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Guest Post: Lisa Salinger

Creative Thinking … It Tastes Just Like Chicken

Originally Published June 05, 2016 on BlindAlive by Lisa Salinger

Veggie topped pizza with broccoli, tomatoes, yellow and red peppers, and cheeseHave you noticed how many things are said to taste “just like chicken?” From frog legs to tofu turkey, to alligator meat, the refrain is the same: “It tastes just like chicken.” I doubt that anyone is actually gullible enough to believe this. After all, nothing tastes exactly like chicken except for, well, chicken. So why do we say it? My unproven theory is that we want to compare something that’s new and unfamiliar to something we know and like, or even love. It’s why parents tell children that their liquid medicine tastes just like candy. The parents know it’s not true, but to them, the health benefits of taking the medicine are preferable to the consequences.

I’ll never forget my first taste of whole wheat pizza with vegan cheese. A delivery order to my office had been confused, and we ended up with four of these pizzas, and only one traditional one. Some of my coworkers were not pleased, but they were hungry, so they dug in. Comments followed quickly. “This doesn’t taste like pizza. It’s awful!”

A friend of mine sometimes refers to me as Polly the Peacemaker. Polly is for Pollyanna, who always looks on the bright side, and peacemaker comes from the fact that I’m happiest when everyone in my world is getting along. So you can see why I couldn’t just let the negativity continue.
“That’s because it’s not really pizza,” I said. Only something that sounded so offbeat would stop the conversation in its tracks.

“I don’t really think of it as pizza. If I did, I’d be really disappointed. I think of it as Vegan flatbread, and it’s pretty good. The crust is different, but it’s kind of nutty, and it has texture, and the cheese doesn’t taste like standard Mozzarella, but it’s a nice mix with the veggies that are on top.”

If you feel like you’re just eating a healthier version of pizza, and you don’t really like it, you’ll just feel cheated, or at least I have. But set that notion aside, and maybe substitute a mental script like, “I am making healthy choices and am enjoying Vegan flatbread.” It may just sound like a game of semantics, but why not recognize the unique differences of each food you try? After all, not everything tastes like chicken, and that is as it should be.

If you’ve found a helpful food substitution or a mental trick that works for you, please let us know. You can always respond via social media or on our Facebook group.

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Guest Post: Lisa Salinger

“The Right Tools

Originally published February 28, 2016  by  Lisa Salinger

Have you ever gotten a stone stuck inside your shoe? You try not to walk on it, and gingerly limp around until you can stop and remove it. Yesterday, this happened to me, with one important twist. When I tried to remove the offending stone, there was none to be found.

I was able to ignore it for the most part and went on with my day. Unfortunately, every time I got up from sitting at my desk, the discomfort was back, and by the end of the day, my slight limp turned into a hobble, and I could barely put weight on that foot.

“When you can’t control what’s happening, challenge yourself to control the way you respond to what’s happening. That’s. where your power is.”

The culprit, it seems, is something called Plantar Fasciitis, a condition that, while painful, can be easily treated in most cases. It happens due to repetitive micro-traumas to the plantar fascia, a thick fibrous band of connective tissue that runs the length of the foot. Treatment involves taking a rest from walking and high-impact activities and stretching the Achilles tendon and the muscles of the calves and feet.

I’m not thrilled about giving up my daily walk, even temporarily. I walk a minimum of an hour a day, and it’s rare that I don’t log ten thousand steps a day on my FitBit. To be perfectly honest, I don’t always enjoy walking and wonder sometimes if that hour could be better spent. However, if I don’t walk in a given day, I feel restless and full of nervous energy, and focusing on even simple things can sometimes be a challenge.

I feel so fortunate at times like these to have tools in my figurative toolbox. That way, when something needs to be fixed or adjusted, I am ready and able, because I have the right tools for the job. In this case, I have three, and I’d like to share them with you.

