Dayna Macy’s “Ravenous” Journey to a Healthy Weight

Finding balance when it comes to food can be tricky, as Dayna Macy discovers in her new memoir, Ravenous: A Food Lover’s Journey from Obsession to Freedom (Hay House). For years, Macy wrestled with her weight, so she set out to untangle the emotional issues around food. Her journey included exploring the foods she found most seductive–sausage, chocolate, olives and cheese–visiting an organic farm, witnessing the slaughter of a steer, and returning to her childhood home.
Ultimately, Macy made peace with food and found her own comfortable, healthy weight. Today she feels better than ever while still enjoying the culinary abundance of Berkeley, Calif., where she lives with her husband and twin boys, and works as a managing editor at Yoga Journal.

Your diet seemed good to begin with–you’d eaten organic food for years and understood the source of your food better than most people. What was missing?

Even though I ate organic, sustainable food, I ate too much of it, so it’s possible to be a fat foodie. Knowledge about healthy food doesn’t necessarily equate a healthy relationship with it.

It’s not that I ate bad food. I simply ate too much for my body to sustain a healthy weight. When I started the journey of writing the book, I was a size 18.

I’m a feminist at root, and fat can be a feminist issue. It’s a health issue, too. I wasn’t happy to stay at that weight because I was experiencing health problems, especially as I headed toward 50.

What kind of health problems?

High cholesterol, high blood pressure, joint problems. As a yogini, I was having problems doing my practice, and I realized I was doing less and less yoga because it kept getting harder and harder.

You originally planned to conquer your trigger foods (chocolate, cheese, olives, etc.) by understanding them better, but it didn’t work out that way. Why not?

I thought I would go on this journey and there would be some kind of magical gift so I would appreciate my food, love my food and intuitively know how much I should eat and when I should eat it, and I would lose weight. That’s not what happened.

It did give me a much deeper appreciation for those foods that I would somewhat thoughtlessly eat before. I got a much deeper appreciation for the abundance of this planet and the hard work it takes to make these foods. It’s a beautiful thing.

So, I was a size 18, appreciating all this wonderful food and love and abundance, but I still hadn’t fundamentally changed. My journey was to find balance and make peace with my body. In my heart of hearts, I knew that balance meant losing weight.

What finally helped untangle your issues with food?

There were a few spiritual-emotional a-ha moments. One was the three-day fast, because I had all these ideas of what would happen, that didn’t, and then when the hunger did hit, it hit me mercilessly.

How did you react?

With complete anxiety. I realized that what I’d been running from was anxiety and fear. But because I’d made this commitment–and a commitment to write about it–I didn’t run from it. I had sky-high cravings for a very specific salami that’s made in the Bay Area. I’m not sure that if I hadn’t made this very public commitment I would have withstood it. I might have given in.

What I noticed was one of these very basic Buddhist teachings, which is that everything passes. Things change. You can know these things intellectually, but it doesn’t mean you understand them on a physical, soul level.

Then there was the nutritionist who called you fat…

She didn’t mean it meanly at all. It was accurate. It was the beginning of what I call “clear seeing.” There’s a lot of wishful thinking around food and body image and weight. Women have an extra burden–aging women have an even bigger burden. We want to still be seen and beautiful. There’s a lot of anxiety and fear around that.

Being called fat–I think was ready to hear it from a kind, trusted source.

Ultimately, portion control and keeping track of what you eat were the keys to finding your comfortable weight. Those are tried-and-true diet strategies. So–and I’m just playing devil’s advocate here–why didn’t you start with that?

I’m a rebel by nature. If someone gives me the “D” word–diet–I’ll tell them to take a hike. I thought portion control reeked of “diet.”I thought I could outsmart it.

There are all kinds of ways to lose weight, but I realized it was my portions. I started doing portion control and decided to make it a practice. I realized that measuring could, for me be a mindfulness practice.

I discovered that boundaries and limits are very freeing. I didn’t see that at the beginning. There was a sense of entitlement–I’m a food writer!–and the whole thing had to be reframed. Now, if I make room for that bread and cambozola in my day, and I account for it, you bet I’m going to enjoy every bite.

I had to do the work–I couldn’t take any shortcuts. I measure my food every day, and I record it. It’s been very powerful for me.

