Simple, Spiritual, Outdated Living in a Vintage New England Home on the Southern Coast of Maine

Friday, January 31, 2014

FAQ: Is your book a diet book?

I have learned from reading the reviews since I first published my book five months ago that some readers were hoping for a specific weight-loss plan with a detailed outline of exactly what to eat along with exercise routines (even though my book clearly discusses integrating movement into your daily life). I have also learned that some people see counting calories and watching what they eat as incompatible with it being something they would do for the rest of their lives as a lifestyle.

"Diet" literally means "the kinds of food that a person, animal, or community habitually eats." In my book I go into detail about food groups, methods and vintage guides for deciding what to eat and how much is right for you. "Diet" is NOT the same thing as what was referred to as a "reducing diet" in the 1950s or what we know today as "Weight Watchers" or "Nutrisystem." 

There were plenty of gimmicky reducing diets in the 1950s only it was a tiny fraction of today's billion dollar industry because the overall need was significantly less. It would be a disservice to my readers to offer you those plans that tell you EXACTLY what to eat for breakfast, lunch and dinner. Why? They didn't work then in the long run and they won't work now. We have no shortage of specific plans that are NOT tailored to individual dietary needs. I feel comfortable stating that if I included a specific eating plan with recipes that that would become the focus, and the temptation would be to simply follow it and not think more deeply about our relationship to food and our health, clothing, and moving. Also, we all have unique health issues and demands that call for different choices. If you watch Cheers for Chubby you will notice that the solution was a diet of general guidelines recommended by a doctor, counting calories and making permanent lifestyle changes. 

Our culture of dieting has become so twisted that we now think "diet" always means a magic plan to follow instead of an overall lifestyle of relating to food in a balanced and healthy manner.

My book outlines the average 1950s diet and compares it to what and how the typical American woman eats and evaluates her health today. The 1950s diet worked for millions of American women-- a decade of hard evidence of an overall thinner nation is hard to dispute! It also promotes a healthy lifestyle and by applying it to my life I lost weight as have many of my readers. Making permanent lifestyle changes is what works, and my book gives readers the tools to make those changes.

So, is my book a specific plan with detailed recipes and rules? No.

Is it a diet book that can help you lose weight by giving you the tools to make healthier choices, the most important tool and weapon in your arsenal being your attitude and understanding of fit living with the motivation to follow through with behavioral changes? I hope so!

Wednesday, January 29, 2014

Labeling Obesity as a Disease May Have Psychological Costs

In my book I make a case for the impact of the disempowering messages of "today" on our waistlines and psyches. Now, here is some evidence that being inundated with defeatist messages from the medical community may really be a form of enabling: 
Messages that describe obesity as a disease may undermine healthy behaviors and beliefs among obese individuals, according to a new study published in Psychological Science, a journal of the Association for Psychological Science.

The findings show that obese individuals exposed to such messages placed less importance on health-focused dieting and reported less concern about weight. These beliefs, in turn, predicted unhealthier food choices.
The other day I was reading a discussion on LinkedIn between a physician and professionals who work with obese individuals. The consensus among them was that until "society" offers better "choices" for healthy eating, that any talk of "personal responsibility" is a form of fat-shaming.

What about offering better THINKING choices that EMPOWER people? What's so shameful about educating ourselves to make healthy choices in a sick society? If any of us waited for the world to become a better place to make better choices, wouldn't that be choosing to give up our personal power?

I really believe the key to fitness is to stop consuming junk in all forms: science, food and thinking. When I step on my scale and look in the mirror more than four years after I began the 50s diet, the validity of the outdated belief system of can do is positively reflected!

