Tuesday, January 24, 2012

Food Elimination

Two months out of the year, I do a liver cleanse, in January and in July. This isn't dangerous, and yes, I know what I'm doing. The cleanse is facilitated by my physician, and I use a medical food (that provides the protein I need) that can't be purchased over the counter. The cleanse entails eliminating foods over a two-three week period and then slowly adding them back into my diet. The foods that are eliminated (slowly) are typically soy based, corn based, sweeteners, caffeine, meat, dairy, peanuts, gluten based grains/veggie-meat alternatives, eggs, and tomatoes/acid based fruits.

I'm currently on my seventh cleanse, and each one is an advent ure in letting go, discipline, self-awareness, compassion, time management, and creativity. The cleanses do get easier in that I know what to expect, and I allow for quiet time and the least amount of activity as possible, especially when the most variety of foods are eliminated from my diet.

Currently, I'm into the second week of my first cleanse of 2012, and I've lost 7 pounds, without trying! A cleanse is not about losing weight, and I have never lost weight with a cleanse before, but I've cut back significantly on the white rice and buckwheat, which are permissible, and sticking with the fruits and veggies, and it's just coming off. Cleanses are not about weight loss!

This morning, I thought of my great grandparents, and I can imagine that they would have a hard time wrapping their minds around needing to do a liver detox and food elimination. They rarely ate meat, and while they did eat dairy, it wasn't full of chemicals and hormones. Their diet consisted of homemade pasta made of whole grains and vegetables. No need for them to do liver cleanses and food eliminations. They faced few pollutants, toxins, and chemicals.

So, today, I am feeling the deeper effects of the cleanse. There's an awareness of layers of old stuff being cleansed from my body, an energetic cleaning that is preparing me for something. That something is a mystery to me, but I know my bodymind and spirit well, and there's movement that's facilitated with a cleanse. The movement happens as a result of the letting go and surrender that is required for a peaceful cleanse. Without it, there's a constant struggle as food cravings and beliefs about food hammer away at the mind - things like, "I can't live without meat protein. I need milk to live. What will I eat if I can't have eggs?"

From a physical perspective, the numbers that my doctors focus on - the triglycerides, good/bad cholesterol, inflammatory indices have been beyond normal - more like utterly fantastic. I have a genetic predisposition for high cholesterol, but I am not obese, and I eat a vegetarian diet, so that has never been an issue. Since starting the cleanses, my numbers are incredible. To me, these numbers are an added benefit to an already deeper blessing.

That blessing is the greater inner awareness and opening in my body and spirit that is created when I let go of the attachments around food, and the space that is created in my body for new and greater energetic and physical miracles and possibilities.

To my great grandparents, "I'm thinking of you, great grandma and grandpa, today as I do what I know how to do to live vibrantly in a world that is so different from the one you knew."
Denise Chicoine
Founder, Soulful Life, LLC

Sunday, December 25, 2011

Merry Christmas

On a day when we celebrate the Gift of light and joy through the birth of Jesus Christ, I was reminded of some obscure and long ago memories of my youth. Not that I'm old, mind you. I've often wrote about when I receive my inspiration and when the creative flow moves most swiftly through me; it's typically around three a.m. I awoke last night remembering a man that worked at the same retail store as I did when I was in high school.

The first time I met Charles, he was coming into work at the end of the day to clean the store. He was friendly and very social. While I could understand him well, I noticed that the people around me never knew what he was saying. Curious.

One day, my boss asked him to sign his time card, and he placed an 'X' on the line. I learned that day that Charles was illiterate. He shared some of the hardships he had endured throughout his life.

This struck a deep cord in me, a person with a deep attachment to books and reading and writing. I was young, and I had never met someone who couldn't read or write, but in that moment I understood why his speech and language ability was so impaired. In that moment, I learned about life. I learned that life isn't fair and that fellow humans endure sufferings I had only just begun to understand.

