What Is Processed Food, Anyway?

4698597608_06411e33da_zI decided to stop eating processed food for a month, which is a great way to get really philosophical about what the definition of a process is. Does pulling a food from the ground, chopping it up, and cooking it count as a process? What about drying or rehydrating it? What about additives and chemicals? Are quote unquote natural ones more harmful than artificial ones? Some foods like coffee take extensive processing to get to their final form. You pick the beans and husk the shell and dry the beans and rehusk the shell and roast and brew… still, I’d argue that coffee is healthier than, say, juicing fresh fruit if you’re looking at your blood sugar level.

Some people say processed foods come in a box or a jar, and yet it’s possible to get unprocessed foods in a box or a jar, like the whole vegetables boxed up at Trader Joe’s. I’ve made my own pickles before which certainly come in a jar, and anyone who’s done their own canning would hardly think canned veggies are less nutritious; they’re just preserved, is all.

Instead of arguing about what a process is, I think it makes more sense to determine the reason you’re going on this weird diet, and make decisions accordingly. Let’s explore.

Reason #1: Weight loss

I almost don’t think it even matters which diet you go on for weight loss. Any kind of dietary restriction means you’ll likely be getting fewer calories, and boom. Pounds lost. It is a bit easier if you’re eating nutrient-dense food that makes you full than trying to subsist on nothing but a large popcorn at the movie theater a day, for example. And elevated blood sugar can stymie weight loss levels. Still, being super strict about trace amounts of additives with weight loss being the ultimate goal seems a little silly.

Reason #2: Learning to deal with your shit

If you’re prone to eating emotionally and give up those things you crave for any length of time, you’ll either be miserable or learn some new (and ideally healthier) strategies to help you change the way you feel. Or maybe you’ll do both. Still, giving up sugar or meat or grains or whatnot is likely to lead to the need for new coping mechanisms. Some people find they were eating to indulge, and look for other ways to indulge. Some people eat crap food when they’re feeling self-destructive, and you can even find healthier ways to deal with that. If you’re trying to eat clean to work on emotional eating, probably sticking to whichever rules you created and avoiding those foods you crave when emotionally triggered is probably more important than the minutiae of the rules themselves.

Reason #3: Purity

Some people think giving up certain foods will help them get rid of distractions and focus more on spiritual matters or whatnot. I’m not sure this is true for everyone, because I know a lot of people who are vegans but treat people like dirt, but whatever floats your boat. I don’t think I’m in a position to tell people what to eat to feel pure, so I’ll leave that to the seekers.

Reason #4: Pinning down food sensitivities

Cutting out a bunch of food and then slowly reintroducing it can sometimes help people with food sensitivities pinpoint them more specifically. I was just about to write that being allergic to preservatives is probably unlikely, but then I remembered that  but I’m personally allergic to the preservatives in contact lens solution (you know, in my eyes) and have to use Unisol, so I guess anything is possible.

Reason #5: Health?

I put a big question mark next to that because some unprocessed foods are far from healthy. Like if you don’t consider juicing a process and are drinking apple juice and praising yourself for not eating sugar, you’re probably doing it wrong. I mean, avoiding empty calories can certainly be effective for health, but it’s also possible to seek out substitutes that aren’t really that much healthier. Something to watch out for. It’s also worth noting that different people respond to food in different ways depending on a wide range of issues…

So What Is A Process?

Um…I still don’t know, exactly, but hopefully this has given you some food for thought and a way to try to figure out what to eat based on what you’re trying to do. As for me? I decided to stick to meat, veggies, nuts and seeds, and a little fruit, but decided canned and frozen foods and herbal teas were a-okay. Also, I ate s’mores while camping because s’mores are delicious.

Lead photo by Cam Evans


Martins Comida Casera: A Review, Of Sorts

15740988434_93923611e2_zRiding your bike on the sidewalk isn’t cool. I definitely ascribe to the “cyclists are traffic, so they should act like it” philosophy. But you know what’s even less cool than biking on the sidewalk? Restaurant owners kicking cyclists’ back wheels while the person is still on the bike. This is something I saw Martin Fuentes, the owner of Martins Comida Casera on 557 N 4th Ave. in Tucson, do to a cyclist some time ago. I didn’t say anything about it at the time, but always wished I had, so when I was walking on 4th Avenue past his restaurant the other day and he started chatting me up, I brought it up to him.

Typically when people are called out for harassing cyclists, they respond with an apology, or at least an outright denial. Martin, on the other hand, launched back with these witty epithets:

“You should bring your dad in and I’ll kick his ass, too.” (Um, what am I, 12? Also, my dad carries around a tire iron on his peaceful days, so good luck with that.)

