To Eat or Not to Eat? That Is the Stress Question

Young man holding pizza

A modern day Hamlet, contemplating his pizza slice. A little too happy? (Photo by Stockimages, downloaded from Freedigitalphotos.net.)

Maybe that wasn’t Hamlet’s big dilemma, but for many of us facing stress, food is a big deal. Recently, I came across an interesting site by Karen Salmansohn with a subtitle of “Self-Help for People Who Wouldn’t Be Caught Dead Doing Self-Help.” I poked around her post called “Stop Stress Eating: 29 Motivating Quotes,” which naturally led me to read other articles about stress eating.

Why? Because I, too, use food as a tool to handle stress though in a quite opposite manner to the majority. Where most turn to food to eat their feelings or because they associate food with comfort, I use it as a control issue if other parts of my life feel out of my control. My stomach rumbles but my brain says,

“Ha! You are hungry. Other mere mortals may eat, but you are powerful. You will not eat. Focus on not eating rather than on the problems causing your stress. Control your body and dominate your hunger and, above all, don’t eat.”

Yes, my brain tends to be wordy and to sound like a power-mad dictator at times.

Unfortunately, my body listened to my brain. By late in 2014 through most of last year, I stopped weighing what I’ve comfortably weighed since college. I wholeheartedly embraced the stress diet (also fondly labeled by me as the “Divorce Diet”) and dropped down to a weight that my body hadn’t seen since I was about 12 years old. The more I didn’t eat — the lighter I felt, obviously, and lightheaded and headachy — but more importantly, the more powerful I felt.

Breakfast? Cup of tea.
Lunch? Who needs it?
Dinner? More tea, and maybe some rice if I was feeling relaxed.

I was in control over one significant part of my life. No one could make me eat, including myself.  Ha! That’ll show who is boss. (Show whom, I never quite figured out.)

The noticeably thinner, painfully gaunt me had an issue. My friends, mostly female, who eat copiously and freely during times of stress, thought it wasn’t the worst thing in the world. While they added pounds of mac and cheese to their thighs, I bought skinny-girl jeans in a size 0. Eventually, however, everyone said, “You look a little thin.” Not “You look good” or “You look fit and healthy.”

What I’ve discovered: It doesn’t matter how you handle the stress diet, you need to get off of it ASAP. It’s a dangerous thing to use food as a tool, whether you chow down or seal your lips. A smart woman said to me (and I’m paraphrasing because I was lightheaded at the time she said it): Try not to give food any importance or significance other than a way to nourish yourself. Just eat for nourishment and energy. Don’t eat for comfort; don’t not eat for control. It’s only food.

couple making salad

No, neither of these people is me or anyone I know. But I like their spirit, the look of their salad, and their kitchen. (Photo by Vichaya Kiatying-Angsulee from Freedigitalphotos.net.)

She was right, but it took a long time for me to relinquish that measure of control.  My body needs to eat? What a pain in the ass! How weak. Eventually, after a year or so, I started to eat like a sane, healthy person again and to gain back 10 lbs. But I don’t see much about this on the Internet. I see a lot about overeating, binge eating, and eating your emotions.

So I am just putting this out there: that, for me at least, even though I was still feeding family members, still living a semi-normal existence, I was starving myself. It was easy for me to think I was gaining control by losing it, while losing myself in the process. And it was easy to do it under the regard of friends and family because, in our culture, overeating is seen immediately as a problem, but undereating is barely noticeable.

To those facing stress, I salute you. I sympathize. I empathize. And now, I eat.

Harlan Ellison, Kristen Lamb, and Making Money

by WheresTristanJust want to pass along this good rant by Kristen Lamb on writers getting paid (demanding to be paid, not being paid, etc.), called “Pay the Write.” Make sure you click on the link in her post to Harlan Ellison‘s pithy rant as well. Good way to end 2015–reminding ourselves that we’re professionals who need to be paid for our work, especially in this climate of free e-books and 99-cent sales!

Kristen’s blog post starts like this:

All righty. I’d vowed to take off for the holidays but *laughs hysterically* sure. Like THAT was going to happen. No, seriously, I’m working on resting more. I’m also working on learning to shut up. Clearly those two goals are getting re-slated for 2016 resolutions because the whole “Inside words stay inside…”

Not working out for me. So why not leave 2015 with a bang? Haters gonna hate.

To quote the great Tywin Lannister, Lions do not concern themselves with the opinions of sheep.

Today I’m going to say something that could quite possibly be grossly unpopular, but whatever. It’s for your own good. I’m feeding y’all broccoli to offset all that fudge and alcohol you’ve consumed during the holidays.

There’s a trend that just makes me see red and I’m calling it out today because if we do not address this 500 pound used paper elephant in the room, then it’s going to be really, really hard for you guys to reach your dreams, which I assume is to work as a full-time PAID writer.

For those of you who do NOT want to be PAID to write? The following does not apply. If you are content to work a full-time regular job AND slave over a manuscript as a second job and your ONLY reward is simply nice reviews, compliments, hugs, cuddles, and the joy your stories might create in the hearts of others?

I am NOT talking to you.

And just gets better. Go on, take a read here.

Hot Chocolate with Rum, UK Style

Hot chocolate with rum. Enough said. This comes directly from the United Kingdom via the Historic Royal Palaces digital storefront.

