Monday, January 28, 2013


The last few months haven't been easy.

In September my father was diagnosed with inoperable brain cancer. Just as I was coming to terms with that news, my darling grandmother passed away. Followed, ten days later, by the death of a good friend from college who perished on a lonely mountaintop.

 By the time I received the text that my other grandmother had been found unresponsive and bleeding from the mouth I was oddly resigned.

I thought I was holding it together. I really did. This fall, in between manic episodes of grief, I finished a first draft of my WIP. I've been friend, daughter and lifecoach to my mother and I managed a (small) publicity effort for the newly released Losing Hope.

But then I stepped on the scale.

Stress affects everyone in a different way and, as it turns out, it causes me to lose my appetite. Foods I love suddenly make my stomach turn.

Instead of sustenance, I crave the moments of escape from my thoughts provided by things like yoga or a run. I crave those things so much I grieforexia-ed myself down to 105 lbs.

Fortunately, I have friends who are like sisters. I confessed my appetite-suppressed ways over coffee and two days later one of my sister-friends appeared at my front door with a starter pack of homemade bars. "Eat one of these whenever you don't feel like eating anything else," she instructed.

And so I did.

After two days, along with runs and yoga I was craving bars. By the end of the week I emailed her for the recipe. Since that time I've made four batches of my own. The recipe for these magic bars is from Barre3, a local fitness studio. Their official name is Barre3 Bars, but because of the ingredients and current obsessions of the Garth Family we refer to them as Hamster Bars.

The kids love them. They're easy to make and the best news is, yesterday I ate three and seriously considered a fourth. Maybe the combination of Hamster Bars and time will be the perfect cure for my grieforexia. And if you needed added incentive to try them, the kids tell me they make my breath smell like apple cider.

In case you don't want to follow the link above here's the recipe.

barre3 bar
These bars are so easy to make you can whip them up within minutes. They don’t need to bake and
all you need is a glass dish and a food processor.Feel free to adapt the recipe to suit your needs. Sample before pressing into the dish and adapt anything to taste.
6 dates, pitted
2 TBS coconut oil
1⁄4 cup sunflower butter or almond butter
1⁄4 cup goji berries (raisins work too)
1⁄4 cup shredded coconut flakes
1⁄4 cup ground flax
2 tsp ground cinnamon
Couple pinches of sea salt (unless sunflower or almond butter is salted)
1 cup almonds
Handful of cacao nibs or dark chocolate chips
1 . Place the pitted dates and coconut oil in the base of your food processor. Add the seed or nut butter. Whirl these three ingredients until blended.
2. Add the goji berries or raisins, the coconut flakes, the ground flax, the cinnamon and the sea salt and whirl in the food processor again, until the mixture is well incorporated. It’s OK if its a bit more chunky at this point.
3. Add the almonds and the cacao nibs or chocolate chips and pulse your food processor until you have a chunky mass that looks like cookie dough.
4. Scoop dough-like mixture into a 8×8 glass container and press the mixture down with the back of a spoon.5. Store in the fridge for at least one hour to harden. Cut into bars to grab-and-go to your barre3 class and store extras in the refrigerator.


jaybird said...

I am so sorry to hear about your grief and losses Johanna. The bars sound like a healthy, wonderful way to keep you going- and find your way back to eating again.

Unfortunately, I go the other way, and eat just about anything that's not nailed down, while I am grieving. When my sister was dying, she could barely eat. Every once in a while, she had a craving. Which I would run right out to buy, (or make) for her. She'd take like three bites, and I'd somehow finish everything else. Plus more. Stress/sadness/ despair can do crazy things to your mind, and body, for sure.

My thoughts and prayers are with you during this difficult time.

Alex J. Cavanaugh said...

I'm so sorry, Johanna!
You're a rarity. Most people overeat. Judging from the fat in that recipe, you should gain weight soon.

Cathy Olliffe-Webster said...

Oh Johanna, I hate what is going on with you!!!! You poor thing. Death seems to come in waves, it really does. The year my father died we lost five other close relatives. It was just one horrible event after another. So hugs to you for managing to hold it together in spite of everything - AND releasing a new book, too? You're amazing.

So glad you found the Hamster Bars. I hope you keep eating - your family needs you around, now more than ever, so please, please please don't get any skinnier.

