I bought a juicer a few weeks ago after watching this documentary called Fat, Sick and Nearly Dead.

The man behind the documentary, Joe Cross, goes on a 60 days juice fast to heal himself from disease. I’ve done a juice fast for 3 days and at the time I thought that was quite enough for me, although I’m not nearly as sick as Joe was at the start of the film. Just to think about food as medicine seems kind of weird at first right?

We’re so programmed to go to the doctor for a prescription for things that the idea that the food could be the culprit is outside the box for most of us.

I do believe there are many instances where the doctor and the prescriptions are necessary, and I have great respect for doctors because it is one of the toughest jobs in the world. But, I have to admit that I am noticing more and more the connection between the food we eat and how we feel. Is it a simple case of “you are what you eat?”

According to “Savor” by Thich Nhat Hanh, “you are MORE than what you eat”.  Now there’s something to ponder.  How could I be MORE than the calories I take in?  Isn’t it all, calories in has to be less than calories out?

That’s what I always believed, until very recently when I learned about Primary Food.  The Institute for Integrative Nutrition says primary food is, ” Elements such as a meaningful spiritual practice, an inspiring career, regular and enjoyable physical activity and honest and open relationships that feed your soul and your hunger for living all constitute primary food.”  Understanding this definition has been eye-opening for me.  As I start to work with clients in my new health coaching practice, The Family Plate, I am realizing more and more that the concepts I will be helping people with most are not what foods to eat, but understanding Primary Food.  Of course, there will be plenty of discussion about what to eat, but being more than what you eat will be a larger component than I ever could have dreamed.  I’m so excited to get going with my clients to unfurl this idea with them.  The idea that maybe at the end of the day you need a good hug from your spouse instead of a bowl of ice cream could be revealing for some.

To put this idea to the test, I am going to do a little experiment.  What if every night when my husband comes home, I stop what I’m doing, go over to him and give him a long hug?  You know how crazy 6pm can be in a home, dinner’s going on the stove, baby needs a playmate, dog barking to go out – its mayhem sometimes when Ran gets home.  But I’m going to stop and hug him, and hopefully nourish us both with a little calorie free primary food.  Once I’m done with that hug, I’m going to grab up my baby and hug him too.  I want my family plate to be filled with love and not just the love of food, but the love of each other. I can’t say it better than the Beatles, All you need is Love.  Word.

Check out the trailer for this documentary, it’s available to watch on Netflix and is worth giving it a look.  Discover how a lack of primary food has led some of us to a dangerous place in our own bodies and how turning it around can create a wonderful positive ripple effect in the world.  Then, if you get the juicing bug, you can try my personal juice blend.  Happy Friday all!

@affairwitcheese  @thefamilyplate


Is vegetable a dirty word?  Sometimes I feel like it is.  I bring it up a lot with people (mostly my family) as in, “Are you going to serve any vegetables with that?”  I don’t mean to sound judge-y, but are you going to serve any vegetables with that?  I know that I need vegetables in my diet for many reasons: to feel full, to eat less meat and dairy, to feel regular (I went there!) and to maintain my weight.  I find most people don’t eat as much veggies as they should for 3 reasons:

1) vegetables are more expensive

2) vegetables are boring / I don’t know how to cook them

3) I don’t like salad

And all of these fall under the umbrella of “I don’t know why vegetables are important”.  We’ll get to that in a moment.

I’ve eaten my fair share of meals that are vegetable deficient.  Sandwiches come to mind, countless bowls of pasta with meatballs, even pizza.  I love all these foods, but they are seriously lacking in the vegetable department.

Did you know the FDA considers the tomato sauce on pizza a vegetable for school lunches?  I remember when I was in school that french fries were also considered a vegetable.  SCARY.  I just took a look on the FDA School Lunch website and some of my favorites horrors from these guidelines are below:

FDA says, “Select vegetables with more potassium often, such as sweet potatoes, white potatoes, white beans, tomato products (paste, sauce, and juice), beet greens, soybeans, lima beans, spinach, lentils, and kidney beans.”

Marie says, “Potatoes are a starchy vegetable that should be eaten in moderation.  They are also delivery vehicles for some very fatty toppings (sour cream, butter, oil, cheese) that must be monitored closely if you want to maintain optimal weight.”

Please instead of potatoes, try some green veggies like kale or spinach.

FDA says, “Order a veggie pizza with toppings like mushrooms, green peppers, and onions, and ask for extra veggies.”

Marie says, “Ok yes order a veggie topped pizza, but please don’t expect that to equal a vegetable serving.  Having one slice of pizza with a green salad would be a better solution.”

