Eat In A Truly ‘Mindful’ Way – Be Vegan

Please note:

This post is not intended to throw shade (as the kids say) at anyone who isn’t vegan or vegetarian. That would not be nice and that is not my purpose.

It IS however, intended to throw a whole shit-ton of poop at the peddlers of nonsense, who know they can gain followers/make money by making people feel fuzzy and comfortable, even though this is not the best thing for anybody in this particular context.

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You’d have to live somewhere pretty remote and without access to any media to not have heard about the whole ‘mindfulness’ shebang that is currently pervading all wellness websites and ‘mind body and spirit’ sections of commercial bookstores everywhere in (and influenced by) the western hemisphere.

I have no problem with the concept of mindfulness per se. Of course, in essence it can only be a positive thing. But, like the words ‘moderation,’ ‘flexitarian,’ or ‘clean’ (in relation to eating), it has no real definition and there are only seemingly very ambiguous suggestions on how to achieve it.

Of course, eating is one of the more popular things to be mindful about.

It is not clear however to what extent you should be mindful about eating, and if it’s ok to just be mindful or whether you should then take action?

I thought it would only be logical that ‘mindful’ books and websites would promote veganism as the optimal mindful lifestyle.

But when I googled ‘mindful eating,’ none of the entries I saw suggested a vegan diet as the optimal ‘mindful’ diet – or even vegetarianism. They just bleated vaguely about being grateful for every bite you eat, chewing your food slowly and being mindful of the process of how the animal got to your plate.

To be fair, they did promote eating lots of organic fruits and vegetables and whole foods, but it seemed to be enough that when you ate animals and their products to just be mindful and…um, respect the animals’ life and chew them slowly.

If I were cynical I would think that the purveyors of books, courses, retreats and programs on ‘mindfulness’ were trying to cash the hell IN on the whole fashion for all things wellness and woo.

Because meat-eaters are a bigger market than vegans, it’s obviously more lucrative to make them feel warm and fuzzy about themselves by suggesting they just…think a little…while continuing to live the lives they’ve always led, not by actually encouraging them to change.

But…

  • We know that NOBODY NEEDS to eat animal products.
  • We know that animal product production DESTROYS the planet.
  • We know that consuming animal products is TERRIBLE for your health.
  • We know that non-human animals are as sentient and suffer in the same way as human animals, so how can we possibly call eating slaughtered  animals ‘mindful’?
  • We know if we really think about it and we have even just one brain cell, that ‘humane slaughter’ is just as much of an oxymoron as ‘humane rape’ or ‘humane torture.’

So..

If you aren’t promoting veganism – you are not promoting mindful eating, however much it benefits you to think that you are.

If you aren’t vegan, (and absolutely not intending going vegan any time soon), you aren’t eating mindfully, the end. Because if it has truly entered your mind how the cheese, chicken or fish came to be on your plate but you still don’t want to change your lifestyle; then your mind wasn’t properly engaged.

The animal doesn’t care whether it is ‘respected’ before someone chomps down on it. It would much rather have led a long happy life and not have suffered to be on a plate. It would probably rather have not been bred as a commodity at all in fact.

The planet doesn’t care that we respect the process of how an animal got to a plate. It would rather stay healthy and not be choking in methane.

Heck, our own bodies would rather we didn’t eat animal products. They were designed to be lithe, active, alert and vibrant. Consuming animal products is markedly less conducive to all those states than is food from plants.

I think some would-be entrepreneurs want to jump on the wellness wagon, but because they feel they couldn’t go vegan themselves, they can’t exactly encourage anyone else to be. But when you know the truth about physical, mental and emotional health and wellness, and what affects it the most – it’s impossible to encourage any other lifestyle than a whole foods, vegan one.

Carry on eating animal products if that’s where you’re at right now. You are on your own path and it certainly isn’t for me to judge you – but please, please, please don’t let these woo merchants persuade you that it’s a ‘mindful’ thing to do.

 

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Announcement: FREE Weight Loss Webinar!

 

Heeeyyy,

Happy New Year and shit!

You want a FREE weight loss webinar?

OK, you twisted my arm!

If you’re in a rush, just sign up here! And have a good day, thanks for stopping by.

Otherwise, let me explain why I’m doing this.