In the midst of his challenges, Charles was always happy. He moved me with his bright spirit, never cross or withholding. I often wondered how I'd behave with the same limitations. And then, I thought of my great grandmother.

She wasn't illiterate, but she never learned English having come from Italy and living amongst her own in an Italian neighborhood in Chicago. She never wrote in Italian because there was no one to write home to. When she tried to learn English by speaking to the other women in the mill where she worked, they made fun of her of her accent. She quit, feeling humiliated. Thinking of that now makes me sad. I wish I had been there to encourage her to defend herself and persevere.

Both of these situations have a common foundation. Charles had a loving wife and children; my great grandmother had a loving husband and children who adored her. In the end, they had family to buoy them when the world was tough, unjust, and cruel. Perhaps hearing about my great grandmother's life prepared me to open my heart to Charles, not judge him or turn away from him when he wanted company and conversation.

The world hasn't changed much since the days of my great grandmother. There are ever increasing numbers of people who can't speak English entering our country, and the NAAL (National Assessment of Adult Literacy) estimate that 14% of US residents have extreme difficulty with reading and written comprehension. These individuals can be considered illiterate.

On this Christmas day, when the memory of Charles entered my consciousness, I am grateful for having known him and having been moved by his story and example of happiness in the midst of struggle. God bless you, Charles, wherever you are.

My mom made a traditional Italian meal tonight, one that would have meant a day's journey by mule in Italy for my great grandmother in order to buy the necessary ingredients. We spoke of our ancestors at dinner as a way to keep their spirit alive, a spirit of hope, strength, wisdom, and love.

As the new year approaches, may you be embraced by the love and support of family, hold on to hope amidst pain, and grow in love, compassion, and understanding for your fellow brothers and sisters who share your world.

Denise Chicoine

Founder, Soulful Life, LLC

Tuesday, December 13, 2011

A Gentle Return

Another Christmas season is upon us, and as I look back at the past year, I marvel at how much my life has changed. The date of my last blog entry marked the beginning of a tough year. Tough because I found myself drowning in unexpected grief and loss. I chose to navigate through the pain in private, not sharing the highs and lows of such a profoundly personal journey. While my insights and experiences may have been helpful to some, I found comfort in going inward, creating silence and space within, in order to heal.

I put my usual, daily routine on hold, and plunged unapologetically into joy-filled, life-engaging pursuits. Internally, quiet and nested; externally, expressive and expansive. Discovering a vibrant life on the other side of grief was unexpected but streamed through in rays of happiness and joy. Too often denied, loss and good-byes persist as they are intimately woven into and essential to the human experience. I look at them differently now, more like portals to the next adventure and sun-drenched horizon.

Healing continues. My gratitude to loved ones and new friends whose patient and loving presence bouyed a weary soul. Recipes that Endure was also shelved this year as I took a long look at the traditions and generational patterns that persist in me and my mom. While a cookbook can be a simple, straightforward project, I wanted to closely examine the familial blueprint etched within me over countless generations. This may sound like useless, painstaking work, but that's where I live! Not afraid to do the work! The end result is a clearer vision for the book and my future; one that is grounded in service and love.

I will be posting vegetarian and vegan recipes to the blog moving forward, so please look for those.
Essentials of a Vegetarian Kitchen is available on Amazon.

Here's to keeping the heart open and the dream alive!

Denise Chicoine
Founder, Soulful Life, LLC

Thursday, September 2, 2010

What You Can't See Coming

When I started this blog I thought I understood what acceptance meant. I had no idea.

Since the last post, my life is very different. My business is ending, and I'm starting a new one.
Endings are brutally painful, and I'm coming through this one with a healing that is unexpected.

I'm allowing this transition to happen, just surrendering to it completely. No trying, no pushing, and no more resistance. I'm just too tired, and when I let go, a peace and calm fill me that is not of this world.

My new book will be out soon: Essentials of a Vegetarian Kitchen, and I'm excited!

