Wednesday, July 29, 2009

Food Inc.

I went to the movies recently. No, I didn’t go and see the latest installment of Harry Potter, Transformers, or any always-makes-me-cry romantic comedy. I saw a documentary about a topic near and dear to my heart. It is called “Food, Inc.” and it is, to me, poignant, graphic, truthful, fair and sad…all at once.

The film makes an amazing point of showcasing the truth behind factory farming; the road map explaining how it is that tainted corn—we’re not talking your mama’s corn from summer weekend picnics and cookouts in the 50s, 60’s and early 70s —is found in all foods sold in supermarkets around the country. Foods that you wouldn’t expect to find corn in too. And the sad truth that for busy families on a budget, a factory-farmed, government subsidized beef industry hamburger can be purchased for less money than it costs to buy a head of broccoli.

I am convinced that some of the most significant health threats facing us today: adult-onset diabetes in children, the rise in autoimmune diseases, food allergies over the past 40 years and, yes, even the increase of various forms of cancer over the last several decades, are all a result of the fact that food is no longer mainly produced by nature. It is, instead, contrived by scientists in a lab and sold by people in corporate boardrooms, hundreds and thousands of miles away from the animals and crops, with no history, understanding or long term data of its effects on the lives of people who will be eating it over the course of days, weeks, months and years.

I think it’s an important message, so I hope that by blogging about it, you folks that may not have “Food, Inc.” on your radar will check it out. To get a preview now, just Google: “Food, Inc. trailer”

Now, here’s the good news! By understanding these simple facts, we can make better decisions about what we put in our bodies. And that is what I’m all about: whole, natural foods that are good for you and will make you stronger, healthier, and frankly more satisfied because it just plain tastes better. (I told you this topic is near and dear to my heart).

And so I have decided to focus the remainder of this post on a few simple steps you can take now in order to make sure you are eating the best foods available:

-Buy local. It’s growing season. Go to Farmer’s Markets, if your area has them. TALK to the farmers. They put all of their pride, knowledge and energy into the crops that they harvest and sell to you. It is not often enough that you have an opportunity to speak with the person that grew the food that you are going to eat. And you’ll find a bounty of natural produce, without the chemicals and other things you don’t need in your bodies. You’ll also find that the food just tastes better!

-Buy organic. Buying organic is the best insurance that no antibiotics and hormones have been put in your food. This is key information. If someone handed you a bottle of antibiotics, would you take it? In effect, this is what we’re doing when we eat food that has been treated with them. Remember the old adage: you are what you eat. The cleaner your food is, the easier your body will digest it, absorb the nutrients from it, and keep your metabolism working effectively. So by eliminating the harmful chemicals that are fed to animals, you are making sure that those chemicals don’t find their way into your system. The best areas to focus on first are meat and dairy, where these chemicals are so prevalent.

-Buy clean, whole foods. The rule of thumb is the fewer ingredients the better. As you read through the ingredients (ideally….no more than five) they should be able to be pronounced and you should know what they are. If you don’t know what it is and you can’t pronounce it, the likelihood that you would want it in your body is slim to none. The less processed the better.
A key message that can be taken away from the film is that, really, we have a choice in the foods that are produced and made available to us; and we “vote” on these foods every time we go to the grocery store. Every item that is scanned and recorded either fuels the corporate machine (packaged, processed foods) or supports the organics and local foods (chemical-free meats and fresh, local fruits and vegetables). Your purchases send a clear message about how you want your food treated.

I know that times are tough right now, and many are wary of spending extra on higher priced organics, but when you really think about it, how better to spend your hard-earned dollars than on your health and well-being. When the choice becomes spend a little extra on clean, good food so that the extra dollars don’t have to go toward paying for prescription medication for an allergy, high cholesterol, high blood pressure and the like, we’ll be moving in a better direction. Don’t you think?

Tuesday, July 14, 2009


Now I’m pretty fit and look as if I’m pretty athletic. However I grew up walking on roller and ice skates, as well as alongside my bicycle . And, I was always the last one chosen and the first one out for dodge ball during gym class. Truth-be-told, to this day I’m better at hiking (and walking) up a hill rather than down. The difference between then and now, though, is that then I would eventually stop myself from trying something new or more than once. Now, I’m more likely to rally and see where a muscle-moving adventure might take me. I love to move my body. And, I’m not afraid to look or be silly. In fact, it’s a key part of me and a part I like to support development of with those who find their inner silly somewhat dormant.

“How do you want to move your body today?” This is a question I ask of clients who have a block around regular exercise. While I seem more naturally to be a gym rat and more relaxed in that controlled environment it is simply not the only form of exercise that works for my body—or, way more importantly, my soul. Your whole body works when you are moving your body regularly in one or more ways. Mixing it up can add lots to your spirit and sense of fun. It can even shift how you view a situation, solve a problem and challenge your outlook.

This leads me to a most recent experience. It started the week prior to last when a new friend asked if I wanted to go kayaking on the Hudson River. Sure, I said. I believe that either right before or right after the invitation was extended I was asked whether or not I have ever gone kayaking before. Nope, I said.

