Saturday, July 6, 2013

Leaning In With Imaginary Conversations And Food

This is going to be the most far ranging blog post I think I've ever done.

It's time I come clean. I have imaginary conversations with you guys all the time. There. I said it. And I'm not ashamed.  I love talking with you guys. I need to work on sitting down, telling the rest of my world to go take a hike, and letting myself chat with you guys. I often feel guilty for doing this instead of taking care of the 9 billion other things that I'm supposed to do on a daily basis. I hope you guys forgive my long silences and that you know how much I appreciate you. A mother's guilt. It never rests eh?

About a month ago, I was going through an incredibly painful massage therapy session when something suddenly clicked. Luckily, it was just in my head and not something in my body. If I concentrated on that screamingly painful muscle the therapist was pummeling massaging, and asked it to  "lean in" to the direction she was rubbing, it didn't hurt as much. In fact, it actually felt good. It was such a bizarre concept to me. I've noticed whenever I find myself in pain, I brace myself against it somehow. I even do it when the pain I'm experiencing is mental. My shoulders move up towards my ears, my neck, upper back, and even my stomach get tense when I'm nervous, stressed, unhappy, or angry. Reminding myself to breath deeply through my abdomen, and consciously relaxing tense muscles, can be tough but it's worth the effort. I end up feeling a lot more human and a lot less manic. This is going to be my new way of leaning in; even when it's tough.

And then I realized, there were other things I should probably be trying to lean into. Life is short. I can't worry about the million and a half insecurities that flash through my mind daily.  It's paralyzing. That's not the example I want to set for my kids. One of those insecurities has been body image. It's something I've struggled with my whole life to the point that I've not even worn super short/cap/sleeveless tops in at least a decade. Guess what. That's changed. I'm leaning in to it and I'm happier for it. It's all about the baby steps people.

To top it all off, every time I turn around, I'm running into the phrase "Lean In". From UpWorthy videos, which led me to a fabulous website for women, to the Bloggess. I take that as a sign that I'm on a good track. I promise, I'm leaning in.

Food has always played a large role in my life but I've found myself really uninspired lately. That lack of inspiration has lent itself really well to ordering take-out and ready made meals. I'm not proud. As a way to shake off my food-lethargy, I started dusting off cookbooks and watching new cooking shows. My most recent favorite discovery has been Two Greedy Italians. Their recipe for pizza crusts is da' bomb!

500g strong plain flour, plus extra for dusting
10g salt
10g fresh yeast
325ml lukewarm water
a few dried breadcrumbs for sprinkling

Makes 2 large pizzas

Preheat the oven to 250°C/Gas 9. Put the flour and salt in a large bowl. Dissolve the yeast in the lukewarm water and gradually add to the flour, mixing well until you obtain a dough. If you find the dough too sticky, just add a little more flour. Shape the dough into a ball and leave to rest, covered with a cloth, for 5 minutes. Knead the dough for 8–10 minutes and split it in half. Knead each of the pieces for a couple of minutes and shape into balls. Sprinkle some flour on a clean kitchen cloth and place the dough on it, then cover with a slightly damp cloth.  Leave to rise in a warm place for 30 minutes.

Sprinkle some flour on a clean work surface and spread the dough into a circle about 35–40cm in diameter, making it as thin as a pancake (being careful not to tear it), with the border slightly thicker. Repeat with the other dough ball. Sprinkle a few breadcrumbs on two large baking trays and place the pizza bases on them.

I topped these wonderful crusts with Crème fraîche, salt, pepper, grated Gruyère, sliced onions, sliced bell peppers, black olives, artichoke hearts, grated mozzarella, and fresh oregano. Any of your favorite flavor combinations are bound to be a hit on these crusts. Place the pizza's in the oven for roughly 7 minutes or until the crusts reach your desired crispiness.

 So we've talked about the feeding the mind and body, now it's time to work it out. I've been trying to work myself into the 10,000 steps-a-day challenge. The claimed benefits include:
  • it's low-impact, safe, simple and free
  • improves cardiovascular fitness (lowers blood pressure, cuts cholesterol)
  • burns kilojoules, helping you lose weight
  • is great for your mental health
  • prepares you for other sports and exercise
  • strengthens your back muscles and bones
  • slims your waist and shapes your legs
  • reduces risk of diabetes and colon cancer
  • provides opportunities to be with friends and family and pets*

Obviously I want to live forever, like a vampire, but without all the blood sucking stuff. If walking 10,000 steps a day is a good way to get me closer to that, then I'm all in. The best reward/incentive is to ultimately find a version of and fit into this outfit:

