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Santa Fe--A Southwestern Adventure of Sunshine, Art & Food.

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Grey and rainy days blanketed New York City in melancholy. My soul yearned for freedom, adventure and sunshine. Santa Fe, New Mexico beckoned me westward bound.

Santa Fe is a small town with the cosmopolitan culture of a large city. Pedestrian-friendly streets, a thriving art scene and world-renown cuisine reminded me of New York City. Open skies, adobe architecture and mountainous terrain told me I was firmly planted in the Southwest. 

I stayed at the Santa Fe Motel & Inn, which allowed easy walkability to so many great areas. A dog-friendly town, Freddy Mercury (my beloved pooch) came along for the adventure. 

Here are some favorite takeaways from my November 2018 trip:

1.   The Plaza.

The Historic Plaza is an open-air park in the center of downtown Santa Fe. It’s a hub of activity--people chatting, vendors selling tamales and Native American artisans displaying crafts alongside the Palace of Governors. No better place to sit and people-watch for a while. 

2.   Ten Thousand Waves.

Vacations are all about relaxation. Where better to wash away your worries than a Japanese-inspired spa on a mountaintop? The healing communal baths are outdoors, so you can gaze upon pine trees while being cocooned in healing waters. The onsite restaurant, Izanami, is modeled after a traditional izakaya—serving small plates and alcohol in a casual atmosphere.

3.   Canyon Road.

Santa Fe has the second largest art market in the USA after New York City. Nestled in the foothills of the Sangre de Cristo Mountains, Canyon Road has over 100 galleries, boutiques and restaurants in a half-mile walk and is worthy of a full-day of exploration. Freddy and I ambled slowly from gallery to gallery (the majority of which are dog-friendly), enjoying everything from modern, contemporary, and abstract art to Native American turquoise jewelry. Gallery owners were beyond friendly—one even beckoned me to sit and share a pot of tea. 

4.    The Railyard & Railyard Arts District.

A stone’s throw from my motel, The Santa Fe Railyard houses a cornucopia of good things—a weekly farmer’s market, contemporary art galleries, restaurants, a brewery, and the Violet Crown Cinema (where you can watch a movie and eat dinner). My favorite galleries were Tai Modern (featuring intricate, Japanese-inspired bamboo baskets) and Evoke (showcasing the work of the talented graphic novelist Kent Williams). 

5.   Gastronomic Pleasures.

I never discriminate when it comes to food. The street-side tamale is just as worthy as a Michelin-starred meal. Santa Fe is a foodie’s dream. I wish I could have stayed longer and eaten more. But, here are some favorite spots from my weeklong trip: 

  • The Hotel St. Francis has a great bar called Secreto. Their welcoming staff offered me a free smoked sage margarita. When I shared that I was a Japanophile, they insisted I try a specialty cocktail featuring sake and homemade mushroom bitters. One of my favorite drinks of 2018, it perfectly captured umami. 

  • Vinaigrette is a bright, vegetarian-friendly restaurant with an extensive list of yummy salads. I veered away from the standards, opting for an Ethiopian-inspired stew and it was hearty and delicious, especially paired with a fragrant white wine. Their neighboring sister restaurant, Modern General, would be Martha Stewart’s dream—filled with wooden tools, books and organic, sustainable eats. 

  • Want to rest your weary feet after all that walking? No better place to lounge than Rosewood Inn at Anasazi’s—a modern, upscale version of the pueblo.  Their lounge features light bites and classic cocktails in a peaceful, unpretentious setting.

  • Santa Fe Spirits is a friendly bar where bonding with locals is easy. Chase away the evening chill with an apple hot toddy. I didn’t try the distillery’s $10 tasting flight, but it had everyone buzzing.

In a week, Santa Fe worked its magic. I returned home refreshed and ready to hit the ground running. 

My trip cost $1300 through Expedia for both hotel and flights from NYC.

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Pulitzer-Prize Winner, Michael Moss, On Why I Can't Eat Just One Potato Chip.

