Wednesday, September 23, 2009

When Will We See?

Hi Guys-

Sorry it’s been a while since I have blogged here. I have been so busy with lots of exciting projects and writing for The Huffington Post. I kind of got ‘blogged out.’ But you can check me out weekly there ( Oh, and stay timed for a brand, spanking new awesome Christina Cooks website in the next few weeks. On to business now.

When I saw the recent news about the sad death of Patrick Swayze, I knew I had to find the time to write this particular blog.

Who didn’t love this smooth talking, handsome fabulous dancer? What woman wasn’t swept up in ‘Ghost’ and the pure romanticism of love? Who didn’t want to ‘dirty dance’ with him?

What was even more sad to me was watching his interview with Barbara Walters where he talked about his feelings on alternatives and his belief that if he ate healthy food, it would ‘feed his cancer’ and make matters worse.

I think that Patrick Swayze’s close-mindedness about alternative health practices illustrates what a lot of America feels about alternative approaches to health and wellness. It’s too good or too simple to be true in their view. I have been personally attacked by this same close minded thinking; called a liar and much worse. And all I do; all that my mission entails is to ask people to consider eating healthy food. I do not advise against medical care, nor do I bad mouth those who choose that path for their healing. I simply give the information that, in my experience, has validity.

Many years ago, I was diagnosed with a terminal form of leukemia and told that I had only months to live. As devastating as that news was to me, I knew that I had to look at every avenue to try and save my life. No door was closed; no information not sought out.

For me, the answer was in the food I was using to fuel my body. I did research and discovered that my choices, vegetarian junk food, had stolen my health and now threatened my life. I discovered that the way we fuel our bodies has a direct impact on how they function. Whether or not we can maintain our health and vitality is directly linked to what we choose to eat.

With all Americans know about making healthier food choices, why don’t we? We must choose food that serves the purpose of our lives and supports health, not steals it. Then we could avoid this cold sweat panic over health care reform, because by virtue of being healthy and fit, we’d prevent most of what has created the exorbitant health care costs that threaten to bankrupt us and break our spirit.

According to Dr. Dean Ornish, more than 75% of all health care costs are spent on what we now call ‘lifestyle diseases:’ obesity, type 2 diabetes, heart disease, stroke and even some cancers. That’s a staggering number, considering we spend more than $2.1 trillion on it…but what’s even more staggering is how quickly we could turn these numbers around if we just chose to eat food fit for human consumption.

Research continues to mount indicating that consuming an unprocessed plant-based diet (along with being physically active) is absolutely key to controlling weight, reducing blood pressure and heart disease, reducing the risk of diabetes and stroke and some cancers. Wow! Imagine a life free of these plagues.

For the life of me, I can’t figure out why every single American isn’t eating a healthy diet. I can’t believe that there’s one person who wants to be fat, at risk of disease, lethargic, foggy and achy. It doesn’t get easier or more delicious than the natural approach to eating. You can even transition slowly if that helps. But you must do something!

Start by substituting whole grain products for bread, pasta and grains (like brown rice for white). Choose nuts, seeds and beans for your protein (for those of you eating animal products, go for wild fish, but seriously, you can skip it and be just fine…remember, cows eat grass; gorillas gorge on berries and nuts…); get rid of the saturated fat that’s clogging your veins and arteries. Drizzle olive oil or other mono-unsaturated fats in place of butter. Skip the meat and dairy. Your heart will be grateful and not attack you!

I could go on for days about all the reasons to eat healthfully. But for some reason yummy, delicious food is not enough. Robust health is not enough. We who promote healthy eating beat our heads against the wall daily to inspire people to eat well and still, Papa John wins the day.

Take a personal inventory and see for yourself. Check your own vitality and well-being and see if it needs a wee tweak. Don’t wait until a safe is dropped on your head and you are in danger of losing your life. Choose an unprocessed, plant-based diet. Choose health. Choose life.


Friday, August 28, 2009

for love of julia

Hi Guys-

Well, it’s happened, five years after her death and thirty eight years after it was first published, Julia Child’s quintessential French cookbook, ‘Mastering the Art of French Cooking’ has made it to the New York Times bestseller list.

To this day, it remains the only cookbook to explain how to create authentic French dishes in American kitchens with American ingredients. By teaching techniques of French cooking, Julia Child singlehandedly turned American housewives into gourmet cooks.

I used to race home from school to watch old reruns of Julia (as I called her) cooking everything from soufflé to lobster (yikes, that was awful, I must say). She was masterful and goofy, funny and wise, graceful and clumsy and I loved her and her cooking. I was hooked, something that many people who make their livings in kitchens will admit.

I remember meeting Julia for the first time. I was brand new to television and we were both at a national public television event. I was dying to meet her. As I stood in a hallway one day, lo and behold, Julia Child was walking toward me in all her height and eccentric splendor. She was with a young woman and as she strode past me, she said,’ Now remember, I want to meet that new young woman who doesn’t cook with butter.’

I wanted to scream, ‘That’s me!!!!’ But I didn’t. I walked up and introduced myself in a civilized way, completely starstruck. Julia was warm and cordial and asked if we could talk about her favorite ingredient. The young woman with her warned that she had about ten minutes to spare. Two hours later, (well after I stopped picturing Dan Akroyd’s famous portrayal of her…), Julia asked me if she should give up butter for her health. We both laughed as she realized that at 87 years of age, she was doing something right.

That meeting sticks with me because I remember being most impressed by her love of all food…of course, only good food. She had no time or patience for junk food of any kind. I often wonder what she would think of the swill we have peddled to us as food. Not much, I suspect.

And so now a movie has been made about her greatest recipes, based on a blog by a young woman whose life was going nowhere and decided to cook her way through Julia’s masterpiece cookbook. And now this same bible of cooking has finally become a bestseller.

It’s interesting to me that in a time when fewer and fewer people are cooking that Julia’s homage to great food has risen to such heights. And at a time when diabetes, obesity and heart disease are epidemics, people are buying a book that celebrates all the foods we now know do not serve our health.

Is it to own a bit of history? A bit of Julia? Is it because Meryl Streep so beautifully channeled our godmother of cooking? Does this new status for ‘Mastering the Art of French Cooking’ mean a return to cooking from scratch?

And what about the ingredients so essential to Julia’s way of cooking. Butter, lard, organ meats, cured meats, all manner of heart clogging foods are falling out of fashion. They are, aren’t they? We want healthier fare, don’t we?

We can’t afford to cook the way Julia did. We don’t live in the innocent 1950’s when food was authentic and not manufactured, when butter wasn’t laced with growth hormones, antibiotics and steroids, when beef was grass-fed and thereby lower in saturated fat. We no longer live in the world where the cook of the house shops daily for the freshest ingredients and cooks from scratch. We live in a world of fast food, junk food, deep-fried oreos and 600-calorie coffee drinks. We live in world that is literally groaning under our collective mass and is slowly dying from the way we produce and manufacture food.

Julia learned her love of food and cooking when food was simply food and we cooked it and ate it. In our modern world, food is entertainment…we watch chefs working against the clock cooking food that we can’t even identify and where the new style of high cuisine is sous-vide, a method by which food is vacuum packed and then cooked at low temperatures for a long time in boil bags after which some searing or other ‘finish’ cooking used to complete the dish. Really, back to boil bags? And we worship the chefs using this new method, from Thomas Keller to Charlie Trotter.

When did we lose touch with all that Julia stood for: actually learning to cook and mastering that art? Whether you agree with her choice of ingredients or not…and I mostly don’t (and she would disagree with me that healthy food is necessary. She believed that all food, in moderation, was the key), we all have to respect what she stood for and the gift she gave us. She taught us that the kitchen wasn’t a scary place reserved for white coats and French accents. She taught us that anyone could cook.

It’s time to head back to the kitchen, dust off your copy of ‘Mastering the Art of French Cooking;’ adapt the recipes to create healthy meals and pay homage to our great Julia by mastering your own art of cooking.

Buon Appetit!


Tuesday, August 18, 2009

what will it take?

hi guys!

Sorry to be off radar...I have been crazy busy and just the thought of blogging made my head hurt...but I am we go!

I try not to judge. People are where they are in their evolution. I consider that all the time and carefully measure my words and actions to accommodate that fact. But sometimes I wonder what people are thinking.

