Tuesday, November 24, 2009

Empower Yourself by Eating Well!

I’m not a vegetarian but I’m seriously considering it.

The scope of our individual influence on the state of the world is limited, but that influence expands significantly the closer to home we get.

So I ask myself ~ how can I have the greatest impact for good at the tender age of 63?

As Alicia Silverstone so cleverly states in her new cookbook ~ "The Kind Diet" ~ we are all activists when it comes to our food choices.

And why is that?

Unlike the political process that excludes those who choose not to participate, we ALL eat, and we vote every time we push a grocery cart up to the check out stand with the products we purchase. The same happens when we buy locally from a farmer's market.

The food industry is HUGE, and the choices we make not only directly affect our pocket books, it sends a message to produce more of what we're buying.

The closer to home it’s produced or grown, the more natural it is, the better it is for you. Basically, vegetables and fruits have the nutrients that most efficiently fuel our bodies and boost our immunity to illness.

I find it interesting that with the current conundrum surrounding health care reform, there’s a general lack of awareness of the level of control we can exercise in our own kitchens.

“Let food be your medicine and let medicine be your food," was the advice of Hippocrates centuries ago.

Simple advice for the prevention-minded.

Difficult? It can be.

But simple? Absolutely.

The pay-offs are quick and obvious. You’ll spend less money and you’ll feel better. There’ll be more energy available to you physically, emotionally, mentally and spiritually.

You can then see yourself differently ~ as a contributor to the planet rather than just a consumer of its resources ~ with a wealth of options!

Monday, November 16, 2009

Mindful Eating Isn't Thinking

You know, mindful eating isn’t thinking about eating. Generally, if you’re thinking about eating, your going to want to eat ~ whether you need to or not.

Being mindful is totally different because what comes into play is beyond cerebral activity.

It reflects an awareness of your feelings and emotions, essential guideposts in forming behavior patterns that work in your best interests.

Not so with thinking.

Thinking often just ensures that you’ll always do what you always did, so you’ll always get what you always got.

That’s why exercise needs to be a part of this conversation, because putting your muscles to work is what helps bridle the activity of what’s affectionately referred to as “the monkey mind.”

Without exercise ~ just thinking ~ our minds are engaged like a revved up car engine with the emergency brake on.

But thinking makes us who we are ~ we would reason. To not think would cut off the ego’s essential source of validation. Which, of course, is precisely why you shouldn’t think.

You more or less get out of the way of your higher self ~ that intuitive voice ~ your “true North” that knows exactly what you really need.

If you can’t envision what activity you’d engage in, then just start walking. Briskly. Step out there after dinner when it’s dark and cold ~ or better yet, before dinner right after you get home from work.

Then check yourself out. Just that departure from the “same ol’, same ol’” will have recalibrated your system enough to cause you to pause before you make the same old food choices. That’s all it will take, because for a time, however brief, you’ll consider making a better choice.

If it works that way once, it can work that way again.

Sunday, November 8, 2009

Nourishing the Body Isn't Rocket Science

What a brilliant statement recently by Sam Kass, assistant head chef at the White House:

“Cooking for people’s pleasure is obviously a nice thing to do, but the No. 1 reason we eat is to nourish ourselves and take care of ourselves.”

Kass couldn’t have framed it better. That’s why we cook and why we eat ~ a refreshing shift from the palate to the rest of the body.

I read his interview in the NY Times recently. It turns out he’s quite the activist. He and Michelle Obama are focusing on the increasing problem of childhood obesity, and Kass plays an important role in her healthy living agenda.

His main job, though, is cooking for the Obama family. The head chef attends to the formal banquets.

As Kass put it, “You look around our country and you see that we have a lot of major challenges, the origin of which is food.”

However, a former White House chef offered this criticism: “Let’s remember: the guy’s a cook. There are people who are much more qualified to talk about nutrition than cooks.”

I disagree totally.

Eating well is far simpler and easier than most people think. Just like that problem of not seeing the forest for the trees, often people can’t see good nutrition for all the boxes, bags and jars of stuff that’s not good, crowding their refrigerators, cupboards and counter tops.

A start would be to do a purge of all the white or processed foods. It’s amazing how that alone clears the playing field of what you have to work with.

You can build better choices from there!

Sunday, November 1, 2009

Fight Flu With Food!

Have you gotten your H1N1 flu shot yet?

It’s big news in the media, and long lines form wherever there’s the possibility of getting vaccinated. People are worried, and if they’re not, the nightly news says they should be. So then, of course, they are.

Hospitals are full, and it’s predicted that as much as 40 percent of the population may get it before it’s all said and done.

So what can you do?

That should be your question no matter what your illness. Aside from one of the best defenses ~ washing your hands and keeping them away from your face ~ put your focus on food and water, and hold your stress level at a minimum.

Just the process of preparing food can do that, mainly because it’s tangible ~ and it doesn’t require remembering a password!

Yesterday I made a minestrone soup in the middle of a list of other things I knew I should be doing. I dropped the “should”, because that word alone can send your head in a whole bunch of unproductive ~ dare I say “toxic” ~ directions.

So standing on my unmopped kitchen floor, with sunlight streaming through my still uncleaned windows, I sliced carrots, celery, zucchini, cabbage and potatoes, and chopped onions and minced garlic.

As my yoga instructor would say during those very long poses: “There is nothing else to do, and nowhere to go ~ right now.”

Key is not thinking about the next thing to do, because the next moment doesn’t matter as much as the present one. (I finally find, later rather than sooner, that that axiom applies to everything.)

Besides, I was on a mission to shore up my defenses against the flu. And I fully believe good nutrition can do that.

If I’m geared up too much emotionally, I pour myself a drink ~ of water. I do that frequently. It reinforces my main goal of being mindful of what I’m doing. It’s like a reminder. And water truly is the elixir of life!

I gather all the vegetables and sauté them for about 10 minutes in a pot with a couple of tablespoons of olive oil. I can either finish it as a stove top process or just put it all in a crock pot, adding a can of beans, a can of diced tomatoes, a can of chicken broth, a cup of water and a little salt.

If you want meat flavoring, you can cut up a strips of bacon and add it to the sauté process. If you like it spicier you can always add some Tabasco sauce or salsa to your bowl.

That’s it.

There are few things that make you feel more intact that knowing there’s a warm pot of soup to fuel your body and boost your immune system.

I’ve said it before. Good health care really is affordable, especially if it starts in your own kitchen.