So there we were. Car parked. Life vests secured. Water bottles in hand. That’s when I realized there was no valet who was going to help carry the kayak down to the bay launch site. Honestly, this isn’t as princess-like as it sounds. I had actually spent some time visualizing this experience and had forgotten that somehow, some way the kayak had to go from land to water. Woops. This turned out to be the strength building and balance portion of the program.
Squat down. (Leg training came in handy here.) Core tucked in Uddiyana-bunda style. (Ah, my beloved yoga practice.) One-two-three: lift! (Bicep and tricep training…check.) Walk down a grouping of steps and then onto a short ramp floating on water. (Uh, oh……..need a little help with both balance and going in a downhill direction it still seems…..) I was sweating and we were still on dry land. But there I was out and about on a beautiful summer Saturday in nature and moving my body. Miraculously a town patrolman/guard/my kayak angel was suddenly there helping my friend and I carry the kayak the rest of the way and assisting with placing it in the water (Psuedo Valet?! CHECK!!!! )

Then we were in and I experienced a triple play of feelings and sensations all at once. There was the practicality of getting an arm workout while paddling, utilizing muscles that I absolutely do not use daily. There was the thrill of moving forward under a train trestle from the quiet calm of the bay to the fluid and more powerful flow of the mighty Hudson River. And there was the special bonus and pure delight of sharing time, conversation, laughs and musings with another person as we yak-yak-yak-ed in the kayak.

Moving out of a comfort zone in general can make your heart beat a bit more rapidly. Great for the spirit. Add to that using your physical body and we have cardiovascular, yes, “exercise.” But the organic cherry on the cake is sharing the experience with another person , adding to the true fun and soul-soar of it all. The stuff that money and a gym membership can’t buy.
Think about it. How do you want to move your body today? If you choose to go outdoors, the sky really is the limit.

Wednesday, July 1, 2009

Grab Me On the Run

A wise and inspirational Buddhist monk by the name of Pema Chodron, once said,or at least quoted someone who said, that it is always good to start where you are. So, I am in the middle of teaching a four week teleclass series on Whole Food Eating—I thought that rather than labor over where to start a blog….I would just jump in where I am. And here I am.

I base all that I do from a holistic stand point meaning that it’s about all parts of your life being in balance, not just the food you eat. However the more time I work in this field I do believe it begins with the food that you eat. Hence, today’s topic: the concept of cooking once and eating several times. The idea is to make sure to always have something nutritious and delicious on hand in a pinch. Even without cooking a full meal, there should always be several viable choices of something to eat/snack on whenever you open up your refrigerator. Good, healthy, fast, whole and yummy choices.

Here are some staples that work when you need to grab and run:

In your Fridge:

Hard boiled eggs (travel well, great source of lean protein)

Baked Sweet potatoes (like the eggs, they travel well and have the dual ability to ground you because they are a root veggie, and satisfy with sweet natural taste)

Cut up cucumbers and radishes (both are cleansing in nature, satisfy “crunch” and offer variety of color in veggies – the more color the better)

Cut up red, yellow, orange peppers (look festive in a snack bag and are available and “on call” to dip into hummus, salsa or guac w/no notice)

Olives (good source of fat)

Pickles (the already refrigerated kind. Basically they have fermented/active “live” enzymes in them

Pesto (it’s a great time of year to make your own but there are several delicious kinds in addition to basil—like sun dried tomato—that are pretty whole and work well with a grain or to simply dip veggies in or as a sandwich spread)

Roasted chicken legs/breasts (great as a meal, fine as a snack)

Turkey breast (not just for Thanksgiving anymore….)

Roast pork tenderloin (the other white meat…)

Tempe (you can cut into bite size triangles, sauté ahead of time in olive or coconut oil. Provides a non-animal protein & fermented food choice)

Sauerkraut and or Kim Chee (along with the above fermented food theme—has active digestive enzymes, aiding in digestion—purchase already refrigerated. The shelf version does not have the active digestive enzymes)

Outside of the fridge:

A few Lara and/or YouBars ( Minimal processing and good in a pinch as you dart out the door

Home made trail mix (with organic, raw nuts and maybe some shredded coconut, raisins, apricots, and gogi berries, provides great source of protein and good quality fat with some sweet taste in there too.)

Apples, oranges and bananas (hearty fruits that don’t go bad quickly, can be thrown in a bag and nut butter tastes great with two out of three)

Figs (good with honey when you absolutely need a sweet fix and don’t want to move out the natural sweetener realm)

Dates (you never want to turn down a good date. Amen.)

If you get in the habit of at least having a variety of the above things ready and available you are not going to be caught off guard on a day when you are going to be out, say at a child’s sports practice, at a meal time or working late, etc, etc, etc……There will always be several choices for you to choose from (which keeps you from feeling deprived) and that are available easily. So what do you think of that?

As you continue to follow my blog, I’ll give more tips on healthy yummy eating and will continue to explain the subtleties of nutrition all the while focusing on wellness and balance in your living…