Tuesday, March 23, 2010

Food Share

During my nearly 20 years of teaching energy based techniques and practices, including Reiki, Feng Shui, Space Clearing, and Yoga, I've met a lot of interesting people. Participants arrive to these kinds of classes very enthusiastic. They are typically yearning for information to help them change their lives in a positive way. The primary thing I've observed about participants in these classes is that they are like sponges - just absorbing every bit of information. For most, the information is really new, so they don't generally come to the table with much to say about the topics. Of course, as they learn the techniques, then they begin to share about how the techniques may be applied in their lives. But up until that point, they tend to soak up the info.

With cooking classes, however, this is quite a different story. Shopping for food, cooking and eating are common experiences amongst all of us. As a result, most folks have things to say about these experiences, both positive and negative. We all have a relationship with food that is based on really deep beliefs about our bodies, family, how we age, how our world functions, etc.

So, in cooking classes, I get to hear more about these beliefs because so many of the participant's beliefs come into question when it comes to food and making decisions about what to eat. When people start to learn about nutrition, specifically, this generates a lot of discussion, and for many, a lot of internal conflict.

The bottom line for most people is how their bodies feel when they begin choosing healthier foods. I know that's been the case for me and my family. Experience is the key - trying new foods and staying open to new tastes. Over time, most find that healthier options really do make a difference in how they feel, how they move, how they think.

I love hearing the inspirational stories people tell when they begin making positive changes in their lives, and that is the joy of teaching.


Sunday, March 21, 2010


Last week at this time, I was preparing for my March cooking class. The focus was seitan - wheat gluten, a perfect meat substitute for those without gluten sensitivity. Cooking classes draw fascinating groups of people together that would not otherwise gather. There were meat eaters who were looking for healthy alternatives, vegetarians looking for another option, and everything in between. I was happy to see 2 men in the crowd.

Maintaining a vegetarian lifestyle requires commitment. To sustain the commitment, each person needs to have their own personal reason(s) for doing so that go deep down to the core of their being. Without conviction, changing a lifestyle is difficult to sustain over time. Being a healthy vegetarian requires time and effort, particularly in the kitchen, but there's the menu planning and the shopping. Typically, this falls to the woman in the home, and more men are enjoying cooking, but rarely do they do the planning or shopping.

About half way into the 2 hour class, a woman asked a question that I've never heard before. I've been teaching classes for 22 years as a nurse, energy worker, yoga teacher, and her question got my attention. Actually, I think she stated outloud what many feel but don't articulate.

She said something like, "Doesn't (eating like) this just come naturally?" I asked her to repeat what she said because I didn't get what she was talking about. When I finally responded to her, I said, "No, this way of eating doesn't come naturally. Making healthy choices requires your consciousness. I want you to bring your full consciousness to the process of making decisions about what you eat." I added a few things about mindfulness, too.

Even now as I write about this, I'm almost speechless.

I've always been a firm believer that education, knowledge, and information are the key to positive, healthy, life-altering/sustainable change. I give this woman credit for coming to the class - vegetarian cooking is very foreign to her. She did see that it is not as hard as people think. Vegetables are not our enemies, and our bodies love them. Of course, there are ingredients and essentials to a well-rounded vegetarian kitchen, and these new ingredients can feel overwhelming to a person eating the S.A.D. (standard American diet).

As with vegetarian cooking and lifestyle, nothing in life just comes naturally. There is a difference between passive/apathetic/indifferent and using intuition to guide us in each day and moment. We can "go with the flow" when we're engaged in life, listening to the messages around and within us, living consciously, coming to our day to day tasks awake, and paying attention to the details of our lives. Then, our lives do "appear" to happen naturally.

If we wait for things to just happen, they likely never will. Our attention and willingness to participate is required for a vibrant, deeply satisfying life.

In April - sweet and spicy tempeh & veggies with rice noodles, and much more!


Wednesday, March 10, 2010

The Young Ones

Four years ago, a young woman began taking yoga classes with me. I was interested in teaching children's yoga, and she thought she'd try it. She quickly realized that she loved yoga. Four years later, she now receives private yoga instruction from me and my colleague. The other night, she mentioned that she's considering becoming a vegetarian. I asked her about her motivation, and she said, "animal cruelty". I have heard that from many vegetarians.

Rarely do I hear that people become vegetarians for health reasons. Instead, there is an ah-ha moment. Education is the key, and once the facts are put forth about how factory farming is cruel to animals (and hurting our environment), many people are willing to make a change.

Her parents are concerned that she isn't old enough to eat a vegetarian diet, and that she won't get all the nutrients she needs, particularly protein. This is a common misconception, and again, education is the key. Our ancestors ate nowhere near the amount of meat that Americans consume today, and they were healthier for it. We need 15g of protein at each meal, and we can get that amount, easily, through legumes (beans/lentils), grains, soy, seitan. The phytonutrients needed for a healthy body don't come from meat - they come from fruits, vegetables, grains, legumes, nuts/seeds, healthy oils.

How to begin incorporating these new foods is typically overwhelming for people. Where to shop, how to cook with new ingredients, finding recipes - all of it seems like too much in a day to day world, that for many, is already too overwhelming. The beauty of healthy vegetarian cooking is that it's simple because the ingredients are whole (not processed) and more pure.

Last fall, during my 4-week cooking class series, 2 mothers attended, not because they personally were invested in living a vegetarian lifestyle, but because their daughters were already vegetarians - one was 12 and the other 17. The young ones seem to be leading the way with greater knowledge and an openness to change.

The topic of food and nutrition is always heated because we are so emotionally tied to our foods. The key is to look at the source of our food - where does it come from and how was it produced? When the facts are understood, there will be no more arguments. We can agree on farming practices that don't hurt the environment and practices that don't inflict cruelty on animals. When we focus on what we can agree on, we can move forward with the discussion on being a vegetarian.


Monday, March 1, 2010

Food Elimination

I've just finished adding foods back into my diet after the food elimination, and all went well. Life has returned to normal, for my husband, at least. He "suffers" the most during these food eliminations, always wondering how our menus are going to change. I continued to avoid dairy, corn, and most gluten. I do so because I feel better when I don't eat these food groups. These periods of allowing my body to rest are interesting; I never know how I'm going to feel when it's all done.

The key word here is feel. Listening to the signals and messages of the body is not a new subject on this blog. However, there is something unique about food elimination. On the surface, this may appear harsh or particularly difficult, but in my experience, time and space become available for other activities including contemplation and self-reflection., and in the end I'm left feeling vibrant.

During these times when the body is taking a break from its usual fare, I think of my ancestors. How I wish I could cook with my great grandmother, and I often use her mortar and pestle to feel close to her. I become ever more aware of the differences and similarities between my life and beliefs and my ancestors'. They would say, "food nourishes the soul and feeds the body" - focusing on the ritual of eating and food as the center of family life. I would say, "food nourishes the body and the soul" - focusing on the nutrients of the food as they nourish the cells. The ritual is important, but the ingredients even more.

When the body and mind rest, awareness grows, at least for me. Here's what I've been thinking today. They weren't consumed with whether or not their food was organic or locally grown - it just was. I work hard to support local, organic farms. They appreciated, at the physical and emotional level, the gift of nature, and so do I. The women cooked in the kitchen, exclusively, from scratch, using whole foods; me too. As I think of these, I'm so grateful to the women for their love and sacrifice for the family.

They might not have understood a food elimination, but they didn't need to - their food was whole, simple, and nutrient rich. I hope to convey that vibrancy in the book's recipes that will be shared.