I just returned from teaching on a cruise ship. I know what you’re thinking. What was that cruise line smoking when they invited me, the queen of bad news for junk food eaters, onto one of those floating binge palaces to teach healthy cooking? I thought the same thing.

My first class was on the first day we were at sea. I convinced myself that the first attendance would be light, first morning and all; people struggling to find their way around the ship. But I walked onstage to a packed room, filled the brim with people ready to be entertained and educated about healthy cooking. Class was totally fun. The people asked thoughtful, concerned questions about health. Who knew?

But before we get all warm and fuzzy about change; hang on. After class, I had free time. So my husband and I took up seats on the ninth deck overlooking the sea…and it turns out, the buffet dining room. Yikes!

Granted, there is everything a person could possibly want to eat displayed in a most enticing manner. From lamb chops to chocolate mousse and everything in between: pasta, pizza (at least 4 varieties), bread, pastries, cold cuts, eggs, omelettes, bacon, sausage, French toast and waffles, the lines for food were endless…unless you were interested in the salad bar. The crisp, fresh greens sat abandoned next to little bowls of glistening chickpeas and kidney beans, nuts and seeds, unless they were smothered in ranch dressing.

It got me to thinking. This obsession with excess goes far beyond our desire to eat our ‘money’s worth.’ It goes beyond the desire to ‘treat ourselves’ and beyond the attitude of ‘I’m on vacation; I’m entitled to all of this…and more.’ It was clear that people were making their choices; the cruise line didn’t have a gun to their heads forcing them into the fried food line.

What entitles people to abuse the one body given them in this life? And what makes people want to do that to themselves? I watched one gentleman, a perfectly nice guy (you could tell, just from his eyes that he was a sweetie), huff and puff his way across the deck to a chair, one hand holding 8, count them…8 large sugar cookies, while the other hand balanced an ice cream-filled waffle cone. His breath short, his gait labored, I watched him struggle to his seat. Flopping down, he dove into his food, but not with relish, more with a pained look on his face, like every bite added to his discomfort just as each bite added to his substantial girth.

I got to wondering as I watched this pattern repeated time after time, person after person, almost in a pained obligation to excess. As bloated bodies waddled from food station to food station, their plates groaning under the sheer volume of stuff on them, I couldn’t figure out what continued to drive them. At what point did they lose hope? After they lost control? Is it after the first 15 pounds lands on their butts and bellies? The first 20? When do you say to yourself, ‘this is what I am meant to be’ and just let go?

At what point in life do you decide that the mere seconds of sensory gratification on your tongue is worth your health and quality of life? I can’t believe that people don’t know any better, that they have no idea that what they are eating (overeating) is creating so many of their problems, from aches and pains to diabetes and heart disease.

Look, I know that a cruise may not have been the best place for me to observe people and their eating habits. I know that the reputation on a cruise is that people eat as much and as often as they can. And I know that most people go on cruises for that reason; the glaciers, national parks, beaches and landmarks take a definite back seat to what’s for breakfast, lunch and dinner.

Look, everyone loves to eat (almost everyone anyway…) and food is meant to be yummy, sexy and satisfying. I love food, good food, tasty food as much as the next guy. But when that love of eating exceeds all natural limits and robs you of your health and vitality, it’s time to wake up and examine what you are doing. With the average American consuming 4400 calories a day (twice what they need to maintain their weight), it begs the question of how much is enough?

And don’t even think of giving me the argument that healthy food is elitist and expensive. Sure, I can’t compete with a 99-cent burger and fries combo, but what is your health worth? You can either invest in healthy eating now…or you can pay the price later…with your health and your healthcare premiums. I am tired of paying for people’s bypass surgeries that could have been avoided had they just eaten a healthier diet. And I ain’t even talking about being vegan. I am just talking about eating real food and not as much.

I was watching Bill Maher the other night and he was talking about how healthy people are demonized and ridiculed, like we’re no fun, the bad news at this party of excess that marketing has created. In his more than sarcastic and eloquent way, he said that Americans think it’s their right to eat poorly and excessively and be fat.

How sad for us if that is true.


Tuesday, July 28, 2009

meat and mrsa...what are we thinking?

Hi Guys-
I was reading a magazine the other day and I saw a tiny blurb talking about the connection between eating red meat and MRSA (methicillin-resistant staphylococcus aureus)…remember that super-bug that was wiping people out in hospitals and long term care facilities because bacteria can flourish in these environments and many of the people there have compromised immune systems and are heavily antibiotic-reliant?

Well, it seems that MRSA is back in a big way and you’ll never guess how…turns out that confined animal feeding operations (aka factory farms) have become a spectacular breeding ground for this vicious little villain because the animals are compromised and so antibiotic-reliant. And then it’s passed on to us, through the meat we eat and since we are so heavily antibiotic-reliant and compromised, MRSA can thrive in us, too. Wow, another selling point for McDonald’s, Arby’s and Wendy’s!

And it gets better. A new study has been released linking the consumption of red meat and dairy products to an increased risk of pancreatic cancer. The study was done by the Division of Cancer, Epidemiology and Genetics at the National Cancer Institute in Bethesda, MD (wow, that’s a mouthful…) and was initiated because ‘up to now, the link between pancreatic cancer and dietary fat, a risk factor that people can do something about, has been inconclusive.’ Ay, ay, ay!!!! But I held out hope…

So the NIH (National Institutes of Health) and AARP got together and studied more than 300,000 men and 200,000 women to search for links between fat consumption and pancreatic cancer. They also took into account, smoking, body mass index and diabetes.
The study concluded that people who consume the greatest percentage of their diet as saturated fats had the highest risk of pancreatic cancer and here’s the kicker.

‘We did not observe any consistent association with polyunsaturated or fats from plant food sources.’ And…‘Altogether, these results suggest a role for animal fat in carcinogenesis.’

Seriously? That was the conclusion???? It suggests a role? Who are we kidding?

Okay, so here’s my beef (pun intended). What will it take for us to really get the message that meat is not the best choice of food for us? And while I live a vegan lifestyle, I don’t for one second think that the entire world will follow suit. It would be nice, but I live solidly in reality.
I go back to, what for me, are the million dollar questions. What will it take for us to wake up and look at how our food, particularly meat is produced? When will we demand better and stop swallowing the swill they market to us?

Where, in all of our ability to reason, do we see the logic in producing more than 14 billion animals a year for slaughter? Do we really think that it’s sustainable? For us, the planet or the species we kill by the millions? Do we think that these animals are raised in a healthful manner (forget being nice to them for a second…) that makes them fit for human consumption? Or do we just refuse to look at the issue because that would demand change? Real change…and then we’d have to do something about it.

Maybe that’s it. Maybe we think that we can just ignore all of this and it will disappear on its own…obesity, diabetes, heart disease, stroke, cancer (good lord, if I see one more bloody race, walk or other sporting event to support research for disease…that will never be cured because the pharmaceutical giants out there would close their doors…). Well, here’s a clue. Lifestyle diseases, as we have come to know the modern day plagues that rob us of our health, aren’t going anywhere as long as we continue to cling to our childish eating habits and old ways of doing things.

The time is over for us to wait for someone else to do the work. We can not sit idly by and wait for an ambitious soul to come along and rescue us from ourselves. There is no magic wand to wave. We can’t bury our head deeply enough in any sand to escape the hard realities of the effects of meat-eating on health.

Another article I read this morning questioned whether or not meat is the villain in this drama we call our health. The article showed results from a study that said that it’s the quantity and quality of meat that affects us, not so much the actual components of meat. Seriously, this article goes on to say that if Americans ate one or two servings of organic, grass-fed meat a week, surrounded by lots of whole grains and vegetables, then it would be okay to eat. Well, duh. And just how many fine Americans are doing that? How many are spending a mortgage payment to buy organic, grass-fed meat for the family and eating it only once of twice a week?

With less than 19% of Americans eating the 5-9 servings of vegetables and fruit a day and consuming close to 4000 calories per person, per day on average, with 40% of the average diet coming from saturated fats, not many of us are following this utopian eating pattern that includes organic, grass-fed meat and lots of fruits and veggies.

While most of us are aware that we should be eating vegetables and fruit each day…we even know how much, we take in most of our veggies in the form of potatoes and our fruit in the form of juice…more calories and sugar.

But look, it’s not easy and marketing makes us nuts and literally makes it hard not to be fat and sick. There are more than 50,000 fast food chains in this country, translating to more than 500,000 places to buy junk food. Kids between the ages of 6 and 14 eat at fast food restaurants an average of 157 million times a month…a month!!!! Americans spend more than $100 billion (with a ‘b’) on fast food every year. And that number is growing with our waistlines.