  1. First is creativity. This is the mindset that asks, “How can I do this?” rather than saying, “I give up.”
  2. Second are things that will help me keep moving. How can I get in some of that all-important cardio that seems so beneficial for my health and well-being? For a few days, I’ll spend more time bouncing on the stability ball. It’s not as vigorous as walking, but it’s an adequate substitute for now. I also purchased a rebounder about a year ago. This is a mini trampoline with a rail I can use for balance, and the springy surface will lessen the impact to my heel.
  3. The final tool comes straight from BlindAlive. I was already doing our Cardio and Sculpting with Weights workouts, but now I need something that involves minimal standing on hard surfaces, and minimal impact, at least for now. I plan to make good use of the Gentle Workout Set and the Pilates Chair with Ring workout. These emphasize muscle stretching and strengthening more than I have lately. The fact that I have this problem in the first place is a gentle reminder from my body to strengthen and use my muscles so that, like good tools, they are ready for any job.

If you have any questions about what you’ve read, or you’d like to learn more about any of our workouts, please fill out the contact form at www.BlindAlive.com. We’d love to hear from you!

 

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Guest Post: Lisa Salinger

Reading With Purpose

Originally Published on BlindAlive October 11, 2015, by  Lisa Salinger

I have been an avid reader for most of my life, and when I’m not enjoying a good novel — what some call escapism fiction — I’m reading books about self-improvement. If you were to live with me, day in and day out, you’d think those books weren’t doing me much good. The really unfortunate thing is that, for the most part, you would be right.

I will often be inspired or excited by something I read, and I have the very best of intentions to make it a part of my daily life. Then, I get really busy, or involved in a time-consuming project, or I read another motivational book, and all the fantastic, useful information I’ve read gets shelved, if you’ll excuse the bad pun. What good is it if I spend my time, and sometimes my money, on a book I think is the very epitome of transformational advice if I don’t put it into practice?

I’ve given this some thought lately and wanted to share some things I am beginning to do to get the most from my current reads.

I started by making a list of the memorable books I read but had never implemented. I did not browse through my download history, but just wrote down a few titles I read at some point in the past. Thinking of them made me feel a sense of regret that I had not done more with the material. I came up with three books, which I plan to reread in the near future. To keep this from being an obligation that leaves you feeling flattened, try limiting yourself to five or fewer books.

I resolved to listen to the author. When I come across phrases like “Practice exercise,” “Don’t read on until you’ve done this,” or “Make a list,” I’m actually stopping to do it. I know that if I say I’ll come back to it, or I half-heartedly make a list in my head instead of actually capturing it somewhere, it won’t happen. I’m sure the author did not just build in practice exercises for no good reason. It is likely that these same activities were used by the author to become successful in the areas about which he or she is writing. If I’m investing the time to read the book, I can at least make time to try what the author suggests.

I’m learning to slow down. Sometimes, a book contains so many practical and helpful suggestions, I read it through without stopping. It’s the equivalent of gulping half a gallon of cold water on a hot day. It will do some good, but the real benefit comes from taking it slowly. Now, I try to reserve my reading binges for fiction and take the time to live with a helpful book for a couple of days, or even a couple of weeks so I can really integrate its practices into my daily life.

 

Finally, I’m learning to take notes on what I read. This doesn’t mean I need to write a complete outline of the book, but I should at least jot down anything I find particularly helpful. I am reading more audio books than ever, and while they are great, it is sometimes hard to go back and search for that sought-after bit of information. Taking notes gives me quick access to those parts of a book I value most. What’s more, the act of writing things down helps to cement them in my mind.

Have you ever been so caught up in a plan of action or a premise that you don’t see its faults? Critical thinking has not come naturally to me but is something I have had to cultivate. I find that distilling the premise or plan outlined in a book to just a few thoughts or sentences is like shining a spotlight on it. The flaws are made more visible, and the gems shine like the jewels they truly are.