Have you found the balance you craved?

Now I’m a size 12. Some people will think that’s average, some people will think I’m thin. Others will think I’m fat and everything in between. Without being really ill, I’ll never be a size 6.

The most important thing is that I feel strong, I feel healthy, my yoga practice is kicking butt. The poses that had been off limits to me–my inversions, twists, all that stuff–are coming back into my practice, and that’s really joyful. And I’m 50!

Fair-Trade Chocolate Earthquake Cookies

I made a version of these addictive chocolate cookies in culinary school. Rolling the dough in two kinds of sugar creates a crackled appearance when the cookies spread as they bake. Since chocolate is the main ingredient, they’re an ideal way to showcase an artisanal product like Fair Trade-Certified chocolate.


Need more Valentine’s Day inspiration? Check out these recipes from our friends at Food Bloggers Los Angeles:

FBLA Chocolate Party 2014 Recipe and Resource Links


Savory Dishes

Champagne/Sparkling Wine Recommendations

  • Jaume Serra Cristalino Brut Cava ($7 “but tastes like $20+”) — Andrew Wilder of Eating Rules
  • NV Presto Prosecco Brut ($10-$12), a “price performer” — Alison Ashton of NOURISH Evolution
  • Brut Roederer Estate Mixed Vintage ($20) — Jennifer Daskevich of A Little Gourmet Everyday
  • Colbert Eco Brut (sugar-free organic sparkling wine; $25) — Caren Magill of The Fit Habit
  • Barefoot Bubbly Brut Cuvée ($10.99). “When serving mimosas there is no need to buy expensive bubbly, but naturally you don’t want to serve your guests headache-inducing sparkling wines or champagne either. The Brut Cuvée is Barefoot’s most traditional bubbly and tastes of green apple and jasmine with hints of kiwi and peach flavors which bubble up for a crisp finish and, in my opinion, make a delightful Mimosa,” said Priscilla Willis of She’s Cookin’.


No-Bake Peanut Butter Popcorn Treats

This no-bake dessert really should come with a warning … it’s irresistible. I enjoyed a couple of squares and had to send them to work with Christopher. He said I was quite popular that day. I’d suggest popping the corn on the stove in just a bit of canola oil. It takes just a few minutes and has none of the preservatives or waste that microwaved popcorn does. This whole dish, in fact, comes together in minutes.



Aphrodisiac Foods: Folklore or Fact?

by Cheryl Sternman Rule

Imagine if it were really true. If we could go to the grocery store and fill our carts with edibles that would turn us into sexual dynamos. If a certain vegetable made our libidos soar, or a fruit intensified bedroom pleasure, or a meat or fish or beverage so transformed us that passersby would inch a little closer.

Well, there’s good news and bad news. The good news is that throughout history, folkloric traditions have promoted certain foods as aphrodisiacs. These foods, named for the Greek goddess Aphrodite, are believed not only to enhance sexual pleasure, but to bring us closer to the divine, make us more fertile, and hold forth the promise of immortality. The bad news, of course, is that the scientific proof surrounding these claims is somewhat specious — particularly those that relate to, well, immortality.

If you’re a skeptic, that’s okay – but let’s take a look at some common foods and assess their aphrodisiacal impact from both a folkloric and scientific perspective.

ancho-cinnamonOysters.  Perhaps the most commonly touted aphrodisiac, these bivalves are said to resemble the female, um … parts, and thus by their very contour are believed to incite passionate fervor. Nutritionally, they boast a high zinc content, and this essential mineral has been shown to increase blood flow and to play a role in male fertility.

Chiles and spices.  Spices have long been associated with the exotic, and with the titillating fear of the unknown. Ancient Romans and medieval Europeans, who favored imported spices especially, believed them to awaken sexual interest and arousal. From a scientific viewpoint, hot chiles do contain capsaicin (concentrated in their white, pithy veins), which causes lips to swell and sting, blood flow to increase, and heart rates to quicken. These symptoms simulate – what else? – sexual arousal. Some dried spices (like cinnamon and cloves, for example) are rich in antioxidants, and thus good for overall health, while roots like ginger are touted both for their healthful and aphrodisiac properties.