And the real kicker? Most Americans know that fast food is not their healthiest option.

So why? What’s it gonna take to wake us up and get us on the path to being the healthy, fit humans we are meant to be? Whatever it is, I hope it happens soon because I am tired of paying for other people’s childish indulgences each month when I write the check for my health insurance premium.

Time to be well, people…


Monday, July 13, 2009

i'm back from italy!

Hi Guys-

I am sure everyone has seen the latest stats to be released on obesity. (I just got home from Italy and found them waiting on my desktop.) While Mississippi is ‘still king of cellulite,’ an ominous tide is rolling onward as Alabama is currently running a close second in its obesity rankings.

The new stats have just been released and they hold little good news. In 31 states, more than 1 in 4 adults is obese (not just pleasantly plump, but obese…yikes!). The report, released by the Trust for America’s Health says that obesity rose in 23 states over the past year, while not one state experienced a decline. In fact, the report indicates that the crest of the wave of obesity has yet to crash over us.

And while this report provides one of the first in-depth looks at obese baby boomers…and also credits them for a good deal of the crushing rise in obesity (39% of boomers in Alabama are obese), I won’t bore you with yet another blog about obesity and its impact on health. We all know the truth. We need to eat real food and exercise regularly to be fit, vital humans.

But I think the problem is much deeper than how many Happy Meals you eat. I think that we live in a world where you have to be constantly vigilant to not be obese. I think that beating people up, yelling and finger-pointing won’t really solve the problem. I think that the problem runs so deep that a total overhaul of our food system is needed to beat obesity before it steals our future completely.

If you’ve seen the documentary Food, Inc., read anything by Michael Pollan, or listened to the current information that Mark Bittman talks about, you know the truth. As a culture, we have moved so far from eating real food, that we almost can’t identify it anymore.

As decades have passed and we grow further from the garden and the kitchen, we have lost sight of what real food looks like, tastes like and how we feel when we eat it. In the name of convenience and speed, we let our health, along with real food slip through our fingers and the price we are paying is high.

I often ask people what they are looking for in life. It seems that we spend our days wishing them over. We can’t wait for school to be out, work to be finished, our time at the gym over, dinner done…and I wonder why. What is it that we can’t wait for? Hours in front of the television? More time on Facebook or Twitter? What?

We need to re-think and re-set our priorities. In this economy, we talk a lot about getting back to basics, getting rid of excess. We need to begin with our food. It’s time to stop buying into all the marketing and hype that we see and hear, promoting fast food, junk and other foodlike substances.

Getting back to basics begins in the kitchen…actually in the garden and at the farm stand. Before this madness known as the obesity epidemic can be stemmed, we need to identify real food and begin to make those choices. We need to demand better quality from the people who produce and manufacture the food we eat. We need to tell them…loud and clear…that enough is enough and we won’t continue to eat their cheap, fast food that is loaded with fat, sugar and salt and is designed to send us to an early grave, but not before we become reliant on pharmaceuticals. We have to tell them that we won’t buy it anymore…and then we need to stop buying it…and make better choices for ourselves.

It’s so easy to turn this tide that threatens to snuff out humanity. Obesity, diabetes, heart disease, even some cancers are all part of the new category of killers known as ‘lifestyle diseases.’ Our lifestyle is killing us and only a change can stop the terrifying statistics that steal our hope. Eating whole, natural, unprocessed food…the real thing…going back to the kitchen and preparing the lion share of your meals…gathering around the table with those you love…that’s the road back. That’s the path that can remove the stain that fast food and convenience has left on humanity.

And don’t for one minute try to make the argument that eating natural food is expensive and elitist and that it’s so much cheaper to buy poor-quality junk food to feed your family. Not only is that not true, but even if it were, the long term effects of eating fast food on our health is seen in the terrifying statistics we hear about every day. Better to invest in that head of broccoli than those 99-cent burgers. Remember that eating well is a right, not a privilege and everyone can afford to buy fresh fruit and vegetables. Yes, you have to cook them and that makes it harder than swinging by the drive-through window, but if we are to return to health, we need to go back to the kitchen.

It’s time to stop letting marketing and advertising own us and determine our health. It’s time for us to take control of our destinies and create the vitality that so many ads promise, but none can deliver. There is not a pill, lotion or potion that can give you your health. They can only mask the symptoms they have helped to create and give you the illusion of health and well-being.

Instead, why not eat real food, not too much, mostly plants and create the real thing?


Monday, June 15, 2009

Food, Inc.

Hi Guys!

All the buzz is around the new movie, Food, Inc. and I must say it is out of this world. If you have any doubts about who controls the food you eat or any thoughts that the ‘health food nuts’ you know are conspiracy loons, this will open your eyes. According to the research and facts presented in this film, unless you are eating whole, unprocessed, organic (as much as possible) food, you can not be sure at all what might actually be on your plate. Not for the faint of heart, this powerful film pulls no punches.

Food, Inc, for those of you not aware, is a documentary that indicts the industrial system of agriculture and the policies that have allowed companies like Monsanto and the National Chicken Council all but own the food you buy and consume daily…and since they own it, they control the quality (or lack thereof) of it.

While Big Agriculture is attempting to demonize the film saying it jeopardizes the small family farm; that is just another attempt to confuse the consumer with their typical bait and switch games. Farm Aid, an organization that has supported family farms for over 20 years says just the opposite…that Food, Inc shows the struggle of the family farm, their integrity and their willingness to provide the food we need and maintain the health of their farms and the planet.

Big Agriculture is slamming the film, calling it elitist, that to eat in a responsible, healthy and sustainable manner is somehow only for the few. They fail to mention that it’s their stranglehold on subsidies and their dedication to the corporate bottom line are the real reasons that our most needy can only afford to eat the food that they manufacture. It is their very style of business that deprives people of their right to eat healthy food.

Look, the corporate food industry thrives on the status quo. It is of little interest to them that our kids are growing unhealthier with each passing day and that ‘lifestyle diseases’ are increasing at such an alarming rate we will have no worries about swine flu. Cheap, fast food-related diseases are the next pandemic.

We are reaching a tipping point like no other in modern history. We are beginning to realize that our food choices are making us sick. Our health care crisis is just another term for the catastrophe that is the standard American diet. More than half the money we spend on health care goes to treat preventable, diet-driven diseases.

It’s time that we demanded better food and better information on what is in the food we eat. Agribusiness repeatedly blocks better labeling laws because they argue that too much information is a bad thing. Perhaps if the food they sold us was natural, they wouldn’t have to worry so much about what was on the label.

I have only one disappointment with Food, Inc. Robert Kenner, the genius behind the film was recently interviewed and he talked at length about the impact of the policies of meat production and its impact on the environment and human health. The interview was chilling in its power…until the end, when Mr. Kenner said that he was not a purist and still ate meat. Look, I am very clear that we won’t see a vegan society anytime soon, but seriously, Mr. Kenner. How can you make this film, see what you have seen, document the horrors you witnessed and end an interview with that kind of flip remark.

To say that is to deny the very content of your film. As a viewer, I ask myself the question: if the film maker was not altered by what he saw, then why should I be? How can he expect to maintain his credibility in light of comments like that? Did Mr. Kenner make this film simply because it’s a hot topic and a sure bet to be a hit? Food for thought, to be sure.

Food, Inc is not to be missed, whether or not Mr. Kenner grasps (in my view…) the real inconvenient truth of eating meat.


ps...i am going off to work on a project and i may miss blogging for a couple of weeks...but i will be back at it in july, so come and visit me then.

Friday, June 5, 2009

here i go again...

hi guys!

Veganism will never, in my view, be a widely accepted lifestyle choice…ever. And not because it isn’t a gorgeous way to live (because it is…); not because it is a deprived and grim way to eat (because it isn’t…); not because it’s too weird or left of center (okay, I’ll give you that one…). No, veganism will never thrive because a lot of vegans will not allow it.

I was reading an article recently…written by a good friend of mine, someone I love and adore, respect and admire. I was so upset by what I read that I thought my head would explode. Maybe it’s me, but the attitude he displays in the piece shows me arrogance underneath the supposed compassion he professes.