Do you have a strategy for implementing what you read that I didn’t mention here? If so, please feel free to email support@BlindAlive.com and share it, or post to our Facebook group. Here’s wishing you a happy, transformative reading experience!

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Guest Post: Lisa Salinger

Befriending the Buffet

The following article by Lisa Salinger of BlindAlive, was originally published on August 16, 2015

Chafing dishes lined up on a buffet tableBuffet!” That word alone evokes strong emotions — delight in some, and despair in others. This week, a member of our BlindAlive Facebook group posted the following helpful article: A 5-Step Strategy for All-You-Can-Eat Buffets This is a great article, but as blind people, not everything may apply to us. Then again, not everything written in an article applies to most people.

Those who are generally best at applying suggestions are those who tailor them to meet their specific needs. After reading the article, I thought I would share six suggestions used by my blind friends and me to comfortably handle various kinds of buffets. Some of these strategies have also been used by, and have helped my sighted friends as well. Are you ready to dive in? Let’s do it!

It’s all in your head

  • Sometimes, we’ve been through buffets with people who don’t give us the entire picture. Maybe they are trying to look out for our best interests, and only list the healthy choices.
  • Maybe, for whatever reason, they completely skip those foods they personally do not like.
  • Some people don’t mention certain dishes because they can’t pronounce the name of a particular food, or they have no idea how to describe it if they aren’t sure what it is.

Three hot buffet dishes

What this means is that you are likely to miss out on something. Maybe it’s something you’d hate, but maybe it’s something you’d love. This is where a few gentle reminders are helpful. Everybody misses out at buffets sometimes. Either they didn’t see a dish they’d have loved, or they were just too full. It’s just one meal of one day of your entire life. Try to concentrate on the company, and on those things you genuinely enjoyed. You may not have missed a thing, so why let that fear be a controlling force.

Call ahead

Restaurant buffetIf you really want to get an idea of what is being offered, let your fingers do the walking.

  • If you’re going to a buffet at a restaurant, try giving them a call.
    • Be mindful of the staff’s time, and try to call at an off-peak time. In other words, if it’s a time most people would be eating a meal, plan to call earlier or later.
    • Keep in mind that they may not be able to give you exact particulars, but they can give you an idea. A description of a restaurant’s offerings may go something like this: “On our breakfast buffet, we have an omelet station, scrambled eggs, bacon, sausage, some kind of breakfast potatoes, seasonal fruit, some canned fruit, a few kinds of cold cereal, and a couple kinds of pastries.”

This will give you a general idea of what is being offered.

  • If you’re going to a buffet at someone’s home, you can ask the host or hostess what will be served. If this is your situation, you might say,
    • “I’m trying to plan so I don’t miss out on something I’d really enjoy.
    • I’m trying to make healthier choices, and I want to plan those, and possibly a small splurge or two.”

Of course, if you don’t know your hosts well, this might not be the best idea. Also, even at a party where the hosts may prepare most foods, others may bring dishes to share, so there will still be surprises.

A well-chosen code word is golden!

The word "secret" on a piece of paperIn the spirit of true confession, dips and spreads are my biggest weaknesses. However, my appetite for even my favorite things diminishes drastically if someone has sneezed on it or has committed the unpardonable sin of double dipping. I don’t want to hear about it after the fact. I want to know before it goes on my plate, but how? It’s not like the person I’m with can say, “This seven layer dip looks really good, but Little Johnny just stuck his dirty fingers in it.” There’s almost no way to say something without insulting a friend or complete stranger. However, this can be managed with a little forethought.

  • If you’re going through the buffet with a friend or family member, ask to pick a code word. This can be used when commenting on a dish that either doesn’t look very appealing or one that has been compromised, as in the case of the above layered dip.

Of course, for someone to comment on a dish that doesn’t look very good, this is a bit arbitrary, so it’s best that this person knows your preferences. In one situation, if a friend said, “Wow, look at….” I knew it was something I was best to avoid. It was a win-win situation. I didn’t get anything I didn’t want, and no one’s feelings were hurt.

