Monday, March 28, 2011

Wednesday, March 16, 2011

If I ever wondered...

...if I could bake a coconut bread in my sleep, now I know. The answer is "yes," while I completely forget about everything else. Sigh.

Sunday, March 13, 2011


It's funny how people don't really think clearly about how they talk or where their habits come from. My mother just turned me onto something that I say often that seems to be hereditary to ethnicity or region. That's the use of the word, "nice." A "nice" piece of cake, or a "nice" bowl of soup. Or "It turned out 'nice'." Her comment was "That's Jewish. Jewish and Italian." I think that it's maybe old time Philadelphian or east coast, too. Either way, I can remember my grandmother and her cousins saying it, who were all her age. Then there's,

"Oh, a bit of this and that"

as an answer to

"What have you been up to?"

I don't exactly say it in those words, but it's close. I've been on the west coast now for about 15 years and still, I have the old time lingo.

Of course, there's the classic phrase made famous by Aaron Sorkin's West Wing characters,

"Not so much,"

as an answer to a question about personal preference. Little Moo gave me that answer last week when I asked her whether she still liked a color that wasn't pink (I think that's what it was - it could also have been a food preference, although that's not so important at this point).

This is the easiest thing I've made in a long time. I used to make it a lot, then I had to stop when I stopped digesting winter squash. Now, thanks to BioSET, I'm back and, although I'm cautious, I'll make something squashy every once in a while for as long as the season holds out. It's very pretty if it's one of those bright orange ones like a butternut, or super-sweet if it's made from kabocha or delicata. Add a bit of cinnamon for a more holiday feel or vanilla just because it's "nice."


One winter squash, cooked, cut up.
2 tablespoons ghee (I use 4 for a large butternut squash - if you intend to chill it into a pudding, add up to oh, say, 6)
pinch cinnamon
1 teaspoon vanilla (non-alcohol)
2 teaspoons coconut milk kefir or coconut milk (up to 1/4 cup for a larger squash)

Put everything into a blender and whip it up. That's really it. Top with fruit if you like, or insert into tart shells and chill.

Monday, March 7, 2011

Moving through the world - a larger picture

I've been doing this thing now for, oh, about a year. It seems somewhat off-topic for this blog, but in a way, it isn't.

I take off my shoes.

I also take off my shoes and run.

This may seem odd. It also may seem like no big deal, but to me it's huge. It also brings me back to the diet thing.

I was born inwardly rotated at the hips, with very loose joints. My childhood nutrition was pretty average for a kid growing up in the 70s and 80s. I was lucky that I nursed. I needed no teeth pulled when I got braces, but they were pretty odd when they grew in. (Those of you up on Weston A. Price will get that reference - basically the state of a person's teeth is an indicator of their overall health. People with excellent nutrition as kids will have wide palates, where all the teeth grow in straight and without impingement, including wisdom teeth and few cavities. That would be our Little Moo so far. Not me. Snackboy had to have at least 2 teeth pulled when his were straightened.)

The doctors took one look at my soft little feet and clapped me into orthopedic clown shoes from the moment I took my first step. I had bars - a wide bar that held my little legs stiffly apart and straight -  for a year worn at night when I was 2. As a kid I always had supportive shoes and orthotics because my feet were formless and extremely pronated. Ballet helped somewhat, but not entirely. I had foot, leg and hip pain by the time I was in my teens. My family blamed it on ballet, but to be honest, ballet was the one place I felt good. It was where I took off my shoes. I believed the doctors, though, and kept thinking it was just specific to my incapable feet.

I ran track in high school. I hated it. I was the slowest kid in the group. I used to joke that I was like the tortoise. I used to place during the 800 and longer races where I could jog slowly and wait for everyone to fall down exhausted. I had to recover for days after meets. I stopped running soon after starting college. It hurt too much.

I left college half way through to become a ballet dancer and used to build little supportive wedges and assists for my pointe shoes to keep me from pronating quite so badly. Like I said, the movement helped a lot, but it was designed for people with high, rigid arches, not flat, pronated feet. I stopped that, too and went to graduate school in SF, doing bits of contemporary dance here and there.

Then came the back injury. I had been poorly nourished for a long time and by my mid-twenties, had also been vegetarian for about 7 years. My feet were like a foundation of a building that was made of sand. My building gave out. I hit bottom with a decade-long back injury. I went to graduate school, finished and got a job in the tech journalism industry. Sitting all day made it worse. So did the stress. I changed jobs and started working at UC Berkeley. The commute was terrible. I needed a disabled parking pass for a year.

