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Embrace Your Not-So-Flat Belly!

I don’t know about you all, but I am bombarded by “flat belly” ads. On Facebook, online, in magazines. Honestly, enough already. There’s nothing wrong with a sound approach to eating that amps up healthy whole grains and monounsaturated fats, like some of the diets do. But there is something wrong with trying to fit into an image that’s just not yours and pitting yourself against your body in the process.

A few years ago, I was struggling with fibromyalgia. I was always exhausted, always sore, and always way too lethargic to go to the gym. I hated my body. But then I realized that I couldn’t change what my body was; I could only change how I treated it. So when I’d catch myself berating my butt or lamenting my tummy, I’d try to shift focus onto the great things my body could do that I simply took for granted.

Eventually, my fitness goals morphed from “work out at the gym five times a week,” to things like “be able to garden without getting sore” and “be able to walk as far as I want to.” I also began to eat differently. These shifts may sound subtle, but the impact was profound both internally and externally. Food became not a diet to fight with and fail at, but a means of nourishing myself; fitness turned from a to-do on an overcrowded list, to a walk with a friend; and my body became not a thing to be loathed, but the way the world perceived me.

And I’ll tell you what, I’ve never felt as comfortable in my skin … despite the fact that I don’t have a six-pack belly.

Chicken and Snap Pea Stir-Fry with Sticky Sweet Sauce

If sugar snaps aren’t in season, green beans or broccoli will sub just fine. Be sure to leave enough room in the pan to let the chicken sear … this dish is all about layering flavors.


2 tablespoons reduced sodium soy sauce
1 tablespoon honey
1 tablespoon white miso
1 teaspoon chile sauce
2 tablespoons canola oil
Two boneless skinless chicken breast halves, cut into one-inch cubes
Sea salt and freshly ground pepper
1 cup diced onions
Three cloves garlic, thinly sliced
1 pound sugar snap peas, trimmed
1/3 cup mirin
2 tablespoons cilantro


Mix together first four ingredients in a small bowl and set aside.

Heat a large, non nonstick pan over high heat and swirl in 1 tablespoon oil. Toss in half the chicken and a pinch of salt and pepper and brown on all sides, about four to five minutes total. Transfer to a large bowl. Swirl in a half tablespoon oil and brown the remaining chicken and another pinch of salt and pepper, then add to the chicken in the bowl.

Swirl in the remaining oil; sauté the onions and garlic for one minute, until fragrant. Add the sugar snaps to the pan and toss well. Stir-fry for five to seven minutes, until peas are seared in places but not yet tender. Pour in mirin or wine and scrape up bits stuck to the bottom of the pan. Cook for two minutes, until liquid has almost completely evaporated.

Add chicken back to the pan and toss with peas. Stir in sauce and cook for two minutes, stirring and flipping frequently, until sauce has thickened slightly and lightly coats the chicken and vegetables.

Serve with rice, sprinkled with cilantro.

Makes four servings

(Originally published on, September 2010)