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.