Monthly Archives: August 2014

Food Cravings and False Hunger

fishermans restaurant san clementeWhat we eat is at least as important as how much we eat — maybe even more important. No one ever got fat eating oysters alone (raw, not fried, sans hushpuppies). I know someone who can eat a whole lot of them, too.

Two things that contribute to making people fat as a result of our Standard American Diet (SAD) are food cravings and false hunger. Food cravings lead to a compulsion to eat foods that will make us fat, or large quantities of nonfoods (low nutrition/high food sensitivity foods). False hunger is the “second step” in that process, leading to yet more bad eating.

Food cravings are compulsions to eat certain foods in quantity. Usually, the foods that are craved fit into the dairy-wheat-junk-sugar category. I’ve never heard someone say, “I’m craving brussel sprouts!” People joke about pregnancy-related cravings, like ice cream with pickles and peanut butter. When I was pregnant with Meredith, I craved the sweetest-possible Coca-Cola (not Pepsi, sorry!) and squishy white bread.

False hunger is characterized by stomach pains that, once one is familiar with real hunger, are obviously something different. True hunger does not manifest as pains in the stomach. It manifests as a strong desire to eat … real food! The so-called “hunger pains” or “hunger pangs” are at least in my case, a result of eating something I’m sensitive to. I used to get them at 10:00 a.m. all the time, after consuming a breakfast containing dairy and probably HFCS (high fructose corn syrup). It has been a very long time since I’ve gotten them.

It drives me crazy when I see the diet industry recommending foods that will fuel food cravings and false hunger. This is like a doctor recommending that a patient switch from high tar to higher tar cigarettes in order to quit smoking.

light and fit greek yogurt

Does your stomach hurt?

Eat some soothing yogurt!

When I first saw Dannon “Light and Fit” yogurt I thought “There’s a good one!” (Not). And indeed, this little container of nonfood has 80 calories, and its main ingredients are cultured Grade A nonfat milk, water and fructose. It contains less than 1% of all the other crap in the container – modified corn starch, “flavors,” artificial coloring, good old sucralose (Splenda) and numerous preservatives and stabilizers.

Eating this little goodie won’t satisfy hunger. It’s guaranteed to bring on “hunger pangs”/false hunger or food cravings within a short time that will inspire a) overeating in general; and b) overeating of the wrong/low nutrition/low health foods.

If you disbelieve me and are “dieting,” take the Casil Craving Challenge.

Eat one of these little containers or a similar product (make sure it’s low-fat, contains artificial sweetener and is otherwise junked up) as a “snack” at 10:00 a.m. on Monday. Then record how hungry you are at lunch time, whether or not you have “hunger pangs” and what you want to eat for lunch. Write down what you actually eat.

On Tuesday, instead of the little container of nonfood yogurt, eat a handful of almonds or other nuts at 10:00 a.m. and a small amount of low-glycemic fruit: common ones are apples, oranges, bananas, berries, peaches and plums. By “small” I mean one actual small apple, orange or banana. A serving. Record whether or not you have “hunger pangs” and what you want to eat for lunch. Write down what you actually eat.

If you want to eat foods that are high-calorie for lunch on the day you consume the nonfood at 10:00 a.m. – regardless of what you actually eat – you have experienced food cravings resulting from consumption of nonfood.

As to documenting the difference between real hunger and false hunger, I do not advise taking the Casil Hunger Challenge if you’re not already eating cleanly. However, our memories should all help us to remember what real hunger feels like.

When I was a kid, we often went to the beach. On several occasions, I remember playing all day in the surf, building sand castles and running around. At the end of the day, sand in my hair and my bathing suit, fully-sunburned to a crisp, I remember how good a small, plain, sandy hamburger and an apple tasted. That was my child body saying “thank you!” Even the sand in the burger and on the apple tasted good.

False hunger and food cravings are the reasons why “what you eat” is as important as how much you eat, and why the “it doesn’t matter what you eat as long as you consume fewer calories than you burn each day” advice is so very, very wrong.

If you’ve already taken the step of consuming the nonfood substitute at 10:00 a.m. and seeing if it produces food cravings or false hunger, note if there are other foods which have a similar effect. I began my journey by eliminating dairy and food additives from my diet. I then eliminated high fructose corn syrup (HFCS) and wheat gluten. I find myself automatically consuming much less sugar in general than I used to: because I have no food cravings. I haven’t counted calories for years.

sea turtle 1And as I am informed by the oyster-eating individual I know quite well – I have the body of a woman half my age. This didn’t happen overnight, but it’s really nice to be able to run, jump, climb, swim and do any activity I like at age 52. Recovery time fast, too!

