Saturday, March 20, 2010

random thoughts on a fast week

First, I cannot believe it is Saturday night already. I can't remember the last time I sat down to do a little bloggin'. Time has been simply put, flying. My brother just asked me on Friday if I live for the weekend. I laughed. Not because it was a silly question but because "weekends" are a thing of the past now that I am a mom. My responsibilities are the same, regardless of the day of the week. My routine is pretty much the same Sunday through Saturday. This isn't necessarily a bad thing, but consistency can get a bit boring.

Good thing for New Food Friday then, right?! At least I can count on Friday night dinner prep for a little, much needed excitement. New Food Friday this week was Sweet and Sour Tempeh. It was delish. Not a kid food, but a great and filling dish for parents to enjoy with chop sticks and brown basmati rice. Yum. There were leftovers in the fridge this morning, but I opted to take Thursday's' Spring Veggie Pasta to school for lunch so that I would have the Sweet and Sour dish to look forward to for dinner. Turned out to be a great plan because I was excited about my dinner all day. For the record, the leftovers lived up to all my expectations. Why is it that food always tastes better the next day?

Speaking of school... today I had supervision. It is when all of us doing internship get together and talk about what we are learning. It is actually a really great way to spend a Saturday. I will be sad when that part of my schooling is over. Anyhow, during lunch my most beautiful friend Ericka was telling me excitedly about her most recent obsession... checking the ingredients of her fave beauty products. Turns out she stumbled upon '' and is learning all about some of the harmful crap we slather onto our bodies every day, sometimes several times a day.

Well, of course I get all excited because I love to see other people jazzed about getting all healthy and crap and I love learning about new things. Needless to say we ended up having a big ol' conversation about the crap we put in and on our bodies.

At some point in the conversation the great question came up, "Don't you think it is possible to get a little too obsessed with that stuff? There will always be something to worry about." I responded that of course there is a learning curve as you adjust to new ways of doing things, but it gets easier over time. Changing diet, changing beauty products, changing thinking patterns, changing anything takes motivation, time and patience.

At the time I thought it was an adequate response, but if I had a pause button for life I would have used it right then and spent some time thinking the question through a bit. Since there is no pause button for life, I spent the afternoon thinking about it and have concocted a different response. My blog is now the forum for my newly formulated response.

Here is what I wish I would have said:
"It is all about supply and demand baby. As long as we as consumers continue to buy products that poison our bodies, bellies, skin and spirits, those products will continue to dominate our marketplace. I don't want my children to have to read through every label, checking for high-fructose corn syrup in their ketchup or looking for cell mutating ingredients in their face lotion. I want to send a message NOW that we don't want that crap in our food, on our bodies or in our stores. If this means being a little obsessed now, then so be it. As the saying goes, Rome wasn't built in a day. At the risk of sounding cliche, change has to start somewhere. If you settle for status quo, all you will get is status quo. And status quo just doesn't work for me, and it REALLY is not good enough for my children. Is changing hard work? Yep, most of the time. But it is the consequences of NOT changing that frighten me far more than hard work."

Yes sir, I would have said, "supply and demand baby".

I tell my clients that all our choices go into the imaginary backpack we wear. Some choices weigh more than others, depending upon the consequences of the choices we make. Some choices weigh so much you can barely walk. Some choices have no weight at all. Some choices even have the power to cancel out some of the weight of past "heavy" choices. This theory applies to food. The food you put into your body and the products you use in your daily life have the power to lighten your load or to weigh you down (quite literally). And only you get to choose what it is you put into your backpack. Ericka challenged me to examine the products in my bathroom cabinet and makeup bag. (I will let you know how it goes)

I challenge you to challenge yourself. Are you demanding the best for your body? If not, how come? It's not because you are scared of a little hard work, right?

Friday, March 5, 2010

This is a race you need to jog...

I am writing today because my heart hurts. My heart hurts for all of the young girls, young women, moms, wives, ladies and females around the world that believe their worth is somehow measured by their waist line. My heart hurts for myself and all of the years I wasted thinking that I could control my happiness by controlling what I ate, what calories I burned and what size jeans I could fit into.

I am sad because so many woman see food as the enemy, a beast that needs to be measured, calculated and restrained. I know this because I used to be that woman. I used to spend weeks eating so little and telling myself that I could get back to life (ie. eating) as soon as I reached 130 again. 130! This is a ridiculous weight for a person of my level of activity and body structure. In order to stay at 130, I literally eat just about nothing. I would laugh and say I, "I like to drink my calories." For years I did this.

