Come find yourself...

Wednesday, October 21, 2009

Rage and The Biggest Loser

Some very interesting news the other day regarding Jillian Michaels and the juggernaut which is known as The Biggest Loser. Seems Ms. Michaels is going to have a new show called Losing It With Jullian.

She will follow families in their homes and help change their diet and exercise habits.

Reveille and Empowered Media are producing. Giants in reality TV.

NBC has ordered eight segments of the series. Major money.

In the press release, this is what Ms. Michaels had to say about the show: "I hear all the time from people about 'Oh, it'd be so easy to do if I was on the ranch, if I had a personal gym. I got sick of hearing it. So we're telling people, we'll come to you and teach you how to be healthy."

The idea is each week she will work with a different family to help them make changes in their diet and exercise plans (or create ones, if there is a lack of).

Michaels is serving as executive producer (means she's one the big bosses), along with some of Oprah's team.

Joining Michaels will be the sweet and pretty (yet oddly uninteresting) chef Curtis Stone. Cutie Curtis will help guests make healthy meals and teach them how to cook healthier.

I love the idea. I do. I think a show about helping people become healthier is only a good thing. But I can't say I'm a total fan of Jillian's style of empowering.

It's odd -- she clearly knows people. I wouldn't be surprised if she has a degree in social work or if she's had some sort of training outside of her abrasive TV persona or been in therapy or read books on therapy...she's knows the deeper stuff of what makes people tick. She's smart, aware.

But she can be a bitch, can't she?

Nice rage issues for a show that featured Long Island-based physical trainer Anthony Badalamenti. Remember Sweet Tony? He was convicted last August of (according to police) allegedly inflicting multiple lacerations and bruises on the right hand, right leg and buttocks of his girlfriend's 6 year old child for 20 non-stop minutes.

The boy screamed so loud for help it caused the neighbors to call the police.

Am I making a connection between Tony and Jillian style of training? Absolutely not. Am I saying they advocated his methods? Absolutely not. Where they horrified he was a child beater? Of course. Please.

But...unleashing and promoting a hard-ass attitude in this life as the primary motivator to help people change is not, in my view, the best motivator to be rewarded or encouraged.

I see this attitude in New York City all the time. Be tough, be hard, be firm and take no prisoners. Sure, some people respond to that, but I don't think the majority of people DO. It scares people, it doesn't motivate them.

It's like pulling out a rotten tooth and leaving the festering nerve behind. Sure, the tooth is gone, but what about the nerve?

Don't get me wrong. The Biggest Loser is fantastic reality TV. A model all others contestant-driven reality shows must model themselves after.

Despite the fact it's showing its fake 'reality TV' seams too often (please, the product placement and the scripted moments are downright painful), you can't fake weight loss and the emotional stakes are engrossing.

While I can't deny she gets results, she doesn't need to be so nasty. Caring works wonders.

In this country, we feel caring and supportive behavior is weak and ineffective. We reward abrasive and caustic behavior. It's active, it has movement to it, it's something we can latch onto and it's something which plays well on TV.

I think the trick is to be a balance of the strong, diligent person and the patient, caring person. Which is why The Biggest Loser has both Bob and Jillian. Very logical.

Right, like Bob isn't gay...

Which brings me to today's blog.

The Biggest Loser is all about horribly obese people losing tremendous amounts of weight. If they don't, most will die a premature death. It's truly life or death.

None of the contestants are the 'average Joe and Jane' in American who must lose somewhere between 10-20 pounds to be in a much healthier weight bracket.

Yet I'm one of those people.

For years, I've carried around 10-20 pounds of extra weight. I've been teetering towards the extra 20 pounds as I reach my mid-40-'s.

The effects of such weight gain for a man of my age and size is not as immediately life threatening as the people on The Biggest Loser, but it IS shortening my life span and reducing the quality of my life.

I have to lose it to have a longer and better life.

I know so many people who are up to 20 pounds overweight. Some up to 40 pounds, but the magic number for most people seems to be around 20 pounds.

I have always envisioned The Food Therapist being about the effects of food and mood, but I've always wanted it to be about AFFORDABLE HEALTH.

How can the average middle-class American eat well and lose weight and not go broke in the process?

Most people who are terribly overweight are so because they eat the wrong foods which are fattening and CHEAP. Organic food is expensive. Health food is expensive.