 

I believe body and mind are connected.

What affects one, affects the other.

I don’t care what people look like, and the free weight-loss workshop I’m about to pitch to you is nothing to do with ‘bikini bodies’ or ‘looking hot.’

Having been overweight at one point, I know now that even though I wasn’t overly unhappy or insecure about it in terms of how I looked, and even though I didn’t feel especially unhealthy in any serious way as a result of the extra weight I was carrying – I wasn’t feeling or performing at my best either.

Even though each difference between how I felt then and how I feel now is a subtle one, they definitely add up to more than the sum of their parts.

It IS healthier to be at a good weight for your body frame if only for purely practical reasons. Your body can function more optimally – your heart doesn’t have to work so hard to pump blood around your body; less weight carried on the bones means less stress to the bones and frame, your sleep is better etc.

And we know that even if we don’t feel unhealthy right now, excess body weight can put us more at risk for chronic disease.

There’s another, more intangible thing that happens when you are carrying the right amount of weight for your body.

Please note that when I say ‘ideal amount of weight for your body,’ I don’t mean super-skinny with collar bones sticking out, or a thigh gap, or whatever the hell some screwed–up teens are calling it. Every ‘body’ is different and will have its own ideal weight at which it functions optimally.

The thing that happens when your body is carrying only the weight it needs is hard to articulate. It’s something like feeling light on your feet and getting less tired because you’re only moving around the body mass that you need, not any excess. It’s something like feeling lean and mean and ninja. It’s something like I imagine a cat or a squirrel feels when they leap onto a fence with such ease because they know the capability and the limits of their bodies instinctually.

If I may get a little ‘woo’ for a second, it also feels like you are weighed down to the ground by less and so your mind and spirit can fly free-er. Remember in my first sentence I said that body and mind (and I’m just gonna say ‘spirit’ now too since we’ve already gone there!) are connected?

If I just lost you at that – apologies; but I don’t know any other way to describe that feeling. And I’m aware this isn’t science – I’m just tellin’ ya what happened to me.

Your physical and mental energies seem much more aligned when you’re at a point where your weight fits your frame.

What I’m trying to say is that’s it’s not all about heart disease and diabetes, although we obviously want to avoid these; and it’s most definitely not about bikinis. There are so many other benefits to having only as much weight as our body needs.

So it’s with the intention of helping you feel, perform, create, dream, run, wonder, fantasize, climb, imagine, abseil (hee!) and basically – DO ALL THE FUN THINGS to the very best of your individual capacity, that I invite you to catch my FREE weight-loss webinar on Tuesday 17th January, at 2pm Eastern, 11am Pacific, 7pm GMT.

 

Now you should know by now – I’M VEGAN.

Yes, really 😉

And a happy coincidence is that a plant-based diet is the best, healthiest and most sustainable way to lose weight.

So please know from the outset that we will be an animal-product free zone!

You want an idea of how I roll when teaching about weight loss? Let me just say there are no scales (either for you, or to measure out portion sizes) or counting calories involved. Who the hell wants to count stuff before eating?

I am so excited to share with you my key components to helping you reach a weight (actually it’s more of a feeling than a number on a scale) that helps your body and mind thrive.

 

As well as talking about all the amazingly delicious foods you can eat in abundance, I have a TON of insights, tips, recommendations, motivational tools, ways to frame things that make your weight-loss goals achievable AND more sustainable once you’ve achieved them.

AND AND AND! You will also receive a free 7-day meal plan on the day of the webinar – I wouldn’t wanna give you all this info without any ideas to start off with!

So –

Are you in?

Yes, I’m in!

And at the end of the talk I’ll be letting you know how you can make your weight loss transition utterly delectable with a mini-program I’m creating based on dishes from world cuisines that are largely plant-based by default. So, yayy!

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Optimal Health: 6 Meal Ideas That Contain A Grain, A Green & A Bean

I love saying ‘a grain, a green and a bean,’ when I’m asked what an optimally healthy meal is. Party because it rhymes and it’s rhythmic, and partly because it’s mostly true. You can use other starches (sweet potato/white potato/squashes) instead of (or as well as) the grain to nutritionally round-out a meal, and of course you can add plenty of other veg that aren’t green. But it’s just an easy, fun way to remember how to get a full complement of nutrients in a meal.