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One of the best parts of living in Brooklyn is bumping into one of your favorite Pulitzer Prize-winning writers at your local ramen shop.

Having chosen Michael Moss’ “Salt Sugar Fat” for my book club, I invited him to join us for wine and a living room chat. Michael was down-to-earth and generous with his time, sharing his knowledge about the corporate food industry’s deliberate attempts to hook the American consumer on processed food.

As someone who studies emotional health and relationships, I often advise clients to strip processed foods from their diet. Chemicals, additives, and colorants wreak health on emotional health.

On a separate afternoon in Michael’s beautiful brownstone, we talked food. Corporations have changed the ways we eat (and not for the better).

  1. I can eat an entire bag of potato chips in one sitting! After reading “Salt Sugar Fat: How the Food Giants Hooked Us,” I learned that my lack of self-control is not entirely my fault. Please explain how food corporations impact the way we eat?

Well, you’re certainly not alone. In researching the book, I interviewed the former chief technical officer of the giant food manufacturer Kraft who was in charge of all things scientific for the company. He told me how he would come home from work and open a bag of chips only to find himself eating the whole thing. When he had to change his diet because of a knee injury that kept him from running, the first thing he did was banish many of his own company’s products from his house, knowing that he couldn’t restrain himself from over-eating. Or rather, knowing how these products were designed in ways that induced that kind of behavior.

The Food Giants use extraordinary science to hit the perfect amounts of salt, sugar and fat in their products that create the biggest amounts of desire in us. While the industry says it’s not intentionally trying to cause anyone to overeat, there is a very thin line between making a product that is likable and making one that causes you to want more and more.

On top of that, they became masters at marketing, finding ways through their advertising to hit the emotional buttons that cause us to eat—not because we are hungry, but because we are lonely or bored or distracted.

It’s that double whammy of food science and marketing that has made them so successful in dominating our eating habits. 

2. Your upcoming book is about addiction. Is food addictive? How is this addiction impacting us emotionally, as well as physically?

I’m still wrestling with this, but at the moment I’d say, “Yes, food is addictive, but…” And, before I get to the but, it’s important to consider the definition of addiction. I like what a CEO of Philip Morris said when pressed to define the condition and he settled on, “a repetitive behavior that some people find difficult to quit.” To which I would add, of course, that the repetitive behaviors we care about are those that in one way another cause us harm. But the key word in his definition for me is some.

Addiction is quite capricious. I’ve learned from neuroscientists and others who are studying this matter that there is compelling evidence that some foods – pizza, burgers, chocolate, French fries, potato chips – can compel us to overeat to the extent that it harms our health, in much the same way that some drugs cause people to hurt themselves. But, as with narcotics, the most addictive foods don’t compel everyone to overeat. Just some of us, and sometimes at just some moments in our life. It’s not just the food or the drug that’s at play in addiction, it’s also our own vulnerability.

The but in my answer comes from questioning whether viewing food as addictive is the way we want to go, given how the industry has preparing for that eventuality. But I’ll save that for the book.

3. Most Americans have limited time and money. What are some good rules to make healthier choices that save money?

Question the value of convenience. The industry coined that term to promote their products as time savers, but they’ve wildly exaggerated the convenience of their products, while hoping we overlook the cost to our health and pocketbooks.

Consider pasta sauce. We can buy their 32-ounce jar for $7 or $8, and it will have hefty amounts of sugar and salt because they need those as preservatives and to cover up the fact that their tomatoes weren’t good. Or we can buy a can or two of Red Pack plum tomatoes (yum, you can sip the liquid), drop them into a skillet where garlic has been sautéing in olive oil for 2 minutes. With a few sundry herbs and a pinch of sugar (just cause my mom always did) and salt (and a few minutes more on the stovetop, while we’re chatting a friend), we have sauce for the ages, for much less money. If convenience is co-opting, adding just a little bit of cooking from scratch to our lives is empowering.

Now, whisking a thin stream of olive oil into an egg yolk to make mayo is a bit trickier, but wow, what a thing that is when you pull that off.