The article was all about the word vegan and its proper use. You may say, huh? I did. You know that joke I make about not being ‘vegan enough’ for most vegans. I think it may be true, sadly. Apparently, you may only use the word ‘vegan’ to describe yourself if you choose this compassionate way of living in order not to contribute to cruelty to animals. (It’s apparently okay to be mean to people, just not animals…). And before anybody goes nuts and writes me about compassion and animals, I am all in for that, so save your breath.

The article said that according to Donald Watson’s description of veganism (he being the founder and definer of the movement that splintered off from vegetarian groups over the use of dairy foods) vegans are those who choose this life to prevent…or at least not contribute to…cruelty to animals. To this line of thinking, the article went on to say that if you are choosing vegan living for personal health or environmental causes, then it would serve better to say that you eat a ‘plant-based diet’ and leave the word ‘vegan’ to those who are truly committed to the cause. And why? Because you might change your mind and give veganism a bad name…or so that was implied.

Here’s my beef (yes, I know…) with this thinking. I am a teacher of vegan/macrobiotic cooking and many of the students who have come through classes were not looking to change their thinking completely. Most of them were just trying to get a bit healthier and since I make this look so easy, delicious and fun on television, they wanted to give it a go. Most of them didn’t know what they were getting into; but many of them changed their lives and now embrace vegan living, compassionately in harmony with the world around them. Some chose to eat a vegan diet, but not embrace activism. By the thinking in this article, I should have turned them away, advised them to take a different approach and come back to me when they had their priorities in order. After all, it’s only about the animals if you are vegan, right?

To ignore personal transformation and to discount the idea that transformation begins with the physical is silly and arrogant, to say the least. If some vegans remain aloof and exclusive, shunning everyone who doesn’t embrace the cause of animal rights, they don’t get to wonder why people are not flocking to join them. They seem to forget that change; true change has to occur at the most primal, visceral level…physically.

When people are drawn to plant-based eating, it is most often for personal health, but how else can we truly transform our thinking, our hearts, our very beings if we do not first, make our bodies healthy and strong and feel for ourselves the power of natural plant-based food. From that physical transformation, the human psyche is freed to think about loftier ideals and to contemplate the plight of the world and all the living beings in it.

We all have to start somewhere. If personal health is what draws you to vegan living, then I welcome you with open arms. By virtue of mere diet change, people who choose veganism for all the ‘wrong reasons’ change themselves, reduce cruelty; grow more compassionate as their bodies heal and strengthen and they leave a lighter footprint on our fragile planet…oh, and they care for the welfare of animals.

It seems to me that some of us vegans have lived too long in a bubble, surrounding ourselves only with people of similar thinking. Many have lost touch with the idea of reaching out, in compassion, to other humans and helping them along in their path of life.

Buddha said that the responsibility of each man, woman and child is to make the lives of those around them better and to aid each living being we meet on its path to enlightenment. Each person we meet is a gift to us and we a gift to them. But if we push them away because they make choices differently than we do, then how can we ever inspire them?

If being ‘vegan enough’ means shunning the brilliant humans I meet because they choose their vegan lifestyle for health, then I think I am happy to fall short of the standards set by this exclusive sect. I prefer to welcome all people, students, friends and family to my lifestyle and see how physical change transforms them to live lives of compassion and peace. Semantics mean little to me when health, peace and the lives of living things are at stake.

Maybe my crazy vegan life is crazier than I thought…but I love every vegan moment of it…in good health.


Monday, June 1, 2009


hi guys...

I think I may have figured out why Americans do not make better food choices. I think people are completely confused. Heck, I get confused and I work in food, study food and research the effects of food on health. I am considered an expert (whatever that means…) and if I get confused, I can only imagine what the rest of the country…who just wants to live their lives and eat dinner…feels.

And I know why we are confused. The latest addition of Men’s Health magazine arrived the other day, the ‘Life in Balance’ issue and it kicked off with a great…and I mean great editorial by David Zinzenko, author of ‘Eat This, Not That’ and editor in chief. In the essay, he talks about Michael Pollan and eating real food, skipping drive-through and junk food; he speaks of whole unprocessed food versus the ‘edible foodlike substances’ we have come to rely on in our diets. He waxed poetic about ‘pulling off the packaging and examining what’s really on the end of our fork.’ He goes on that our modern food culture has pulled us away from the reality of food with slick graphics, cartoons and healthy-sounding words like ‘lite.’

Well, you can imagine my excitement as I prepared to steal my husband’s magazine and pore over every word of this balance issue. I could not wait to read the exposes, the scathing indictments of processed foods. Sure enough, I turn the page and there is an ad for ‘Silk’ soymilk. Cool. But wait…what’s this? Can it be? An item in the Table of Contents called ‘Soy’s Dark Secret’? (I’d bet ‘Silk’ knew nothing about this article before they bought into the ad space.)

The magazine goes on blathering about the ‘bad rap’ burgers have gotten, citing some obscure U.K. study on LDL (bad cholesterol) and how meat doesn’t contribute to those levels rising. Then they go on to cite a test tube study in Canada to make the case that eating fried eggs can reduce hypertension. Seriously? Are we so attached to our childish ways of eating, so attached to the very foods that every expert under the sun (okay, except some Brits and the test tube guy in Canada) say are slowly making us fat and unhealthy…and speeding up our appearance at the Pearly Gates that we can’t look at the truth?

But the real killer, the real icing on the cake of the ‘Life in Balance’ issue came in the form of their ‘Weight Loss Bulletin’ page. Here’s the scene set in the photo. On the left, a more than hefty man in a trucker’s cap, napkin tucked into his shirt front, looking ready to have sex with the huge mountain of fried chicken on his plate. Next to him, a slender Asian man in a tie and dress shirt, glancing sidelong at the chicken as he delicately prepares to eat a salad. The blurb was about ‘pumping up the protein’ and talks about a study that found that people who ate more protein than carbohydrates were more likely to stick with their diet for a year than those who ate less protein. That may be true, but what has that to do with fried chicken and the obvious results of eating it…obesity? One look at the photo and the truth was obvious. I’ll take the slender salad eater, thanks.

The magazine went on with its usual stuff…the 15-minute workout, how to get (and lay) the girl…how to lose belly fat…ads for ‘The End of Overeating’ to Kentucky Grilled Chicken (don’t get me started…again…). From ‘The Perfect Day of Weight Loss’ to how to cook with Guinness, the magazine is a study in contrasts. On one page, an expose on fast food and how they fool us with marketing…then an ad for grilled chicken dinners from KFC. Then an article on ‘The Capitols of Cancer’ rating cities around the country for their cancer risk and incidence based on exercise and consumption of alcohol…and fruits and veggies. That article was followed by ‘Eat Like a Man,’ with lots of advice on how to cook meat…to ‘The 125 Best Foods for Men.’ Topping the list? Post Spoon-Sized Shredded Wheat. And last? Nitrean Vanilla Protein Powder (not even a food the last time I looked). In between, there was a plethora of products, from beverages to foodlike substances. Wow, no wonder we can’t decide what to eat.

And then I got to the meat of the magazine (pun intended…seriously…), ‘Soy’s Dark Secret.’ With a dramatic photo of a single soybean, the headline read…‘Is This the Most Dangerous Food for Men?’ Yikes! The article begins with the heart-wrenching story of a retired US army intelligence officer who had developed breasts, lost body hair and his sex drive. After all other options were ruled out, it was discovered that his body carried estrogen levels eight times higher than the average woman. Cancer tests came back negative, so one doctor placed the focus on his diet. Turns out, our retired solider was drinking more than three quarts of soymilk a day. Now, that’s a lot, but that would be a lot of any kind of milk.

The article goes on to cite comment after comment from men enduring soy based meals prepared by the women in their lives because it’s ‘healthy’ for them, but the message was clear. They’d rather have all their fingernails pulled out and any man worth his chest hair would feel the same.

And then the science followed. Talk of genistein and daidzein, compounds in soy that make up the famous ‘phytoestrogens’ in the plant ensued. The article goes on about feeding kids too much soy in formula (I agree with that one…). Studies on mice showed that when significant amounts of soy were consumed, the thymus gland shrunk. But they could not say if this result occurred in human infants who drank formula…only mice. The next study cited said that men who ate 15 different soy foods showed a decrease of 32% in sperm count. But again, the conclusion was that it’s too early and inconclusive in the research to tell men to avoid soy to increase fertility. H-h-h-m-m-m-m…this is interesting. After a terrifying story about older Indonesians being studied for dementia risk and how the people who ate very high amounts of tofu showed more memory loss than those who ‘ate a moderate amount,’ they concluded that phytoestrogens may not be all that marketing has cracked them up to be, but that they aren’t bad either…for most people, they lie somewhere in the middle for men’s health. Huh? What happened to deadliest food for men?