McDonald isn't.

So I am putting my money where my mouth is. Every week, I am going to weight myself and I am going to lose the 10-20 pounds I have had around my gut for so many years.

And the way to do that is the combination of two things they always show on The Biggest Loser but they are the secret key:
  • Food
  • Exercise
We'll call this Biggest Loser-American Style.

I work out 6 times a week. So I know this is the tried and true 'calories in/calories out' system. I am putting in too many calories. It's that simple.

Years ago, when I taught aerobics, I knew teachers who taught all the time but couldn't get their ass to shrink down. They worked out everyday. Hard. 2 hours of 80's style aerobics. And they didn't lose weight. Why?


It all comes down to the food.

But not only the food -- the emotional process which gets in the way of us eating the wrong foods and the right foods.

I am going to make part of the focus of this blog about my own emotional journey to lose my bit of a gut by watching everything I'm eating and making smart food choices and dealing with the emotions behind these choices.

I feel bad I still have a bit of a gut. I feel like I'm fat and I hate I now wear a size 34 waist jean. I used to wear 29. I've gone up 5 sizes and I'm only in my mid-40's.

The madness must stop.

So part of this blog will by my own personal journey to lose my extra weight by creating healthier foods at home and honestly taking a look at what is in the foods I create at home.

Oprah may not be able to tame her inner demons making her eat her dreaded blue corn chips at night, but I sure as hell am going to try and tame my own.

For me...for my family...for my life.

They always say a therapist can't help the patient until they help themselves. And this is one of the few areas in my life I need to manage. Of course, it makes sense I'm trying to get a handle on my gut while I try to push a cooking show.

Life is one ironic journey, isn't it?

Mikey Bryan
Your Food Therapist

Monday, October 12, 2009

Brisket makes you happy!



Ugh (as in a caveman grunt).

I used to think I could eat meat and potatoes all day, but I've come to realize my Irish roots have resulted in my needing to eat potatoes every day but my slightly sophisticated tastes need meat well seasoned and tasty. (Andy swears by my potatoes - he says I could cook a potato blindfolded and he's right).

I'm not a fan of the meaty taste of meat. Gamey meat scares me. I've eaten it all: venison, lamb, goat, every part of the cow, ostrich, buffalo, alligator...loads of loads and loads of different red meats .

Wow. I'm salivating as I write this.

But I digress!

Meaty tasting meat scares me.

Problem is most of the tasty meat you have in restaurants is full of fat, calories, sodium and sugar. That is one of the primary reasons I cook so much at home. I control what myself and my husband put in our bodies. I know exactly what we are eating. And our energy levels and consistent health has proven to me we are doing the right thing.

If you eat right for most of the time, you feel right both physically and emotionally. Throw in 5-6 days a week of physical activity and I'm telling you, you are unstoppable.

You feel Present. Aware.

I've written about this before, but you know that funky slump you feel around 2PM or so? Maybe 3PM? You feel a bit depressed, lethargic and plain 'down'?

You're irritable because you are not making smart choice in your diet.

It's the truth!

Our neurotransmitter production is regulated by what we eat. What the hell is a neurotransmitter?

They are brain chemicals which are made from amino acids, the building blocks of proteins.

Study after study shows if you limit the amount and types of protein, sweets or simple carbs in yoru diet, your neurotransmitters are throw off!

Which makes you wacky.

You get pissy, annoyed, short tempered (normal behavior for New Yorkers; not so normal for the rest of the world), feel up and down; manic one moment, depressed the next. It also affects your sex drive AND your sleeping patterns.


The most famous neurotransmitter - serotonin - drops even if you have only been dieting for three weeks! Serotonin is known as the “feel good” neurotransmitter. It allows the body and mind to stay focused and relaxed.

You can easily imagine what can happen with frequent dieting… fatigue, lack of focus, bad moods, cravings and an overall lower level of willpower.

For women, hormone imbalances or PMS can also increase one’s probability of depleting serotonin levels.

Serotonin levels can be elevated by antidepressant medications. Prozac, Paxil, Zoloft and others.

I've written this until I'm blue in the face (fingers; face?) but if the type and timing of a person’s food intake were optimized for serotonin production, can we treat depression without medication?

