At this time of year thoughts often turn to things in our lives we would like to change, personal qualities we would like to foster, habits we would like to build. In cultures around the world the new year is thought to be a time to reflect on the past and resolve to be kinder, try harder, and make a change in the coming year.

These are excellent intentions, but they are in direct conflict with the human tendency to resist change. It may seem simple to begin exercising for 30 minutes 4 times a week; simple is not the same as easy. In order to make a change time must be carved out. New habits need to be created to overcome our very natural tendency to inertia. In order to carry through with our intentions we need a strategy.

Below are 3 approaches to help manifest change.

Temptation bundling – One clear way to motivate is to combine something we don’t want to do with something we enjoy. This is slightly different than a reward system because things are done together to create a positive association. For example – every time I go to the gym I get to read a book for pleasure or watch video, two things I enjoy but rarely have time for in my day to day life. In fact I reserve certain videos for the gym, so that it is my special treat during that time.

Another example is diet change. We can’t just eliminate all the familiar comfort food. No matter how determined we are, it is a setup for failure. The people who do best with dietary change are people who like the food on their new plan. We need to find things we really enjoy on our new diet and let ourselves have them!

Know the worth of your goal and be able to track your progress. What is the purpose of making this change? Is it a long term goal like staying healthy into your 80s. If so, you need to be convinced the goal is valuable and reachable. Vague belief is not enough to motivate. Read the research – a lot of it. Have objective ways to measure your goal like labs showing lower cholesterol or better blood sugar control.

Short term goals are easier to see. Examples of these type of goals are training for an athletic event, doing one kind thing every day for a month, or losing  a set amount of weight. These goals offer more immediate gratification, but you still have to believe in the value of your goal or your will not have the commitment to reach it.

Get support – Some people thrive when they have a buddy with a shared resolution. It is extremely helpful if at least one person in your household chooses to make a diet change along with you. The support of a group can also very valuable. This is the purpose of writer’s groups. Writing can be such a solitary activity. Having a group of people to assess your work, give feedback and support can be the difference between continuing to write and giving up.  

Even without a structured buddy system or group, the support of friends and family is vital to success. Without the positive reinforcement and the willingness to occasionally pick up the slack, making meaningful change is difficult.

Finally – Change should not be punitive or trigger deprivation. For long term success, approach the change you seek as an opportunity – a gift.


The bridge to Marin County, CA

I want to thank everyone for their patience during my relocation to California. If there are topics that you would like to see covered in the future, please send me a comment and I will do my best to include them.

Be Well,

Dara Thompson N.D.

Jade Potstickers

These steamed meat dumplings were inspired by Chinese potstickers. Instead of wonton skins they are wrapped in chard leaves. Don’t worry if the chard seems loose when you first wrap it. The leaves will collapse around the meat filling as they steam.

  • 1 lb. of ground turkey, chicken or pork

  • 1 teaspoon of toasted sesame oil

  • 1 teaspoon of minced ginger

  • 1 teaspoon of crushed garlic

  • ¾ teaspoon salt

  • ½ cup of finely minced vegetables (try carrots, cabbage, broccoli, or celery)

  • ¼ cup of rice flour or ¼ cup of millet ground fine in a coffee grinder

  • 12 large chard leaves

Wash the chard leaves well and remove the bottom end of the stems. Be sure that you leave the top of the leaf attached. Mix together the meat, seasonings, vegetables and flour. Divide the meat mixture into 12 equal portions. Place each portion into the top, center of a chard leaf and roll the leaf around it tucking in the edges as necessary (like making a burrito). Repeat this with the other rolls. Place them in a steamer basket and steam them over medium-high heat for ~ 15 minutes (be sure to watch the steamer so that it doesn’t run out of water). You may need to rotate the rolls half way through cooking to make sure they cook evenly. Cut a roll in ½ and test it to make sure they are fully cooked. Serve the rolls hot with rice or noodles and dipping sauces*. This recipe serves 3-4 people. If you are serving more you can double it but you may have to cook them in 2 batches.

