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Photographs by Meadow Linn

Thursday, December 1, 2011

Affirm the Affirmative

I’m seeing my chiropractor today, and I’m going to tell a fib.

I’m an honest person, perhaps even to a fault. As a child when my mom would enhance a story for dramatic effect, I was always there to set the record straight. “No, Mom, there weren’t ten geese. There were only eight.” Or, “That’s not right. You paid $5.99, not $6.00.” Truth and details have always been important to me, sometimes annoyingly so.

A few years ago, however, I discovered a secret. Fibbing can bring about remarkable results. The medical profession repeatedly reminds us that to get the best care, we must be honest with our doctors. In some cases, however, honesty isn’t always the best policy.

I thrive on positive reinforcement and recoil from rebuke. When I first moved to Los Angeles, my new physician asked how often I exercised. I’d just started a new job, had a long commute, and was acquainting myself with the Southern California car culture, which meant that unless walking from my office to the break room was what she meant by exercise, I wasn’t getting much. Nor was I taking the vitamin supplements she was urging. I was duly chastised and felt like a schoolgirl being scolded for not doing my homework. After that visit, however, I did not commence an exercise regimen.

Reveling in having conquered the mountain
The next time my doctor asked about my exercise habits, I told her I worked out three to five times a week and did a combination of cardio and weights. It felt so good to be praised that I was inspired to actually make it true. That, combined with the guilt about not telling the truth, was the jumpstart I needed. I reinstated my gym membership, hired a personal trainer, and bought a load of vitamins at the health food store. Had I told her that I’d put my gym membership on permanent “vacation hold” and that after a long day of teaching elementary school, I was too tired to do anything but eat dinner and watch TV, I’m pretty sure I would have been reprimanded and wouldn’t have felt so inspired to start exercising.

On another occasion, a dentist told me I had bad teeth and scared me with stories of gum decay. Rather than this encouraging me to make an even greater effort with my oral hygiene, I felt so discouraged—like the whole situation was hopeless—that I gave up flossing all together. It turns out that this dentist was just trying to find ways to drum up extra business. The next dentist I saw praised my strong teeth and my good habits. Wanting to prove her right, I went home and started flossing religiously and put more thought into how and when I brushed.

When I see my chiropractor this afternoon and he asks if I’ve been keeping up with the stretches and exercises that he recommended, I’m going to tell him that I have, which is mostly true. Seeing him and fibbing a bit will be just the inspiration I need to put even more time and energy into doing the things necessary to keep my body strong, healthy, and pain free.

A photo from my backpacking days
Although positive reinforcement doesn’t work for everyone, in my years as a schoolteacher, I observed that the majority of children do best when encouraged in the affirmative. And it’s the same for adults. For instance, the other day a friend told me that I’m the healthiest person she knows. Unfortunately, the Meadow she knew is a more energetic 20-year old version of myself. Wanting, however, to live up to her view of me, I immediately ate some leafy greens and went for a fast walk up a steep hill.

What motivates you? If you’re like me and are inspired by praise, when giving yourself pep talks or when conversing with friends, clients, or children, try to find ways to laud effort. For most of us, this makes us want to do and be that much better.


Leafy Greens with Green Apple

Leafy greens in my garden this past summer
Wanting to be the person my old friend thinks I am, I’m making an even greater effort to exercise and eat well. Leafy greens are not only full of healthful vitamins and minerals, but also they contain protein and are really tasty too. The Tuscan kale that I planted in my garden last winter continues to grow and grow. I’ve had the opportunity to eat it in soups, salads, and sautéed. This is my current favorite preparation. It’s full of flavor and is a wonderful late autumn dish. I especially like it alongside roasted poultry.

1 bunch kale (approx. 8 oz.), stalks removed and roughly chopped
1 bunch Swiss chard (approx. 8 oz.), roughly chopped (stems included)
1 Granny Smith apple, peeled, cored, and thinly sliced
5-6 cloves garlic, thinly sliced
1/3 cup cider vinegar
salt (optional)*

Wash the kale and chard. As long as you can cut the greens safely while they’re still damp, don’t worry about drying them. The extra moisture will actually help facilitate the cooking. Remove the fibrous interior rib (stalk) from the kale and then roughly chop the leaves. Chop the chard, including the stem. Place both in a large heavy-bottomed pot. Add the apple and garlic slices. Pour the cider vinegar over the greens and turn to medium heat and cover. Stir occasionally and adjust heat as needed so that the greens braise in their own juices without sticking to the bottom. After about an hour they will be tender and ready for an autumn feast.

*I don’t use salt in this dish since the greens have a natural saltiness to them, but if you want it a bit saltier, add it to taste.