Milk and honey.  According to Miriam Hospodar in her article on Aphrodisiac Foods in the the 2004 issue of the journal Gastronomica, “Milk and dairy products were lauded for their aphrodisiac, rejuvenating, and life-extending properties. All but one of Kama Sutra’s aphrodisiac recipes contain sugar, milk, honey, or clarified butter…”  Scientifically, of course, milk is an excellent source of calcium, and at only 90 calories per cup, it’s an excellent overall energy booster. Drinking it cold (and spiked with chile!) will prevent it from having that somnolent effect that warm milk can have.  The last thing you want on Valentine’s Day is to be, ahem, drowsy. As for honey, sweet foods are often offered as tokens of love and affection. Candies, cookies, chocolates, little cakes — there’s a reason we give these items to our sweethearts this time of year rather than, say, salads or sausages, and honey is no exception. Hospodar says that there are numerous references to honey being “a divine substance that came from heaven.” Valentine’s manna, perhaps?

Nuts and seeds.  Hospodar writes of an Islamic sex manual called The Perfumed Garden which promotes a diet of almonds and pine nuts “chased by a glassful of thick honey for three consecutive days.” The concoction, it was believed, would increase sexual stamina for married men. Because pine nuts, almonds, sesame seeds, and other zinc-rich foods are also high in protein and beneficial fatty acids, they do in fact contribute to overall wellness and heart health, in particular . . . increasing, by extension, overall vitality.

Chocolate. Despite its ubiquity this month and presence on Valentine’s Day gift lists, chocolate gets mixed reviews for its ability to stimulate love and desire. On the one hand, cacao, a sacred Aztec food, was believed to inspire eroticism; on the other, it was condemned for inflaming passions irresponsibly. Chocolate does contain feel-good chemicals like serotonin, which can create a rush of pleasure, so there may be some chemical explanation, however tenuous, for its hallowed place in aphrodisiac folklore.

Will these foods make you feel good about yourself? Perhaps; because foods that promote good health and sound nutrition provide the keys to overall wellbeing. Will they actually heighten libidinous desires? That’s still open for debate. For now . . . you can experiment on your sweetie with my Spicy Valentine’s Love Potion.  Check back and let us know how things go.


Cheryl Sternman Rule is a food and nutrition writer whose work has appeared in numerous national magazines, including EatingWell and Body+Soul. She is the voice behind the food blog 5 Second Rule.

Chocolate Orange Pistachio Biscotti

By Jacqueline Church

This chocolate biscotti recipe is infused with orange flavor. Much of the vitamin C from citrus is in the pith and peel which also contain its essential oils. Use a microplane grater to remove the fragrant zest, but not the bitter pith, from a well-washed Minneola. The zest and wine or liqueur lends an additional orange boost to these delicious anytime cookies.

chocolate-biscotti-cookies-recipe1-1/2 cups all-purpose flour
1/2 cup white whole wheat flour
1/2 cup unsweetened cocoa
1 teaspoon baking soda
1/4 teaspoon salt
1 cup sugar
6 tablespoons unsalted butter, softened
2 large eggs, room temperature
1 tablespoon Minneola zest
2 tablespoons orange Muscat dessert wine or orange liqueur
1 cup shelled pistachios
3 ounces semi-sweet baking chocolate, cut into pieces (about 1/2 cup)

Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper.

In a medium bowl, whisk together flours, cocoa, baking soda and salt.

In a separate large bowl, cream sugar and butter with an electric mixer until light and fluffy. Add eggs, one at a time, scraping down bowl as needed. Mix in zest and wine. Add flour mixture a little at a time, and then pistachios and chopped chocolate.

Form two flat logs about 12 x 2-1/2 inches on prepared baking sheet. Bake 25-30 minutes, until slightly firm.

Remove sheet from oven and cool for 10 minutes. Reduce oven temperature to 300 degrees F. Transfer logs to cutting board by lifting parchment, then slice logs into 3/4-inch slices. Line the baking sheet with new parchment and transfer biscotti, cut side down, onto the sheet. Bake until crisp, turning halfway through, about 10-15 minutes.

Cool completely on a wire rack.