So, acceptance - more like surrender, open, free, and liberation.

Look for more posts in the coming months.

Thursday, June 3, 2010

When You're Not Looking

So, we're working on the cookbook, and life just happens alongside these projects. In an ideal world, I have all day, everyday to complete it. I have my mom's full attention, and she works diligently to help with the recipes. Then, I wake up.

However, I have written so much over the last six years with all the teaching I've done. I started looking at everything I've written, and guess what? I have a great how-to manual for those folks wishing to update and expand their kitchens to a more vegetarian version. The new book will be published this month, and it's called Essentials of a Vegetarian Kitchen.

Shots for the cover were taken a couple weeks ago, and they turned out great. I'm thrilled! Despite the hectic schedules and various projects, a delightful book has emerged.

There is no such thing as, "I'll do that when... (I'm retired, less busy, weigh less, married, single, pregnant, finished with school, debt free)." Life is happening NOW, and amidst all of it, the dreams and plans and goals happen. No time to waste, and no looking to the future, waiting for something to happen.

Look for Essentials of a Vegetarian Kitchen by the end of this month!

Wednesday, April 21, 2010


I've decided to add my personal sketches to the cookbook. They will be simple pencil drawings, and I'm looking forward to working on them. Drawing is a great stress reliever, and is so much fun for me. I'm sure you know what I mean when I say that creativity feeds on itself. Cooking is a creative venture, and so is writing. Both fuel my drawing, and vice versa. Great stuff!


Saturday, April 10, 2010


My cooking class in March proved to be very interesting, and while I haven't written about it, there were quite a group of individuals who attended. Vegetarian/vegan cooking classes draw all kinds of people, mostly non-vegetarians - people looking to include more plant based meals into their diet. Well, in March, this proved to be the case. However, there were several that stand out in my mind.

Two women arrived with an aura of resistance around them. One a self proclaimed gourmet cook, and the other, a vegetarian looking to please her non-vegetarian husband and still remain a healthy vegetarian herself. Both came with the attitude of already knowing "everything" about vegetarian cooking, and I wondered why they were there.

Belief Systems

A New Belief

There was a woman who reminds me of a friend of mine. She talked with me after class. She shared some information I find intriguing. She told me that she is now a Buddhist. I know a bit about Buddhism, primariy with regard to death and dying, and non-violence. She shared that she is trying to learn to cook vegetarian meals now since Buddhists don't eat meat, and that she found herself in a situation where she was offered meat as a guest. (I don't know all the details to this story, but the general gist). I understood her to say that the Buddhist belief permits eating meat in this situation because it was offered and thus, considered a gift. When she said this, I remember crinkling my forehead and thinking to myself, "Huh?" I saw and heard hesitation in her voice. She clearly was having a hard time reconciling the new "need" to be a vegetarian with the permission to eat meat when it's interpreted as a gift.

Another Way

A close friend koshered her kitchen a few years back. When she told me that she brought all of her cookware to the temple for blessing and had to get rid of much that was in her kitchen, it didn't dawn on me that she could never eat out, or eat at my home again, unless I cooked kosher food or she brought her own food.

I visited her one afternoon, and when I went to put cream in my coffee, I checked out the ingredients in the creamer, and they were less than great. The creamer was kosher. The ingredients included artificial flavoring and hydrogenated oil, and I believe corn syrup as the sweetener. In any case, I passed on putting it in my coffee.

When we follow a spiritual path, are we meant to abandon common sense or stop listening to our own hearts and bodies? Do we eat something that is less than healthy for us because our spiritual path says it's okay?

My Own Way

My world is not black and white, but varying shades of gray. That is where I feel most comfortable, in between the rules and lines and structure. I am so grateful to my ancestors for their deep devotion and spirituality, and I have carved my own unique way of being. Food is an important consideration in any belief system, and yet deeply personal. For me, my heart and current knowledge will help me decide what to eat, no matter my spiritual beliefs or those of my ancestors.