Note: 100g milk chocolate is about 3.5 ounces.
4 tbsp of rum is about half a bottle. (Joking!!)
400ml of milk is about 13.5 liquid ounces.
100 – 150ml of double cream (heavy whipping cream or whipped cream) is 3.5 – 5 ounces.

hot chocolate recipe

Enjoy throughout the holiday season!

A Christmas Recipe with an Odd Name: Forcemeat

Does “forcemeat” sound appealing? If someone says you’re dining on forcemeat this Christmas, you may think you heard “horsemeat,” which is definitely a turn-off.

forcemeat-stuffed tomato The word first came into usage around 1680 (at least that we have record of). I have prepared it nearly that long…. Wait, no, I’m not that old!

I found the recipe for forcemeat-stuffed tomatoes in a Moosewood cookbook. Moosewood is a famous vegetarian restaurant in Ithaca, NY, and so my recipe is without meat. I mistakenly thought that “forcemeat” came from “faux” meat as in “there is no meat here.” I knew the recipe came from a time when the majority of the populace in Great Britain had little access to a plentiful meat supply. So it made sense to me, and it became part of the story of this recipe.

However, after a little research, I found that forcemeat can indeed contain meat, finely chopped, and that the term “force” is a variant of “farce,” an old word for stuffing. Each Christmas, I’ve stuffed this fragrant concoction into both tomatoes and green peppers, using the beauty of their Christmas colors to visually enhance the dish.

This year, I made it for Thanksgiving using only tomatoes in order to convert a couple of naysayers who couldn’t believe it would taste good, not with the pairing of such ingredients as raisins and parsley. But it is delicious! And now they believe me. One guest said that it had a hint of the Moroccan about it.

Try this easy recipe for something a little different–a little medieval–and I truly hope you enjoy it this holiday season.

Forcemeat-Stuffed Tomatoes

forcemeat-stuffed tomatoes(I strongly suggest using fresh, not dried, herbs. You can substitute a quicker-cooking rice, such as flavorful basmati or jasmine, for the brown rice.)

6 large ripe fresh tomatoes

1 medium onion, finely chopped

1/4 cup butter

6 ounces finely chopped mushrooms

5 leaves fresh sage, minced (or 1/2 tspn dried)

1/4 tspn minced fresh rosemary (or pinch of dried)

1/4 cup chopped fresh parsley

salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste

1 cup cooked brown rice

1/4 cup raisins

1/2 tspn sweet Hungarian paprika

bread crumbs

Preheat the oven to 375 degrees.

Slice the tops off the tomatoes and scoop out the pulp. Chop the pulp and set aside.

Saute the onions in the butter for 2 or 3 minutes. Add the mushrooms and saute a minute more. Stir in the tomato pulp, sage, rosemary, parsley, and salt and pepper. Cook on low heat for 5 minutes.

Add the rice, raisins, and paprika. Cook for a few more minutes, remove from the heat and let cool for a few minutes.

Stuff the tomatoes and mound and extra filling on top. Place in a buttered casserole dish and sprinkle the tops with bread crumbs. Bake at 375 degrees for 25 minutes.

The Slayer’s Redemption with Marliss Melton

I cannot believe I missed posting for the entire month of October. I believe I created a smattering of Facebook posts and Twitter tweets, but they don’t end up here. Anyway, I wasn’t idle. In October, I finished working on The Slayer’s Redemption, written by bestselling author Marliss Melton and edited by yours truly.  I created the digital files, and the book went live around October 12. I am currently creating the print files so there will be a paperback version available by Christmas.

This is Book 1 in The Warriors of York series set in the 1100s. Book 2, The Black Knight’s Reward, will be out in the spring of 2016, which I will also edit. And I’m rather excited to be co-writing Book 3, The Crusader’s Challenge, which will be out by the middle of next year. Working with this talented author has been a blessing and is helping me grow as a writer.

The Slayer's Redemption #14b Final (small) copySUMMARY

Having cut his baby from the body of his dead wife, Christian de la Croix, known across the land as the Slayer, only adds to the rampant, lurid rumors concerning his violent misdeeds. Now, he desperately needs a wet nurse to keep his son alive, but the people around Helmesly Castle fear him, putting baby Simon’s life in peril.

When a stranger who calls herself Clare Crucis volunteers to nurse the newborn, Christian’s relief overwhelms him. But it does not last long, for Dame Crucis tells contradictory stories of her past. Is she really an angel of mercy—or the agent of one of his enemies, sent to destroy him?

Clare Crucis is, in fact, Clarisse du Boise, a lady being forced to kill the Slayer in order to keep his enemy, her stepfather, from executing her kinswomen. At her very first encounter with the Slayer, Clarisse questions the terrible rumors that abound about him. Certainly, his reputation for ruthlessness is well founded, but she remarks a sadness in the warrior and a longing to be loved that she had not expected. Still, to save her family, she must carry her plan to completion. But as her heart quails and she delays, the Slayer grows ever more suspicious. Is there a way she can save the lives of her loved ones while seeing righteousness prevail? All she needs is a champion.

(This is a thoroughly revised and expanded version of Danger’s Promise, previously released only in print.)

Available for purchase at Amazon and Barnes & Noble and everywhere fine digital books are sold.