“You need to lose ten pounds.” (Actually, I only need to lose 2.5, but it’s always amusing to be fat shamed by someone who’s obese… though I suppose it’s a good thing that someone’s eating the food there!)

“You should Facebook me.” (Yeah, not likely, but at least this non-sequitur kept me on my toes!)

In any case, I was wondering whether other people had had similar experiences with this restaurant owner, whose business strategy appears to be harassing customers and cyclists alike. I didn’t have to go far.

From Zomato:

Martin needs to takes bipolar test, cause he’s a fool….. My family went in on a street fair day 2015,and from the start he acted like a jerk, not only the horchata tasted horrible, but the fact when we told him, he went off on us, we were a bunch of kids, were grown adults, I don’t know how he stays in business, but this place needs to shut down, the pictures and style is tacky, and if everyone thinks his food is good, they haven’t had real Mexican food, cause his is a freaking joke.


From TripAdvisor:


I had the misfortune of going to this place with my 83 year old mother, as she had read a recent review in the local paper. We arrived to find a dark, hole festooned with Luchador paintings on the walls. Aside from 2 women in the side room, we were the only clients. I ordered a beer. Oh Sorry – no beer/wine license? We ordered tacos. Some gray sauce was served with chips.

When my mother turned to the owner and asked (in fluent Spanish) for some ‘red salsa”, the owner replied very loudly & angrily that everyone has their version of red salsa – that this gray slop in a pancake jar was his…and that if we wanted, he had green salsa, which he then violently slammed down on the table and walked away.

My mother and I were both shocked and dismayed at his arrogant, rude behavior, such that we both wanted to leave immediately…we stayed, gulped down our mediocre food and left.

Do not frequent this establishment.

This owner does not deserve to be in business and gives Tucson dining a bad name.

From Yelp (leaving out people complaining about bad food and a lack of running water in the bathroom)

I will never support this business again. Sat on the patio with a friend for lunch. Martin himself brought us some delicious chips and salsa, and then proceeded to berate his employee loudly, publicly, and profanely for not getting our chips to us in time. We had only been there a minute.  We got up and left. This man is abusive to his staff – my friend and I were totally shocked. This is not a kind place.  I do not care how good the food is.


The food is crazy good, but the owner is mad! I can’t support a place that verbally abuses his employees. The fact that he does it in front of his customers is insanity. As a business owner why would you do that?   Be nice man!


Owner /server is rude , inappropriate racial jokes. Food is mediocre at best and expensive. There are many other places in Tucson with higher quality food and service, I recommend you try out any of the taquerias in Southside Tucson and you will experience much better food and service . Will never set foot in this establishment again!


HOWEVER! Martin is at one time a super nice guy and at others, an incredible jerk. I’ve heard him viciously upbraiding his staff on multiple occasions and screaming at customers when they do things he doesn’t agree with. Then other times he might welcome you in with a big smile and give you free tacos. The unpredictability of his mood keeps me from going back as often as I would like. Dude needs to balance his medication, like yesterday.


One of my biggest pet peeves is seeing someone in charge berate another person in public, there’s no need for it.


The owners PERSONALITY keeps me from his business altogether.


The owner of this place is a complete jerk. I arrived Thursday night and was greeted by him cursing out one of his employees, berating him for making lemonade incorrectly. The next day he spent catcalling the pretty girls who walked by, and on Sunday he went over to the booth of a visiting artist and literally SCREAMED at this poor little artist for placing her small cart of items on the sidewalk next to his store. It wasn’t even blocking any part of the crappy little storefront, but he decided that attempting to humiliate this woman in front of a large group of clients would make his place more popular. I cheered out loud when the group of clients yelled right back at him for being such an ass. Great job being a total jerk and losing a large group of prospective diners.


I went into this place, one day while I was with my family wasting time in 4th ave. We walked in a fat guy with a cigarette in his mouth (inside the freakin’ restaurant) looked at me like he was pissed that I int erupted his siesta. The place smelled like burnt grease so we left. What a dive.

From Google Reviews:

Martin actually, the owner tried to start a fist fight with me. Martin is a dirt bag, his food is probably dirty too.


Over priced, not clean (no gloves and flies inside), terrible service (what waiter? no receipt?), there where 3 tables with customers and it took us 40 minutes to get our lunch/food… Martin (cigaret smoking inside his restaurant) should decrease the attitude/ foul language (English and Spanish) and increase the quality /service if he wants to have a successful business. What a disappointment and disgrace for Mexican food and entrepreneurs worldwide.

and for a long review, just go to Restaurantica. Here’s how it starts:

Let me tell you my dear lector that I’m Mexican and that is why I feel this restaurant should not represent our cuisine.

So SEE it’s not just me and the cyclist he kicked, but a legion of customers and would-be customers.


