August 10th, 2014

Leanne Brown's Good and Cheap Book Cover

Leanne Brown, a food studies scholar, encountered a problem. She noticed that people on government food assistance (food stamps) were not eating healthfully. She calculated the average food allowance at $4 a day, and set about a challenge. Create great-tasting, healthful recipes within that $4 budget.

From her website: “I think everyone should eat great food every day. Eating well means learning to cook. It means banishing the mindset that preparing daily meals is a huge chore or takes tremendous skill.”

The result of her efforts is a free downloadable cookbook called Good and Cheap. In it are delectable recipes, pictured beautifully, and with simple, inexpensive ingredients.  In the book, she includes sumptuous twists on old favorites, like her eight ways to spice up oatmeal.  However, she also gets a little … gourmet!  With a few simple instructions, she turns an ordinary grapefruit into a the type of sensuous delight you would expect to eat at a spa.  She rounds out the book with simple soups, exotic salads, and a section on roasting everything from whole chickens to winter vegetables.

Her cookbook includes a diversity of palates, including dishes that hail from Mexico and India (home made roti, anyone?)  And, she’s not one to believe that people on government assistance can’t have dessert.  She includes recipes for chocolate chip cookies, peach coffee cake, and even home made sorbet.

I encourage you to get on over and grab a copy now.  For more great recipes and her other wonderful cookbooks, see her main website:  http://www.leannebrown.ca/

Filled Under: Eat Well


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We won’t ever set your priorities - we help you set them.

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Whether you read our pages and get inspired to change, or learn to accept who you already are, we’ve done our job.

Treat Yourself Well

Katryna Starks - Editor

Think Well

By Katryna Starks

In the last post, Who’s Goal Is It Anyway? (Part 1), I talked about the transtheoretical model of behavior change and its 5 phases: Precontemplation, contemplation, preparation, action, and maintenance. If you have a goal, you are in one of those phases.

This post is about deciding which phase you’re in and how important that is to you. In the intro to the last article, I talked about people who would say you’re “making excuses” for why you aren’t eating healthfully, exercising, or committing to losing weight. There is a big problem with the “no excuses” mentality. You’re the only one who can tell yourself it’s an excuse. No one else has the right to say that to you.

An excuse implies two things: 1) That you are accountable to someone else’s goal for you and 2) That you owe someone else an explanation for why you aren’t reaching it.

Now, there are times when we do need accountability and social support for reaching our goals and we may put people in the position of authority, such as friends, coaches, personal trainers, etc. However, there are many people who are full of advice, and full of themselves, who take it upon themselves to subordinate you to their goal just because you may have stated your goal out loud.

Although these people are often well-meaning, they can derail you. Why? If you aren’t taking care of your health, the deeper issue is that you don’t have the autonomy to take care of yourself and make yourself a priority. Having self-appointed others in your life take over this function for you does not help you understand your importance to yourself!

In order to make successful changes, you need to understand that you are worth it. You need to stand on that and to hold your ground. You also need to understand that you are completely responsible for making your own choices and setting your own priorities – and better health may not be one of them. It doesn’t mean you won’t ever change, but you may have a different set of priorities right now. You may have a new baby or a new job, or just don’t have the time or effort to change right now. If you keep thinking about it and working it out in your mind, you’ll see the areas in which you can open up and make some small changes. Small changes lead to good habits. Good habits lead to good lifestyles. A lifestyle change is merely a series of small actions that are activated one at a time.

So, who’s goal is it anyway? It’s yours. And you’ll do it when you’re ready.

17 March 2014

Think Well

By Katryna Starks

I hear many people who have gone through the hardships of losing weight and getting healthy. They’re ecstatic. They’re helpful. They’re full of advice about how to be healthy. They’re encouraging. They’re enthusiastic. And they’re judgemental. It’s this last adjective that I’m going to address today.

Losing weight successfully is a laudable achievement, but it doesn’t give anyone the right to become a boot camp instructor. New weight loss advocates walk around, chest proud, saying things like “No excuses! If you want to get healthy, just do it! NOW!” or “You really don’t want health because you keep putting it off.” or “One or two mistakes is ok, but if you make more, you’re just not committed.” But is that true? Not at all.

It takes a lot of mental changes before someone makes any physical ones. This is best describes as the Transtheoretical Model of Behavior Change, originated by James Prochaska and Carl DiClimente. In this model, there are 5 stages of behavior change:

Precontemplation: In this stage, you don’t know there’s a problem, so you don’t care. You aren’t thinking of changing anything.

