How To Flourish

I have ideas to other writers, to anyone who lives in the world:

You should sing your life, be proud of who you are, regardless of the critics, regardless of the fan club either way.

A trap exists to fall into when you sell your soul because in doing so you think you’ll be accepted:

Seeking approval is a no-win game, because the other person can set the hoop higher and higher that you have to jump through, or they can change the terms of what they’ll accept from you.

I understand this truth to be self-evident: mental illness is a shabby disease.  If I could be cured, I would.

Instead, I decided to flout the convention that says: you’re only good or worthy if everyone likes you.  That’s a game that can’t be won either.

All human beings need light and love and laughter.

It’s not easy to be rejected because you have a mental illness.  It’s not easy to go down this lonely road.

Yet deciding to sing your life changes everything.  Deciding to love yourself and others is the way to go. Hate can’t be fought with hate.  Love is the antidote.

This is how to flourish: do your own thing.

Decide that you’re going to be happy no matter what happens in your life and no matter what other people think of you.

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Pear and Cheese Panini

This recipe is from the Women’s Health Tastes Better Together column.

Pear and Cheese Panini

2 tsp grated fresh ginger
8 slices whole-wheat sourdough bread (1/4-inch thick)
4 oz blue cheese
1 pear, sliced and cored
1 cup baby arugula
Cooking spray

Rub ginger across one side of each bread slice. Sprinkle 4 tablespoons blue cheese over 4 bread slices.

Top with pear slices and arugula, then the remaining cheese, then the remaining bread to make 4 sandwiches.

Spray a grill pan with cooking spray and set over medium-high heat. Place 2 sandwiches in the pan, cover with parchment, and place a large skillet on top to press.

Cook until grill marks form, 1 to 2 minutes. Carefully flip sandwiches, cover, and press, until grill marks form and cheese melts, 1 to 2 minutes.

Repeat with remaining sandwiches.

You can halve this recipe to serve two people. You can also use a panini press machine with a cover to grill the sandwiches instead of using a grill pan and a skillet. Buy a round container of crumbled blue cheese to make it go even easier and quicker.

I served the pear-and-cheese sandwich to a friend with a bowl of chunky tomato bisque soup.

Voila: an easy, quick, healthful Autumn lunch.

Food And Energy

A friend of mine figured out something I’ve always recommended: eat small, healthful “meals” every 2 to 3 hours throughout the day.

I’ll run through this typical plan:

Eat whole-grain high fiber cereal for breakfast or another kind of breakfast that is healthful and has protein and fiber to fuel you up for the day ahead.

Two hours later have a piece of string cheese and 15 almonds. Or one banana or other piece of fruit.

Have lunch two hours later. Include a protein source with your lunch food. Two hours after you eat lunch have apple slices slathered with peanut butter.

Go home and eat a healthful dinner.

Other healthful snacks to substitute in the morning and afternoon are a Kind bar, a fistful of chocolate-covered almonds, whatever fruit is in season. A regular-sized container of raspberries is nearly two cups so it’s two servings of a fruit.

Eating smaller healthful meals throughout the day also gives us a psychological boost because it’s easier to do this than to think we have to scarf down monster portions or serving sizes all the time every day.

Little by little or as the Sicilians would say “picca a picca” is the better way to achieve consistent results: bit by bit.

The friend has one piece of string cheese every 2 hours. No kidding. One piece of string cheese if memory serves has 200 mg. of calcium so you can’t beat it as a natural source of calcium.

In a pinch, you can snack on one serving of Triscuit crackers.

Apples are one of the best kinds of fruit. They’re high in fiber and you can find a variety of apple that you like. I favor organic Fuji apples that are in season in the fall and also now in December. Apples are portable too which makes them a win-win option for when you’re traveling or on the go.

Eating smaller healthful meals throughout the day regulates your blood sugar and helps you maintain consistent energy levels without a quick dip in energy from a traditional sugar coma that certain food induce.

I’ll end here and return with a quick, easy recipe that I made for my friend for lunch.

Optimal Wellness Challenge

In September for Recovery Month the blogger Ashley Smith threw down the challenge to set a wellness goal to achieve for her and her readers.

The point is not that we’ll always be able to do what we set out to. The point is simply to try our best.

I’m fond of the analogy of getting in the ring and trying to win even if you’re defeated. It’s better to know victory AND defeat than to not ever have gotten in the ring. Defeat is the cost of trying. It’s how you get one step closer to winning.

The idea of setting an optimal wellness challenge resonates with me as it nears winter. My goal is to eat healthful food 80 percent of the time.

Just reading ingredient labels turned me off to chocolate candy bars like Twix and Reese’s because-no surprise-they contain natural and artificial flavors. Godiva does seem to be made with real chocolate. And you can buy organic chocolate too.