Gawd, I have the opposite problem. When life gets me down I turn to cheesecake. If you and me could meld our bodies together, we'd be perfect! Can that be arranged????


Cathy Olliffe-Webster said...

Something that might make you smile:

Rachel Schieffelbein said...

I'm so sorry, Johanna. Take care, I'm glad the bars are helping.

Alison DeLuca said...

How like you, in the middle of such a terrible storm in your life, to post a lovely recipe for us. You are a real star, Johanna.

Wish I could send soup and homemade bread, but instead I'll thank you for bars and offer virtual hugs.

Connie J Jasperson said...

I would SO love to give you a hug my dear. We all handle grief differently. Some of us eat our grief, and others starve it. Neither approach is conscious and neither is beneficial!

I love that these bars are perfect for vegans to take in their purse for an on-the-road snack. I will definitely add these to my list of grandma's approved goodies.

ilima said...

I am so sorry for all those terrible things happening to you. *big hugs*

Sherrill said...

I'm so sorry to hear there's been more, not less through what was already a very hard time. Thinking of you and your family.

Barbara Watson said...

So sorry, Johanna. That's so much to bear. I do know what you mean about losing your appetite in a tough time. Thanks for sharing this healthy sounding recipe.

Johanna Garth said...

Thanks to all of you for your virtual support, love and hugs!!

Joanne Noragon said...

Life has been crashing in on you and I am so sorry. Too many, too soon. I quit eating, too, when grief and anger take over. I think hamster bars might carry the day. You will come out on the other end of this piece of life.

Carol Kilgore said...

I wish I could help you with all the losses in your family. Many years ago, I lost my mother and both grandmothers within a six-month period. I know how much it hurts.

Dianne K. Salerni said...

Johanna, I am so sorry to hear about your losses and the lengthy visit of grief to your house. I probably would've had the opposite response, since stress of any kind makes me eat.

I'm glad you had friends who were not only willing to help, but knew how.

T. L. Cooper said...

Thank you for sharing the recipe.
My heart goes out to you and your family as you traverse this trying time.
I also avoid food when upset, so I can relate.
Wishing you peace of mind and comfort in your memories.
Please take care of yourself even if the only way you can justify it right now is that you must take care of you in order to be there for others.

Elise Fallson said...

Hi Johanna, Thanks for stopping by my blog. I am so sorry to hear about your loss. It's never easy and only time will truly ease the pain. But I'm glad to hear you are starting to find some balance by eating healthy. I've never heard of the bars you mentioned but looking at the recipe, it looks great. I used to make something similar to this, but it came out more like pudding than a bar. Anyway, I hope life starts to ease up on you and your family.

Unknown said...

I'm sorry, Johanna, for your loss and the negative effects of the grief. Glad you found something to help turn things around for you. :)

Botanist said...

So sorry to hear about these multiple calamities, Johanna. When it seems that life is hitting you with one thing after another, it can take time to trust in the universe again. Sounds like you have some good friends to help you through.

Chuck said...

That truly was a tragic have really been strong and upbeat in your posts so you are a pretty strong women. The best to you in the coming months.

Whenever I hear someone is dealing with any form of cancer I mention the great book Outsmart Your Cancer by Tanya Harter Pierce. I have given as a gift to all my family and mention it to at least 2 people a week. I recommend it highly.

Mark Koopmans said...

Hey J.G.,

(Sorry, I am shortening down everyone's name for a few days until my new ink comes in.)

Anyway, considering how your posts are always uplifting to me (seeing as I love your humor, I was truly saddened to see you have had to deal with grieferexia.

Hugs and prayers to you - but I'm also happy to hear you've been able to find some solace in the Hamster Bars...

Good luck (seriously :)

PK HREZO said...

You've been thru a lot. Glad your sister came to the rescue to get you healthy again. The bars sound delish!
I can live on that stuff. Bird food I call it, cuz my Hubby needs more manly sustenance. :s

(I haven't seen 105 since I was 20 lol)

Shell Flower said...

You poor thing. Grief sucks and it definitely takes a lot out of a person. Good luck with the eating. I'll have to try those bars sometime!

Shallee said...

Oh, I'm so sorry for your difficult times. Grief is such a hard thing to get through. Good luck keeping up the healthy eating.

L. Diane Wolfe said...

I'm sorry - that is a lot to handle at one time. My eating would freak, too.