So I found Pilates and the work of Judith Aston (Ronnie Oliver has no web address, but she made a huge difference in my body as well as how I perceive of bodies. I've studied with her and been a client for about ten years.) and slowly started coming back. Very slowly. In 2001 my doctor took a look at my rash-covered self and pronounced me food-allergic. After tests we discovered that my allergies were multiple and unusual. The big one was gluten. There were several others, including peach, honey, almond, salmon and ginger. I did an elimination diet. I was never able to reintroduce the foods. Any time I stopped a food, the reaction would get worse when I returned to it. The doctor was less than helpful and I fell between the cracks.

Four years later my back was healed but fragile. The fat pads on my feet were gone. Walking barefoot on uncarpeted surfaces was like stepping on glass. My sacrum and neck were constantly going out.

I became pregnant in 2006. By then, the only foods my body would accept without breaking into a rash were meat and roots. My daughter was born by the time I realized that there were ways to deal with this. I saw Julie Matthews who turned me on to traditional cooking. Improvement was constant, but slow. When it looked as if Little Moo also had allergies I took both of us to Dr. Cowan, the GAPS guy in SF. He put me on the GAPS Diet and Little Moo got a modified version of it. I started BioSET (Vivian Kushner) with Little Moo at the end of last year and have slowly been able to reintroduce foods, more for her than for me. It's clear, though, that my digestion is much hardier and my reactions are different and less intense.

After over 2 years on the GAPS Diet, I have padding on the bottoms of my feet again. I noticed a few months ago that I could once again wear shoes with small heels.

When I realized that my diet was close to a paleolithic diet  because of my allergies, I looked it up and found links to barefoot running. I thought it sounded interesting, so I looked farther and found Daniel Lieberman's studies and videos.

I took off my shoes and started to really look at my feet. Then I applied what I'd learned as a Pilates instructor who works with injury and weakness. I never thought I'd be able to run. I was happy with simply walking. The progress went slowly. I discovered new ways to release and tone my feet manually so as to stimulate atrophied muscle and to release the tight places in the arches and the heel. I learned where the joints were and began to mobilize the trouble spots - the outside calf, the relationship between talus mobility and fibula, the talo-navicular-crural joint (I love that term - it just means the relationship between the arch and the ankle, which is critical for good running.)  - we have 26 bones in our feet! I developed mobilizations, releases and exercises for the parts of the body that need reawakening due to low functioning feet - the hips, the calves, the ribs. It took several months, but now I can hold up my arches and my pronation has improved to the point where I can finally walk without any pain at all. My bunions are practically nonexistant. I can move my toes using the intrinsic muscles of the foot.

A year later I am not only barefoot, I'm running. It's actually easier than walking. For those of you who've tried barefoot running - I'm a forefoot runner, specifically because I have the calf muscles and still have a tendency to pronate. I find that my metatarsal and lateral arches are more dependable than the posterior ones. I come down on the ball of the foot, press into the space between the big and second toes, feel the posterior arch lift, then let the heel drop without a speck of pronation. With each step I can feel my body realign, strengthen and release thanks to a harmonious relationship with gravity. At forty three I'm in better shape than I was in my mid-twenties. I'm not interested in competition, or anything that starts with the words "extreme" or "ultra." I'm happy just to have my body back. Some day I hope to run with people again.

These days, with timing and schedules the way they are with a kid going into kindergarten next year, my runs have mainly been in Vibrams on a treadmill at the Y at odd hours, but I'm craving a return to the track at Kezar, the beach when it's warm, or maybe somewhere new. Pavement and cement have been off-limits to me so far because of how soft my foot structure has been in the past, but looking at my feet now I think that perhaps nothing is impossible.

I have a project that I'm starting with my Pass The Torch mentor, Elizabeth Larkam - I'm looking for people with "minimal feet" - soft arches, pronations, atrophied muscles due to relying on "supportive" shoes - who want to feel the ground in their bare feet, to walk pain-free without assistance from shoes. I'm also looking for folks who want to train into barefoot running and who are just interested in being able to shed their shoes without pain. We'll bring their feet back to life together.

If you are one of these people, and you live in the Bay Area, just leave me a comment and we'll talk.