 Olivia Palermo {image source: Getty Images via}

I've looked long and steady for a similar version to this shirt. If anyone's got any tips I'd love to hear them. So far, this is the closest I've come. A bit too rich for my blood and not true enough to Olivia's version. Instead, I've found and fallen in love with something that's not even close:

Michael Kors Striped Tie-waist dress, Neiman Marcus, £90.31

Yeah, I know. I need help. Or a generous soul who loves giving people they don't know, fabulous clothes. Any takers? No? Ah well. Time to hit the pavement. Gotta get those 10,000 steps in for the day! How about you? Was this post, far ranging enough for you? Because obviously, all these things go so well together.

*Info from Everybodyliveto100


  1. I'm going to have to try your pizza toppings, Rachel. YUM-MERS! B and I have been testing out lots of pizza dough recipes over the years and the best one we've found so far is from Martha Stewart. It's a perfect in between crust-- not to cracker-y, not too thick. DELICIOUS!

    Congratulations on the new health goals! Dude, I am with you on the vampire thang, though walking outside really doesn't lent itself to the porcelain complexion I so want to have.

  2. Hello! :)

    Far-ranging post requires far ranging response, maybe?

    I love painful massages - the owie'er the better, because it feels like progress is being made. I wonder, though, if I naturally 'lean in' like you describe, because I'm always told how high my pain threshold (for massage, at any rate) is.

    My favourite pizza base is flour + drizzle of olive oil. Mix with fingers, roll out, bake. Thin and crispy and scrummy-yummy. I'm not so fond of deep-pan style bases, which yours sounds more like - but the topping mix sounds lovely.

    Body image - I was down the beach last weekend. Sister & I went in the evening, just as a lot of people were starting to leave so it wasn't too crowded. I was feeling anxious: I'd slipped on a bikini but couldn't find any of my old swimming t-shirts (must have thrown them out when we moved) so was going to be exposing way more flesh than I ever do. Then, we spotted a couple coming out of the water - a man and a woman, both topless. And I look at her confidence and her grace and looked round at all the other women on the beach and realised all of them - every single one, regardless of body size or shape - was simply beautiful. There were a few men who were not nice to look at, feeling no shame in trunks and no top to hide their ugly bits, but all these beautiful women... a lot seemed to feel like they needed to hide, but they really didn't. It was eye-opening to me - I stripped my dress off and relaxed in the sun for the first time since I was a child (this may not have helped the other women who didn't realise how beautiful they were - I know I have more or less the kind of figure society dictates women 'should' have but it was liberating for me). I wish I could put that moment into a bottle and give it to everyone else who every feels shame at themselves, so they can take a breath of it and see the way I did.

  3. I have imaginary conversations with e-people too!

    I think you're so right about the "leaning in." I've been trying to do it too but my natural reaction seems to be recoiling so it's challenging. I wonder what that's about...

    I keep meaning to download a pedometer app to my smart phone. That 10,000 steps thing is such a great idea.

  4. I'm right there with ya! I had a similar experience at the beach, noticing how some people embraced their bodies and others who were obviously not, but were actually really lovely people. I think it'd be much healthier for all of us if we just let go of some hyped up ideal of "perfection" and embrace ourselves, flaws and all. The flaws are beautiful in their own ways.

    I'll try not to babble this late at night but I can't make any promises. I've been shameful about how long I've let myself not even get online and I just can't TAKE IT ANYMORE. Gah! lol. Ok. mini-melt down is done.

    It's good to hear from you. Hope you're doing well. I'm actually feeling a bit like a wuss right now. I'm regularly having some really painful areas worked on with massage therapy. It almost makes me not want to go. But, I remind myself it'll be worth it in the end. Since you're into the owie massages, it's half tempting to see if you want to take my place one of these times lol. ;)

  5. I love the 10K steps thing because you don't have to do it all at once. If you leave the pedometer app going on your phone and just check it every now and then through the day, it kind of motivates you. To prevent any kind of legal action being taken against me, I feel I should use one of those "possible side-effects include" voices to say, "Using a pedometer app may cause patients to develop OCD tendencies about walking." I'm just sayin'.

  6. 'ello - I'm really well, ta.

    Would be v happy to take place on an owie massage ;) I think it probably stems from always being taught that things that are good for you should taste bad, so if it hurts it must be doing good (there are other areas where this logic is even more obviously flawed - ice cream's clearly good for you despite being yummy - but it's fairly deeply within my psyche now)