I love pizza, and I don’t want to discourage people from eating it, but it’s really gotta be served with a salad otherwise it’s not a complete meal.

So why are vegetables so important?

The make you feel full, they provide fiber and countless vitamins and minerals.  Plus they are a non-animal derived food which makes them more sustainable to the environment.

I always do my best to buy organic vegetables because they taste better and if I’m gonna eat and serve veggies I want the best!  There are other good reasons below…

The definition of organic when talking about food is, “Simply stated, organic produce and other ingredients are grown without the use of pesticides, synthetic fertilizers, sewage sludge, genetically modified organisms, or ionizing radiation. Animals that produce meat, poultry, eggs, and dairy products do not take antibiotics or growth hormones.” (Taken from www.organic.org).

But, sometimes there aren’t organic versions available in the grocery store or your budget won’t allow for it.  This is a handy guide you can use when shopping that outlines what’s called the “Dirty Dozen” – the list of the MOST contaminated fruits and vegetables (so you know to always buy those organic) and the “Clean Fifteen” highlighting the LEAST contaminated crops.  Take a look here! You can even download a wallet guide or an app for your phone here: (download a copy of the wallet guide)

So when I offered to bring some veggie crudite to a father’s day gathering last week there was a bit of shock and horror from my Grandmother (for more about Grandmother Nora, click here).   She really couldn’t understand why I had done it.  She made all this delicious food (pasta, meatballs and a pork roast) so why did we need vegetables?  She made a salad to go with it.  She was dumbfounded.  The truth is, I gotta crowd out the bad stuff with vegetables, I need to constantly be thinking about how to eat more vegetables otherwise I don’t eat them.  I want to eat meatballs, but it order to have balance I need the vegetables too.  Salad just won’t be enough.  So once she settled down and we were cleaning up the appetizers she yells to my father to pack up for the vegetables for me because “You’re daughter likes vegetables”.  She said it like it was a bad thing, like I liked pornography or CSI:NY.  Could you imagine if I’d become a vegan as I once toyed with? Yikes!

But I soldier on, bringing vegetables to a new level at home and away.  Someone shared this delicious recipe with me this week and it went over like gangbusters when I had a vegetarian friend over this week. Delicious Eggplant Roasted in the Oven.

Maybe I’ll bring that next time grandmother has me over!

You know I’ve tried everything at this point.  Vegan, vegetarian, juice cleanses, excessive work outs – everything.

It worked to lose all the weight I gained having my son and it’s working in keeping my weight the same for over a year. (Maintaining is harder than losing sometimes).  But, now that I want to lose more I’m stuck.  As part of my health coach training I have been learning over 100 dietary theories, and of course, as you learn about them you want to experiment with them.  So I did, I tried being vegan, being vegetarian, I tried Paleo diet, gluten-free, in short, I’ve tried them all.  Everything would work for 3-4 lbs of loss and then I’d even out.  I’d stop seeing results on the scale and would lose heart, and put back on the 3-4 lbs.

About a month ago, I hit a rough patch, something (I didn’t know what) was coming over me causing me to be tired, cranky and hungry.  A very bad combination indeed.  I was basically following a low carb diet at that point but was still suffering from sugar cravings.  My diet had evolved dramatically from cereal for breakfast to one egg with spinach.  Snacks were no longer low fat yogurt and instead were a handful of raw nuts.  I was eating superfoods like Chia Seeds and Goji berries.  I was making Vegan Pudding and Chia Pudding.  The days of eating a box of Oreos were long behind me, but something still persisted inside of me.

It was an uncomfortable feeling for sure, and when something is uncomfortable I have been trained (unfortunately) to gravitate toward food.  So I overate a bit, I got tired and then I slept.  Then I remembered that every May I usually get the flu and end up in bed for 2 weeks.  I used to think it was because in May I used to do community theatre and would burn the candle at both ends a bit too much.  But I haven’t done that in a few years so that doesn’t explain it.  Then I thought, well it’s my allergies – which it could be.  Thankfully this year I didn’t actually get the flu – but I got the fatigue and no other symptoms.  I felt awful for 2 whole weeks.  I never really figured it out until I discovered it could just be a bit of boredom.  But I think it’s more than that.  I think when the Springtime arrives it brings back a lot of feelings for me of being a child and looking forward to the summer.  It was such an exciting prospect.  The thought of having total freedom from routine and being able to take everyday as it is.  Spending some days outside with friends playing in the yard, some rainy days inside playing cards or make-believe, and some nights having sleepovers with my girlfriends where we’d talk about boys.  As an adult, there’s still some fun summer stuff to look forward to, but I have to admit it’s not necessarily as exciting.  I used to look forward to having summer Fridays in my office, but now I don’t have an office!  Of course there is the beautiful weather to look forward to, and maybe a vacation.  But its not as special as it once was.