The goal is not to strive to be perfect. The goal in my humble estimation is to strive for 80 percent healthful foods as part of a long-term consistent eating plan.

I will report back in here at the end of December how it goes with nixing the outright junky food from my life.

One thing I’ll end here with: ban white and processed foods if you do only one thing to start off with.

Replace baked potatoes with sweet potatoes; white rice with brown rice; and regular pasta with whole wheat or farro pasta.

Doing only this will go a long way in improving our health.

I will report back on Thursday with more food news that might just make sense too.

I’ll end here by telling everyone that if you know you go overboard at holiday time with desserts simply have less of the main meal and eat more dessert.

It’s totally true that at the holiday time it’s all about calories in and calories burned.

Try having less of the main meal if you’re going to indulge in the pastry.

Not All Natural

The term All Natural can be slapped on any product regardless of whether the product is made from natural ingredients.

Natural Flavors are actually fake chemicals used to flavor food and drink. Read the nutrition labels of most food and drink in supermarkets and you will see they’re made with “natural flavors.” Even Maryland crab soup from a big conglomerate food company is made with natural flavors.

Products labeled “organic” can also have natural flavors that are fake chemicals because companies passing their products off as organic can use any ingredients they want. Only the “certified non-GMO” label and the “USDA organic” label are truly organic products.

Agribusinesses have been lobbying U.S. elected officials to water down the qualifications for labeling a product organic. We should all be up in arms about this. The threshold now if memory serves is that a product has to be 95-percent organic to qualify.

Anything to make a buck is what motivates most companies that put profits above people.

I recommend you shop from local artisanal businesses if you have the opportunity and the money to do so. Put the money back in your community.

I’m going to sign off now. I’ll return next week with more nutrition ideas.

Food and Mood

The link between the food you eat and your mood is clear to me.

I have a foolproof recipe for an easy lunch if you’re home or near an oven: baked eggs in tomatoes.

It’s simple: hollow and core out the center of a beefsteak tomato, add a scoop of grated parmesan cheese, slip an egg into the pocket and add more parmesan cheese on top. Bake for 350 degrees for about 25 minutes depending on how hot your oven gets and how runny or firm you like your eggs.

Roasting tomatoes is always preferable to eating them raw all the time because roasting a tomato releases its lycopene, a substance thought to be a cancer-fighting agent.

I always like a caprese salad with fresh mozzarella and tomato slices drizzled with olive oil.

Yet cooking with tomatoes is also good.

Try it. See how you feel after you eat a healthful meal as opposed to processed food.

I’ll end here with two ideas that might work:

Use a larger clear glass to drink 8 oz. of almond milk or organic milk from or to drink water from. Fill it up halfway and you’ll be tricked into thinking you’re drinking a smaller amount.

This could be good when it’s sometimes an effort to squeeze in getting calcium. Almond milk has 30 calories in an 8 oz. serving and 450 mg. of calcium.

Even using a 10 oz. clear mug to drink water from seems to trick you into thinking it’s easier to do this.

I’d like to hear if this sounds like a solution.

So far it works for me.

Rather than take calcium supplements that can cause kidney stones Dr. Oz recommends having 1,000 to 1,200 mg. from food and drink sources.

Two pieces of string cheese plus a glass of almond milk plus the calcium from dark green leafy vegetables could be all a person needs to get a good daily allowance.

Run this by your primary care doctor to see if this makes sense. It makes sense to me.

Anything that can make it easier to be well by eating more healthfully to nourish a person’s body and mind:
I’m all for it.

Happy Thanksgiving

A Happy Thanksgiving to all my readers of the blogs.

I’m confident when I tell you that a person diagnosed with schizophrenia or bipolar or another mental illness can have things to be thankful for.

I recognize and understand that sometimes getting up and getting through the day is hard. That every time we do this we get no assist from others. We get labeled as crazy because we have a no-fault brain disorder.

The brain is a part of the body and these things are also physical illnesses that impact our lives. Why single these illnesses out as mental illnesses and not physical medical conditions like any other. The part of the body they happen to strike is the brain.

A guy I know told me once, “The brain is the most complex organ and it gives up its secrets reluctantly.”

Whether you eat turkey or not, however much you stuff yourself today or don’t, be grateful. Find things to be thankful for.

I’ll end here with my foolproof eating plan for Thanksgiving: skimp on the real food to save room for the dessert. I follow this rule at Christmas too when the platter du jour is prime rib. I don’t eat prime rib nor any other meat except chicken and turkey. So I load up on vegetables and always have the sweet potato.

Kindness helps at holiday time. We need to be kind to ourselves and others in this season when not everyone is jolly and the holiday blues could come on.

Think of one good thing you like about yourself to be grateful for.

Write a letter to or telephone the people who you’re thankful for.

I thank each and every reader for tuning in to this blog and posting comments when you’re able.