Of course you don’t have to eat the full trifecta for every single meal either. It’s just something to aim for on a reasonably consistent basis.

With this in mind, here are 6 great ways to utterly rock the holy trinity that is the gorgeous grain, the glorious green and the beauteous bean! 🙂 :

1. Black Eyed Pea Curry With Collards & Potatoes

ppk-black-eyed-pea

This recipe is from isachandra.com – Post Punk Kitchen that was. I remember watching Isa’s videos that she shot with her friend in her tiny apartment in Brooklyn, like, a million years ago. I’ve made several of her recipes and she knows her shit. Make.This.Now. Ooh, and serve it over brown rice!

2. Pasta Fagioli with Cranberry Beans and Kale

pasta-beans

I’ve used fatfreevegan.com several times, always with delicious, yummy success. Don’t forget to use wholewheat pasta! Also, Susan (the recipe creator) says you can use pinto or borlotti beans if you can’t find cranberry beans (phew – I’d never heard of these!)

3. Quinoa, White Bean And Kale Stew

quinoa-isa

From isachandra.com again. What dish could be more perfect for winter?

4. Cajun-Style Vegan Red Beans and Rice

cajun-beans

I make a version of this, but to be honest, this recipe from emilieeats.com has a couple more flavours than mine. And Emilie is a Louisiana dude so knows what’s what when it comes to Cajun beans, so I’m using her recipe here. You can wilt a little spinach into it for your greens, or just have any steamed greens on the side.

5. Adzuki Bean Noodles with Bok Choy, Edamame, and Miso Sesame Sauce

noodles

This recipe from thefullhelping.com uses adzuki bean noodles; but just simply switch these for brown rice, black rice, or soba (buckwheat) noodles, to get your grain.

6. Shimbra Asa (Spicy Chickpea Stew) & Atakilt Wat (Gardener’s Vegetables in Aromatic Spices)

ethiopian

Much like the blogger over at profoundhatredofmeat.com , Ethiopian food is easily my favourite. This year I discovered Shimbra Asa (pronounced ‘shimbrassa’), a dish I hadn’t yet tried in all my years of visiting Ethiopian restaurants, and it blew my teeny-tiny mind. It’s like a berbere stew with chickpea balls in it, and it is heaven. It’s soul food. When you eat shimbra asa, you know damn well you’ve been fed.

I haven’t yet tried to make it (I’m scared I’ll f**k it up) but this recipe looks legit.
Your ‘grain’ is the highly nutritious teff used to make the injera bread, your ‘bean’ is the chickpea flour, and your green is the cabbage in the atakilt wat.

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The Doctrine Of Signatures: Categorical Proof We Are Meant To Eat Just Plants?

Lungwort (Pulmonaria officinalis) from Flickr via Wylio
© 2013 Melanie Shaw, Flickr | CC-BY-ND | via Wylio

How do we know we are meant to eat mostly (but probably entirely) plant-food?

There are lots of clues:

–  We have super long intestines reminiscent of herbivores (obligate carnivores have short intestines so that meat can travel through them expediently).

– Our short canines are not long enough to bite through the jugular of a live gazelle; our hands, being clawless, are not great on their own (without a knife) to catch and rip open an animal’s body.

– We need to heat meat thoroughly so it doesn’t make us ill, unlike carnivores that have stomach acids that destroy harmful bacterias.

– We also know that whole, plant-foods do us nothing but good, and that animal foods are not at all optimal for our wellbeing and can make us very unwell.

Not enough clues for you?

What about this one then (and this is something that has always fascinated me):

Some plant-foods resemble (either in shape, colour or quality) the part of the human body, or the disease they are beneficial for!

This is called the plant’s ‘signature.’ Many scholars believed this to be God/nature letting us know how to use this plant medicinally.

This wisdom has been used by ancient civilisations and pretty much every culture had a form of it. There are differing opinions amongst scholars as to where it originated. Some say it originated in ancient Egypt, some say in China. Other scholars say it is universal, as similar doctrines have been observed in classical Greece, ancient Asia, medieval Europe and pre-Columbian America. We know Native Americans used it, as did doctors in Roman times.