There is a concept I have been learning about while in school called “Primary Food”.  Primary Food is best explained by the Institute for Integrative Nutrition, “Primary foods feed us, but they don’t come on a plate. Elements such as a meaningful spiritual practice, an inspiring career, regular and enjoyable physical activity and honest and open relationships that feed your soul and your hunger for living all constitute primary food.”

Once I’d tried every dietary theory, cleaned my home, paid off my debts, even cleaned out a closet, all I was left with was Primary Food.  The secondary food (actual food that I was eating) had changed dramatically for the better, but it wasn’t enough.  This week I finally had to acknowledge what I’d been avoiding for the past few years.  I have some issues with my Primary Food.

Side note – It makes me think of when Ruth Fisher from Six Feet Under went to a self help seminar where all the language was around house metaphors like “renovations and fixing the cracks in your foundation”.  I’ve got some cracks in my foundation!! There are some issues with Primary Food I gotta clear up in order to slim down.

Maybe holding onto the extra weight was like holding on to some extra armor, in case things start to hurt in my heart, I’d have the extra padding to insulate the blow.  Nutritionists and Mayor Michael Bloomberg want you to think that it’s all about the bad food: salt, soda, fast food.  But what if it isn’t? What if you eat a great diet and have a regular exercise routine and you still struggle? What do you do when all else fails?

You look inward.  And it will hurt.  But when you come out the other side, you will feel lighter and you’ll move forward. And everything will fall into place.

I hope.



Primary Food

June 14, 2013

Taken from Institute for Integrative Nutrition

“All that we consider today as nutrition is really just a secondary source of energy.

Think back to a time when you were passionately in love. Everything was exciting. Colors were vivid. You were floating on air, gazing into your lover’s eyes. Your lover’s touch and your shared feelings of exhilaration were enough to sustain you. You forgot about food and were high on life.
Remember a time when you were deeply involved in an exciting project. You believed in what you were doing and felt confident and stimulated. Time seemed to stop. The outside world faded away. You didn’t feel the need to eat. Someone had to come by and remind you.
Imagine children playing outside with friends. At dinnertime the mother reminds the children, “Time to come in and eat.” “No mommy, I’m not hungry yet,” they respond. At the dinner table, the mother feels that her role is to enforce the rules of good nutrition and instructs the children to eat their food. Eventually, the children force down a minimally acceptable amount of food and rush out again to play. At the end of the day, the kids return, exhausted, and go to sleep without thinking about food at all.
As children, we all lived on primary food. The same as when deeply in love, or working passionately on a project. The fun, excitement and love of daily life have the power to feed us so that food becomes secondary.

Now think of a time when you were depressed, or your self-esteem was low; you were starving for primary food. No amount of secondary food would do. You ate as much as you wanted, but you never felt satisfied. Even in good times when we come home at night, we often look into the refrigerator for something to eat, when all we really want is a hug or someone to talk to.
Primary foods feed us, but they don’t come on a plate. Elements such as a meaningful spiritual practice, an inspiring career, regular and enjoyable physical activity and honest and open relationships that feed your soul and your hunger for living all constitute primary food.
The more primary food we receive, the less we depend upon secondary foods. The opposite is also true. The more we fill ourselves with secondary foods, the less we are able to receive the primary foods of life. 

Every spiritual tradition encourages people to fast during the year so that individuals have time to reduce secondary foods, thus allowing for a greater awareness of primary food.”


There’s one thing I love about NYC apartments, there’s no room to hold onto stuff.  I have a 2 bedroom apartment that’s roughly 800 square feet.  There’s 2 adults, 1 baby and 1 dog – needless to say we are comfortable but cramped.  We have a small storage unit in the neighborhood and keep a lot of stuff at my mother’s on Long Island.  But still, there is a finite amount of space and stuff that can be kept.

I have fond memories of cleaning out my closet with a good friend (who actually was a professional closet organizer as an adult!) when we were little girls.  First you dump out all the stuff onto the floor, sift through it all, and judiciously decide what gets put back, what gets thrown out and what goes to the needy.  It’s usually a somewhat fun task because you get to comb through the memories of your things (love letters, achievements, pictures) while also crossing “cleaning out the closet” off a to-do list.  There’s nothing in life I love more than crossing something off my to-do list.

