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No matter how old we are there’s something about that “fresh start” feeling that comes with cooler temps, changing leaves, and the re-emergence of school buses.  September is here, and it’s a great time to start a new “to do” list – whether you are heading back to school or starting a new job (call me crazy but I happen to be doing both as a new Whole Grains Council program manager and part-time MPH student at Northeastern!).  Reinventing how you spend your days can spawn an endless list of ideas that somehow seem manageable when riding that “new” high.  Now, I realize many of you may be like me and get carried away on this one, but I’m working on moderation in a serious way.

When I started at Oldways (a whole three weeks ago!), my list looked a little something like this:

  *Get a good night’s sleep
  *Prioritize
  *Exercise more
  *Eat better
  *Read something!
  *Bring lunch
  **And coffee

Let’s be honest.  We start out strong, but before we know it “get a good night’s sleep” and “eat better” become “set the timer on the coffee pot before you hit the pillow and don’t forget to grab a granola bar on your way out.”  An easy habit to fall into when life gets in the way of our best-laid plans.

Now I wasn’t always known for being the most disciplined eater – probably why I’ve tried and failed at so many diets.  Fortunately I wasn’t one for the real fads either, but I definitely succumbed to the low-fat-everything years and filled my body with more chemicals and processed food than would fit in a dumpster.  Fortunately all of that changed one summer on a boat.

Food is fascinating, and it changed my life. As the sole chef on a 22-passenger schooner sailing the coast of Maine, I learned many things – from

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sail-hoisting and history, to cooking on a wood stove (and sleeping, walking, and eating) while leaning at a 45 degree angle.  The greatest lesson I learned that summer though, was how to feed my body.  Not just “what to eat” for fuel, but actual nourishment and fulfillment – total satisfaction.  Over those four months, I cooked almost every morsel of food that I ate.  From muffins and scones at dawn, to soups and freshly baked breads at lunch, to large-scale lobster boils and apple crisp for dinner.  I was the farthest from deprived that anyone could be, yet I finished that summer lighter and healthier than I’d been in years.

I went from thinking of food as “a four letter word” to totally embracing everything about it.  (Except for celery.  I cannot embrace celery.)  I haven’t seen the inside of a fast-food restaurant in over four years and when grocery shopping I fill my cart with wholesome whole foods  and my scale has thanked me.

And now, my newest reward.  Every day I come to work with a group of wonderful people who feel exactly the same way about food as I do.  We congregate in the kitchen and share produce fresh from our gardens.  We go to the farmers’ market together at lunchtime.  We bring in goodies that we prepared at home from recipes new and old.  We eat it all, and we enjoy it.

Do I go overboard on occasion?  Yup.  Is there a pint of ice cream always available in my freezer?  You bet.  And the lunchtime walk is sometimes substituted with a lazy stroll around the office.  But I know that overall I’m in a better place and that tomorrow I will pull the list back out and start again.  Everything in moderation.

-Danita


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