I would not trade the ability to, 50 yards out, spot Henry emerging from his nest at 5:30 a.m. on the beach at Jekyll Island for five thousand free cases of Dannon “Light and Fit” Yogurt.



Dairy Free, Gluten Free Pancakes

I’ve made these three times now and they’re adapted from a traditional pancake recipe from my great-grandmother Nallie.

Mr. Bruce liked them, and I just made them with strawberries for dinner!

gluten free pancakes 1 cup brown rice flour
1/2 cup oat flour
3 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
1 teaspoon salt
1 tablespoon brown sugar
1 1/4 cups unsweetened almond milk
1 teaspoon vanilla
1 egg
3 tablespoons Fleischmanns unsalted margarine, melted

OK, you know how recipes tell you to do things verrry carefully? VERRRRRRY carefully?

Mix all the dry ingredients together in a large bowl. If you are extra-lazy you can put them in a 3 to 4 cup mixing cup together so you can pour it straight onto the griddle. Make sure they are well-mixed. You can tell because there won’t be any brown sugar lumps.

Cut off a hunk of Fleischmanns and put it in a one-cup glass measuring cup. Microwave for 45 seconds. It should be nice and melty. Let it cool slightly before pouring it into a well in the center of the dry ingredients. Use the same cup for the almond milk. That way you will get all the shortening easily into the mixture.

Crack the egg into it and add the vanilla. Mix with a whisk until smooth.

Grease a griddle with Fleischmanns or other non-dairy margarine. Heat until a drop of water bounces off. Pour 2-3 tablespoons of batter onto the griddle for each pancake (these will be small – of course you can make big ones but they’re just not as good). Turn when the top is bubbly and almost dry, just like regular pancakes.

Serve with fruit, maple or agave syrup. Do not use the cheap high fructose corn syrup stuff.

Poor as Hell, Rich as Croesus

King Croesus of Lydia, renowned by Herodotus as being one of the wealthiest men ever known. Well as this picture shows, he seems to have been not so happy a man.


Croesus by Claude Vignon

And wealth makes few happy.

No matter what studies say, I can assure those who are “well-off” and those who are truly wealthy alike: you can’t take it with you.

What any of us have is what we have right now. This moment. What we may live in the moments and time we have.

Once I wrote, “My life is a collection of moments, one after the other.”

And so I recall. I recall my days in Redlands, a town about which fellow native James Fallows (OK look, I was mostly raised there and it is absolutely my mother’s fault I was born at UCLA Medical Center and damn right I’m proud of my father as well) has written extensively.

I tell people often, “I was raised in Redlands and Hollywood.” Well, there’s a combo.

So this evening I had call to see a picture of June Heppenstall on Facebook. I see of course we have friends in common. June and Malcolm Heppenstall, representing the best that is America and our medical profession and humanity in the present age. I saw my role model when I was younger, Carole Beswick. Carole was the first female mayor of Redlands. Jane Myers, who has about the best store anybody could ever have on just about the best small town America Main Street there is: State Street in Redlands.

And what a privileged life I have had. In a privileged world. In the best world we have yet known.

Yes, I have known hunger, but it’s been mostly voluntary. My 10 out of 10 on the ACES scale – this worry good parents and people like Barbara Wormser had for me while I was a young woman (“We didn’t think you’d make it, Amy”) – it’s really not much compared to what young girls in Sub-Saharan Africa face. It’s not a whole lot compared to what the children in Jamaica go through. I don’t think it would be too darn awesome to be a young girl growing up in North Korea right now. That’s real hunger, real fear, real danger.

But I can touch them. I can feel them.

And I want to say, “It’s better to be hungry and poor and afraid and alive than it is to be fat and blind and ignorant.”

And dead.

This is because I saw June Heppenstall’s picture on Facebook this evening. And I recalled all of the children with severe medical problems that she and Malcolm adopted. How they gave so generously at all times to those who were not so financially fortunate as their family. I remembered how my uncle Norm, one of America’s top urologists and the greatest of physicians, knew Malcolm and knew what type of doctor he was. What it meant to be a doctor, a nurse, a person whose life was devoted to helping others. With doctors and nurses, this is real and tangible. The patient is ill: perhaps you can make them better. You can observe the improvement, the increase in health and well-being.

For me, perhaps someone will read something I write 20 years from now. And it will make them feel better.

This is a thing that I will never know.

But no matter.