 *Dipping sauces can be very simple. Try tamari and rice vinegar with chopped fresh basil or cilantro.

Creamy Quinoa Pudding

This recipe works best if you soak the quinoa overnight before cooking it . If you don’t have time to soak it be sure to rinse it very well, because quinoa has a bitter coating that needs to be washed off prior to cooking.

  • 1 cup of quinoa soaked overnight and rinsed well. After rinsing, the quinoa may be stored int eh refrigerator for up to 2 days prior to cooking.

  • ½ teaspoon salt

  • 1 can of organic coconut milk (Native Forrest brand does not use BPA)

  • 1 teaspoon vanilla or a 2 inch section of vanilla pod, split

  • ¼ teaspooon ground nutmeg (or ½ teaspoon cinnamon)

  • 2-4 tablespoons of maple syrup or honey

Place the quinoa in a pot with 2 cups of water and the salt. Bring the mixture to a boil. Then reduce the heat, cover the pot and simmer the mixture for ~20 minutes, until all of the water is absorbed. Blend in the coconut milk, vanilla, nutmeg and 2 tablespoons sweetener. Bring the mixture back to a boil. Then reduce the heat and simmer it covered, stirring ~ every 5 minutes for ½ hour. You may add a little water if it seems to be running out of liquid. Taste the mixture and add more sweetener if desired. Allow the pudding to cool to room temperature and serve it topped with chopped nuts or fruit. You may also chill it in the refrigerator before serving it.

Variation: Instead of coconut milk use homemade nut milk. Combine ½ cup of nuts (hazelnuts, cashews, almonds, etc.) with 1 cup of water in a blender. Make sure the lid is on tight and process the mixture until it is very smooth. Then slowly add 1 cup more water to the mixture while blending. Use this in place of the coconut milk.

During this time of year we come together to celebrate with friends and family.  With so many gatherings it is easy to over indulge in foods that make us feel sick and tired.  Buy adapting classic recipes with wholesome ingredients you can maintain your health and enjoy the party.

Gluten-free Latkes

 These crispy fried potato pancakes are served on Hanukkah, but they can happily be enjoyed year round.  Traditionally they are served with sour cream and applesauce, but any dip or spread may be used.  There are a multitude of different adaptations and recipes.  This is my current favorite and it is gluten free.

–       3 large potatoes (a starchy variety like russets work best)

–       ½ of a medium sized onion

–       2 eggs

–       ¾ teaspoon sea salt

–       3 tablespoons of rice or millet flour

–       ¼ cup each butter and olive oil – you may use any heat stable oil, but I like this combination.  Refined, non-hydrogentated palm oil (sold as “organic shortening”) also works well.

 In a large mixing bowl beat together the eggs, salt and flour.  Peel the potatoes and the onion.  Grate the vegetables in a food processor or by hand.  Place the vegetables in cheese cloth over a bowl and press out as much liquid as you can (if you don’t have cheese cloth use a mesh strainer).  The potato starch will settle at the bottom of the bowl.  Pour off the liquid on top and add the starch and grated potatoes and onions to the egg mixture.  Stir everything together until it is well blended.

Heat 1 tablespoon each of butter and olive oil in a sturdy skillet.  I like using a well-seasoned cast iron pan for this. The oil should be hot but not smoking.  To test the temperature drop a small amount of batter into the oil; if it browns within a minute the pan is ready.  Spoon the batter into the oil ½ cup at a time and flatten each pancake with the back of your spatula.  Cook the latkes for 4-5 minutes, until the edges are very brown and then flip them over and cook them on the other side for 4-5 minutes.  Remove them from the pan onto a plate lined with a paper towel.  Cook the rest of the pancakes adding oil as needed to keep a thick layer to the bottom of the pan.  These are best served hot, but they can be kept warm in the oven for a few hours.  Leftovers can also be reheated in the toaster oven.