Now you might say I’m cherrypicking reviews and only posting the bad ones, and you would be correct. I don’t have to give a platform for people who have bad taste in Mexican food, or who think that making watery salsa absolves someone of their need to, you know, not harass cyclists, pedestrians, and customers. But since I want to do more than just whine, I wanted to tell you about some amazing places to eat that are walking distance from Martins Comida Casera, so you don’t have to subject yourself to his food or his attitude problem.

My two favorites:

La Indita serves delicious, authentic food made by Maria Garcia, who is a Tarascas Indian from the Mexican State of Michoacan. When I first lived in Tucson, I’d eat here after every paycheck.

Maya Quetzal serves amazing Guatemalan food. It is cozy and comfortable, and serves some of the best mole I’ve ever had.  Plenty of vegetarian options on the menu if you’re not a meat-eater.

There’s also Pancho Villa if you’re dead set on Mexican, and might I recommend B-Line or the Coronet if you’re not? Heck,  you can even print out a restaurant guide with 20 food options. Just make sure to cross Martins’ off the list.

And while we’re at it, there are many organizations in Tucson that support local cyclists, if you want to build your own bike, or even take a safety class in exchange for a free helmet, bike light set, U-lock or multi tool. Just stay off the sidewalk, and away from Martins Comida Casera!

Lead photo courtesy of Meme BingeSecond image courtesy Chris Piascik  Flower photo courtesy of Dennis Jarvis

Stuff I Wrote: Social Media Marketing, Small Biz Tactics, Food and Sport

Writing Fountain pen

If you’re like me, you can barely keep up with your overflowing email inbox, let alone the various social media platforms competing for your attention. As such, I regularly compile all of the articles and posts I’ve written and put them in one place, by category. I usually do this monthly, but this edition is a double-whammy. Check it out.

Social Media Marketing

Small Biz


  • Ch-ch-ch-chia! (Costco Connection). And another cheat meal for the cavemen amongst us.


  • Matchmaking Matters (Sherdog). Invicta Fighting Championships building their brand by giving fighters the matches they want when they want them.

Video Interviews From Invicta Fighting Championships

I was lucky enough to get to speak with fighters Cris ‘Cyborg’ Justino, Leslie “the Peacemaker” Smith, Jessica Pene and Tecia ‘Little Tornado’ Torres at Invicta Fighting Championships 6 in Kansas City. Here are the interviews.


401px-Salvia_hispanica_jd_alp_0Check out my piece on chia seeds in the July issue of the Costco Connection, on page 50.


Special thanks to Jennifer McDaniel, Adam Gilbert and Kurtis Frank for recipes and detailed information on this plant.

First Harvest

greensRobert Louis Stevenson said that one shouldn’t judge each day by the harvest they reap, but rather by the seeds that they plant. And yet partaking in the harvest is so much more fun. 🙂

I wanted to share a photo of some mixed greens from our garden, the first plant we’ve managed to harvest this year. Cherry tomatoes, brussel sprouts, kale and other delicious vegetables are growing strong. I’ve been diligently killing houseplants, but I won’t post pics of those.

Feel free to add a links to pictures from your own garden, or share what you’ve been growing in the comments!


Yael’s Variety Hour: Dinosaur Muscles, Freelance Life, Health and Fitness & Be The Change

Dinosaur mom with little babiesWelcome to this week’s Variety Hour, my collection of posts that drew my attention from around the internets. Unfortunately, I’ve been using Instapaper far too much, so I only have  9 posts to share.

Freelance Life

Be The Change

Health and Fitness


Book Review: Everyday Paleo Family Cookbook by Sarah Fragoso

picture-5When I did a 30-day Paleo experiment, it was Sarah Fragoso’s first book, Everyday Paleo, that I used. I interviewed her for issue 78 of the Performance Menu because I was so impressed by her recipes: economical, quick, easy and far less complex than ones I’d found elsewhere. Yummy yam spears and dry rub burgers have become staples, and her Paleo apple-cinnamon muffins are a household favorite.

Although I don’t have a family, the Everyday Paleo Family Cookbook is perfect for me. There are time-saving tips (and who doesn’t need those) and recipes with larger quantities of food to provide leftovers. In addition to family-specific chapters, there are 15 quick and easy recipe suggestions, and a nice chart of what  you need to have in your pantry and fridge…and where to find it, information which is startlingly missing from most cookbooks.

The Everyday Paleo Family Cookbook has an emphasis on slowing down and enjoying the moment. Each recipe listed has prep time, cooking time, and something extra–usually a story or some thoughts about what to pair the dish with. The ingredients are not that exotic or extravagant, but do provide variety. Lots of curries and good sauces and dips. I also appreciated the visual table of contents.