I know it's absurd to think we can across the board, but research has shown it is a PROBABLE.

The link between this neurotransmitter and diet is really damn obvious.

Serotonin is made from tryptophan, an amino acid, along with B vitamins.

Tryptophan is found in protein-rich foods, however, in order for it to have access to and work in the brain, a carbohydrate source is needed as well.

When serotonin levels drop too low, the body attempts to remedy the situation by increasing serotonin production. How does it do this?

The brain produces cravings for sugary, sweet refined-carbohydrate foods such as candies, cookies, jams, icing and other desserts.


This is the answer - and God, I wish it could be a mandate all New Yorkers would be forced to memorize so they'd get in a BETTER MOOD (can you tell I'm in an 'I hate mean New Yorkers mood'?):

1. Carbs increase serotonin levels on their own, without protein.

2. These carbs are highly refined. They take relatively short amounts of time for the body to digest them. Their effect on serotonin production is thus quite rapid.

3. Cravings are satisfied because these simple carbohydrate foods also tend to cause a rapid rise in blood glucose, followed by a large drop - sort of the crash and burn effect. This is due to the fact that simple sugars require little digestion to be converted to glucose, the form of energy our bodies use. A quick lift followed by the crash and burn effect can result in an ongoing cycle that doesn’t get the chance to smooth out unless food choices change.

4. To prevent this from happening, carbohydrates that are nutrient- and fiber-rich are much preferable. Known as complex carbohydrates, these carbohydrates do not cause the immediate, drastic increase in blood sugar followed by a sharp crash, thereby keeping blood sugar at a more stable, even keel over time.

This results in improved mood!

That’s why eating the right foods at the right times of the day is vitally important to feeling great and staying energized throughout the day.

Whole grains and low-sugar cereals, most fresh and frozen vegetables and fruits without added sugar, lentils, peas, beans, brown rice, oat and rice bran, seeds and nuts.

You’ll also want to include protein-laden foods for steady and consistent serotonin production...hence today's recipe:


Managing your blood sugar will assist in maintaining adequate levels of serotonin which results in an enhanced mood and an improved sense of well-being.

This meal at will provide you with the ideal combination to take you through a large span of time feeling calm, level and aware - and it tastes DAMN GOOD.

Here we go!

Let's cook!


Active physical cooking time: 1 hour

Will serve as 8 generous portions

What you'll need for the BRISKET:
  • 4-5 pound FLAT CUT Beef Brisket*
Spice rub:
  • 1/8 cup light brown sugar
  • 1/4 cup plain, non-Hungarian paprika
  • 2 teaspoons cayenne pepper
  • 2 teaspoons hot chili powder
  • 1 teaspoon cumin
  • 1 teaspoon coriander
  • 2 teaspoons salt
  • 2 teaspoons cracked pepper
  • 1 bottle BULLS-EYE BBQ SAUCE, or (the preferred method), homemade BBQ Sauce.

  • 1 tablespoon extra virgin olive oil
  • 2 large yellow onions, chopped fine
  • 5 cloves garlic, chopped fine
  • 1 cup salt-free ketchup
  • ½ cup water
  • 4 tablespoons brown sugar
  • 2 tablespoons Worcestershire sauce
  • 2 tablespoons Dijon mustard
  • 1 teaspoon hot pepper sauce
  • 1 teaspoon chili powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon cayenne pepper
What'll you need for the COLESLAW:
  • Dole ready-made bag of coleslaw (in the fridge section)
  • 2 tablespoons low-fat mayo
  • 3-5 teaspoons cider vinegar
  • 1/4 cup low-fat Buttermilk, 1% milk fat
  • 1 teaspoons salt
  • Loads of fresh pepper
What you'll need for the YUKON POTATO MEDALLIONS:
  • 5-6 medium to large Yukon gold potatoes, sliced into 1/2 rounds
  • 3 tablespoon extra virgin olive oil
  • Pam extra-virgin olive oil spray
  • 2 teaspoons salt
  • Fresh cracked pepper to taste

*I learned about Beef Brisket from my dad and his brothers. They told me the cut of meat is located in the carcass between the fore shank and the plate. The actual meat is removed and trimmed into two distinct cuts, the Flat Cut (first cut) and the Point Cut (second cut). Due to the size of the full Brisket, which may weight between 8 to 12 pounds, it is cut in half by the butcher.