Contemplation: In this stage, you’re aware of a problem and want to change, but you’re just thinking about it. This mental process is a necessary part of the change. It is not procrastinating, it is processing. In this stage, you’re weighing the pros and cons, counting the costs, and setting priorities. You aren’t yet committed to changing, but you’re thinking seriously about it.

Preparation: Now, you’re committed. But it’s still on the inside. This is the planning stage. You weighed your options in the contemplation stage, but now you’ve sorted out the most realistic path and you have a plan – and a date – to start taking action. Sometimes the plans you make aren’t as realistic as you thought. At that point, you may not start the action, but go back to the preparation stage or even back to the contemplation stage because you need a different plan or something in your life changed. Do not get discouraged and give up or feel guilty because you “haven’t started yet.” You HAVE started. This is part of the process.

Action: Now, you’re doing something. It’s on the outside. Everyone can see it. In the action stage, you’re making the changes you need to make. You’re making different food choices. You’re exercising. You’re logging your changes (or at least performing actions that can be logged). Again, this stage is not permanent. You may find that your actions are ineffective or life changes and you have to change with it. That can put you back into the preparation phase. You may switch between preparation and action stages until you reach your goal.

An example of this is if you decide to exercise at 6am every morning. Then your work schedule changes or you get a job farther away. Now, you have to exercise at 5am in order to get to work on time. You try, but you can’t get up that early. You fail. Then you realize there is a gym near the place you work. It’s too expensive. You don’t go. Then you realize there is a park about 3 blocks away from your job. You walk or run after work instead of working out before. You only have 30 minutes of daylight after work in the winter, so you do 30 minutes. Meanwhile, you realize you can get up consistently at 5:30am but not at 5am, so you do. Now you have 30 minutes of exercise before work and 30 minutes after. It might take a month to work out your new schedule, but the point is that you are committed to exercising and you’re working out how that is going to become real in your life. Once the new plan is worked out, you’re back in action!

Maintenance: This is the last stage of behavior change. You’ve seen the results that you wanted to see. Now, you just need to maintain the change. When life changes again, you recalculate your plans and then commit once again to the proper actions.

So, who’s goal is it anyway? That’s in part 2.

15 March 2014

Eat Well

Photo By Michael Smith

A good tomato-basil bisque is like a little sip from Heaven, and this easy recipe will have you making your own. Sun-dried tomatoes are subbed for regular romas to give it a rich, smoky flavor. This recipe freezes and thaws well for homemade make-ahead meals.


    1 16-oz chicken broth
    1 12-oz coconut milk
    1 pkg frozen cauliflower
    1 jar sun-dried tomatoes
    Fresh basil (to taste)
    Sea Salt

In a large saucepan, combine chicken broth, cauliflower and sun-dried tomatoes. Bring to a boil, then cover and simmer 20-25 minutes or until cauliflower and tomatoes are tender. Use a handblender to blend ingredients into a creamy mix, then add coconut milk, garlic and rosemary, and 3/4 of the basic and blend again. Cover and simmer 5 more minutes, then salt to taste. Can be topped with basil leaves and parmesan when served.

10 March 2014

Eat Well

In every health discussion I’ve ever been in, someone inevitably brings up the cost of healthy eating. “Eating healthy is so expensive!” But is it really? While several people have realized that the upfront costs for healthy food are outweighed by the cost of health care if you don’t eat healthfully, that isn’t the whole story. You don’t have to wait to realize the cost benefits of healthy food, if you understand how your body works and what you’re really doing when you make the switch. (more…)

28 April 2012

Eat Well

We all recently learned that ammonia-treated beef, aka “pink slime”, was served in school burgers. But what else is in there? NPR’s Allison Aubrey explains it all in Tiny Desk Kitchen. Watch and learn! (more…)

3 April 2012

Think Well

By Katryna Starks

No, this has nothing to do with lingerie. It has to do with making every day a perfect wardrobe day. With never looking in your closet and finding things that don’t fit, are out of style, or just make you feel “blah”. It’s about building the perfect wardrobe so that no matter what you pull out of your closet and put on, you look fabulous. It’s about having everything that you wear make you say “Oh, Yes!” when you put it on. Every single outfit. Everyday.

The first step to building the “Oh, Yes!” Wardrobe is the creed:

I will not buy anything that doesn’t make me smile when I try it on.

This is actually pretty simple. How many things do you try on that you have to convince yourself to buy? You have questions. You have options. If it were just a bit more this or that, then it would be perfect. But it isn’t, and it’s easy to end up spending money on clothes that are almost right, but not quite. If you follow the creed, your wardrobe won’t end up perfect, but you will look and feel wonderful in everything you wear.