If the experience can be fun, even cathartic, then why do I avoid it like the plague every 6 months or so?  I clear things out, throw away the non-essentials, tuck away the important pieces and then slowly let the beautifully organized closet devolve into a mess of crap.  I can never seem to maintain the beautifully organized closet, or underwear drawer, or bookshelf or junk drawer even.  Invariably it always ends up back in a state of disarray that needs hours of time devoted to its upkeep.

The past few weeks I’ve been really experiencing fatigue.  Droopy eyes, slow moving limbs, and fantasies of going back down for a nap like my toddler does.  Granted, little Dylan has been giving us a hard time some nights, but my fatigue seems a little extreme regardless.  So I think to myself, “what is going on with me?” First thought, “Am I pregnant?” Because as any woman who’s been pregnant knows, THAT is exhausting!  Nope not pregnant.  “Do I have the flu?” No symptoms of flu – just fatigue. “Am I eating right?” Yes and No.  We all know I do battle every day to eat right so I’m essentially eating my usual diet.  I don’t think this is a factor, though I do start to notice a few things. When I’m tired I crave sugar and carbs and when I eat carbs (especially at lunch) I long for a nap around 3pm.

Last question, “Am I depressed?”  Hm, interesting question.  I don’t feel depressed, in fact I’m more free and happier than I’ve been in years (maybe ever!)  As someone who has battled depression, I have to give the question some thought though.  I have been through a lot of changes lately: new home, new career, new way of life as a partial SAHM.  But these are all changes I’m happy about – so why on earth would I be depressed?

After some though and a lot of introspection I come to the less than sexy conclusion that I”m bored.

Yeah, that’s it – just bored.

And I think to myself, “Marie you are one selfish, vapid human being. You have SO MUCH to be grateful for and now you’re BORED.  Bored with LIFE? Life, the most amazing thing in the world and you are BORED. What’s wrong, not enough new episodes of Mad Men left to watch? Too much time to spend with your son?  Too much time to go to yoga? Geez, Marie, get back to me when you have some REAL problems.”

Don’t you love the voices inside your head? I spent a few days going over these questions in my head and tried to get at what was the source of my boredom.  I also tried to find wonder and excitement in the mundane – which I admit is a lot easier when you have a toddler around to play with.  In the end, I came to the realization that since leaving my full time job 7 months ago I have a lot less to be distracted with.  Less emails coming through on the phone, less meetings to attend, less fires to put out, less office pals to chat with, less office pals to bitch about and less money to earn.  Without all that stuff, it’s kinda just me, myself and I a lot of the time up in here.  Of course there’s time with family and friends which I love, but for the first time in my adult life there’s space.  There’s 3 hour long stretches when the baby sleeps and I think “Now what?”  (There’s only so much laundry one can do.)  That’s when I’m forced to look in – “Now what, Marie? Now what do you want to do?”

Those moments of space can be glorious, but they can also let all the bad stuff come up.  (See earlier discussion with the voice inside my head.)

Trying to drive out the bad or mask it is really exhausting!  It takes a ton of effort and when it doesn’t work and you are forced to try and eat your way out of it you get REALLY tired.  “This box of Entenmann’s cookies isn’t going to eat itself, so get chewing Marie!”

So after a nap on Wednesday (for both me and Dylan), I thought, “Okay NOW WHAT?”  It was 5pm and there were hours to fill before dinner and bedtime.  So I opened my closet.  “This closet isn’t going to organize itself, now get cracking Marie.”  I pulled everything out, made piles (keep, store, give away) and rediscovered some of my possessions (I forgot about those shoes!) and started to make some space in my mind and in the closet.

It felt good.

Today I tackled a book shelf and the corner of my living room where my desk is.  The poor desk has been buried in crap for months.  Happy to report I am sitting at the desk now actually typing this blog post (progress, People!).

I know it sounds silly, but sometimes the clutter in your head and the clutter in your space are connected.  It’s like with all that crap taking over your apartment it also takes over your mental space and soon you are double fisting cookies while watching Downton Abbey and wondering who you’ve become.

I believe this is why stores like Container Store exist – because sooner or later we all have to turn off the TV, put down the cookie and clean out some shit!

When I do these projects I always try and remember 2 things.  1) It’s a work in progress, so don’t try and be perfect and 2) It’s not gonna stay this way for long, so don’t get upset when it get messed up

And with that, I think I hear Dylan waking up from his nap.

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