One thing many people in our culture struggle with is taking care of themselves. This is not something many of us talk about, because we tend to equate “self-care” with “selfishness,” though nothing could be further from the truth.
The fact is, without good self-care, we may actually become a burden to myriad others—from spouse or life partners to family, friends, and our rickety health-care system. So, I like to take a broad view of self-care to include preventive maintenance, educating oneself about food/nutrition, herbs, various forms of fitness, spiritual practices and the like. Self-care can be something small, such as taking a bath or getting a massage. It could be a commitment to get acupuncture four or five times a year to help smooth the transition between seasons. It could mean something large, such as spending an entire afternoon in the garden. It could mean making a special meal for oneself.
But one thing it will mean, in all cases, is making the time to practice well-being. In my own experience, making the time to treat myself well has never been easy. The part of me that wants to go-go-go cannot often grasp that without taking the time to stop-stop-stop, the go-part will not be as effective.
And so, with this post, I am launching a series of self-care tips that may encourage you to take more time for yourself and your well being. And if you have any activities that you would like to share—ways that you excel at taking care of yourself—please share by commenting on these posts.
Self-Care Tip #1: Making Oatmeal—Leigh’s Way
One of the most important aspects of attaining and maintain good health is eating breakfast—and developing the habit of eating breakfast. As a child, I used to have instant oatmeal, the kind that came loaded with sugar. It tasted good and, as I know now, was way better nutritionally than the cold cereals that were the mainstay during the week at breakfast. Still, it was not great nutritionally, just better than the high-heat-exposed extruded cereals that I usually ate.
It was not until my early 30s that I came to understand the importance of soaking grains and nuts. If you consider the life purpose of such things, it is to reproduce. But nuts, seed and grains reproduce only when conditions are optimal and there’s a good chance at succeeding. So, before eating nuts, seeds or grains, it’s important to soak them to break through their own preservatives (anti-nutrients, in effect)—the things that keep them intact until the opportunity to reproduce is best. This makes it easier on our bodies to absorb the nutrients inside. As I’ve learned, soaking also enhances the taste, from crispy nuts to delicious oatmeal. So, here’s my take on an old standby, adapted from Sally Fallon Morell and Mary Enig’s Nourishing Traditions cookbook. Does it take more time than instant oatmeal? Of course. But for the taste and nutrient value, I’ll eat this any day!
You will need the following:
1 C rolled oats (preferably organic)
1 C warm water
1 C water (for later)
2 heaping tablespoons yogurt (plain works, but I like vanilla best and use Seven Stars, which is a biodynamic yogurt from nearby Pennsylvania; homemade yogurt from raw milk from grassfed cows from a biodynamic farm would be best)
Unsalted butter (again, preferably organic or at least that made from milk from cows not treated with recombinant bovine growth hormone…the label may say, “Not from cows treated with rBST (or rBGH).”
Maple syrup (Grade B is best, mineralwise)
Pinch of salt
*Coconut oil and large apple (optional, but I always include them)
At supper and/or before bedtime, heat one cup of water to lukewarm, add it to the oats and mix in the yogurt. Let sit overnight, ideally at least 12 hours and preferably in a warm place. I use quart-sized Mason jars to hold the soaking oats. You can make up a bunch of jars of dry oats ahead of time (one cup of oats per jar) to make it easier. Time invested: less than five minutes.
For breakfast, place the soaked oatmeal in a saucepan and add the cup of water, butter (to taste—I use a lot!), spices, salt, and maple syrup. (Start out with a small amount of these and add, according to taste.) Cook over medium heat until the oatmeal has softened. Time invested: 10 minutes.
*For an even tastier oatmeal, I cube an apple, cook it with the spices in coconut oil until soft, then add the oatmeal, butter, salt and maple syrup and cook all of it together until the oatmeal has softened. I have found that soaking the oats with yogurt helps the oatmeal to cook more quickly than unsoaked oats. Time invested: 15 to 20 minutes.
Oats and Gluten
I do not eat wheat or any gluten-containing foods. I avoided oats for a long time, having found that my energy levels tanked within a couple of hours of eating them, as opposed to eggs and bacon, which would get me to noon or 1 PM without any hunger. At the time, I assumed that it was because of gluten. Oats do not contain gluten, per se. The caution for celiac folks and people with gluten sensitivities is to ensure that the oats were not exposed to gluten during processing. Some labels now indicate this. However, oats do contain avenin. And some people who are very sensitive to gluten may also have an intolerance to avenin. Those with casein intolerance or allergy might try using citrus (lemon or lime juice) or apple cider vinegar to soak the oats, instead of yogurt, using less than the amount of yogurt I’ve mentioned here, perhaps even just a teaspoon per cup of oats.