A Work in Progress

The last days have been a blur with all the news coverage and social media chatter about Covid-19. Life has turned upside down with schools, malls, restaurants, and businesses of all kinds closing or learning how to operate differently. On recommendation of the CDC and our bishop, our church has suspended in-person gatherings for the time being and so have most churches – so there are countless pastors and church staff out there right now who are learning how to do live-streamed services and zoom meetings and EVERYONE is posting EVERYTHING on social media at all times. It’s a good thing and will benefit all our churches a lot in the long run to become more savvy at things like this, but my brain is overstimulated because it feels like my sabbatical is effectively over. I can’t complain – I had nearly ten uninterrupted weeks of rest, reading, cups of coffee, and time with family – but I was really looking forward to just a little bit more.

But, to my dismay, the world doesn’t revolve around me. My plan to complete the list of fifty things before my fiftieth birthday suddenly feels trivial and silly. It was so important to me a week ago, but now my head is in an entirely different place.

That’s how it goes sometimes. Sometimes one can have a really great plan but life gets in the way.

The list, like all of us, is just a work in progress.

#28 – Eat Ten Different Kinds of Ice Cream

#28 – Eat Ten Different Kinds of Ice Cream

I know, ambitious, right?

After all the years I spent declining dessert while on some diet or another, I have some make-up work to do when it comes to consuming sweets. From around 1985-2010, if you asked me if I would like some ice cream, I probably said, “no.” I opted for the yogurt, or the fresh fruit, or a diet coke, or nothing at all. Either that, or I ate ice cream while alone, usually while on a food binge after some extensive period of dieting. It was tragic.

Because that’s how dieting works – you find some rules to follow that are guaranteed to slim you down, and you follow those rules for a period of time, and then one day you get so weary of following the rules that you eat everything in sight.

I was an excellent dieter. I was very, very good at following the rules of whatever diet I was on at the time. Over the course of twenty-five years I lost small amounts of weight and I lost large amounts of weight. Every time, I gained the weight back.

It always came to a point where the rules made my world seem so very small. Dieting made it so that eventually all I seemed to think or talk about was how much weight I had lost or what clothes I was going to buy when I hit that next milestone of weight loss. I would bask in the success and compliments and then cower under shame every time I needed to go off the carefully prescribed dieting course and eat.

One of the best things I have done is stop dieting. I stopped telling myself certain foods were “good” and others were “bad.” I stopped deciding I was beautiful only if I could fit into my smaller-size clothing. I stopped making anything off-limits. I started saying “yes” to the damn ice cream.

So, it wasn’t hard to try ten different kinds of ice cream. I’ll probably try at least ten more before my fiftieth birthday. But in the spirit of my Fifty Things I Want to do Before my Fiftieth Birthday task, here are the ten I have had in the last few weeks:

  1. Cookies and Cream
  2. Bunny Tracks
  3. Caramel Cashew
  4. Peanut Butter Core
  5. Scotcheroo
  6. Monster Cookie
  7. Goldmine
  8. Tonight Dough
  9. White Chocolate Raspberry
  10. Juneberry

For the Next Fifty: Eat ice cream like it is my job.

# 20 – Try a Cortado

I’ve always been a black coffee kind of person. It’s what I have first thing in the morning, it’s what I drink if I go out with friends. I never needed or even really thought about having other drinks with all sorts of added milk and sugar and flavor.

But why NOT try all the other drinks that are on the menu? Or even ones that aren’t on the menu?

A friend mentioned on a Facebook post how the Cortado was his favorite coffee drink. I hadn’t even heard of this drink before much less tried one – so as I was making my list of things I want to do before I turn 50, I added it to the list.

Except I remembered the name wrong and wrote down, “Cordero.” So you can understand the puzzled look on my barista’s face when I asked if she could make one. Bless her heart, she even looked up the recipe online and said it was some kind of lamb dish. I apologized and said I must have the name wrong and ordered some black coffee instead.