Who made that anyway?

Assorted homemade dishesThis scenario works best at a family buffet. Let’s say you have two aunts; Aunt Sara is a wonderful cook, and you could eat off her floor and not think twice about it. Aunt Jane, on the other hand, is Sara’s opposite in the kitchen, although a lovely person, I’m sure.

  • Because you can’t see who is carrying in what dish, you can ask someone if they know who made the various foods.

Idle curiosity is the order of the day, of course. Sighted people do this too, but it is often a more subtle process, possibly involving slight head shakes and raised eyebrows. If you’re thinking this all sounds a bit obsessive, you may be right. However, if you’re working from the standpoint of a limited calorie budget from which to spend, these are ways to keep from having things you won’t really enjoy.

Categorize it

Beef buffetIt seems that in traditional and buffet restaurants alike, the menus have become more and more plentiful. In fact, the article cited above suggests that you walk through a buffet to get a general idea of what’s there. This is probably the hardest thing to do with little or no sight, but it is far from impossible.

  • Generally, restaurant buffets are set up in groupings often referred to as islands or stations. There might be one with all kinds of meats, one for hot food, one for salads, etc.
  • There may not be time for someone to name every item on each station. Often, you can get a general idea of what is offered by knowing what kinds of foods are traditionally served.

For example, it is possible but highly unlikely that you would find grits or catfish on the buffet at your local Chinese restaurant.

  • If there is something you are looking for, the best course of action is to mention it while going through the buffet. You might ask if they have any kind of ham or chicken at the meat station if those choices are of particular interest to you.

Pass on the excuses

Server behind a full buffet table with assorted dishesI love big salads, but not usually at buffets. Unfortunately, this is just the time when some kind of low-calorie, crunchy food would be ideal. However, the plates are often small, and I don’t want to ask someone to make frequent return trips. Also, certain kinds of salad fixings, varieties of lettuce, in particular, I find challenging to eat off a flat plate.

It might be simpler to go straight for the mashed potatoes and gravy or some other “easy food.” If I’m tired, or I just feel like I deserve a break, I find this kind of excuse is an easy one.

In recent years, more often than not, I have been able to remind myself that I am creative, resourceful, and value food that is healthy as well as good to taste. I usually start my buffet meal with salad and end it with dessert, although neither is very traditional.

  • My salad is basically a plate of vegetables I can eat without concern. A sample plate might contain cucumber slices, grape or cherry tomatoes, green or red pepper strips, and definitely some chickpeas. I can eat most of these with either fork or fingers.
  • If I want a dip, I’ll get a small bowl with either a little dressing or more likely, some cottage cheese or salsa. Having a mostly finger-friendly plate also provides extra incentive to avoid deli salads, shredded cheese, and other less than healthy but messy foods.
  • Dessert is usually another full plate, albeit a smaller one. This time, I get a small piece or serving of dessert and fill up on mostly fresh fruit.

What’s not to enjoy? I’m not depriving myself, I’m making wise choices, and I didn’t have to cut up all that fruit. Not everyone may find this enjoyable, but I actually like to have a few more veggies with my fruit — usually a slice or two of cucumber or a little celery. It’s just refreshing in a way that’s hard to explain.

With all of these suggestions, creativity is the key. If you are new to eating healthily at buffets, you might want to concentrate on one or two ideas. And if you blow it, which we all have or will, then gently take yourself back to the beginning and remind yourself that this was just one meal in one day of the rest of your life.

I love this quote by Maya Angelou, and I think it is a fitting reminder, whatever our goals:

“I did then what I knew then. And when I knew better, I did better.”

If you’ve been able to “do better,” either at the buffet or in some aspect of your healthy life, why not join us on Facebook or Twitter and let us know. We’d love to hear from you!