health and wellness

Monastic eating in the new year

Over the past two years, I’ve done the Whole 30 four times, two of them more completely than others. What I’ve noticed as I continue to go through the program is that it gets easier, more habitual and more instinctual each time. Makes sense. The more you do something the easier and/or better it gets or you get at it. Life coaching is about building habits, not only the super important habit of asking ourselves what next steps we can take each day to more fully live the life we want to live, but putting habits into practice that are forward steps on our journeys.

In this new year, 2019, I want to be healthier and stronger. Who doesn’t, really? But am I committed to it? Tomorrow is the last day of Christmas and Sunday is the feast of the Epiphany. My family has considered having one last celebratory Christmas meal to mark the end of the 12 days. Other than that, it’s a new year and the big holiday season is over. I’ve already jumped back on the paleo bandwagon, not 100%, but probably 80%. What I gained doing Whole 30 last fall was the ability to actually accomplish living an 80/20 lifestyle. Today it occurred to me that I want to call my new style of eating “monastic eating,” not clean eating, not paleo, although those principles mostly apply.

For many years I have dreamed of eating more lightly, maybe in smaller courses, more healthfully. These dreams come from a variety of places. The first is an actual monastic institution – the Convent of St. Helena, formerly located in Augusta, GA, relocated a few years ago to North Augusta, SC. (If you are in the Southeast and need a place to regroup, recoup and gather your thoughts for the new year, the new convent has beautiful facilities on a lovely piece of land.) I visited the convent in Georgia when I was 12 years old, as part of my confirmation class in The Episcopal Church. I never forgot it. The quiet, the peacefulness and the beautiful simplicity of life there made an impression on me. I remember eating simple soup and salad in the dining hall there. The ritual felt like that, a sacred experience.

Years later I traveled to Paris and had the opportunity to eat small courses of incredible food. What struck me is that there is no need to eat large amounts of cheese, pastries or bread in a gluttonous fashion, though I’m not gonna say I didn’t do that – many times. It is easier to fulfill the small course mission when in a restaurant and only presented with so much to eat each course – at the home of a friend in France with a refrigerator and pantry, not so much. Finally, I remember reading, in one of the many health and nutrition magazines I loved, about “spa cuisine.” It seemed to combine small courses with lighter foods, such as soups and salads. I thought, “if only I had someone to cook for me and serve up this cuisine. It would be so much easier to eat well…”

The good news about paleo is that you can eat whenever you are hungry, you can eat more. You just have to eat the right things in reasonable, not paltry, amounts. As someone who always seems to be hungry not matter what I eat, this is a relief. When on Whole 30 or eating partly paleo, I still feel a bit hungry at times, but never like my blood sugar will crash or that I can’t keep going (That will happen without enough healthy fats when eating paleo.)

When I think of monasteries, I think of natural eating, picking herbs from the garden, using doTerra essential oils (essences of healing plants), and staples, such as cheese, beer, eggs and bread, made by the monastics. I don’t drink beer because I have Celiac Disease, but I do drink cider and wine. I don’t eat bread for the same reason, which makes it easier for me to not eat bread much at all. My process is to eat non-paleo carbs (grains, legumes) and dairy at only one meal if at all. When I do, I try not to eat too much of them. This guiding principle worked will for me in the end of 2018, before the holidays and now I want to take this monastic eating through the new year. I’ll still get a big burger with a gluten-free bun at places that offer something delicious. I’ll still eat a few fries from time-to-time, some cheese and yes, cider and wine.

I struggle very much with rules and regulations. I am a free spirit and like to be open to all possibilities moment by moment. What’s clicked for me here is that I can be open to creative, paleo possibilities and any time. Keeping the non-compliant stuff to one meal a day is really clear to me, but simple. I don’t have to think about counting calories, trying to have a meal that’s low calorie at dinner because I ate cheese nachos at lunch. If ate a few of those cheese nachos at lunch, I don’t eat the rice or potatoes we’re making for dinner for the family. Easy! And the near elimination of extra sugar (in the forms of added sugar, processed carbs and dairy) does wonders for weight and inflammation. If I’m still hungry after dinner I eat an apple with almond butter or drink almond milk. I feel really good that I’m eating things my body needs and not giving it a bunch of stuff it doesn’t need.

I want to share with you my monastic meal from lunch today – chicken and broccoli soup with half an avocado. I eat the avocado with Everything but the Bagel Seasoning from Trader Joe’s. This stuff is great on everything! The soup is a recipe I found on the Paleo Running Momma blog. Checking Instagram and googling for paleo recipes is a helpful daily habit to fuel the fire of inspiration. This Creamy Paleo Chicken Soup with Mushrooms and Kale {Whole 30} is truly delicious. Michele, the creator, swears you don’t taste the coconut milk and she’s right! I was relieved. I made a paleo chicken pot pie filling once with only a little coconut milk and it ruined it for me. I love coconut milk, but not in traditional American chicken dishes. Check out Michele’s blog and this recipe. I used broccoli instead of kale, left out the mushrooms and didn’t have any compliant mustard, but I bet it would be good. I also used unseasoned organic rotisserie chicken to speed up the process. Poached chicken is also a great cooked chicken to add in to recipes like this.

Get off to a great start this new year! Stick with your resolutions but be creative in the ways in which you can make them a reality.

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