Sunday, January 19, 2014

Sauerbraten (German Pot Roast) & Potato Dumplings, Woman's Day January 1957

4 pounds of lean shoulder pot roast (2,880 calories)
2 teaspoons salt
1 teaspoon ginger
2 cups cider vinegar
1 cup frozen chopped onions (45 calories)
2 tablespoons mixed pickling spice
2 bay leaves
1 teaspoon black pepper
1 teaspoon ground cloves
2 tablespoons maple syrup in place of 1/3 cup sugar (100 calories)
7 ounces potato flakes (735 calories)
1 tablespoon heavy cream/water in place of 1/2 cup milk (100 calories)
1/4 cup oat flour to thicken gravy (100 calories)
1/2 cup oat flour in dumplings (200 calories)
2 eggs (160 calories)
1/4 cup frozen chopped onions (25 calories)
2 cups sliced boiled carrots with 1/4 tablespoon butter (160 calories)
Parsley flakes

I followed the instructions except for the substitutions mentioned above. To shave off calories and fat, I didn't use gingersnaps nor make breadcrumbs for the dumplings. I also did not brown the meat in fat before cooking.

 The marinade before I put it in my fridge for three days.

The recipe states it makes four servings but that would be a LOT of calories! Six servings are 750 calories each (shown below) or you can halve the serving for twelve servings at 375 calories each.

My husband LOVED this dish! True to the caption below the photo of the housewife pouring gravy, he loves lots and lots of it. I thought it was delicious and different with the sour aspect. If I make it again I will use one less cup of vinegar, though. I have never made potato dumplings before and am very excited about future possibilities with them such as serving them in chicken soup!

Sunday, January 12, 2014

Sunshine, Sweetness and Morals: It's "The Magic Garden!"

The Magic Garden sadly isn't known by more people because it was produced and aired locally to the greater New York City area in the early 70s through the mid 80s. The filming, except for a special, took place in the early 70s. I absolutely adored this show as a kid! Two groovy hippie chicks, Carole and Paula, greeted viewers, literally, before every show after their opening "Hello" song. However, with a name like "Averyl" they never said "hello" to me.

The half hour was spent in the magic garden with Sherlock, a squirrel puppet who sounds like Ed Norton from the Honeymooners, the "Chuckle Patch," a group of giggling daisies that speak through handwritten jokes on paper petals.

The part that I loved and continue to love most is the sweetness and deliberateness behind it. Carole and Paula's conversations and skits were full of silliness, laughter, sunshine and rainbows, but they were also filled with something very substantive today: Morals, a word that sadly has gotten a bad rap in the 21st Century. What made me think about this recently is that there was a newly discovered lost episode, a Christmas special from 1981 which was streamed from WPIX

In this epsiode was a charming skit involving Paula dressed up as an ant who was too busy looking for crumbs to store up for winter to play with Carole, who was dressed as a grasshopper that kept trying to distract the ant with promises of games and fun. The ant, to us kids, of course seemed like the more boring one (although Paula did a great job with cute commentary on the various and clever "crumbs" she found, like a tiny piece of Penicillin), while the grasshopper was the fun one, jumping for action and playing. 

Winter came and the ant was comfy and warm with a home stocked with all she needed. The grasshopper, shivering, hungry and left out in the cold decided to knock on Ant's door for a visit. Ant invited Grasshopper in and said she had a present for her! Grasshopper was thrilled at the prospect of something to eat or with which to keep warm! But it was a broom. Bummer! BUT! Ant tells Grasshopper she is welcome to stay with her for the winter if she agrees to help sweep and keep the place clean. The deal is made and the skit ends happily.

What were they trying to teach us? The importance of planning ahead. Delaying gratification. Finding fun in work. Earning our keep. Sharing. Those are important lessons for kids, and even adults. There was nothing political about it. Nothing religious. Just earnest lessons from a couple of ladies who taught us with love, simple props, costumes and music. How many children's shows today involve the absence of high tech gimmickry and include a "moral to the story?" There were no product placements. It was a gender-neutral show in that it appealed to both boys and girls evidenced by those posting to their Facebook page.

I was so moved by all the memories that came back as I watched the lost episode that I found a copy of the original show LP and bought it!

Thursday, January 9, 2014

Nutrition Advice for Kids: 1971 vs Today

I have a groovy nutrition booklet for kids from 1971 called Mystery at the Food Power Tower published by the "National Live Stock and Meat Board." Other than a creepy clown that prohibits adults from entering the tower with their children (and parents who entrust them to the clown), it offers some sensible, straight-forward advice to kids about eating healthily.