I am from Redlands. I am: of Redlands.

What you see — the things I think are so outrageous — perhaps they are today, something of comfort to people. How conventionally I was raised; how very unconventional my life would seem to those who raised me.

Ah, she is in love, with a man from across the continent. Ah, what a profligate, passionate, outspoken creature she is.

And such was born. Such was made, at the A.K. Smiley Public Library.

Stone by stone and brick by brick. This town, as Fallows pointed out, which represented the best this nation had to offer, had a public library built not by Carnegies and not by the government, but by individuals: the Smiley Brothers. Such library was across the street from the Redlands Bowl, a smaller but equally marvelous answer to the commercially-built Hollywood Bowl (where my Hollywood bedroom overlooked, and which concerts I also overheard growing up). And near that, the shrine to the best of American presidents, Abraham Lincoln.

And this, just a small part, of what is Redlands.

Oh what turbulent heart I have about “Our Town.”

Oh, in my desk, I have Frank Moore’s pica-point pole, which he gave me when I started as a young reporter at the Redlands Daily Facts.

Oh I never took a bit of this seriously.

But now, I do. Because I am rich as Croesus in life and memory. In the word. In what it is that I was put here to do.

I had the fortune and privilege of growing up in what is indeed, one of America’s best real towns: Redlands, California. I cannot guarantee I shall tell that tale because my heart is turbulent and I am not yet ready. But I can guarantee that Redlands absolutely made me what I am. Coach Womack taught me to drive. Orv Nease helped me to grow up. Richard Long fired my imagination. Catherine Dunn and Terry Alexandris were to this day the best English teachers ever known. Patrick Winters taught us all to do our best. John Inglis truly understood Mr. Lincoln. Terry Haden built Home Again Project for free. Swen Larson was the best man I knew as an adult. I can give no higher compliment than to say Swen always made me think of my grandfather. Ed Losee was the best educator and advisor and always had a smile. Barbara Wormser set the example for the world. Ann McMahon: patience, wisdom, compassion, humanity.

Paul Little is King Arthur. Redlands is good and worthy and right and true. It is absolutely the real thing that made and still makes America great.

Family Service Assn logo


See that stupid heart? I drew that.

Just one of those things.

I left a billion people out. All part of my memories and moments.

Bagging potatoes with Dorothy Gerrard and Ed Losee and Carl Swing and Gene McIntyre. Here comes that shiny white Chevy truck with the lovely young woman in it. Here she comes with those dollars in her hand, all smiles for Thanksgiving. Because the year before she’d had nothing and a crummy job at Denny’s that couldn’t even feed her little boy, running proudly behind her. And now she had a good job at Tom Bell and they had a great home and she was bringing money and turkeys for the others who needed it.

sea turtle 6Because it was Redlands. Because it was us. Moments. Wealth.

And this is the town that raised me, an orphan. From nothing. From ashes to light. From light to fire. From fire to life.

Henry, I believe, made it.


And furthermore: I am RLS/NS. Gilberto Gil … wherever you are … and I also have “Amy’s Ruler” still thanks to Peggy Beaver. But I disposed of the Weekly World News with “Woman’s Breasts grow to 96-DDD overnight!” on the cover. RLS/NS trash pure and simple. Pure. Simple – now that is true.

How Passionate Are You?

Of course I’m reading a men’s fashion blog, Kinowear.

And these guys point out the obvious truth:

We live in a society that is so far from true passion that people release their tension by screaming into their pillows at night, and locking their room doors to dance where nobody can see them. People work at jobs they hate, staying there only for the money to buy things they don’t really need, hang out with people they don’t really like, and to do things they don’t really like to do. It’s amazing, and they continue to follow the rest of the crowd, and it’s almost the blind leading the blind.

sea turtle 14So I’d be interested to see what people think about these passionate things. Living in the moment. Kayaking even though it might kill you. Dancing in the discovator no matter who sees. Kissing madly at the airport blocking everybody who’s in such a rush. Taking the time to save a confused baby sea turtle with a short flipper.

Yes, it’s a survey. I can reward you with a baby sea turtle picture or encouragement to dance in the discovator (disco elevator).