1)    If you are using a food processor you can add ½ of the grated potato and onion mixture back into the processor and coarsely chop it with the chopping blade.  Then mix the chopped potatoes with the grated potatoes and press out the liquid as directed above.  This makes a finer batter that holds together well.

2)    You can replace 1 cup of the potato mixture with 1 cup of any grated vegetable such as carrots, zucchini, or yam.

3)    For vegan latkes replace the eggs with 2 tablespoons of finely ground flax blended with 2 tablespoons of water.  Omit the flour.  Be sure to fry these crispy.  The flax can be gummy if they are undercooked.

Ginger Bread Creatures

 Rich molasses with sweet, spicy ginger, the smell alone brings back holiday memories.  This recipe is low in sugar and gluten-free, but it doesn’t compromise on flavor.  Remember that whole grain flours need to be sifted before use or your final product will be heavy.

–       1 ½ cups of gluten free oat flour

–       ½ cup of rice or millet flour

–       2 tablespoons of arrowroot starch

–       ½ teaspoon of baking soda

–       ¼ cup of organic, salted butter or coconut oil

–       ½ cup of organic, unsulfured molasses (you may use light or dark depending on your taste.  If you are using black strap molasses you may want to add 1-2 tablespoons of honey or 10 drops of white stevia extract to bring up the sweetness)

–       ½ teaspoon of cinnamon

–       ½ – 1 teaspoon of dried ginger (depending on how much you like ginger!)

–       ¼ teaspoon of cloves

–       1 teaspoon of vanilla extract

–       ¼ teaspoon salt (if using coconut oil or unsalted butter increase the salt to ½ teaspoon)

–       ½ cup of rice flour (reserved)

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F.  Sift together the oat flour, ½ cup of rice flour, arrowroot starch and baking soda.  In a separate bowl cream together the butter, molasses, spices and salt.  Pour the flour mixture in to the butter mixture and blend them well.  The dough should be smooth and soft.  Chill the dough for at least 1 hour before rolling it out; you may store it overnight.  Divide the dough into two pieces and flatten one into a disk.  Place it on a floured piece of parchment paper.  Then dust the top with flour and place another piece of parchment paper on top.  Roll the dough out ~ ¼ inch thick.  Remove the top paper and cut out the dough with cookie cutters.  If the dough seems too sticky your can work a little extra rice flour into it.   You can make classic gingerbread men or any other shapes that you desire.  Place the cookies onto a parchment lined cookie sheet and bake them for ~ 8-10 minutes depending on the size of the cookies.  Cool the cookies completely before decorating them with dried fruit, nuts and jam.  These cookies keep over week in a sealed container if undecorated.




As day length decreases in the winter months, people may find themselves suffering from seasonal affective disorder (SAD).  This syndrome shares many of the same characteristics of clinical depression but is only present during the fall and winter (note: some people have a type of seasonal depression that is only associated with the spring and summer.)  This disorder is more common in the northern latitudes because the day length is shorter.  It is thought that the reduced sun exposure decreases serotonin production in sensitive people.  Common symptoms are lethargy, increased appetite, depression, excess sleep and antisocial feelings.  It is likely that people with jobs that keep them indoors during the day have greater risk.  Cloudy or rainy days that decrease sunlight exposure may also increase the frequency of this disorder.

If you think you are suffering from SAD you should consult you doctor for treatment. There are lots of things you can do to prevent and treat this disorder.  Increasing your exposure to available light by getting outside during the day is very helpful (be sure to wear sunscreen).  Using broad-spectrum lights that mimic the sun’s light may also provide benefit.  Exercise, especially aerobic exercise improves the mood for hours or days afterward.  It is also very important to eat enough protein so that your body has the building blocks to make enough serotonin.  Foods high in tryptophan, the precursor to serotonin, are especially helpful.

If these simple tips aren’t enough be sure to seek medical attention.  Untreated depression causes needless suffering for many people.  A trained naturopathic doctor can use herbs, vitamins, amino acids, homeopathy or medications to help bring you back into balance.