The story concludes with our hero, now drinking lactose-free milk in place of the soymilk he was over-consuming. He started using Ensure, which contains soy protein and sure enough, his symptoms returned with a vengeance. Acknowledging an obvious super sensitivity to soy, the retired soldier’s doctor…and the other experts in the article…came to this conclusion…‘Soy protein today is an ubiquitous, profitable and often buried ingredient in a bewildering number of packaged foods’ and it’s best to monitor how much of it men are eating. Well, duh! Soy protein found in packaged and processed foods has been bastardized in the unhealthiest way possible…not unlike high fructose corn syrup. It’s not a food men…or women and children…want to consume at all.

But if you’re going to seduce me into an article with dramatic headlines about ‘dark secrets’ and ‘deadliest food for men,’ you had best give me some hard and cold facts, not some mamby-pamby inconclusive studies that may or may not support the ideas put forth in the headlines.

Look, there is compromised soy protein out there and yes, as a modern culture, we may very well be eating too much soy for our own good…but you could say that we eat too much of everything for our own good.

In the end, the real discussion that needs to be had is about the effects of the hormones fed to the animals we eat in such large quantity. Is the real problem we face the phytoestrogens in soybeans or the hormones and steroids in the burgers this same magazine so proudly and confidently supports as real food for men?

Think about it…


Wednesday, May 20, 2009

Where Has All the Compassion Gone?

Hi guys-

I wanted to talk about something that seriously bugs me. I have lived a vegan lifestyle for more than 25 years and people rarely knew it. I always told myself it was because I hate labels, so ‘macrobiotic,’ ‘vegan…’whatever was off my list of things to call myself.

But that’s not entirely true…actually not true at all. Having lived as part of both of these communities for many years, I think it’s time to have the discussion about compassion, a word thrown about by both vegans and macrobiotics that seems to have little to do with the actual living of the lifestyle.

In macrobiotics, we say that by living this way, we are choosing to create a bigger life, one steeped in ancient wisdom, compassion and freedom of choice. And yet, I repeatedly see a kind of ‘them and us’ attitude that excludes anyone not of the same mind as us. I was always taught that, in accordance with macrobiotic thinking, we are all part of one whole…all connected to each other and that what happens to one, happens to all.

So why the exclusion of anyone not choosing this life? How can we ever hope to achieve ‘oneness’ if we continually set ourselves up as superior and better because we choose to eat brown rice. Do we really think we are better, smarter, on the fast track to enlightenment? How can we ever hope to attract people to our gorgeous lifestyle if we refuse to let them in because they don’t know or understand it.

And then there's vegan, another label I proudly wear…except when people are yelling at other people for their choices. When books like ‘Skinny Bitch’ can thrive, where has compassion gone? I cringed my way through all the books in this series and realized that they were quite successful in conveying their message…that you are a fat and stupid waste of skin if you are not vegan. Really? These Dr. Phil-like authors set themselves up as paragons of virtue and goodness as they demean their fellow humans. There is enough in life to make us feel badly about ourselves. We certainly don’t need former models adding to our misery.

As a committed vegan, I am deeply concerned about the way we treat our animals…and how we produce them for food. If we think for one moment that farming and producing more than 10 billion animals for food annually can be done in a compassionate, healthy and humane way, then we are more out of touch with reality than I feared.

But I also care deeply for human health. As vegans or macrobiotic people who say they are committed to health…human health, planetary health and spiritual health, how can we justify reserving all of our compassion for animals and serving up only disdain for people? How can we hope to enlighten people and help them to see when we are constantly blinding them by shaking our fingers in their faces? How can we hope to achieve harmony when we care only for the welfare of some animals and not for the welfare of others (humans, for example…).

Most vegans tell me that I am not ‘vegan enough’ for their taste because I refuse to spray paint people who wear fur (as gross as that is to me…); I don’t protest with violence; I don’t feel contempt for anyone not playing in my sandbox.

I prefer the philosophy of catching more bees with honey (pun intended…). If we are peaceful, attractive, inviting and open to all we meet, do we not stand a much better chance of them hearing what we have to say and thereby effecting greater change? Seriously, who wants to be scolded? And who wants to scold? It’s exhausting to be so self-righteous…for us and those who must endure us.

For me, the time of ‘them and us’ is over. It’s time for all those who live compassionate lives to show their fellow humans the same compassion we show to cows, pigs, chickens, puppies and kittens. Compassion opens the door for understanding and with understanding people can…and will…make better choices. But they can’t…and won’t…if they are constantly under attack, made to feel that they are inferior to we more ‘enlightened’ types and left feeling that they are less than worthless.

Compassion is not selective, but the gift of all sentient beings to each other.


Tuesday, May 12, 2009

the big disconnect...

Hi guys-

So I sat down last week, tired from too much office work and decided to see what Oprah was into these days. I like to check her show out now and then to see what she has America thinking, feeling, wearing and reading at any given moment.

Well, her show was about hooking people up to make their lives better…note that I said to make their lives better…and the promos for the show were positively seductive! Oprah looked directly into the camera, her big brown eyes moist with compassion and promised America that she was hooking everybody up with a special gift.

The show begins and Oprah ends the anticipation and gives America its present. Each and every American is entitled to head on over to her site and download a coupon for a free grilled chicken dinner from Kentucky Fried Chicken. Huh? I was sure someone had slipped crack into my lunch. Did she say KFC? Seriously? KFC?!?!?!?

Of all the food on this fragile planet; of all the promotions Oprah could endorse, she goes with KFC grilled chicken dinners. This is Oprah, the same Oprah who has Dr. Mehmet Oz come on the show and talk to America about health and wellness and making better food choices. The same Oprah who has everyone from Eckart Tolle and green experts to Kathy Freston on her show talking about making a lighter footprint and living more compassionately. That Oprah. Is she schizophrenic?

Now that I have calmed down, (yes, this is me calm over this disgraceful promotion of junk food to an already obese and sick nation), I checked out the comparative nutritionals. While a breast of KFC original recipe has 370 calories, 21 grams of fat and 1050 milligrams of sodium, the new Kentucky Grilled breast has 180 calories, 4 grams of fat and 440 milligrams of sodium. Is it better than fried chicken? Of course; even I can see that. But here is the thing. It’s still chicken, with all that goes with being chicken.

When we eat chicken, we participate in cruelty…period. Nearly 10 billion chickens are raised for food each year and if you think for one minute that there is a compassionate, humane way to raise that number of animals, you need to think again. Each chicken is raised in a space that is less than one half a square foot; their beaks are cut off without anesthesia to prevent injury when the stressed out birds freak out in the crowded conditions. Imagine if you stood all day and night in a hot, packed space with nowhere to turn to be free. Oh, wait, we did that. It was called Auschwitz!

And because more and more Americans are turning to it as a fabulously healthy protein source (Oprah said so; it must be true, right?), we need to produce chickens faster, so they are genetically altered and fed growth hormones and steroids to encourage abnormally fast growth. Pushed beyond their biological limits, hundreds of millions of chickens die each year before reaching slaughter at a mere 6 weeks of age. Yikes! See, their lungs and hearts can’t keep up with how fast their bodies are growing, so they die of congestive heart failure. Not to mention the crippling leg disorders occurring because they can’t support the abnormal weight of their bodies. And that is even before the processing which can involve stunning the birds in electrified water, slitting their throats while conscious and if the blade misses that slits their throats, well, they are boiled alive.

But okay, suppose you’re not all into the animal suffering bit. Suppose the suffering of a living creature is not that big a deal for you? How about this? The chickens are raised in such unsanitary conditions that they become disease-ridden and need massive amounts of antibiotics to try and stem the tide of the diseases they carry. And all that poison lands right on your plate for your dining pleasure.