Then I did some more research and got the name right and went back to her. I drank it on a Sunday morning after attending a church service at the United Methodist Church. If you want to know more about how to make one, you can find information here: https://www.northstarroast.com/cortado-coffee/

It’s good. It’s not as bitter as my usual black coffee. I’m glad I know what it is and now I order it frequently.

So many things about life get on autopilot, don’t they? I simply got used to drinking black coffee every day – it was warm, it didn’t have calories, it was inexpensive, my friends drank it – there were lots of reasons why it became the default drink in my life. But I might have gone my whole life without trying a cortado. That could have easily happened. Would my life have been less because of it? Maybe not – but nevertheless, I’m glad that it is now part of my repertoire of beverages I consume.

And it makes me think about how so much of what we do every day happens just because that’s how we always do things. Most days I get up and within the first hour or two, I hop on my treadmill – walking or jogging. I love my treadmill. I first got one 13 years ago when our first child was born and I knew my chances of getting a workout in would increase if I didn’t have to try to make it to the gym. For me, my treadmill has never collected dust or been a place to pile stuff as it becomes for some people. I use it every day. Every. Day. Anyway, my dear treadmill recently broke and now I feel entirely out of sorts without my faithful treadmill friend as part of my day.

But I know that I don’t have to have a treadmill in order to exercise. I mean, I will miss it until it is fixed, but in the meantime I get to try some other things. Today I dug out some old workout videos and tomorrow I can go for a hike. I’ve been meaning to take a yoga class for about the last 15 years, so maybe I can do that soon. The options are endless.

And we forget that. No matter how much I like black coffee, not every day has to be a black coffee day – it could be a macchiato or a flat white day or even green tea! No matter how much I love my treadmill, my body can enjoy all sorts of activity. Some of these new things might open up brand new doors into my new favorite stuff and some of it might just make me miss black coffee and treadmills all the more. Either way, I’ve learned something.

So, yeah – try the Cortado. I recommend it.

For the Next Fifty: Keep trying new things. Every day if you can – a new recipe, a fresh perspective, a different route to work, ask unusual questions. There’s only so much time on this beautiful blue planet – find out as much as you can about it while you can.

#3 Learn to make savory pies

#3 – Learn to make savory pies – when we were in New Zealand, every morning we enjoyed going to the bakery and trying different baked goods. It was fun to see not just donuts and muffins but other cakes and pies. We liked the lamingtons – which were square chocolate cakes covered with coconut; but we adored the savory pies. Oftentimes they were meat pies – pastry shells filled with meats and spices, or there were vegetarian ones with cheese and vegetables, and also egg/ham varieties. In Rotorua, there was a shop just down the street that only sold varieties of pies and it was busy all day.

So, we decided that we needed to have more of these pies in our lives even after we returned from New Zealand. In the past I have made quiches, but I wanted to broaden my horizons.

I’m not a big meat-eater, but my family is, and so the first recipe I chose was for a cheeseburger pie. I know that when we have had cheeseburger pizza it disappears quickly, so I was confident that the pie variation would be a hit. You can find the recipe I chose here: https://www.allrecipes.com/recipe/15708/cheeseburger-pie/

I didn’t have all the ingredients on hand but I was able to modify and the end result was eaten up quickly by my family.

In addition, my husband has made several variations of the small egg/cheese pies. He loves them when the eggs are not scrambled but rather cracked whole into the pie shell and then they cook that way. So good! If you would like to try – here’s a good place to start: https://timetocookonline.com/?s=egg+pie My favorite variation is egg, cheese, and spinach – but the sky is really the limit as far as what you might want to put in your pie.

For the Next Fifty years I want to make time to cook and eat the things I enjoy. Food is such a wonderful, joyful, nourishing thing in so many ways. In my career as a pastor I have visited so many people who are sick or enduring treatments of all kinds. They are rail thin, food tastes awful. So while we are able, let’s not waste precious time on weight-loss endeavors – let’s eat the delicious food, let’s gather around tables with the faces we love, and celebrate living! As I like to say: more living, less dieting!