Each floor represents a different food group that the clown explains to the kids.
My personal favorite is below where the clown clearly advise kids about not eating too much sugar. Click to see the full size:

I was curious about how that would compare to advice today. I went to the CDC website for kids and found this section that mentions sugar:
"So, while everyone enjoys a treat now and then, just make sure they don't start crowding out all the other things you need to eat to feel and look your best"  That's pretty vague, in my opinion. Also, this recipe for kids is supposed to be healthy?!
I can see no good healthy reason to add 1/4 cup of sugar to a sandwich recipe! Also, if they want to offer calories alongside this then they need to be specific about ingredients. For example, "one pound of cooked chicken" could be dark meat with the skin on, or fried. That would definitely alter the fat and calorie content! But the government tells kids they don't need to count calories, anyway:

A calorie is a way to measure the energy that comes from food. Like all living things, people need energy to grow, develop, and keep our bodies running. We get this energy from food and drinks. So, should you "count calories?" Nah. It's easiest to just follow a healthy eating style and pay attention to your body.

Sunday, January 5, 2014

Vintage Maine Recipe: Stuffed Tri-Color Peppers / Dorothy Marr's Macaroni Stuffed Peppers

Inspiration: A recipe card found in a folder filled with dozens of others from the Portland, Maine Wheaton Club, 1940. I did a web search for the club and found this tidbit: News Of Women's Organizations SOCIETY PORTLAND SUNDAY TELEGRAM. PORTLAND, MAINE, MARCH 13, 1949 Gladys Merrill, Editor; Jacquelyn E. Cole, E. Anderson Bulger Reporters. Mrs. Burland Hawkes Appointed Hostess For Wheaton Club Event. Mrs. Burland Hawkes will be hostess when the Portland Wheaton Club holds a dessert-bridge on Tuesday. 

I used Dorothy Marr's Macaroni Stuffed Peppers as inspiration for Averyl's Gluten-Free Stuffed Tri-Color Peppers.


2 each of sweet red, yellow and orange peppers instead of green (255 calories)
4 "Real Foods" organic corn thins (138 calories)
6 oz Sam Mills dry corn macaroni, pre-cooked weight, boiled and drained (607 calories)
1/2 package Pomi strained tomatoes (96 calories)
4 oz organic hard Cheddar cheese, freshly shredded (440 calories)
2 oz Parmesan cheese, freshly shredded (220 calories)
Mrs. Dash table blend
Dried parsley
Fresh ground pepper


Remove the tops and stems from the peppers after they've been washed. Remove the seeds and save the edible portions you've trimmed off in a baggy for healthy treat. You can prepare the peppers sliced length-wise if you prefer. For this recipe I will show you both. Place them in a pot of water and boil for five minutes then drain. Place the corn thins in a small bowl and crush with a hand masher to create "bread crumbs." Gently combine the cooked macaroni, shredded Cheddar and bread crumbs in a bowl with a couple of shakes of Mrs. Dash, and a few shakes of Paprika. In a glass or ceramic baking dish pour one half of the Pomi strained tomatoes to fill the bottom, add about 1/2 cup of water (or more if you want it to be closer to tomato soup from original recipe) and blend together. Stuff the peppers and place them in the pan. Place the shredded Parmesan on top of each and then sprinkle some parsley and extra paprika on top.

Bake uncovered in a pre-heated 350 degree oven for about 35 minutes. Serve with freshly ground black pepper and salt to taste.


Nature generally isn't uniform which was certainly the case with my peppers. Assuming they are pretty close in size, each stuffed pepper has approximately 295 calories.

I thought they were delicious although next time I may water down the strained tomatoes further. I hope you enjoyed the first recipe in my blog! I will aim to update every Sunday, and more if possible. I also plan to include posts with helpful tips and hints. Let me know what you think!

Friday, January 3, 2014

1957 Looks Ahead to 1982

Fun booklet from 1957

Some of these were close to being accurate:

While many of the predictions never came to fruition, the belief that fruits and vegetables along with a reduction in fat intake would be the diet of Americans was sadly way off the mark despite requiring the least amount of new technology.