Of course, you’re probably thinking that it’s really hard to find things that look that good on you, which brings me to the next rule:

Often shop. Rarely buy.

You’re right if you think it’s hard to find amazing clothes that fit perfectly and look good on you. That’s why you need to shop a lot, but you won’t buy much. Now if you’re like me, the “shop a lot” part is easy. Refraining from buying clothing that is less than “Oh, Yes!” is hard. If it helps, in the dressing room, ask yourself the question “is this o-wear?” Did you smile – wide – when you saw yourself in that item? If the answer is no, it’s not the right piece for you.

In order to have a truly “Oh, Yes!” wardrobe, you have to follow a rule that might be difficult to swallow:

I will accept my size and buy clothes that fit properly.

If you’re comfortable in your own skin, this is a no-brainer. However, if you’re trying to lose weight, the temptation is great to buy the next size down as an incentive. “I’ll be there soon enough!”, you think. Oddly enough, that type of thinking – and buying – is detrimental to your fitness efforts. It’s really discouraging when you can’t find anything to wear that makes you feel good because all of your pretty clothes are too small. Also, weight loss, if done properly, is a slow process, so you might feel great from exercising (more energy, increase in strength, etc.) but have not changed clothing sizes. Accept the size you are. As a matter of fact, building an “Oh, Yes!” wardrobe involves being beautiful at the size you are. Revel in that! Shop at discounters like Marshalls, Ross, TJ Maxx, etc. so you aren’t breaking the bank on clothes. That way, when you do drop a size, you haven’t spent too much on clothes you can no longer wear. Also, keep in mind that as you lose weight, clothes that are slightly too large aren’t a problem. Sometimes they even drape better as you move to the smaller size. You can still wear them as long as they look great on you.

So far, I’ve talked about how to buy in order to build the “Oh, Yes!” wardrobe, but there’s another part to it – the clothes you already have.

Throw out your frumpy-frownies.

Once you have a few pieces that you love in your arsenal, it’s time to get rid of some of the things you don’t like. It’s a good general rule to donate an item of clothing for every one you buy. So, go through your closet and try everything on. This time, the question is different. What makes you frown when you try it on? I mean a true, visible, physical frown. If you hate the item – or hate the way it looks on you – it goes in the donation box.

Other things to do are to make note of designers that you like and stores where you find their clothes. You may find some online stores that fit you wonderfully as well.

You won’t get an “Oh, Yes!” wardrobe instantly, but if you follow the rules, you’ll easily have a week’s worth of o-wear in no time. Add a few more items and you can get through a month if you rotate. Once you have two months’ worth of clothing, you have enough to look great all year long!

10 June 2011

Move Well

By Katryna Starks

Getting fit involves 30 to 60 minutes of cardiovascular exercise a day, but that could be difficult for some. If you find that you can’t walk, run or perform aerobic exercise for that long, it may not because you’re out of breath, it could be that your muscles are tired.

Our muscles are capable of great strength, but only when they’re used. On an average day, we have enough muscle strength to get through that day and not much more. So, for instance, if you work at an office, then your muscles are used to sitting most of the day and not being used. When you get up and try to walk or run for 20-30 minutes straight, your muscles aren’t used to that activity and duration, and they tire out quickly. The tiredness you feel and the inability to complete a workout can be discouraging, and people often quit soon after they start. So how do you get around that? Don’t worry about cardio for a while. Start with strength.

Strength training is usually performed with machines or dumbbells. Ad advantage with dumbbells is that you can work out at home, whereas machines are usually only at a gym. With strength training, you don’t have to work out for 20-30 minutes at a time. Just 5 or 10 minutes will do if you’re a beginner. The goal with strength training is to actually push your muscles to fail. That’s because when muscles fail, they tear. When they rebuild, they become stronger, enabling you to do more. In strength training, muscle failure is not working out until you can’t move – it means to work until you can no longer keep perfect form. So, for instance, if you’re performing a bicep curl (weight in hand near your knees, lift weight to your shoulders and lower) and you can’t get the weight up to your shoulders anymore without resting or wobbling, then you have worked your bicep muscle to failure.

If you work out at a gym with machines, the machines or the gym trainers will guide you to an appropriate weight. If you have dumbbells, it’s good to use a weight that you can lift 8-12 times. Traditional strength training involves working one muscle at a time, in alternating sets. That means you would work on your biceps for 12 repetitions, then move to your legs for 12 repetitions, then back to your biceps again after they have rested. A newer form of strength training is called functional exercise. In functional exercise, you use the entire body to perform movements that mimic the types of movements you do in real life. Dumbbells are involved because machines don’t usually have settings for functional exercises. These involved not only lifting, but squatting, twisting and balancing. Several of these are incorporated into each move. For instance, a traditional bicep exercise is the curl, described above. A functional full-body exercise would involve a squat (sit back without a chair and then stand straight again) and then a bicep curl once you’re standing. Full-body exercises work more muscles at once, so they can allow for very short workout sessions.