If you click on the picture you will go to my Amazon affiliate link and see some little pie tins perfect for making the small, savory pies. 

#42 Learn a New Salad Recipe

I love vegetables but especially when I am traveling, I tend to eat mostly bread in some way, shape, or form. Scones, bagels, crackers – I love the carbs. So, now that we are back, I want to swing the pendulum back toward regularly eating vegetables. I went looking on the internet for some good recipes and then I was reminded of this foolproof formula:

Base:

  • romaine/ green or red leaf lettuce
  • spinach
  • mixed baby greens
  • kale

Vegetables:

  • carrots
  • cucumbers
  • tomatoes
  • bell peppers
  • mushrooms
  • sprouts
  • radishes

Cook things like:

  • squash
  • zucchini
  • onions
  • mushrooms (sometimes I prefer them cooked)
  • kale (same)
  • asparagus
  • brussel sprouts

Add-Ons:

These are the ingredients that make this process fun.

You can add things like:

  • nuts (walnuts, almonds, pecans, etc)
  • seeds (sunflower, pumpkin, etc)
  • chickpeas
  • grains (quinoa, pasta, brown rice)
  • hard boiled eggs (ONLY certified free range from the local farmer’s market)
  • raisins/craisins
  • strawberries/blueberries/cooked apples or pears, or other fruits

It’s a great reminder for how to mix and match tastes that you like. I bought some spinach, nuts, blue cheese, cherry tomatoes, and made a homemade salad dressing and I was all set. If you want to read the whole article that inspired me and got me back on the salad track – check it out here: https://medium.com/@MrsDeeGee/make-a-kick-ass-salad-that-wont-bore-the-shit-out-of-you-827d9781bdc7

Then I bought this book to keep my love affair with salads going strong. Click on the picture to see the link. 

#15 – Write an Anti-Diet Manifesto

#15 – Write an Anti-Diet Manifesto

You don’t get my kids, too.

Too many years, you had all of me. I gave everything to you. All that wasted time and energy. For what?

To fit in a smaller size?

To fit in?

To ‘feel good about myself?’

What if I had just skipped the self-hatred, the restriction, the weighing and measuring, the money spent on this or that program, the shakes, the prepared meals, the books, and just went immediately to the part where I loved myself?

Losing the weight was never magical.

It never made me

better, smarter, more successful, more compassionate, more confident, or more beautiful.

It was always this slippery slope. Sure, it felt good to slip on something smaller, to see my cheekbones, to feel lighter. It was nice for a moment.

But it was always followed by unhealth: weight regain, binging, self-loathing.

I got off that rollercoaster a few years ago – just in time to see my children facing the same damnable cycle. Surrounded by their bone-y friends, they feel bad for their healthy, round faces, their sweet, soft bellies. And no matter how many times their mom tells them they are so very handsome just as they are, I can feel their pain and worry about being different, too big, too much – because I carried that pain and worry for most of my life, too.

My dear boys –

food is good.

eating is good.

Movement and strength is good, too.

Treating one’s body well is all sorts of things

but never is it:

deprivation

rules

the stingy, self-focused, miserly way of living that is “dieting.”

I will never diet again. I chose this years ago and life finally feels like life.

I choose to eat.

I choose movement I love and to enjoy every meal God gives me.

My worth, your worth, is not defined by the number on a scale.

Diet industry – You don’t get to have my kids, too. I will protect them from you with every ounce of energy I have in this strong, perfectly-sized body of mine. I hate you for the time you stole from me and for how you fuel a culture that tells my children or anyone that they are somehow flawed because of their God-given appetite.

For the Next Fifty Years: Always: More living. Less dieting.

Barbara Brown Taylor’s latest book is available at Amazon!  Click on the book to find out more!