Take Our Survey

The Crossing

Berlin-Wall at Chapman

For some weeks, I would lie alone in the quiet night, imagining what it would be to take all adam smith chapmanmy walls down. So long they had been up, so tall, broad and strong. Brutal and jagged, as thick as the Berlin Wall. I’d seen a piece of the wall, put up in the center of the Chapman campus like a hideous sculpture. It’s not far from Adam Smith’s bronze head. Students pass by this monument every day and don’t know what the ugly sculpture is, just as they do not know Adam Smith. It’s a tall hunk of dirty white concrete topped with twisted rebar, splattered with graffiti, some written in foreign tongues, most written in no language save agony.

berlin wall beforeAs Temple Grandin sees her life as a series of doors that she opens and walks through, so too have I seen my life as a series of bridges. One crossed with a path to follow, and then another, and another, and another.

And this bridge, the highest, like looking down from the Golden Gate Bridge to the chill gray water below. The drop is some 270 feet, 27 storeys. Of the 2,000 people who’ve jumped off the bridge since it was built, only 33 have survived, and of those, only a handful have recovered from their injuries.

golden gate bridge looking downOne of the survivors said, “the second my hands and feet left the rail I realized I had made a mistake, I realized how much I needed to live, or didn’t want to die.”

For me, it is not to jump off the bridge, it is to cross it without falling.

And I am so afraid.

Once when I was young, my grandmother was in a rare contemplative mood and wished to tell me of the days before my mother died. She often spoke of driving to Los Angeles from Redlands each day to see her. Well now I know such trips; when I was young I could not imagine them. But I was eager for any word about my mother.

Nana said she went in one day to find my mother out of bed and lying on the floor beside the window, unable to stand.

I immediately saw her, slim, pale arms and legs tangled, fingers reaching for the sunlight.

“I was dreaming, mother,” she said. “I dreamt I saw the most beautiful color, and I was trying to reach it. But I fell.”

I asked what the color was, though I already knew. I had dreamt of this color my entire life.

oxidized copperBefore I could really write, I wrote about it. I told all of our stories mixed into one. Nana pointed out the old copper pot on the patio, and its patina. That was the color. It was, it is, the color of time.

These newborn eyes, the color of old copper pots which have been left in the sun. The color of a nugget of turquoise taken straight from the earth, of the sea off Laguna at sunset, of what you are moving toward, of what will be as well as what was. Your eyes. Your child’s eyes. Your mother’s eyes. Shot with time’s arrow, melted, forged into a pot.

To say that this is my favorite color is to say that I like to breathe air. It is as much a part of me as my blood, the muscles in my legs, my fingers.

I think often of the choice my mother made. I would have made the same choice. Rather than grasp for a few more miserable sick months, just let go. Give my life to my baby.

That baby was me.

I did make the same choice as was given to me and would make it ten thousand times over. But I had no real risk to my life, and instead it was the baby’s life that was taken. In terms of his eyes, they were blue. So blue.

Grief is like biting into a crab apple, over and over. Regret is a bittersweet orange bad at the heart. Loneliness the comfort of a rotten, threadbare sheet.

And how I have loved such things. My daily bread and meat. They have the comfortable familiarity of Poe lifting Virginia’s dusty white bones from her grave, gathering the bone and mold and death in a mad embrace.

And ahead, I see the color of time.

Yet I remain fearful to leave these things behind. Reluctant to cross the bridge and step into the clear blue sky. I do not wish to fall. But around me, the bridge is crumbling. The walls are cracked.

I must cross now; I have no real choice.

If I stay on the bridge, I will surely fall, and if I go back, behind the walls, I will die.

For some weeks I have been feeling the world around me more than I feel myself. First, while swimming, I felt the water about my body, and my body hardly at all. For the first time, I swam with the water, not fighting it. I went fast. Then walking with Gambit, his eager body pulling forth, I felt the world about my face and arms and hands, the warm sun on my cheeks. Dancing on the patio after Jay Lake died, I said a prayer for his soul and felt the world about my hands, and I let it lift them, then felt it holding my muscles as I danced to the music of the air. The wind rushed through the trees. A bird sang, and then took flight.

Then came a bear, his black eyes flashing. A buck chasing a doe through the forest. A doe and her fawn eating calmly, no fear at all.

moro rockThe sun on a high mountain rock, above the world and all its cares.

Gently, the sun touches my face, my shoulders, my back, my belly, my breasts. I am as God made me.

I already know that I will never truly live if I do not cross these steps. If I do not take his hand, if I do not truly kiss his lips, feel his blood rushing, feel his heart beating, feel his love through his hands. If I do not let this thing happen, if I do not let him feel me –

I will be ashes, clay, dust, mold, bones in a grave.

And like all things we think to be so difficult at first, the doing is as easy as slipping into warm water.

I slip from my skin into his, and he into mine.