Makes 36 biscotti

Mini Dark Chocolate Puddings with Chocolate Shavings

Recipe and photo by Cheryl Sternman Rule

These mini chocolate puddings are proof that good things come in small packages. Most kitchenware stores have inexpensive ramekins in varying sizes, so grab a few 2-ouncers the next time you’re out.  This dessert comes together in less than 15 minutes.

mini-chocolate-pudding-recipe1 ounce 70% dark chocolate
1 large egg
3 tablespoons brown sugar (light or dark)
2 tablespoons unsweetened cocoa powder
1 tablespoon cornstarch
Pinch salt
1 cup 2% milk
1/4 teaspoon vanilla extract

Using a large, heavy knife, “shave” the chocolate into fine shreds by slicing downward at an angle onto your cutting board. Set aside.

Whisk egg in a heavy medium bowl until yolk and white have completely combined.

In a medium saucepan off-heat, whisk brown sugar, cocoa powder, cornstarch and salt.  Slowly dribble in milk, whisking all the while. (Mixture may have undissolved bumps.)

Set saucepan over medium heat and bring to a boil. As pudding cooks, use a heatproof spatula to make figure eights along the pan’s bottom, sweeping the sides occasionally as you stir.  Once it you get a genuine boil, reduce the heat slightly to prevent scorching, but allow to bubble steadily for 2 minutes. Stir constantly with heatproof spatula.

Remove from heat and spoon about 1/4 of mixture atop the beaten egg, whisking egg vigorously as you add the chocolate mixture. Scrape tempered egg mixture back into saucepan, set over low heat, and cook, stirring constantly, for another minute (be gentle with the heat; you don’t want scrambled eggs).

Remove pudding from heat and stir in vanilla and 3/4 of shaved chocolate. Divide among ramekins.

To serve, sprinkle with remaining shaved chocolate.  Enjoy warm, at room temp or cold (cover and refrigerate if waiting for later).

Makes 4 [2-ounce] servings

Eat Chocolate

Dark chocolate. An ounce or so a few times a week (to borrow Michael Pollan’s formula). For many of us, this little prescription flies in the face of a decades-deep divide between what we want to eat (chocolate) and what we feel we should eat (carrot sticks and celery). But nature didn’t intend it to be that way.

The cocoa in chocolate, like most plant-based foods, boasts a cocktail of compounds that fall under the collective category of phytonutrients (which simply means “plant nutrients”). There are thousands and thousands of phytonutrients that impact our health in all sorts of ways, from lowering blood pressure to preventing cancer to boosting the immune system. The irony is, these little powerhouses are also what make plant-based foods look and smell and taste the way they do. Think about that a second; the very stuff that makes food pleasurable is also making us healthy. Now there’s a paradigm shift.

So back to that chocolate.

I could go into the details of which phytonutrients play a role in making chocolate so healthy and cite statistics of how much they lower the risk of this or that. Or I could just tell you that if you finished off a few evenings this week savoring a square or two of dark chocolate* it would be a very good thing.

* This is one time you’ll want to look at the label. It’s the cocoa in chocolate that packs the nutritional punch, so a good rule of thumb is to choose dark chocolate bars with a cocoa content higher than 50%. Sugar may sweeten the deal, but it also adds empty calories. If you’re not yet used to dark chocolate’s strong taste you’re in for a treat; it can be enticingly complex and nuanced. Keep it interesting by experimenting with several brands and flavors.

Chocolate Crostini with Orange Zest and Sea Salt

I’m of the notion that a simple square of good dark chocolate is a treat in and of itself. But if you feel like dressing it up a bit, this is an easy, elegant way to do it.


3 ounces dark chocolate
1/4 teaspoon finely grated orange zest, plus additional for garnish
1/4 teaspoon extra-virgin olive oil
12 thin baguette slices, toasted
medium-coarse sea salt

Melt the chocolate with the orange zest and olive oil in a small, heavy-bottom pot over ultra-low heat (if you’re a double boiler-lover, feel free to use one here), swirling it around occasionally. Give it all a good stir once it’s super soft but not completely melted, and take it off the heat.

Spread chocolate mixture on baguette slices and sprinkle with a generous pinch of sea salt. Garnish with long, thin strips of orange zest if you like.

Makes 12 crostini