First Posted: 7/24/2013
A good husband will dig his mother-in-law’s dentures out of the bottom of a garbage bag.
That’s just one of the many lessons learned in a new book by Pittston native Dr. Carmella Sebastain called “Sex and Spaghetti Sauce: My Italian Mother’s Recipe for Getting Healthy and Getting Busy in your 50s and Beyond.”
Sebastian, 51, a wellness educator based in Florida, will return home in August to talk about her book and share some laughs.
A book signing and champagne reception will be held from noon to 4 p.m. on Saturday, Aug. 10 at the Open Space on Main Street in Pittston. A reading and reception is set for 2 p.m. on Sunday, Aug. 11 at the Pittston Memorial Library, 47 Broad St. The Friends of the Pittston Memorial Library will host that event.
Chapters in the book deal with healthy eating and nutrition strategies, portion control and tips for when eating out, how to make habit changes stick, exercise is the key, the power of sleep, nurturing good relationships, be your own health advocate, the importance of sex and surviving mental fatigue.
All are peppered with stories and lessons learned from Sebastian’s family in Pittston.
Sebastian grew up on Vine Street in Pittston, the daughter of the late Jimmy and Mary Mitchell, a name that Americanized from the name Miceli. She struggled with childhood obesity and remembers her mother feeding her milkshakes as a baby to fatten her up.
She graduated from Pittston Area High School in 1980.
Sebastian earned a bachelor’s degree in biology from The University of Scranton and a master’s degree in health care administration from King’s College. She graduated from the former Medical College of Pennsylvania in Philadelphia in 1988. She returned to Northeast Pennsylvania and did her residency at the Scranton-Temple Residency Program from 1988 to 1991.
She maintained an internal medicine private practice in Old Forge until she started working for Blue Cross of Northeastern Pennsylvania, working there for 13 years before leaving as the Vice President of Medical Affairs and Chief Medical Officer.
While at Blue Cross, she helped organize the Million Calorie Meltdown, one of her first forages into wellness education.
She joined the for-profit insurance conglomerate Humana and she and her family moved to New Orleans just three weeks before Hurricane Katrina devastated the area. She returned for two months during the recovery and participated in the recovery.
When her father’s health began to fail, she moved to Tampa, Fla., so she could be near an airport with direct access to the Wyoming Valley area.
Now at Florida Blue, part of the Blue Cross and Blue Shied of Florida, she oversees the wellness program, Better You from Blue, and manages over 100 client consultations per year.
The idea for her book started when she took the job at Florida Blue and she was asked to put together a program for women.
“We were thinking we go around Florida and talk to employees, mostly females, and talk about wellness,” she said.
After she started doing it, two things became clear.
“I started to hear my mother’s words come out of my mouth,” she said. “I was saying things that she used to teach me like drink lots of water, get enough sleep, avoid refined foods.”
The second thing, she said, was that all of her mother’s teachings were proven later with medical studies and research.
“What my mother taught now has real scientific data to back it up,” she said. “It’s almost like a 360, we’re coming back to where we used to be.”
She said newer concepts, like Farm to Table, isn’t new at all. Her aunt and uncle’s garden would rival anyone’s.
“We grew our food and we ate it,” she said. “We didn’t use pesticides.”
As far as exercise was concerned, her mother wouldn’t hear of it.
“Why should I exercise, I clean the house,” her mother would ask. Sebastian put it to the test. She cleaned the house and wore a monitor and cleaning was as good as exercise, she learned.
The book is dotted with humorous stories from her life growing up in Pittston. Like the time her mother lost her dentures and Sebastia’s husband’s charge was to find them.
“Staying healthy is also about building strong relationships,” she said. “How could you not want to marry a man willing to dig your mother’s false teeth out of the bottom of a garbage bag?”
Or the time her mother broke the toilet by flushing food after her father brought home two massive heads of cauliflower from the farmer’s market one morning. One of his favorite dishes, after all, was spaghetti and cauliflower.
That’s when Sebastian got a call from her mother.
“Well, I don’t have time to make two cauliflowers, so I flushed one down the toilet,” her mom whispered.
“You mean AFTER you cooked it,” Sebastian asked.
“No, raw cauliflower, and now the toilet won’t flush!” her mother replied. She didn’t want to break the garbage disposal.
Sebastian used the anecdote to talk about buying fresh food at farmers’ markets.
Beyond the anecdotes, “Sex and Spaghetti Sauce” is a practical guide that can help you achieve wellness and each chapter offers a recipe for incorporating healthy components into daily life.
Sebastian said her book is on sale on Kindle and amazon.com. She will also have books at a reduced rate when she appears at the Pittston Memorial Library and the Open Space. It is also available at her website, www.drcarm.com.
She talked about the Mediterranean Diet being much better than a fad, admitting her mother has been cooking with tomatoes, olive oil, garlic, green leafy vegetables and fish for most of her life.
“A study just came out that said people have 30 percent less heart attacks, stroke and death from all causes from eating things on the Mediterranean Diet.”
On her trip home, Sebastian plans to eat her way though downtown Pittston with her good friend, Rose Randazzo.
“It’s the food and friends that make it home.”