Mule Deer (Odocoileus hemionus)We are the buck and the doe. We are one under the crystal blue sky. The sun is like fire; our shadows meet. This savage black image, raw as hell, naked on the flat gray rock, is who we are.

I have crossed the great divide and have not fallen; he fell a short way, but got up again.

Yes, I have been afraid. I have shivered alone in the cold night.

But now I am warm and unafraid.

And on my finger, because we are people, and people make such things and do such things to remind themselves of eternal truth, things of which the buck and doe and bear have no need, for they never forget how to live, I wear a stone that is, improbably, impossibly, inevitably – the perfect, exact color of time.

Note: The human magnetic “sixth sense” works only in the range of blue light; i.e. the color of time.

For Emily

emily dickinson

For Dear Emily 

They silenced me in company

As when a little child
They put me on a shelf
Because I was too wild.

And so! Could they but have listened
And heard the sounds within my brain
They might as well have silenced
A murdered woman in her grave.

Himself speaks so easily
As easily as a bird
But the cage that holds him fast
Has bars of nano-steel

And I am Incandescent
In dying I make you free

Live thee in heaven or in hell
It matters not to me
Because as the old Swiss gentleman said,
Meine gedanken — my thoughts — are free.

Go to Hell!

I sent a story for reprint today, “Incandescent.” It’s another story similar in provenance to “Shakespeare in Hell.” By that, I mean, it’s a story I did while learning something and listening. I took a chance with it. It was the first far-future, actual hard sci-fi story I ever wrote (not counting the NOVEL it was related to, but why quibble over such things). I sent it to two well-known editors in the early 2000s. The type of editor frequently recognized with Hugo and other awards. They both told me to piss off.

So I put the story away and did nothing with it until I included it in Female Science Fiction Writer in 2012. Back then, I didn’t question. I believed the “common wisdom.” Now, I understand that this story fit in the category described to me by Stephanie and Tim Slater of the CAPER Institute at Launch Pad. I wasn’t the one not doing the job. This story was “over their heads.” Time has passed, and perhaps people are more-ready now than they were a few years ago for what the work has to say.

a helbitch knows

Read “Shakespeare in Hell” and go to Hell! says Bruce White.

I read the wonderful, warm, kind, loving advice of Anne Lamott regarding all the bad news we are hearing and how to spiritually deal with it. I know she’s right. She’s 110% right about all of it. But my damaged, brutal, killer heart was enraged reading her loving words even so.

There are children suffering on the border? When have children not so suffered? There are people dying in Gaza and Tel Aviv? When have people not died? Right now, this minute, as tens of thousands are sharing these heart-warming words, a boy is putting a belt around his neck and preparing to hang himself — maybe he was teased because he was gay. Maybe he was just plain teased. Right now as we share these lovely sentiments a woman cringes from her husband’s fist. Or worse.

You’ll never be Anne Lamott as much as you may agree with her, I thought. You know a hell of a lot more about Hell. And once you’ve seen something like that, once you’ve been there, done that, there is no going back.

I’ll never be that innocent little girl painting pictures in my back yard again. I will never again be the kid who popped off Barbie’s head and operated on her legs with a butter knife to find out how they worked.

“Shakespeare in Hell” is about the ability of us all to redeem ourself. That’s why Bob Haldeman is the “yes man” antihero. He wasn’t a bad man, he was one for a large portion of his life, who did what was expected of him. And had he but dreamed other wise, none of that American tragedy would have happened. If he’d just told his boss, “Get your head out of your ass and be the man you were born to be!” we would be praising, not vilifying the Quaker Richard Nixon — the man who wrote a personal letter to the family of each and every man killed in Vietnam during his day. I bet you didn’t know that, did you? I do. I visited the Nixon library as a scholar and learned that fact. A far better writer than me, Tom Wicker, wrote a book called One of Us, about Richard Nixon, and it tells us about our America. My California. Where this flawed, potentially great, man came from and where he ended up and why.

Oh, so pretentious.

Well come here. Come to me now.

Let me tell you a story, full of fury and rage. Let me tell you of someone who should not even be here and alive, but who, improbably, remains.

I know what Hell is because I have lived there for much of my life. And I have now dreamed other wise. And seen some little bit of heaven.

It’s what we choose. And yes, these things are in each of us. Hell, everlasting, with no escape. And heaven, so far above, we can barely picture it. Bliss and unity, everlasting. We choose. We dream. We decide.

First, to know heaven, I do think it’s necessary to know the Other Place. So, in the words of Bruce White: Go to Hell. So you may then go to heaven.