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 back...here 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.



Tough Cookie said...

Hi! I just came across your blog, and I love it! You say the things I think and write about, too. Check out my blog if you get the chance. I am a vegan, graduate student studying social work also trying to heal from a progressive disease.

Ann said...


I love your show and now I love your blog! Thanks for being a brave pioneer in the wilderness that is living better and cooking with whole foods. I have been invigorated to eat and live better since watching your show, and I really appreciate all the food factoids that you incorporate to help educate your viewer. Thank you!

Emily said...

Great to see an update! I definitely get the "no fun" aspect. I married into a family that absolutely loves meat and fried foods. It can be frustrating, especially when trying to fix healthier food at home for my husband and I.

Perhaps some see it as their right to eat as much as they want, and in a way it is. While I'd admonish others to choose healthier ways to eat and live, I cannot force that upon them. It's up to individuals to make their own choices.

That said, I think that most people choose unhealthy ways of eating because they simply know no other way. Bad foods are so ingrained in some our traditions and daily routines that it's just "what we do". Barbecues and tailgate parties are filled with fatty burgers, oily fries, cheesesticks, hot wings, etc. Family get-togethers at holidays are filled with heavy meat main dishes, vegetable sides that are loaded with butter, and sugary pies and cakes. Weeknight meals (if they're even prepared at all and not just a trip to the drive-thru) often feature such fare as gooey meatloaf and boxed, enriched macaroni.

That's not to say that everyone does that, and indeed many families are taking steps to eat and behave more healthfully. Certainly most of the people who will read this blog have adopted healthier lifestyles, but I'm sure that many of us reading have experienced food in this form as well. After all, my mother cooked food like her mother did, and it certainly wasn't the healthiest. I cooked the same way until I started to branch out. We tend to eat the way we ate growing up. For many, eating healthy would look elitist and expensive by comparison as you said, and therefore not be worth the effort. It's "just how things are done", and not only are people content with that, many would probably revolt at the thought of messing with that tradition (especially if it involves the dreaded tofu, lol).

So with that, I give you more of my thanks for all of the wonderful information and recipes you share. Since first seeing your show and coming to your site, I have explored so many new foods and started to really re-evaluate how I treat myself and my body.


Mary said...

Christina, you have changed my life and my way of eating; I watched your show off and on for a year, and then at the start of July my husband and I decided we could no longer ignore the evidence and pretty much knocked meat, eggs and dairy off the diet.I got "cooking the whole foods way" and it has been delicious and we have never felt better. What started as a "let's try for awhile" has become a way of life. Thanks for your advocacy for a better life and a better world!

Gweithgar said...

You don't need to go on a cruise to see wretched excess. Check out any Golden Corral, Olde Country Buffet, or Famous Dave's. Apparently "all you can eat" is not an invitation; it's a command!

You asked "when do people just give up?". People usually don't change until they are forced to (and sometimes that is too late aleady). I'm very happy as a vegan (and a low-fat vegan, at that!), but it took a diagnosis of pre-diabetes, hypertension, and a fatty liver to actually motivate me to try making such a "radical" change. After years of yo-yoing and trying different ways of eating, I had given up and decided that maybe I was just meant to be fat and there was no use fighting it anymore.

So, at this point, after a year of being vegan, I've lost about 40 pounds, normalized my blood glucose and blood pressure, and I continue to chip away at the 60-some pounds I have yet to lose. My motivation? I want those diagnostic labels off my chart; I want to say good-bye to my prescription drugs and not acquire any new ones; and I want to live and be healthy enough to enjoy what is going to be (sadly) a very late retirement. I wish I had known, in my 20's, what I know now about nutrition and health and my future. Since I didn't know then, I'm doing the very best I can now.

Paula said...

People have not made the connection between what they eat and how they look and feel -- their own health. Doctors don't know much about nutrition, and the government has us eating meat and dairy daily. Schools sell soda and junk food and what all this has created is addiction and ignorance. Until we all realize that what we eat determines our physical health, we will continue to gorge ourselves on cruises.

Sondra said...

Try taking a look at the 300-pounders in line to be seated at The Claim Jumper!!! Honestly, I am not skinny, but I'd be embarrassed to be bellying up to a table in there weighing in at what these diners do. It isn't just on cruises.

I think as a society, we are bored or something. We must be very empty inside to be eating the way we do. My favorite is that when you really look at a grocery store, there isn't much "food" in many of them. My mother taught me that food is from our Creator, and preparation of it is an act of worship. I feel a bit differently than many do about food having that background. Thanks for your show and your information, Christina...we need this in today's world of sickness and emptiness and negativity.

TBA said...

Speaking of treating oneself, albeit in a far more sensible way, I just caught your "Cupcakes and Cookies" episode on Create and was inspired to try every single recipe. I'm just wondering how to get that fluffy emulsified brown rice syrup - I'm not finding it online anywhere.

Same for the flavored brown rice syrups you sometimes use - berry, chocolate, maple. My local co-ops (and Whole Foods) only seem to carry the original variety. Any online resources I'm missing?

Thanks! (Looking forward to seeing you in Seattle for Festa Italiana.)

Georgia said...

My mom has always been into macrobiotic, raw food, holistic medicine... it's helped inform my work that I do: www.georgiapellegrini.com

Melanie said...

TBA, you can find the rice syrups
and the fluffy "rice creme" at:

TBA said...

Thanks so much Melanie!

Debkl said...

I'm a graduate of the Natural Gourmet Inst for Health & Culinary Arts in Manhattan and have done quite a bit of private whole-foods cooking for clients. I feel I am a good cook and have been told by others that I am, yet, clients don't stick with it. The menus are balanced yet they still crave sugar/fat/caffeine combinations, and confide in me that they "cheat" by eating fast food. Some tell me they feel they are missing something. I think that is it in a nutshell but it's much deeper than what they think it is.