In slightly more recent history, the most well-known advocate of this form of plant power was a Swiss physician who gave himself the Latin name Paracelsus (1493-1541). He famously wrote and published a very comprehensive literary theory on it called the ‘Doctrine of Signatures’. He says ‘Nature marks each growth… according to its curative benefit’ and tells of herbs and their uses based on their ‘signature’ of the body part they resemble.

For instance:

  • Liverwort – helps liver disease
  • Lungwort – cures pulmonary disease
  • Toothwort – can relieve toothache

These ‘signatures’ have often through the ages, been used as proof for the existence of God.

I remember from my time at university when I studied religion, that the intricate design of the universe and how everything interconnects is called the ‘teleological’ argument that ancient philosophers used to prove Gods existence. There are other arguments, but this one always struck me as the most solid! It is otherwise known as ‘intelligent design.’

It purports that the universe is so intricately designed that every piece of it, whether animate or inanimate, is so sophisticated and full of incredible detail, and with so many mutually supportive systems, that it’s not possible that it exists by chance; there must have been a creator behind it.

What do I mean by mutually supportive systems? Take the crop system used by many Native Americans in North and South America called the ‘Three Sisters‘. The three sisters are corn, beans and squash. They make up a perfect basis of nutrients. When they are grown together, the beans provide the nitrogen for the soil which benefits the other two plants, the corn provides stalks which the beans can creep up, and the squash provides rambling low leaves that lie on the ground and prevent weeds from growing, thus providing protection for all three crops.

There are lots of other mutually supportive models like this in nature, and surely there are lots we are no longer aware of because we’ve simply lost that knowledge due to modern life.

In Islam, the Hadith (the sayings and doings of the Prophet Muhammad) states “There is no disease that Allah has created, except that He also has created its remedy.” Bukhari 7.582

From The Order of Things (1966), French philosopher Michel Foucault says on this subject:

…there must of course be some mark that will make us aware of these things: other-wise, the secret would remain indefinitely dormant”

British botanist William Coles (1626-1662) wrote in his Art of Simpling (1956):

Though Sin and Satan have plunged mankinde into an Ocean of Infirmities, yet the Mercy of God, which is over all his workes, maketh Grasse to grow upon the Mountaines and Herbes for the use of men, and hath not only stamped upon them a distinct forme but also hath given them particular Signatures whereby a man may read the use of them.

nuclear family from Flickr via Wylio
© 2010 Kai Schreiber, Flickr | CC-BY-SA | via Wylio

Coles also notes in this book that walnuts were good for treating mental diseases because they had a perfect ‘signature’ of the skull (shell) and brain (nut). As walnuts are high in omega-3 fatty acids, they ARE good for brain health.

Check out this study proving that walnuts can protect against, and treat, Alzheimer’s.

 

Other examples of plant foods in some way resembling the body part the nutrients benefit are:

  • Red kidney beans – maintain healthy kidneys
  • Sweet potatoes  – good for the pancreas
  • Carrots  – good for eyes (slice a carrot width-wise and look at the cut surface!)
  • Avocados – good for the womb
  • Ginger – great for the stomach (ginger root resembles the stomach)
  • Celery, pak choi and rhubarb – strengthen bones
  • Figs – increase sperm count
  • Oranges and grapefruits –  good for breast health
  • Tomatoes – good for heart health (they have four chambers like a heart)

 

Now, it’s up to you whether you believe this is proof of God’s existence, or whether it’s pure coincidence. And I’m not suggesting we go and medicate ourselves purely according to the Doctrine of Signatures – not because I don’t believe it, but just because we’ve lost so much natural knowledge with the advent of western medicine (not that western medicine is ALL bad, but it has undeniably stopped lots of us from taking responsibility for our own health), and we’ve become so dependent on chemical pharmacology, that it would be difficult to know exactly what we were doing. There is, of course, no financial gain in anyone funding studies proving it to be correct either.

We can certainly take lots from it though, and incorporate these incredibly healthy fruits and veg into our diets, and perhaps more of those foods we feel we need for certain parts of our bodies.

Now, which part of our body does bacon resemble? Or sausages? Don’t answer that 🙂

 

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Self-Care Starts In The Kitchen!

Kitchen from Flickr via Wylio
© 2007 Dru Kelly, Flickr | CC-BY-ND | via Wylio

We need to talk.