4. I teach about relationships, especially the concept of “mutuality”—where all parties are getting their needs met in a manner that is equal and fair. Corporations and consumers are in a relationship with one another. Big food corporations (and shareholders) are satisfying their needs monetarily (with annual sales of $1 trillion dollars). Are consumers getting their needs me? If so, how?

Needs met? We’ve been robbed, flat out.

We’ve gotten physically sick from their products. Obesity alone now besets one in three people and has a health-consequence price tag in the hundreds of billions of dollars that we have to pay, not the companies.

We’ve gotten emotionally sick, as well, trading the sterile microwaved product for the love-infused homemade meal. And we’ve gotten an economy where mothers eat at McDonald’s only because it’s the one place they can afford where their family is willing to sit down together for a meal. They’re bargaining with the devil that the emotional quotient of a family meal is worth the price they pay in harm to their health. 

5. I worked for NYC government under the Bloomberg Administration. He saw government as a vital player in matters of public health. (During his tenure, he banned trans fats, required food establishments to post calorie counts, encouraged green markets and produce carts, and started the country's first large-scale registry of people with diabetes.) How is government regulating the food industry now? What policies would have a positive impact on public health? 

I was so surprised to learn through my research how the Food Giants in some ways are even more powerful than the government agencies that supposedly regulate them on our behalf.

It wasn’t until the 1990s that they were even required to tell us what they put into their packaged goods. And, it’s not until now that they’re pressed to say how much sugar they add. They’re allowed to put most any lie on the front of their packages, hoping to deceive us into overlooking the fine print on the back.

More critically, the government watchdogs have let them turn the conversation about food into conversation about nutritionist (i.e., How many grams of saturated fat does that box have?) versus “Is this real food made with real ingredients?” The companies will always win in that framework because they can adjust their ingredients to play up or down whatever nutrition thing we’re most concerned with at the moment (e.g., sugar or fat).

I loved the work Bloomberg did and the conversation that Michelle Obama started, but because of the industry’s power, even she ended up having to focus more on physical exercise as the solution to our food trouble than finding more ways to excise the Food Giants from our lives. And, they were the best of elected officials. So, no, I’m not looking much to government for change, but rather to us the people, and in this there is very good news. Just a little shift in our buying habits is enough to cause panic in the Food Giants, and we already see them scrambling to find ways (or acquire other companies that know how) to reinvent processed food so that it’s convenient, affordable, yummy but also good for us. Which is a great step in the right direction.

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#10A. Friendship Is the Training Ground for Romance (Answers).

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In our earlier installment, Tara spoke of the social isolation and loneliness she was feelings. I taught her the importance of real-life connection, through friendship, absent a romantic relationship. I also asked a series of questions. The answers are below.

1.     What does it mean that grieving is a “one step forward, two steps backwards process?”

Grief is not a straight, upward trajectory. Instead, it’s process that has many peaks and valleys. Ultimately, healing will happen, but there may be setbacks along the way.  As you can tell from Tara’s story, she has days where she feels empowered, calm and hopeful. Other times, she feels sad, forlorn, and heavy-hearted. The range of feelings are completely natural and normal.

2.     Why is social media no substitute for real-life friendship?

Social media has been a wonderful forum to connect with friends across spans of time and distance. However, emotional health is fostered by quality relationships. Better to have fewer people with whom you can have a real, substantive conversation than many low-level engagements.

Extensive use of social media has been linked to depression and anxiety. Be wary of spending too much time on the computer. Instead, use your time wisely—connecting with true friends in real life.

3.     Why is it important to practice intimacy in friendships?

Romance is the Super Bowl of relationships! The stakes are extremely high. You may be fearful of being vulnerable, setting boundaries, or practicing forgiveness with someone you could lose.

Friendships provide stability and consistency.

As you weather the ups and downs with friends, intimacy grows and deepens. They are the “safe space” where you can be honest, authentic and vulnerable. Friendships are an extremely important component of emotional health— and a key factor in long-term health and happiness. Studies have shown that supportive friendships in old age are a stronger predictor of well-being than family connections.

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#10. Friendship Is the Training Ground for Romance.