The Flat Cut, which is the piece typically cut by your local butcher, is a leaner and thinner cut of meat. A full layer of fat should be present on one side of the meat surface enabling the Flat Cut to remain moist and flavorful when cooked, but the fat should only be over 1/2 of one side of the meat.

The second cut is the Point Cut, or as my Dad called it, the Deckle. Avoid this cut. It's thicker and fattier.

The fat in both cuts of Beef Brisket help to moisten the meat when the cuts are slow cooked.

Brisket is great for our leaner economic times. I bought a 5 pound piece at Whole Foods in the Chelsea neighborhood of Manhattan and paid $4.99 a pound which is a great price, even at Whole Paycheck, er, WHOLE FOODS.

Here is what it should look like.

This side is the side with fat. See how it's a nice, thin layer over most of one side of the meat?

And here is the other side which I had the butcher cut so it's very lean.

You need fat on this meat so it tenderizes as it cooks, but to reduce fat and calories, you need only one side to have fat and only part of that one side.

The idea with tougher cuts of meat is you have to cook them longer to break down the muscle tissue and fiber. So, while Brisket is super cheap, it takes time but it DOESN'T take energy.

Here is what you do:

The night prior to putting in the slow-cooker but if all over with the spice rub (detailed above). Really massage the meat with the spices. I know, so gross, but it's so essential.

Wrap it up very, very tightly with Saran Wrap and refrigerate and put in the fridge for up to 24 hours.

What I did was wrap it up tight Saturday night @ 10PM then on Sunday morning @ 7:30AM I put it in the slow cooker. Yea, I know, my husband and I are clearly major party boys.

Put it in the slow cooker and set it on low for 10-12 hours, or, high for 5-6 hours. I personally like the taste of longer cooking, but both are fine.

After you have put the brisket in the cooker, either make the Homemade BBQ Sauce or use Bulls eye Brand BBQ (just about the best on the market).

Clearly, homemade is much better for you and has a stronger flavor, but if you simply don't have the energy or the time, I understand.

Make the Homemade Sauce by doing the following:

Heat up the oil in a 12 inch non-stick skillet
After 1 minute, add the onion and cook until clear, about 5 minutes
Add garlic, cook 30 seconds
Add the remaining ingredients and cook until thick, about 5-10 minutes

Pour the entire sauce over the brisket OR the entire bottle and cook until the meat offers very little resistance when the tines of a fork are pressed into the thickest center section.

Take the meat out of the cooker (careful; it's very heavy), put in a large casserole dish and loosely cover with aluminum foil. Now, tip the edge of the slow cooker insert up one one side so the sauce gathers on one end. Don't take the insert OUT just tip it so the sauce can gather at one end.

Let the sauce sit in the slow cooker for 10 or 15 minutes, then skim the surface of the sauce with a big spoon to remove some of the fat.

Now - stab the brisket all over with a fork and pour half of the sauce the cooker over it and then cover and let the meat sit for at least 30 minutes, preferably one hour.

Pour our the remaining sauce into a 2-cup glass measuring cup and let it sit to the side.

As the meat rests, occasionally skim the top of the thin layer of fat off of the sauce in the measuring cup until it's mostly fat free. Taste the sauce.

You WILL be amazed. YUM.

Now, as the meat is resting and allowed to soak up those amazing BBQ flavors, you can work on your coleslaw and potatoes which are an essential part of ANY brisket meal!

Get the above item - Dole's Classic Cole Slaw mix. So simple to use. It's great for all kinds of diets. I use it on tacos and burgers - but for a quick coleslaw for brisket it can't be beat.

As the brisket is resting, mix the entire bag with the mayo, the buttermilk, the salt and pepper and vinegar and taste. If you like a bit of spice, you can add up to 1/2 teaspoon cayenne pepper or a bit more vinegar. Adds hardly any calories.

Let the coleslaw sit and rest as you work on the potatoes.

Put your oven rack on the bottom run. Make sure it's a jelly-roll pan which can take intense heat and not warp.

Heat oven (with jelly-roll pan IN the oven) to 450 degrees.

Slice your potatoes so they are 1/2 inch wide. Very important they are the same width. Measure if you need to. No shame in measuring. Oh, I could write something nasty here but I shall refrain.

