • 6.00 oz cooked vegetable
  • Salad
    • 8.00 oz salad made with about 2.00 oz lettuce and 6.00 oz raw vegetables. In cooler weather, to avoid feeling chilly, warm the salad OR replace the salad with another 6.00 oz of cooked vegetables
  • Oil
    • 1 tablespoon of organic olive oil (or another healthy oil such as walnut oil) with a squeeze of lemon or lime, or a dash of balsamic vinegar… sometimes combined with a small dollop of Grey Poupon mustard

Dinner Meal for Weight Loss

  • Protein
    • 4.00 oz meat, poultry, or fish
    • OR 6.00 oz beans, lentils, tofu or tempeh. I ate vegetable protein at least several times a week.
  • Vegetable
    • 6.00 oz cooked vegetable
  • Salad
    • 8.00 oz salad made with about 2.00 oz lettuce and 6.00 oz raw vegetables. In cooler weather, to avoid feeling chilly, warm the salad OR replace the salad with another 6.00 oz of cooked vegetables
  • Oil
    • 1 tablespoon of organic olive oil with a squeeze of lemon or lime, or a dash of balsamic vinegar… sometimes combined with a small dollop of Grey Poupon mustard

My sponsor added a Grain to my Mid-day Meal after three months.

sweet potato fries

 

WHAT I EAT TODAY TO MAINTAIN

This is what my unique body, metabolism and activity level seem to have determined will be  the right food to maintain my 6 foot tall, born in 1955, moderately active body at a right size. The amounts of food and the way I eat have changed several times (with the help of my sponsor and my nutritionist Rebecca Snow), depending on the season and life circumstances.

After the accident, I wasn’t able to eat for several months. My metabolism slowed dramatically. Once I started to be able to eat properly, the weight came on quickly and I overshot the mark! Rebecca helped me to get my metabolism going again, by putting my biggest meal at the beginning of the day and adding extra calories with a starchy protein to the weight loss plan above. It worked for me. The weight came off and it has felt so good that my husband and I continue to eat this way.

Morning Meal for Maintenance

  • 6 oz beans or lentils
  • 6 oz cooked vegetable
  • 8 oz salad
  • 1 tablespoon oil
  • 1 fruit

Mid-day Meal for Maintenance

  • 4 oz fish or 6 oz beans, lentils or tofu
  • 6 oz cooked vegetable
  • 8 oz salad
  • 1 tablespoon oil
  • 1 piece or 6 oz fruit

Evening Meal for Maintenance

  • 2.00 oz (dry) oatmeal, corn grits, or buckwheat; or 4 oz cooked amaranth, brown rice, or quinoa; or 4 oz sweet potato
  • 2 oz raw nuts and/or seeds; OR 8 oz yogurt; OR 4 oz cottage cheese
  • 1 piece or 6 oz fruit

A note about nuts and seeds: raw nuts are recommended, such as almonds, walnuts, or pecans. Raw nuts can be mixed with raw seeds, such as chia seeds, sesame seeds, sunflower seeds, and/or shredded coconut.

I can have one cup of broth a week and can add foods from that meal to make a soup. I occasionally have stew or a stir-fry as long as I can measure the protein and vegetable separately. I cook and season with herbs, spices, Tamari, toasted sesame oil (a small amount adds lots of flavor), Balsamic vinegar, and lime juice. I use mustard and salsa. I use a small amount of avocado oil when roasting vegetables.

These are some of the thoughts that help me to keep doing what I’m doing.

  • Breathe
  • Feed G-d
  • Think positive
  • Every addiction is a denial of freedom
  • There is a way to freedom
  • The root of all suffering is craving
  • There is a way out of craving
  • Freedom can be scary
  • Surrender
  • Observe this moment. It’s impermanent.
  • It’s all progress
  • It’s just for today
  • One day at a time
  • It’s not my food
  • Keep it simple
  • Weighing the food is a prayer
  • Saying a gentle no to craving is a prayer
  • Asking for help is a prayer
  • Honesty is the best policy
  • Daily quiet time makes all the difference
  • I’m building my spiritual reserve
  • I’m in the hands of G-d and I’m perfectly and utterly safe
  • I’m aiming for happy, joyous and free!

And finally, from the theologian and novelist C. S. Lewis – “If ours is an examined faith, we should be unafraid to doubt. If doubt is eventually justified, we were believing what clearly was not worth believing. But if doubt is answered, our faith has grown stronger. It knows God more certainly and it can enjoy God more deeply.”

There you have it.

Love & Light,

Valerie