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Christmas and New Year’s have just passed. Her first holidays without Matt, I worry about Tara. It’s our eighth session together.

“How are you doing?” 

“I’m having a hard time,” she says with a quivering voice. “I spent the holidays pretty much alone. It was sobering.”

“It’s ok to be sad. Allow your feelings to happen. Don’t judge them. They will change. Grieving is a two-step forward, one-step backwards process.” 

When I started School of Love NYC, I had no idea I would connect with a global audience of women and men who were grieving the loss of love. Far too many people were suffering from the acute psychological effects of isolation. 

I purposely built Group Classes with anonymity and confidentiality in mind.  I wanted people to share truthfully and honestly. As people share uncensored emotions, collective healing happens. It is a beautiful thing to witness.

“I did an experiment--I didn’t text anyone. I wanted to see who would reach out to say they were thinking of me,” Tara says. “On Christmas, only my parents called. None of my siblings. Only one of my friends reached out. The pain was unbearable.”

Her voice is barely a whisper.

“I am an extremely warm person. I have over four hundred friends on Facebook. But, when push comes to shove, I feel so very alone.”

Despite the “connectivity” of social media, many of my clients feel acute loneliness. We all need real-life conversation. We all need to feel seen and heard. Our burdens lift as we communicate with other people who care.

“Tara, do you have girlfriends? Ones with whom you can talk freely? Without censorship or judgment?”

“My college girlfriends all got married and had kids. They are too busy,” she replied.

“How about single friends in a similar position to you?” 

“Not really,” she replied. “Most have boyfriends. I never imagined I would feel so alone at 36.”

Both married and single people alike need friendship.

Friendships are a place to practice relationship skills like empathy, vulnerability, conflict resolution, and forgiveness. To prosper, romantic relationships must be supported by a village of supportive friends.

I often advise my clients to forgo dating until they have built a strong circle of friends.

“Tara, you’re being brave and honest. You’re saying out loud what other people are thinking. Love comes in many forms. It’s time to shore up the reserves. Only then will you be strong enough—and without neediness—to attract the right romantic partner.” 

Tara breathes out a sigh of relief.

“Talking to you makes me feel so much better—lighter and brighter. You have magical healing powers.”

Everyone needs someone with whom to have real and meaningful conversations. As you practice this art, you become an ambassador. You build bridges and find common ground.  You have the power to become an agent for social change—capable of healing the world. 

1.   What does it mean that grieving is a “one step forward, two steps backwards process?”

2.   Why is social media no substitute for real-life friendship?

3.   Why is it important to practice intimacy in friendships?

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#9A. You Get What You Think You Deserve (Answers).

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In our earlier installment, Tara complained about the abusive management style of her boss. I taught her that as she changes her mindset, all relationships in her life will be transformed. I also asked a series of questions—the answers are below:

1.     How does fear sabotage romantic and professional relationships?

When you have low self-esteem, fear will keep you stuck in poor relationships of all kinds. Out of fear, you will tolerate disrespect in romance, family dynamics, friendships, and working conditions.  

In Tara’s case, she has tolerated a working environment rife with problems. At a minimum, she is entitled to: paid sick and break time (including a lunch hour), overtime pay, and working conditions in line with a code of conduct. (She should not have to tolerate a screaming boss.) She is likely entitled to a pay raise, too.

2.     What are boundaries?

Boundaries are the invisible “fences” that protect us. They keep other people from inappropriately coming into our space. They keep us from going into other people’s space. 

Boundaries keep us safe and allow us to stop taking responsibility for the thoughts, feelings and behaviors of others.

3.     Where have Tara’s boundaries been violated?

Everyone is entitled to fair and respectful behavior. Tara’s boundaries were violated when she:

  • Worked overtime without pay.

  • Received a condescending and demeaning response to a request for a pay raise.

  • Went to work, despite having the flu and a fever.

  • Worked without lunch and paid breaks, as required by law.

  • Tolerated working conditions contrary to a code of conduct (i.e., a screaming boss.)

 

 

 



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