Be Strong — Eat for Power

Be Strong — Eat for Power

Excerpt from Hope, Make, Heal: 20 Crafts to Mend the Heart

Photo Courtesy of the Author

The act of healing will look different for each of us. There is no need to rush—nor a clear timetable for traveling through the unique terrain of each loss. Death of a loved one, a traumatic life event, or deep heartbreak are all wounds that have the potential never to leave us. The scars remain to remind us of what we’ve felt, whom we’ve loved, and how we’ve grown. They become part of the fabric of our lives.

I sew. A lot. The metaphors that surround needle and thread seep into my thoughts often. The British proverb “A stitch in time saves nine” is a favorite. The meaning is simple: sew up a little hole with one stitch now so that it doesn’t expand and turn into something greater that may need nine or more stitches. It’s a saying that refers to doing things well the first time and not putting something off until later. Healing well from the start is an unhurried and deliberate mending. The frayed and broken fibers of our stories can almost always be woven back together, but how we choose to repair and patch ourselves up determines quite a bit. A quick fix is sure to leave you weak for unraveling. This is true in the literal sense, such as stitching up a hole in a seam. Why wouldn’t it also be true for our souls?

I believe that taking supremely good care of yourself will strengthen every muscle— including your heart. You’ll be ready for that moment when the dark clouds begin to part. Think of self-care as an umbrella during the storm. It offers some protection even if it’s pouring. You might still get soaked but maybe not as much. And when the sun breaks through, and it always does, that umbrella remains—perhaps thrown back so you can feel the warmth spreading across your smiling face, but always available as your shelter from the many seasons of life.

My experience with diet and grief surprised me but also jump-started a self-care program that grew into the guidelines that follow. I’ve always loved food. I enjoy reading about it, preparing it, serving it, and most of all eating it. In addition, when I need some form of comfort or feel empty in any way, it’s what I’ve always reached for. Obviously, I am not alone—thousands of books and websites are devoted to the relationship we have with food. However, a strange and common phenomenon happens when we experience sudden trauma. It’s an instant appetite suppressant for many, even some of us comfort eaters. It can be extreme and alarming. Nothing had ever made me literally forget to eat until my husband left. Food became meaningless. I’d reach the end of the day and realize that two mealtimes had disappeared without my noticing. Of course, I still diligently cooked and baked for my kids—preparing delicious food for them has always been an extension of my love. While I poured my soul into making special meals for them in the months that followed, I found myself unable to fill my body with the love I offered. I began to shrink. Normally, I would have been thrilled—but I didn’t care. It didn’t matter. But what was of concern was how I showed up for my children. I couldn’t be weak. I couldn’t get sick. It felt like the entire world rested on my shoulders, and they needed to be strong.

So I made a decision to eat, not for the pleasure of it, but for the power of it. This meant that everything I put into my body needed to be nutrient dense and pure. Forgetting about meals wasn’t an option anymore. And so I drank a lot of green smoothies because they were easy and I didn’t have to think about it. Blend it. Drink it. In those first few months alone, my blender whirred almost every day. Green smoothies saved me.

Nourish: Sailing Smoothie

Packed with protein and green power, this smoothie is a meal in a glass. It’s a great start to your day or the perfect boost whenever your energy is waning.


  • 1 banana
  • 1 to 1 1⁄2 cups water, coconut water, or juice
  • 1 handful frozen fruit
  • 2 teaspoons chia seeds
  • Greens to fill the rest of the blender (spinach and kale are my favorites)
  • 1 teaspoon spirulina (optional)
  • Agave syrup or honey, to taste (optional)


  • Add all of the ingredients to a blender and mix. Be strong—eat for power!

From Hope, Make, Heal by Maya Pagán Donenfeld, © 2016 by Maya Pagán Donenfeld. Reprinted by arrangement with Roost Books, an imprint of Shambhala Publications, Inc. Boulder, CO.

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