Now, this system I got from reading a newer Cooks Illustrated recipe, but, despite their audacious claim, not all of their recipes always 'work' I tweaked this a bit.

Put the slices potatoes in cold water in a pot over a high flame. When it reaches a boil (hint: you can make the water boil faster by covering with a lid - thank to my science hubby for this factoid!), reduce to a simmer for only five minutes.

Rinse the potatoes thoroughly and then put into a large bowl. Pour in 1 tablespoon oil and 1 tablespoon salt. Mix.

Now comes the important part. Add another tablespoon oil and another teaspoon salt and mix, mix, mix with a rubber spatula for 2 minutes until the surface of the potatoes are covered with a thin coating of 'starch'. According to CI, this will cause the potatoes to be crunchy on the outside and soft on the inside which sorta works.

'Sorta' in the sense they are not as crispy as I would have liked BUT they do end up being very, VERY good and tender on the inside...a bit bite of tender and tasty potato. it's a very clever recipe.

Carefully remove the hot baking sheet out of the oven - pour the final bit of oil on the hot pan and roll it around so the surface is coated.

Gently place the potato medallions on the baking sheet (try not to have them touch; they will brown more evenly if they are not touching) and throw in the oven for 15 minutes.

After 15 minutes, turn the pan around and check to see how they are browning. You must NOT turn them until they are super brown on the first side...very important.

After up to 15 more minutes on the first side, flip them over and crisp them for another 10 minutes or so. Put them on a paper-towel lined plate and cover with salt and pepper and serve.

As you can see, instead of a bun, we torn up a freshly baked Parisian-style Baguette with a bit of the brisket, four potato medallions and a big serving of slaw.

Yum! Perfect for the colder days of Fall!



Mikey Bryan
Your Food Therapist!

Friday, October 9, 2009

Chill, baby, chill...STRESS MOOD FOODS for you, just you and only you...

Today everyone is go, go, go.

When I was tell people I wrote a cookbook, their eyes glaze over. "A cookbook? Uh, that's nice, Mike."

Even after I tell them it's called FOOD FOR MOOD and it's all about recipes that fit certain moods and the connection between mood and food and how it can improve relationships, I still get blank stares.

We are an emotionally disconnected culture and it's not good.

Particularly from guys in my life. And not just my straight male friends, but the gay dudes as well. A cookbook? They could care less.

Of course, that is until I make it real personal.


"Yea, okay, you could care less I wrote a cookbook. I see what this is about. You're amazing and your male ego makes you think you know everything."


"It's true, it's true. Thank you for acknowledging my power."


"You got that direct report meeting with your boss today, right?"


"She hates me. I swear she hates me."


"You're stressed."


"Hell, no. I'm good."

(After I give him a knowing look...)


"Okay, okay. I'm tense. Whatever."


"I've got something for that."


"Really?" (long pause) "Is it legal?"

Yea, it's called Stress Foods.

Have a major meeting coming up? Need to chill out and need more help than a 2- minute audio tape on mindfulness meditation?

Too busy last night to cook? Too uninterested? Too tired?

Need to get food fast at the deli counter or store before the meeting? Your assistant about to order and asks you what you want?

Don't order the chicken cutlet sandwich.

Ignore the same old roasted turkey sandwich on toasted whole wheat with lettuce, mustard and roasted red peppers (and baked Lays). Sound familiar?

Here is what you need to eat for STRESS FOOD FOR MOOD:


I'm not a big fish eater. I know, everyone on the planet is. I'm a meat and potatoes guy. Which confuses the hell out of everyone I meet, being the foodie (hate that word) that I am. But I've changed my tune. I eat loads more fish.

Why?Fish is full of B vitamins. Especially the famous stress fighters of B6 and B12. In fact, B12 creates the "happy" brain chemical serotonin. Get a slab of roasted salmon for lunch. Salmon contains tyrosine, an amino acid that your brain uses to make dopamine and norepinephrine neurochemicals that keep you ALERT for that all-important meeting and kiss-ass session.

Try a tuna salad or sandwich (with light mayo, of course). Grilled mackerel with a side of leafy greens and whole-grain rice. Better yet, add spinach to the meal. You get the B vitamins in the spinach and you spike up the seratonin, dopamine and norepinephrine.