I’m hearing so often from people that they have limited time to spend cooking in the kitchen.

I get it. We’re all so busy working long hours; commuting; ferrying kids around; and just plain exhausted when we ARE home.

The thing is; eating; not just in terms of WHAT we eat, but HOW we eat, is so important to our wellbeing.

Obviously there’s going to be times when we just can’t (for whatever reason), but I believe it’s worth making damn sure that most days in the week we devote a certain amount of time to preparing at least one of our daily meals (ideally the main meal) in the kitchen.

No matter whether it’s a fancy schmancy dish, or you’re just whacking a spud in the oven to bake and heating up some baked beans; time spent in the kitchen is time well spent.

Maybe this is easy for me to say and I’m not being understanding of people’s lifestyles, but if you are so busy that you don’t have enough time to invest in self-care (of which cooking for yourself definitely is), I feel like this is not a sustainable situation.

If you’re a gazillionaire and can afford a vegan meal delivery service bringing fresh meals to your door every day – more power to you.

But even if you WERE a gazillionaire who could afford a vegan meal delivery service – this still isn’t ideal, because you’ll have little connection to the food you’re eating.

You won’t have gone through the creative (and oftentimes meditative) process of preparing and cooking your meal, which would’ve invested you with an emotional connection to it.

And I KNOW you guys are better than this but just in case anyone is about to utter these words; please stop with the ‘but I can’t cook‘ BS.

Can you read? Well then you can cook.

Yes you can.

Stop it.

No-one knew how to cook before they tried it. They just bothered their arse to read a recipe and follow the instructions. The more you do it the more you’ll learn what goes with what and get creative about adding and adjusting ingredients. Just DO IT. Because you CAN!

 

Here are my 4 sneaky ways of guilting encouraging you to get yo’ ass into the kitch! 🙂

 

1. Make kitchen time non-negotiable

Reframe kitchen time in your mind as something that is not up for negotiation. See it in the same light as cleaning your teeth; washing your clothes; wiping your butt…uh…sorry for that last one, but you get the point. Lots of people currently see it as something they can choose to do or not do.

You can choose to spend an hour cooking yourself a delicious meal, or watching a couple of eps from your current favourite box set and dialling some grub in. Let’s take the choice out of kitchen time and make it something we do automatically on most days.

 

2. Make your kitchen a place where you want to hang out!

‘But I have a crappy kitchen’ I hear you say.

Yup, me too.

Doesn’t matter how swanky or downmarket your kitchen is. Mine is a small kitchen in a London flat. It has old-fashioned units and laminate counter tops. However, I feel warm towards the space as I’ve spent many hours there cooking great food. I’m happy to be there as long as it’s clean and somewhat ordered.

Make the effort to always have clear and clean counter space. If you haven’t already, organise your pots and pans and cooking stuff so you know where everything is.

Your kitchen doesn’t have to be all shiny stainless-steel and granite surfaces; it just has to be a clean, pleasant space that you want to spend time in.

To that end…..

 

3. Cooking time is podcast or music time!!

Some may say ‘no, you must put your entire focus on the food you are preparing.’ I say pish! I’ve made a ton of meals to the accompaniment of my fave podcast or album and in my opinion it does NOT detract from the focus you give the meal you’re making or affect the end result.

Anything that makes you enjoy kitchen time and associate it with fun and relaxation is cool with me.

 

4. See kitchen time as an investment in your wellbeing

As much as exercise, meditation or any other self-care activity you partake in; time spent in the kitchen is an investment in your wellbeing.

If you can make it a habit as much as these other things are, you’ll feel the benefits both physically and mentally.

These benefits include:

  • You’ll be eating much better quality food than if you eat out or take out.
  • Restaurant and take-out food often contains way more oil than it needs to. If heart disease or weight loss is an area of concern to you, the best thing you can do is to cook your own meals.
  • The processes of chopping, stirring, mixing etc (depending on what you’re making!) can be surprisingly relaxing and meditative.
  • Even if you’ve done bugger-all else all day – by making a delicious meal you’ll get that sense of achievement and feeling that you’ve done something super productive.
  • You’ll be constantly learning about food. The more you cook, the better your food will get!

 

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