If you want to try a home strength program, there are several good ones on DVD. Ones I recommend are:

The Firm: Tough Tape 2

Jari Love

Supreme 90 Day

After a few weeks or months of strength training, your muscles will be strong enough to hold you through 20-30 minutes of cardio exercise. Once you can do cardio, you might find that you like it. Then, you’re on your way to a lifetime of fitness!

1 June 2011

Think Well

By Katryna Starks

Satoshi Kanazawa recently posted an article on the Psychology Today website titled “Why Are Black Women Less Physically Attractive Than Other Women? Why Black Women But Not Black Men?”

 Now, as a Black Woman, I’ll be the first to say that this is offensive, I’m also offended that this is considered valid research. The article itself is printed below, with my comments explaining the bad research design appearing after.

If you’ve already read the article want to skip to the analysis, click here.

“Psychology Today” posted:

Why Are Black Women Less Physically Attractive Than Other Women? Why black women, but not black men?
Published on May 15, 2011 by Satoshi Kanazawa in The Scientific Fundamentalist

There are marked race differences in physical attractiveness among women, but not among men. Why?

Add Health measures the physical attractiveness of its respondents both objectively and subjectively. At the end of each interview, the interviewer rates the physical attractiveness of the respondent objectively on the following five-point scale: 1 = very unattractive, 2 = unattractive, 3 = about average, 4 = attractive, 5 = very attractive. The physical attractiveness of each Add Health respondent is measured three times by three different interviewers over seven years.

From these three scores, I can compute the latent “physical attractiveness factor” by a statistical procedure called factor analysis. Factor analysis has the added advantage of eliminating all random measurement errors that are inherent in any scientific measurement. The latent physical attractiveness factor has a mean of 0 and a standard deviation of 1.

Recall that women on average are more physically attractive than men. So women of all races are on average more physically attractive than the “average” Add Health respondent, except for black women. As the following graph shows, black women are statistically no different from the “average” Add Health respondent, and far less attractive than white, Asian, and Native American women.

In contrast, races do not differ in physical attractiveness among men, as the following graph shows. Men of all races are more or less equally less physically attractive than the “average” Add Health respondent.

This sex difference in the race differences in physical attractiveness – where physical attractiveness varies significantly by race among women, but not among men – is replicated at each Add Health wave (except that the race differences among men are statistically significant, albeit substantively very small, in Wave III). In each wave, black women are significantly less physically attractive than women of other races.

It is very interesting to note that, even though black women are objectively less physically attractive than other women, black women (and men) subjectively consider themselves to be far more physically attractive than others. In Wave III, Add Health asks its respondents to rate their own physical attractiveness subjectively on the following four-point scale: 1 = not at all, 2 = slightly, 3 = moderately, 4 = very. As you can see in the following graphs, both black women and black men rate themselves to be far more physically attractive than individuals of other races.

What accounts for the markedly lower average level of physical attractiveness among black women? Black women are on average much heavier than nonblack women. The mean body-mass index (BMI) at Wave III is 28.5 among black women and 26.1 among nonblack women. (Black and nonblack men do not differ in BMI: 27.0 vs. 26.9.) However, this is not the reason black women are less physically attractive than nonblack women. Black women have lower average level of physical attractiveness net of BMI. Nor can the race difference in intelligence (and the positive association between intelligence and physical attractiveness) account for the race difference in physical attractiveness among women. Black women are still less physically attractive than nonblack women net of BMI and intelligence. Net of intelligence, black men are significantly more physically attractive than nonblack men.

There are many biological and genetic differences between the races. However, such race differences usually exist in equal measure for both men and women. For example, because they have existed much longer in human evolutionary history, Africans have more mutations in their genomes than other races. And the mutation loads significantly decrease physical attractiveness (because physical attractiveness is a measure of genetic and developmental health). But since both black women and black men have higher mutation loads, it cannot explain why only black women are less physically attractive, while black men are, if anything, more attractive.

The only thing I can think of that might potentially explain the lower average level of physical attractiveness among black women is testosterone. Africans on average have higher levels of testosterone than other races, and testosterone, being an androgen (male hormone), affects the physical attractiveness of men and women differently. Men with higher levels of testosterone have more masculine features and are therefore more physically attractive. In contrast, women with higher levels of testosterone also have more masculine features and are therefore less physically attractive. The race differences in the level of testosterone can therefore potentially explain why black women are less physically attractive than women of other races, while (net of intelligence) black men are more physically attractive than men of other races.