And this is cool - add carrots if you want. Roasted carrots, not the buttery ones. Calories! Loads of preliminary research has shown beta-carotine may help reduce the effects of oxidative stress on the old memory.

But hear me on this - don't down the Starbucks Venti before the meeting. Strong research has shown caffeine is linked to headaches before and after stressful events. The old wives tale it takes away headaches is just old wives tale.

Not a fish guy or gal? I feel your pain.


Try some BEEF for lunch. I know, beef has fallen out of favor BUT you need to consider it for your next meal.

Beef chills you out. Seriously. Why? It's got loads of iron, B vitamins and zinc. Like, LOADS. Of course, you must eat LEAN BEEF to avoid the unhealthy saturated fat, which increases your risk of coronary heart disease and other illnesses.

Key words for beef? Look for packages with the words loin or round on them...also, tenderloin is cool, as is top round.

If you get beef for lunch, ask them what kind of cut they make in the meal. A decent place will know and they will tell yo.

A great snack too is cantaloupe and cottage cheese.

Cantaloupe is an amazing source of vitamin C, which is crucial in combating stress. We all know stress deplete vitamin C in the adrenal glands, so you must replenish when you can.

And cottage cheese is a good source of vitamins B2 and B12. Mix it up with the cantaloupe for breakfast or a midday snack will help with your feelings of anxiety...totally not kidding. It works!

A lot of people tell me they don't have time to cook or they don't have the interest. I get that, I do, I tell them. Then I tell them to get a friggin' grip. Seriously.

I agree with Jillian on The Biggest Loser (though she could be a bit nicer, geeze). You feel like crap because you eat crap.

Eat right, feel right.

You eat the right foods, watch what you put into your body and you can live the kind of life at the kind of pace you want.

And despite what some may think, the food is never only about food. That's boring. Food is always about your relationship with yourself and others in your life.

I have done my work for today. get that grilled salmon before the big meeting and chill, baby, chill...

Your Groovy Food for Mood Gay Dude...


Friday, October 2, 2009

Shaking Jamie

I love Jamie Oliver.

And it's not just because he's adorable and has a wonderful wife and babies he clearly adores and has a great collection of mostly easy-to-make European-style recipes...

I love the guy because he's lovingly reckless in cooking and would make Martha Stewart so freak out by forcing her to shelf her OCD and just go for it.

Just like the delightful TV series with Jacques Pepin and Julie Childs (Jacques and Julia Cooking At Home), Jamie Oliver cooks with his entire body.

He uses his senses, he lifts pans into the air and tears basil and lettuce, he tosses cheese on fresh pasta and digs into his food -- and it's not done in the annoyingly arrogant style of someone like the pissy Gordon Ramsay...he does it because cooking is a physical act.

He is freeing because he loves the act of cooking. He taught me you work with food and you cook with your senses, not only by what is always printed on a recipe card.

I was watching Jacques and Julia make omelette's the other day and they were shaking pans and rattling dishes and having a grand old time. When people tell me cooking is a bitch, I'm gonna pull them into the kitchen and make them make an omelet the old fashioned way.

It's a blast!

I love the physicality of cooking. And one thing I've always loved is the way Jamie Oliver shakes the shit of this odd looking thing in his hand to mix spices. I always thought, Damn, that looks like fun. If only I had one of those. I do.

And you must as well.

Check it out:

Now this is cool looking.

I don't want to hear anymore about Rachael Ray's EVOO or see Martha hawking her stuff at Macy's or Emeril and his damn watered down and sodium filled spices...this is interactive cookware!

And did I mention it's cool looking?

What exactly is it? It's like a portable, rock and roll mortar and pestle. You know, this old thing:

I mean, look at this clunky thing. Christ - stone age anyone?

The new Jamie Oliver device is dishwasher safe and allows you to shake the shit out of anything and crush and grind and mix up all sorts of spices, garlic cloves and such. It's got a ping-pong sized ball that rolls around on the inside, causing the contents to break down inside.

I crushed lots of pepper and mustard seeds without much effort.

And man, can this make salad dressing.

It's a great, fun device for dressings and for grinding spices. I bought mine for $24.95 on sale and it's worth every penny. Doesn't take up much space and it's a kick to use.

A new, fun kitchen tool from a cook who is not afraid to wing it in the kitchen and HAVE FUN!