Sidebar, lest you think I am out of touch: There begs to be a discussion of organic chicken production here, to be sure, but since we are talking KFC and organic is not a word in their vocabulary, we’ll save that discussion for another time. Suffice it to say, however, that if you think organic chicken is a better choice, do some research and make sure the producer you buy from is following the spirit of organic production, not just the technical letter of the law. Organic feed used in the same circumstances as other factory farms may technically be organic, but it’s far from the spirit of sustainability and compassion. I’m just saying…

But back to KFC. For decades, their savvy marketing of kind ‘ole drawling Colonel Sanders helped shove this swill down our more than willing throats. My mother used to say that you could fry wood chips and people would eat them. She was right. And so now, after all the heart-stopping, artery-plugging fried junk food they have promoted, even going so far as to say dinner in a bucket was the greatest way for families to eat together again, they are trying to jump on the healthy food bandwagon. (Seriously, is that the best we can hope for, dinner in a bucket?)

And why do we think KFC is going this new route? You can bet your clogged arteries it ain’t for your health, but for the health of their bottom line. With healthy eating on everyone’s mind, it has become the fastest growing segment of the food industry today. And with that every health-stealing pirate in the fast food industry is looking for creative ways to keep you walking through their doors and purchasing their food…well, it looks like food, but trust me…

Look, at the end of the day, this is not an indictment of Oprah. I love the work she does in the world and I think she has a great heart. But she is also the perfect illustration of the disconnect Americans have with their food. To be able to move from green experts talking about a lighter footprint to giving away KFC (grilled, I know; I know…) to the entire country suggests a disconnect on the most basic level.

We have lost touch with who we are and what’s fit and unfit for human consumption and if we are to survive and thrive, we’d best reconnect right quick. Our very lives depend on it. There’s no free lunch. This Kentucky Grilled Chicken meal comes at a very high price.


Monday, May 4, 2009

swine flu and smithfield

Hi guys-

I know I am not supposed to call it swine flu anymore because the pork industry says it disparages pigs and is bad for their business, but…

I have spent a little time this morning reading articles about the suspected origins of this current outbreak of flu that is terrorizing America and the world (The media has seen to that!)

Apparently there is great suspicion that this all began in La Gloria, Mexico where massive pig farming takes place and the pollution from said farming has been causing sever respiratory illness, fever, chills, aches and fatigue in hundreds of residents of this village since February. But until a 5-year-old boy was officially diagnosed, this crisis in the making was left out of the news.

It makes me wonder why. This small village supplies more than 50% of the pork to Smithfield Foods in North Carolina, the proud owners of the largest pig slaughterhouse in the world. Such an achievement! They must be so proud. The biggest hog producer, as well as the nation’s leading processor of pork and packaged meats, Smithfield claims that their pigs do not have the flu. Not one of them…not one in the 14 million they raise or the 27 million pigs they own and slaughter has the flu. They claim they have all been tested.

And I am the Virgin Mary.

According to Mexican newspapers, showing the rotting corpses of pigs floating in pig waste ‘lagoons,’ Smithfield’s Granjas Carroll plant practices could most certainly have contributed to this current flu outbreak.

Let’s look at how it works with pigs, highly intelligent and gentle creatures in their own right. A pig produces, on average, three times its weight in solid waste. That’s a lot of manure. In 2003, Science magazine reported that ‘swine flu was on the evolutionary fast track’ due to the increased size of factory farms and uncontrolled waste accumulation. The best estimates put Smithfield’s waste output at 26 million tons a year. That would fill Yankee stadium 4 times. And it’s not just that there is a lot of pig manure out there, but it’s almost radioactive in its toxicity, according to environmental expert, Jeff Tietz. Ostentatious pollution, it seems is a lynch pin of Smithfield’s business model, as they allow great volumes of toxic waste to run off their sloped barn floors into the groundwater of the surrounding areas. With repeated fines from the EPA, you have to wonder what Smithfield is thinking.

Well, we know what they’re thinking. There is no possible way that they can produce in excess of 6 billion pounds of packaged pork each year without compromise to environmental standards, excessive cruelty to the animals as they are factory farmed under horrible conditions. But I guess we can’t let a little thing like human health get in the way of profit.

With 250 pound adult hogs crammed together in a tight space that has no sunlight, fresh air, earth or straw, the pigs trample each other to death. In the pits below the pens, accumulations of antibiotics, insecticides, dead piglets, afterbirth and excrement mount up. In such conditions, the gentle pigs become susceptible to infections and are shot up with antibiotics to cover their symptoms and get them to slaughter. And Smithfield tells us that there is no way that their pigs have infections? Or flu?

Now as the terror induced by the media loses strength and this latest version of swine flu looks like it will not become the pandemic of the age (sorry, CNN and Fox News…), the plight of the pig will once again recede from our consciousness. But now more than ever, we need to call for a worldwide health inquiry into the toxic conditions surrounding factory pig farming and put an end to Smithfield’s dirty little secret that threatens to create a colossal health danger.

Celebrity chef Paula Deen may look like a Southern granny with her white hair and saccharin drawl, but representing a company like Smithfield and what they do to the planet and to humans makes her anything but your neighbor over the back yard fence. She may say that she ‘puts family values ahead of her cooking values,’ but if she continues to work with a company known for cruelty to its animals and workers, pollution and violation of environmental laws…well, no wonder she needs so much butter in her cooking. She has to disguise the bad taste it leaves behind.

It’s time to step up and make choices for our health and the health of our planet. Stop swallowing (literally) all the marketing and smiling faces in the ads. Go with the truth…always…and vote with your dollar. If you want to see Smithfield make changes to how they produce, then stop buying their products and tell them why. When they see that they are losing your money, they’ll change their practices. In fact, stop buying their food-like substances all together…for all the reasons you know…saturated fat, diabetes, obesity.

Maybe one day, we’ll see the Smithfield organic broccoli farm. A girl can dream…


Monday, April 27, 2009

about food

Hi guys-

I was thinking about food this morning…and what to blog about, when, by divine intervention, the idea was handed to me in the form of a Sunday morning magazine program.

A friend called me, screaming,’ Turn on the t.v. There’s a vegan firefighter!!!!’ Ah, I thought to myself, more press for the brilliant Rip Esselstyn, former athlete turned firefighter who changed the lives and health of his fellow firefighters at their engine house in Austin, TX. When he saw the declining health of these true heroes, he knew he had to do something, so he developed a 28-day plan designed to melt fat, lower cholesterol and prevent many of the lifestyle illnesses that plague so many Americans. His plan was so effective for his fellow firefighters, that he developed the ‘Engine 2 Diet’ cookbook.

His groundbreaking approach to weight loss and fitness? Eat a plant-based diet, no processed foods and exercise. I love this book because I love Rip’s message; I live the lifestyle he is recommending…and I adore firefighters. So I was more than happy to turn on Sunday morning television (something I HATE…) and watch Rip do his thing…and he did…and he was great. And while his Chief said she missed fried chicken and he admitted that great barbecue still smells good to him, he leaves it at the memory so that he can maintain his health and eat delicious food…it’s just different…and the results in his life are obvious.

But here is where it gets weird…and made me totally nuts…totally. While Rip spoke of the benefits of a plant-based diet and cited solid study after study about nutrition and health, his segment was inter-cut with an expert spokesperson about meat. Nancy Rodriguez, a Connecticut nutritionist whose research has been funded by the beef industry, said that meat is a healthy option in man’s diet and cited the absorption of iron as the bedrock of why people need meat. She continued that moderation is the key, that if people just ate a wee bit healthier and lost some weight, we would see the same results as we see with dietary approaches like veganism. Really? On what planet? Has she looked around and seen where this idea of change without really changing has gotten us? Does she live under a rock with no access to information about soaring healthcare costs and their direct link to the food we eat? We don’t need more healthcare; we need to take care of ourselves and it begins with what we choose to eat.

The question was then asked, why prolong life if you can’t enjoy it? Rodriguez said, ‘Those other types of pleasures that come from enjoying good quality proteins whether you’re roasting a turkey or a piece of beef, I think it would be sad to deprive ourselves of some of those things.’

Sad????? That’s her answer? And she’s a nutritionist! Heaven help us! I’d like her to tell me what the standard American diet has contributed to in terms of ‘enjoying’ life. Now I know a heart attack is every girl’s dream and cancer, well that’s a party we all want to attend, but if it means giving up all that greasy saturated fat, well, life just ain’t worth living, right?