Eating food of any sort was considered a guilty pleasure. And guilt is what I would feel for eating just about anything. My sense of joy came from other people telling me how small or skinny I looked. I liked how I looked when I was hungry. I liked how strong and powerful I felt when I could say no to food, depriving myself from sustenance.

When I became a vegetarian in college, I was able to harness some of my negative perceptions about food. Food slowly became something I looked at to make me more healthy. With my vegetarianism came an awareness of substance. All of a sudden I realized that what one eats has the power to define who they are and what they believe. This knowledge made me re-evaluate many of my attitudes towards food. I did not want to be defined by my ability to restrict myself from all foods, when I was beginning to realize that not all foods were "harmful". A vegetarian diet opened my eyes to the possibility that food is meant to nourish, not destroy. But this knowledge was met on my deaf ears. I was not ready to change.

About a year and a half ago, after I had Hayden I started seeing a Holistic Nutritionist. I realized I needed help when I started trying to control my diet while I was breastfeeding. If there is one thing I never want to pass on to my children it is my love/hate relationship with food. I desperately wanted to fix my food issues before they hurt Hayden.

Jessica Patterson, the nutritionist now she was amazing. In six short months I learned so much about what it means to truly "feed" my body, what balanced living looks like and how food is meant to bring joy and life not guilt. But even then I was not ready for the truth. My mind could not let go of the past. I truly believed that the only way to lose my baby weight was to eat little and work out like mad. Her "no counting calories philosophy" truly infuriated me. This sounded like a "skinny person" belief and just a cruel fairy tale for fat people like me. So I discontinued seeing her.

I have not "arrived" by any means. I am no expert. But I wanted to write today about the hope that I now have. In the past two and a half months, while on my vegan journey, I have found peace. I have found peace with my food. Food is not my enemy, food brings me a sense of joy, a sense of life. I have looked forward to the shopping, prepping, cooking, serving and eating that has gone into every meal I have cooked this year. Not once have I felt any guilt over anything I have put into my mouth. Part of this, I believe is because in my heart I do feel that animal consumption in this country is done unethically and I feel relief that I am no longer part of that destruction.

...But another part is because I have called a truce and laid down the gun to my own head. The enemy was never food, I was my own enemy. I was scared that if I stopped controlling food, it would control me. I have found just the opposite to be true. I have not counted calories once, since this year began. I have not restricted or tried to control the food I put in my mouth once, since trying on the vegan thing. I have no sense of "when this is over, then I can eat again." I feel full and satiated every day. Here is the kicker, I am still losing weight. I know this not because of an obsession with the scale, but because gradually clothes are beginning to get too big.

Of course I am not losing as fast as I did after the first baby, but I am happy. I am happy with my body in a way I have never been before. Peace is the best word to describe it. I have done the yo-yo diet, the starvation diet, the eat whatever the hell you want diet (I call that one the f-it diet), the protein diet (really tricky for a vegetarian) and the soup diet, just to name a few. Do you know what the one thing all those diets have in common? They all cause you to live for the future. You restrict now, so that you can be happy in the future. Eat less, so you can be less tomorrow. Be hungry now, so that you can fit into your jeans next week.

This is pure craziness. It is craziness because it does not last. "Diets" are not a lifestyle, they are a temporary fix to a life long problem. If you don't believe me, look at anorexics... they have made a restriction diet a lifestyle, but it inevitably will destroy them. I speak from first hand experience. If this vegan challenge had taught me one thing, it is that I want to fully experience the moment, while living for my children's children. I want to enjoy today while being at peace with what tomorrow brings.

I write this and I am filled with pure peace and joy. This is how I know I am finally on the right track. I have felt relief before when talking about food and weight, but never peace and joy. This peace and joy is a gift I want to give every single girl out there. If I could summarize what I have learned about food and weight thus far it would be this: there is NO way to sprint to the end... life is a one-man race. You need to pace yourself and settle in for the long haul. If not, you are going to miss out on one heck of a view.

