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Mariel Hemingway's tips for healthier living

In her new book, the actress gives readers a plan to improve their lives.
/ Source: TODAY

Losing weight and starting an exercise program are two of the top New Year’s resolutions. Actress Mariel Hemingway has some suggestions on how to achieve a healthier life in her new book, “Mariel Hemingway's Healthy Living from the Inside Out,” which gives readers a complete a 30-day plan that can help you reach your goals for 2007. Mariel was invited on TODAY to discuss her book. Read an excerpt and try one of her healthy recipes:

Chapter One

Question: How fast do you like your food?

Consider if you ever do any of the following three things. Then simply ask yourself, next time you're about to repeat the habit, "Could I make a different choice—one that is more careful and more calming?"

Scenario A. Do you reheat the coffee or tea that you brewed earlier in the day?

Scenario B. Do you grab a sandwich from the same deli or fast-food joint every day for lunch?

Scenario C. Do you use the microwave to heat a meal at night?

Could you:

A. Throw out the excess hot drink after you've had the morning cup and leave it at that? Warmed-up cups of old coffee or tea are just sad. Try making just the amount you need in the morning. Later in the day when you want a hot drink, try hot water and lemon.

B. Find about seven minutes in the morning to make lunch and take it with you? Throw the extra piece of fish or free-range chicken you cooked the night before into a container as part of a colorful salad recipe. Not only are you in control of what you eat, you'll save that seven minutes later when you're not standing in line, and you'll have more time to eat lunch calmly.

C. Veto the microwave, at least for the thirty days you're on this program? Going slower has its benefits. When you get home from work, put your meal in the oven at a low temperature, and go take a bath or shower. When you're finished your food will be warm, not zapped, and you will feel a lot calmer while you eat. It's part of making the act of eating just a bit more sacred.

Creating balance through food doesn't have to mean a radical overhaul, crash diet, or detox. Simply bring your attention to the small things, and you are well on your way to building a better way of eating.

Achieving a whole-body, balanced way of eating has been one of the biggest challenges of my life. I love food and, in equal measure, have hated the way I love food. I've done everything. I've been vegetarian, then a vegan, then a vegan who practiced the restrictive art of food combining. I've gorged on fat-free carbs, then fat- and carb-free foods (basically, I ate anything with a high air content), and at one point I pledged loyalty to liquid food, and liquid only, during daylight hours. (That was a weird period.) It took a lot of trial and even more error throughout my teens, twenties, and thirties to learn how to eat well without obsessing and without panicking. Or to put it another way, how to be health-happy, not health-crazed.

The simple, moderate, and powerful way of eating I follow today makes me feel amazing. Where once I considered food my adversary, something that existed to trip me up and make me fat or addicted, now it's my ally. Food is the linchpin to my well-being—physical, mental, and emotional. That's why I consider eating well to be not just the foundation of a balanced life, but also a pragmatic way to practice being grounded, conscious, and self-aware.

That may surprise you, because the positive power of food is often overlooked. In fact, these days it almost sounds bizarre to say that food can actively help you slow down and find your calm. When you look around at what's offered, doesn't it sometimes seem like it's the thrill that counts? Everything is about big flavors: exciting taste sensations that blow your mind! Fast delivery: power up with on-the-go, instant, high-octane foods and drinks, and just feel the rush! Big promises: eat this and lose ten pounds in twenty days! Even if you're not a fan of convenience foods and ready-made meals, chances are you almost always consider, "What's quicker?" when it comes to ordering out or preparing food at home.

Yet when you resist the temptation to speed and give yourself just a little more time to consider what you eat, you can make changes that will lead you to the healthy, balanced way of eating you seek. You can reprogram yourself to get deeper satisfaction from food instead of constantly wanting more. You can use food to nourish, nurture, and heal; you can boost your metabolism to shed excess weight and let your best shape be revealed. Get curious about how food affects your body and mind, and you open the door to a whole new way of using it. Today, each time I prepare a meal or select something off a menu, I am making a deliberate choice. I'm asking, "How shall I use food to make myself feel great today?" It's a powerful place to be. I choose the food rather than it choosing me.

That's why eating is an excellent place to start this program. Not only does improving what you eat make you feel and look better, it also gives you an entrée into the subtler practices I want to share, such as observation and self-inquiry. When you start inquiring about food, you develop the ability to know yourself in a much deeper way. "Why do I feel the way I do?" "What from my past may be driving my behavior in the present?" By asking and answering your own questions, you are reconnecting to that teacher inside, the part of you that is smarter than you realize.

There are so many great reasons to care deeply about what we eat. Becoming well-nourished will empower us to resist illness, it will lessen our chances of acquiring degenerative diseases, and it will slow down the aging process. (Yes, that does mean we can eat our way to fewer wrinkles.) It will keep us on an even keel emotionally and help our minds stay sharp and clear. It will give us sustained and steady energy by day and help us sleep better at night. And most important, it will bring new levels of pleasure and presence to our lives.

Excerpted from “Mariel Hemingway's Healthy Living from the Inside Out” by Mariel Hemingway. All rights reserved. No part of this book may be used or reproduced without written permission from 10 East 53rd Street, New York, NY 10022.