Ooh! Scientific words! Pretty graphs! Completely wrong.

The entire study isn’t worth the pixels it’s written in.

1 – Satoshi Kanazawa, the author of the study, has had several statements and studies debunked by professional researchers who have pointed out errors in statistical analysis, so this guy has a reputation for creating dubious, if not downright invalid research. (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Satoshi_Kanazawa)

2 – The main objective measure of attractiveness that is true for all races and cultures is symmetry. Nowhere in the study does he say that Black women tend to have asymmetrical features more often than others.

 3 – Without regard to symmetry (which apparently wasn’t measured in the study), you’re left with opinion – which this study appears to be based on. In that case, you need a random sampling of people from around the world who have minimal exposure to other ethnicities in order to have a proper representation of opinions. This is the only way to see if there is an attractiveness consensus. In general, Asians will find Asians more attractive, Africans will find Africans more attractive, and people in Western societies (i.e. America, Britain, etc.) will find people with Caucasian features more attractive. In this study, although he appears to ask several races about attractiveness, he doesn’t say where they live, so I presume they are in London where he is. If that is the case, regardless of the race of the individual respondents, they would have a Western/Caucasian standard of female beauty. So, if he’s asking a bunch of Westerners their opinions on attractiveness, you’ll end up with results that rate Caucasian features as most attractive in women, and African features as least.

 4- Racial prejudice exists, and wasn’t specifically factored out. In other words, he would have needed to have the respondents take another survey unrelated to this one where he tests for racial bias in general either for or against certain races. Then, he would have to evaluate the results of the attractiveness study while using the results of the racial bias study as a variable so he could see if the “attractiveness” level was merely a reflection of inherent racial bias instead of an actual objective attractiveness rating. It could very well be that the responders have a latent bias against Black people. This could be a factor unknown to them (they don’t think they are prejudiced, but they are) and, this bias could even be held by Blacks (they could see themselves as highly attractive while still holding a culturally inherited bias against Black people). Without specifically testing for and ruling out racial bias, it becomes a confounding variable in the attractiveness study.

In essence, the research design appears to be flawed, making the results of the study worthless.

* The actual article has been removed from the Psychology Today website.

17 May 2011

Think Well

By Katryna Starks

Cleaning up clutter is time-consuming and stressful. For every item you pick up, you have to make several decisions. Here or there? Keep or toss? Those decisions can be overwhelming and mentally taxing. And, depending on how much clutter you have, you might have to make hundreds of those decisions at once. No wonder you dread it!

But here’s a simple solution: find a home. Not for you, for each of your items. Not a vague “around here” spot, but a specific place that each item goes when not in use. This still leaves you with a lot of decisions to make, but you will only make them once. Every time after that, you use the item and then place it back in its proper home. You don’t have to re-decide where that home is. You already made that decision.

But what about new things? Find a home for them, too – before you buy them. For every item you want, think about your house and where it will go when it’s just being stored and not in use. If you can’t think of a home for the item, it’s possible that it’s just an impulse buy and its home, for now, is in the store. If it is an item you really need, then perhaps there are other items that you already have that can be donated to make room for the new item. You can always leave the item in the store and then go home and plan your purchase by deciding what it will displace. Think of each new item like a new child or a pet – you have to have a place for it to go before you bring it home. That will keep your home, and your mind, clutter free.

30 November 2010

Heal Well, Think Well

In the past few years, brain games such as sudoku have become very popular as people try to ward off the mental signs of aging. For the social types who aren’t prone to puzzles, there is another way to strengthen the brain.

Canadian researchers have found that the brain appears to treat multilingualism as a puzzle, of sorts, and that multilingual people develop Alzheimer’s symptoms about 5 years after monolingual people. The multiple language skills don’t actually affect the disease of Alzheimer’s – the brains of multilingual Alzheimer’s patients show deterioration – but multilingual individuals don’t show outward symptoms of the disease. This delay in symptoms appears to average about 5 years.

Although the participants in the study had been multilingual for several years, it may not be too late to start. Learning a new language is a fun activity that can open the door to new friendships and activities. It’s easy to start, too. Sign up for a class at a local community center or community college to learn with others. Grab some language software to learn at home. You can even start for free by getting a well-known poem from the internet and using Google Translate to see it in a different language.

Go ahead. Try it now!

Reference: http://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2010/11/101108161226.htm

9 November 2010