Seriously, if we think that giving up killing and eating animals to satisfy some weirdly programmed, marketed desire in us will make us happier, then why aren’t we? If meat is the key to enjoying life and feeling fulfilled, then why, as a culture are we fat, unfit and depressed? Many of our men can’t get it up and women aren’t interested if they can. We’re sad and angry and irritable all the time. That’s what our current style of eating and living has wrought. And while some of the ‘health nuts’ in your life are a little, well, nuts (me included), they are generally slender, happier, peaceful and fitter. That’s what a diet of all those foods that take away life’s pleasures gives you.

It’s a truly sad day for us and the world when nutritionists use our battered emotions to keep us eating in a fashion that keeps their work funded. And I suppose CBS couldn’t very well have Rip Esselstyn and his doctor father talking about the perils of eating meat when advertising dollars hang in the balance. How could they justify this position to Wendy’s or McDonald’s or any of the other fast food, junk-peddling, health-robbing pirates out there masquerading as food manufacturers?

When giving up meat would make us ‘sad,’ we need to step back and see that we are being screwed…by big business, meat lobbies and advertisers. And we didn’t even get kissed.


Wednesday, April 15, 2009

earth day

hi guys-

i subscribe to a very cool e-newsletter called 'the daily green' and on most days, i barely have time to read it. but today, their headline was 'selling earth day.' yikes, i thought! really? but then i remembered that we market and promote everything for profit, so why not earth day?

the daily green really called a spade a spade with this one. it seems that everyone from tropicana (who will plant trees when you buy their newly re-branded products...and harvest your information for sales pitches when you enter the accompanying sweepstakes) to marcal paper products (who point out how much paper we waste in an attempt to sell their new recycled line of paper products) is out to 'sell' us on what a good job they are doing for our fragile planet. ay, ay, thing you know, we'll see an earth day festival sponsored by enron or cargill (and don't even get me started on their ads about how they love and support the small family farm...what a crock!)

i did an interview last evening with a young, inspired (and inspiring) college student who, for one of her courses, had to apply a modern problem to antiquity and find literary references to support her arguments. it was one of the most interesting interviews i have ever done. the naivete of youth is so great. as she asked me questions and i ranted about corporate greed, the corruption of our food supply, the mockery being made of healthy cooking by every corporation and self-help guru as they water down its true meaning, she listened with an intensity that i have not seen in some time. her questions were pointed and came from the place of being so young. 'so who do we turn to?' 'how do we really change this and save the planet and humanity's health?' she talked about being the butt of many a joke with friends and family because she chooses a plant based diet. (i should note that her parents are completely on board, but extended family...well...) she talked about finding answers before it's too late...and she came to her own conclusion...change must happen person to person, one at a time, a completely grassroots, independent movement to making better choices. she discovered that you must turn inward for inspiration and strength and then find a voice that resonates with you and follow that vision. she realized that change, real change is hard work.

the most inconvenient truth we face as we approach earth day is this. while it has become a day of festivals and parties (yielding, ironically, tons of trash that end up in the landfill), earth day is about commitment...commitment to preserving precious resources, to conserving energy, reducing waste, reducing your footprint and working to salvage our planet before it's too late.

so how do we really change? well, let me tell you that we won't save the planet simply by carrying canvas totes or using a sigg bottle in place of plastic ones (although they are a step in the right direction). in order to effect the kind of change that will preserve life as we know it, we need to change our food...big time; not just moving to skinless chicken breasts.

the nhs, the largest health care system in europe wants to remove meat from all hospital menus. ironically, they do not want to do this because of health, but because they discovered that their system of health care made a footprint on the planet equal to that of 18 nations...and since meat is 'not necessary in a healthy diet,' why not just take it off the menu and leave a lighter footprint behind?

so many people are realizing the truth. so many are seeing that arby's, mc donald's, wendy's, olive garden and all the other fast food, junk food-peddling hucksters behind the marketing do not have the health of america or its children at the heart of their campaigns and marketing strategies. they want your money. so since that's the case, go for it. demand better quality. let's all tell them that if they want our hard-earned dollars, they have to earn them. they have to create products, services and foods that improve our quality of life...we have to say 'enough!!!' no more foods that make us obese, unhealthy and dependent on pharmaceuticals. we have to tell them that we want healthy children and healthy lives...and a healthy planet.

so this earth day, vote with your dollar. money speaks loudly and it's the only language marketers hear...use it!

this one was for you, grace...



Tuesday, April 7, 2009

ya' gotta wonder...

hi guys-

so today, robert was out running and i did something i rarely do...i turned on morning gma and there was paula deen cooking up some of the unhealthiest desserts i could imagine...or even she could imagine (but then again, she did, right?). now nothing personal. paula is a nice woman, even though her southern accent gets more pronounced and louder each season.

after watching i got to thinking. you can turn on any number of cooking shows and be entertained...and even learn a thing or two about cooking...regardless of whether i like what they are cooking most of the time.

but what is the responsibility of tv chefs to the health of this country? like it or not, approve or not, tv chefs have become rock stars and while that's weird, it's true. some, like jamie oliver are using their celebrity to effect change. he works tirelessly to get better quality foods offered in the public schools in england. great work! he also works with underserved kids to give them a chance in the restaurant business...all good...for the world and jamie's karma.

at a time of life when obesity is an epidemic; when diabetes is hurtling through the population both young and old; heart disease and cancer are killing us in record numbers, isn't there a responsibility on the part of chefs who claim to teach us to cook to teach us to make healthier choices? i am not advocating all chefs turn vegan, although that would be nirvana. i am suggesting that perhaps whole sticks of butter along with heavy cream and sugar may not be the best examples of the way america needs to eat. surely, in the case of most of these chefs, one look at the size of their bodies and their bloated faces tells you that they do in fact, practice what they preach, such as it is.

look, i know this is a free country and people may say and do as they like. it's what makes us americans. but on the other hand, anyone who holds themselves up as experts have a responsibility to teach people to make choices that help them, not make matters worse. and you may say that all these cooking shows are just entertainment, but are they? cookbooks sell like mad (mine included...) so people want to cook like the chefs they love. i am just not sure that they want the bloated obesity that goes with that adoration...and i am quite certain that so many of these chefs need to re-examine their message and get on board with helping this country through the health crisis that has made health care such a burden. so much of the disease that plagues us is lifestyle based and can be avoided and alleviated if we just made healthier choices.

if people changed their diets, health care would reform itself.



Wednesday, April 1, 2009

it's been too long...

hi guys-

i know; i's been quite some time since i blogged...sorry about that. the month of march proved too much for me...with only 6 days at home, i spent the month traveling for my work and i just could not blog...oh, i sat in front of the computer (sometimes in the strangest places) but i just could not get anything on the screen that made sense...

but i am back...for a bit, before taking off again. so here i am, literally just off the plane from a working trip to italy (yes, i know, a dirty job...i figure if i have to work, i may as well work there...) and i am reflecting on life in italy versus life here in america.

now before anyone gets their nickers in a twist, i am not un-american. i think that our country is amazing and that the opportunity here is beyond what anyone in the world can imagine. but we have somehow lost our way. when i am in italy, life moves at a pace that feels more natural, at least to me. it's a more social way of living, more communal, more lively. when i come back to this country, i realize how isolated we are...we spend days and nights on twitter and facebook; we live in a world as small as our computer and television screens...and we're slowly becoming emotionally and spiritually bankrupt as a result.

in italy (and i am sure other countries, but italy is what i know), they don't have as much stuff as us, but they are rich beyond imagination in my view. their social culture keeps them truly connected, not just cyber connected. they spend their evenings in the local town square with friends and family, talking about life and politics and gossip and kids and family...they're not in front of their tv's (italian television is just terrible anyway...) watching news and silly reality shows...they are engaged in reality. and life is better for it.

and yes, i have a facebook page and just signed up for twitter...but they're fun. i don't consider them a part of my social life, but a way for me to be in touch with friends who are far away from me...from india to the virgin islands. i like reading what other people are doing...but neither of these fun sites satisfy me in the way that time with my loved ones does. i guess i am just more tactile and physical. i want to look into someone's eyes; hold hands; feel warmth; feel connected to a physical being.

my time in italy gives me a peace that i can't seem to find in other places. simple living, wonderful healthy food, the relaxed pace all come together to make me feel calm, centered and whole. i am more 'me' when i am there than at any other time or place in my life.

so i'm full swing...and once my feet are back on the ground; the laundry is done and the mail sorted, i'll be back here telling you what i think.

be well...til then.

c scott...about olive oil...there are numerous studies showing the health benefits of extra virgin olive oil and no, you can't just add it to your diet and keep all the junk in place. certainly, it needs to take the place of other fats, none of which we should be consuming at the levels we do. dr. barnard and i have had many discussions about oil and fats, so i am well aware of his view. i passed on information i discovered. but i will assure you that i will do more research and report what i find out.