Tuesday, March 2, 2010


I had brown rice syrup in my coffee this morning. I am out of vegan sugar and agave nectar and I just wasn't feeling the coconut creamer chilling in my fridge. So, I went out on a limb and opened the jar of syrup that I have been avoiding for the past four months or so (something about the color or name of it, 'brown rice syrup' just has not looked appealing). It's not too bad. Sort of a more chill version of agave nectar. I would say it has a real subtle flavor. I used a teaspoon in my coffee with unsweetened almond milk and cinnamon and nutmeg sprinkled on top. I have a feeling that brown rice syrup would be a fantastic addition to a hot cup o' tea. And this afternoon I will test that hypothesis.
Recently I have begun to realize all of the time I spend being food-focused. It seems that so much of my day is spent on food: planning, shopping, unpacking, prepping, cooking, serving, eating, cleaning up after... it just goes on and on, day after day. And now with a blog, I spend time just writing about food. I realize it is a blessing to be able to have stores to shop at, money to spend on and a family to prepare food for, but I wonder if I am a little too consumed for my own good. I asked myself, "should one really spend this much time thinking about food?"
Then I read a chapter in the book, Searching for God Knows What, by Donald Miller. He is the guy who wrote Blue Like Jazz, my all time favorite non-fiction work. The chapter was about Adam in the Garden of Eden, before the fall of man. Here is a brief synopsis of what I took, I am sure I am not going to do Mr. Miller any justice, but oh well here goes anyway...
So, Adam was chilling alone in the garden and right away God knew that Adam needed someone to keep him company. Because that is God's specialty, knowing what it is we need. Well, even then though God saw how lonely Adam was, He didn't just make him Eve right away. No sir, God said to Adam, "you got work to do." We all know what Adam probably did for the next 100 years or so, he got to work naming all the animals. (If I think that planning my grocery list is tedious work, imagine naming all the species of birs? I can't even tell the difference between a sparrow and a lark... so it is a good thing this was Adam's job and not mine. If it had been my job, all the animals would be named like George Formans' children. See that is really funny if you know about George Formans kids.)
Anyways, Adam is going along naming animals, still lonely (I mean, I am sick of talking to just my kids after one day, can you imagine trying to share what is on your heart and mind with the animal kingdom? For a week? Much less one hundred years?! This Adam guy had stamina.) and then finally God says, "alright, let's put you to sleep and get to creating you a mate."
Can you imagine the excitement Adam must have felt when he opens his eyes and he finally sees the someone he has been longing for, and for a ridiculously long time I might add? The person he has been dreaming of? Has been craving?
Eve must have been the most beautiful thing he had ever laid eyes on. And better yet, she was the only one in the whole world who could fill his deep desire for relationship. Yes, God was around, but God seemed to have created us with a need to have community with other humans. Working as a counselor for 5 years now, that is just basic knowledge. It is obvious that we are designed to crave closeness to others.
I imagine that to Adam, Eve was a treasure he would guard with all of his heart. It also makes one wonder if Adam would have appreciated Eve as much if he would have just gotten her right away. What if they were created at the same time? I bet there would have been a lot more bickering while they were trying to name the animals together. God gave Adam just what he needed at just the right time. Sometimes it is the waiting for something that makes that something that much better.
This connects to food. We live in a culture where food is taken for granted every single day. We live with a McDonald's on every corner. The mystery and beauty of food has been taken from us. We don't see how it is grown, where it is grown or even, for the most part, how it is prepared. We often just see the end result and then we eat it. Even all of my trips to the grocery store and time spent prepping food pale in comparison to what my great-grandmother went through to put food in my grandma's belly.
Since going vegan, my families' diet consists of much more wholesome foods. The processed foods we have eaten in the past have significantly faded from our menu. However, with wholesome, comes time consuming. It takes much more time to rinse, soak and boil a bag of black beans than it does to microwave an Uncle Bens Instant Mexican Beans and Rice bag. Making a bowl of oatmeal takes more time than pouring a bowl of Life. And making homemade polenta takes more time than boiling a bag of pasta. Of course I am not talking about 100 years worth of time, but you get the connection.
All of the extra time and energy has been worth it for a multitude of reasons, but one of my favorite reasons is that I just enjoy my food more. Something about the delay of gratification and the work I put into my food makes my meals more delicious. Now more than ever before do I find a certain degree of joy with the food that is on my plate. It seems that everything I make just tastes better.
What I am saying is that God had it right when He made Adam wait, having to work hard and wait for what one desires (like chili that tastes better the next day) definitely is the way to go. I urge you to take time and enjoy the process that is food. Savor the shopping, chopping and eating. I promise you will discover a joy in eating that you never had before.
And I too I will remember this next time I lament over having to chop yet another carrot.