This is a great addition to Fragoso’s first cookbook, which is probably the Paleo cookbook I use most often. It’s great for families or those struggling with some of the same issues (such as a lack of time and money). It’ll run you $29.95. If you’re looking for your very first Paleo cookbook, I’d recommend Everyday Paleo. If you’ve had that for a while and are looking for a bit more variety with the same user-friendly style, or want to feed your entire family, this is a very good addition to your library.

On Emotional Eating (Some Thoughts From Adam Gilbert)

adamMy article for the February issue of the Performance Menu: Journal of Health and Athletic Excellence was an interview with weight loss coach Adam Gilbert, who runs MyBodyTutor.com. You can read the full thing for $2.75 (or buy the entire issue for $6.99). I wanted to run an excerpt addressing emotional eating.

Check your emotions

“I think when most people think of emotional eating they think of a girl watching Sex in the City on the couch, eating a pint of ice cream. However, we are all emotional eaters,” Gilbert ex plains. Any time you’re eating when you’re not truly physically hungry is emotional eating. ‘Am I hungry or am I eating to change the way I feel?’ That’s one of the questions Gilbert encourages people to ask themselves before they eat. “Nine times out of 10, what we’ll realize is that we’re not physically hungry. We’re emotionally hungry. We’re hungry for something else,” he says.

The next step is to try to figure out what’s bothering you, and what you’re really ‘hungry’ for. “We reach for food so many times and it’s really just out of habit, or mindless, we’re doing it for entertainment, to soothe ourselves, but we’re not actually physically hungry. So just asking ourselves the simple question, ‘am I hungry or am I eating to change the way I feel,’ can really help a lot, can really help you diagnose whether you’re physically hungry, which comes on gradually… we feel it in our stomach, we feel it in our head a little bit, whereas emotional hunger comes on suddenly. With emotional hunger, we crave a specific food. With emotional hunger, we can have snack after snack and nothing satisfies us. That’s because we’re not actually physically hungry.”

Realizing when you’re eating emotionally doesn’t necessarily stop you from doing it, so Gilbert recommends taking things a step further by asking yourself some more questions.

1. What am I really hungry for? (What’s really bothering me?)

2. What can I do about it?

3. Why don’t I do anything about it?

“What we’re doing when we’re emotionally eating is putting our hands in the air and saying, ‘I don’t want to deal with it; I don’t want to do anything but eat and suppress the emotions.’ Then we go into a food trance, as I call it, and hope everything works out on its own. But of course as soon as we’re done eating, we feel guilty, we feel regretful, and whatever was bothering us in the first place is still there. It’s much more effective to try to figure out what it is that’s bothering us and actually take action on that,” he explains.

If you’re intrigued by Adam’s philosophy on consistency, and need some daily personal accountability and feedback to reach your fat loss goals, check out MyBodyTutor.Com. Adam also offers a partner program, allowing coaches to use his platform to build their business and help their clients reach their goals. For more information, contact Adam at adam@mybodytutor.com.

Book Review: Paleo Slow Cooking by Chrissy Grower

If you’re following (or want to follow) a Paleo diet and are overwhelmed with the amount of cooking (and dishwashing) involved, here’s a quick solution: get a crockpot and pick  up a copy of Paleo Slow Cooking by Chrissy Gower.

I first discovered the magic of the crockpot while working as a middle school teacher. I’d forget to eat, so my amazing boyfriend (now fiance) got me a crockpot as a present. Stick in the food in the morning, let it cook all day, walk in the door at 6PM (or whenever), and voila–dinner is served.

Cooking elaborate Paleo meals is a lot of fun, but also quite time-consuming, and juggling work and travel and meetings and spending time with friends and family and at events and hitting the gym (and and and and and) often means grabbing food at the corner store, or worse, eating whatever’s readily available. With this cookbook and a slow cooker at your side, and just a bit of prior planning and preparation, you can make healthy food choices despite a hectic schedule…and best of all, there’s only one pot to clean when you’re done.

Paleo Slow Cooking includes recipes for hearty stocks and stews, meat-heavy dishes, vegetable-based sides, and even a few breakfast and dessert items thrown in for good measure. Personal favorites of mine include Old-Fashioned Beef Stew, Tortilla-less Chicken Soup, Classic Chicken Soup, several curry dishes, Chicken Cacciatore, Fiesta Lime Chicken, Grandpa’s Saucy Ribs and NorCal Margarita Chicken. Each recipe includes the prep and cook time, the tools needed, and the amount of people served.

We’ll continue our Paleo recipe book reviews with Paleo Indulgences and the Everyday Paleo Family Cookbook. Check out the Paleo Cookbook Roundup for more!

Two Questions

We’ve got pots of coffee at the ready to sort through your answers, so please fill out this incredibly short survey to help dictate content for 2013. Thanks in advance!

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