Wednesday, February 18, 2009


hi guys-

first some more answers to questions posted on the blog patient with me; i try to get to them all.

kombu is a sea plant; kombucha is a fermented tea, good for digestion. kombu is used in cooking to help tenderize beans and make them more digestible.

ah, my spoons...i love my spoons....made by jonathon's spoons...check them out at

so i am just back from new mexico teaching the first of many wellness workshops sponsored by campbell's soup to help kids make healthier choices and see that preparing food for themselves is not hard and can be fun.

we had 3 classes of about 25 kids each at the largest elementary school in albuquerque...the kids were spectacular, funny, engaged and completely into playing with their food! some of the salad dressings they created should be bottled and sold! their creative natures and open willingness to try new veggies they had not tasted, to mix ingredients and to create food that they wanted to eat was so much fun and so fulfilling.

the message that was loud and clear for me on this one was simple. if we engage our kids and involved them in the preparation of food, they will try just about anything. they want to learn; they want to prepare food; they want to play. i know it's more work to have the kids in the kitchen with you. it takes more time, more effort and definitely more clean-up...but i see it like this; if we can't invest time in our children's future, what is worth our time?

everyone is tired, overworked and over-scheduled and parenting is the toughest job there is...but i truly believe that if we are to save this generation of children, we need to help them find their way back to the kitchen; back to the basics of health and teach them how to feed themselves in a way that will sustain their health, their lives and their dreams.

next stop, houston...

peace and love,

Wednesday, February 11, 2009


hi guys-

i know; i's been way too long since i blogged, but it has been a week...or more? yikes, i have completely lost track!

some quick answers to questions i see posted. coffee...i love it, but i reserve it for a treat once a's tough on the adrenals and kidneys and can make you feel chronically fatigued, so be careful with it...if you drink it regularly, wean to drinking less; otherwise headaches can result. but try to drink for remedies, nope...can't really combine them...weird flavors and you will compromise their effects...the vegan cheese i use is made by 'follow your heart.' i love it because it's pretty pure, ingredient-wise and actually has a nice flavor and is low in's soy based so i use it occasionally.

okay, today's point.

yesterday was a most amazing day. my mentor, bill have all heard me speak of him...came to philly to create the pilot episode for the new public radio show we are developing. it's called 'well, well, well' and bill will be my co-host. my gratitude to him is without bounds. i remember when i was new to teaching and i had hit a spot of pretty tough adversity...i was thinking about quitting teaching altogether. i was at a conference and i will never forget bill's support and guidance that kept me in the game...and here we are...after all these years, working together. by the way, if you have not gotten his new book yet, get it...'natural body, natural mind.' if you have trouble finding it, we'll be adding it to my site soon.

the show will be a magazine format with lots of segments on healthy, natural health, green living and politics...there will be experts, recipes, interviews, jokes and lots of great information for you to use in your life.

we hope to have the show on the air by next year, so i will keep you posted...i know i am jumping the gun on telling you about it, but i am excited and soooooo thrilled to be adding radio to our repertoire...and since the pilot went so well, i just had to tell you.

so i am off to new mexico to teach healthy cooking at an elementary school in a partnership with campbell's soup, who are committed to helping kids make better choices...yep, you heard me! it's been quite an experience to work with them to develop this program and this school is the first of 6 across the country that i will visit.

so i'll tell you all about it when i get back next week!

have a great week!

Thursday, January 29, 2009

being a part of the process

hi guys-

i just got back from a day in washington, d.c. i was invited to present oral testimony to the senate advisory committee on the new dietary guidelines being issued in 2010. i have to say that i was a nervous wreck...and worked my butt off on research and ideas for my 3 minutes. intimidating would be the best word to describe the experience...until i actually started talking and realized that the entire committee really wanted to hear what i (and all the other people there) had to say...they really wanted to hear our views and our ideas...

just to be a part of that process is amazing. i am not a wild, blind, flag-waving patriot, but i admit to being unbelievably impressed with the fact that we have a government that allows us to speak to them...even if we think they don't listen.

the gist of what i said was simple...that it's time to wake up and smell the toast...that with just one look around at the health (and weight) of the american population to see that the current guidelines are not actually guiding us to health...

so i talked about the health benefits of a plant-based diet. my colleagues of the day included dr neal barnard, the president and founder of physicians' committee for responsible medicine ( and a variety of other nutritionists and activists for the cause of creating awareness for eating a truly healthy diet...a plant-based diet.

and i talked about advertisers and how they confuse the american public by showing fit, slim, healthy people eating junk food...but when most people eat it, well, we know how they end up looking and feeling...

i ended up by saying that there is nothing we can't achieve if we are healthy...and that we will achieve little if we are not...i asked the committee not to turn 'yes, we can' into a campaign slogan, because if we aren't healthy, well...'no, we can't.'

it was so much fun and humbling and awe-inspiring...i was honored to be asked, honored to be a small part of what could be a big change in the way we nourish ourselves.

Tuesday, January 20, 2009

what a day!!!!!!!

hi guys-

well, i have stopped crying long enough watching the inspiring inauguration of our next president to blog for a few seconds.

my husband says that none of you care about my politics and that you want me to talk about food and health. well, to me, part of being whole and healthy is being an active part of your community and working each and every day to create the kind of world we want to live in.

the election of this new president tells us that when we come together as a unified people and speak with one voice; when we unite and work for the change we want...we are a force of nature and we become the change we wish to see in the world.

imagine if we applied that same fervor, that same inspired passion to changing the quality of food we consume and feed to our families and loved ones (you know i was going to bring this back to food...). if we decided that enough was enough, that we would no longer accept poor quality food just because it was cheap and easy...if we decided that we would only accept the very best quality that our farmers, producers and manufacturers could produce, what changes would we see then?

would we see a world free of so many of the ills that plague us? would we see less add-hd, less type 2 diabetes, less arthritis, less indigestion, less sexual dysfunction, less obesity, gorgeous skin and hair, truly graceful aging?

we'll only know if we come together, as we have in this election of barack obama, this vote for change and become the change we want to see in our food...

see ya.'

Monday, January 12, 2009

oy vey, oprah!

hi guys-

first, let me apologize for being so long in between blogs, but...i have had this awful cold-flu-plague that is floating around the universe...but i am getting back on my feet slowly, so here i am...

second, those of you who posted questions...i will answer them in an entry tomorrow on this blog, cool?

and now...the rant...just about all my students watch oprah and ask me what i think...i don't really watch her too often, but when i read about her life makeover series because she has gained weight...again...i thought i would watch and see what was up.

well, i suffered through all of last week's touchy-feely, love yourself as you are, money advice, sex advice and advice on how to attract what you want. i watched oprah 'out' herself and her lack of control over eating and food. i watched dr oz (with great interest...i do love his work...) talk about the non-benefits of not eating well...i watched bob greene talk about the disconnect between weight gain and lifestyle and the role of exercise...

and today, oprah is talking to people who have lost weight and gained it back...from a body builder to a biggest loser winner who has gained it all back. she just finished talking with a woman who has learned about foreplay. and now she is talking about her thyroid problem...again...

so here we are, in day 6 of this best life makeover series that has placed its focus on making the body healthy, strong, fit and not fat...and what has been missing in each and every episode? what factor has not been addressed (that i have seen...and i did miss some...)? one that i have seen has talked about food.

yes, there is more to weight loss than food. there is more to finding your ideal weight than what you eat. but without the foundation of a healthy, whole, unprocessed, natural diet, you will spend your life on that carousel of weight loss and gain. you will struggle constantly. in order for us to achieve health, vitality and our ideal weight, the formula is simple...we need to eat very well...meaning a plant-based diet of whole, unprocessed, natural foods...we need to exercise every day...we need to live naturally, as humans were meant to live, which means, in my view...working hard, playing hard and resting in balance...being a part of a community, having a purpose, making a difference...

look, i think that oprah does great work in the world and is most likely a fine, if i could speak to her, i would say only this...relax; stop fighting and laying the blame on self-esteem and self-love; lay the blame where it lies, on your dinner plate. your food choices will give you the clarity you need to discover the path of diet and exercise that will get and keep you where you want to be.

talk to you later...