what and how you eat actually does matter

I have held back from using this blog to rant about all the things that bother me about the state of individual and public health in the world we live in today.

Granted, we are in a MUCH better place than we have been in the past. but we would be foolish to accept that all is well and there is no need to push forward anymore. because if there is anything I have learned about health it is that it is never stagnant.

you never just “achieve health” and then coast for the rest of your life.

as cliche as it sounds, it really isn’t a destination so much as a journey.

So. that being said. I am choosing today to say something that may sound soapbox-y. just brace yourself.

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because after a nice New Year’s day walk in the rain forest in the Olympic Peninsula I was reminded, yet again, why it is so important to know that if anything in this world matters. then everything in this world matters.

from the words you speak to the food you eat to the way you drive and the amount of times you breathe in a day.

It.

all.

matters.

And we come from a long line of humans who assumed that nothing they did mattered that much or really had any lasting impact unless they were politicians, celebrities, or had some worthy cause we were fighting for. but turns out, that if you are a human who eats, moves and exists in this world what you do does matter much.

your life matters.

and what you do with it matters.

So much so that our environment is crumbling beneath us and we can choose to leave it up to the politicians, celebrities, and those who are fighting the worthy causes, or we can choose to see that every thing we do from the time we wake up to the time we go to sleep has lasting impacts.

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My soapbox story begins in college when I was just too cheap and lazy to buy meat since it was expensive and I didn’t even like cooking that much to begin with, so I was determined to find a cheaper and easier way to eat. Lo and behold, beans are a very cheap source of protein and quite easy to throw into anything I was already eating (remember I was in college so my palate was not very refined).

Thus began my entry into the meat-free world. and turns out I liked the way I felt when I stopped eating chicken for every meal or having sausage/bacon loaded breakfasts.

Little did I know that would be the first step in to my quest for the answer to life’s most puzzling question -at least for every woman I’ve ever talked to: “what in the world should I eat to be the healthiest, happiest version of myself that I want so desperately to be?”

I explored the obvious sources: health and fitness magazines. all the popular diet books (you name it. I most likely tried it between the years of 2004-2010). and then I was spending so much time trying to figure this out that I wondered if I could get paid to do this. and after a few more clicks and searches I found out that is, in fact, a real job/career field.

Enter grad school: for a Masters in Public Health in Nutrition and Dietetics. the only problem: you had to take a boatload of science classes. and coming from an ancestral line of English teachers and right brained thinkers this was going to be a stretch. but it turns out that as I took these required courses a lot of the missing pieces began to fit into place in the context of “what” to eat and “how” it works with your body.

This confirmed my  previous decision to eat a plant based diet. Everywhere I looked in textbooks and journal articles, the science and anatomy of the body and digestive system, I found a strange synergy with plant based foods in the body as compared to any processed or animal foods (not that those foods cannot be consumed but they do not have the same synergistic effect).

Not only was I saving money, becoming a better cook and feeling lighter and better than ever, I could ensure I was eating in a way that would benefit my body from the microbiome to neurotransmitters and everything in between as best I could.

Then I took a class on the environment, public health, and nutrition. I thought only hippies and animal rights activists were the ones to connect food to anything outside of the norm. (though if any of you met me during my Grad school years I probably ate and dressed in a way that was indistinguishable from said “hippies and animal rights activists”) That being said – I took the class because it was required and came out of it with yet another renewed reason to eat plants instead of animals.

The amount of information I learned (from actual scientific studies not just sensationalized statements by passionate activists) about how our agriculture and food system impacts the environment and how many gallons of water , land and agriculture go into the meat processing industry (that is animals raised for the sole purpose of turning into hamburgers, hot dogs, steaks, etc) was shocking to me.

The best part was hearing how on the flip side of all this doom and gloom about the food industry was how the environment, economy and public health of our nation could drastically improve with just a few slight changes to dietary patterns.

Everyone doesn’t have to immediately become a vegan.

Everyone doesn’t even have to become a vegetarian.

They just have to agree to eat less meat. as in, even just 1 day a week forego their meat heavy dishes and use * gasp * beans, nuts, seeds, tofu, or some other plant based protein for their meals and BOOM. drastic difference in the overall impact.

So when we hear in the news all this terrible news about climate change, droughts across the country, water as the next “big short” to occur, we can continue to sit and bite our nails, yell at the TV and our politicians as we eat our typical American diet. Or we can take ownership and get creative (and save some money) to commit to eat plants for 1 day a week. To start taking inventory of our pantries and refrigerators: not because you need to go on some crazy health kick. but because you care about your kids and their kids being able to walk outside and drink in the fresh air, swim in the sea and turn on the facet to have clean water continue to come out of it for years to come.

If anything good came out of last year’s tormenting and tumultuous election season it was this: I can no longer sit on the sidelines and assume the government is looking out for everyone’s good. We are in a country BY the people. FOR the people. And when only a few loud and annoying people stand up and say something then a whole lot of other people are left feeling overlooked and underappreciated.

2017 is a year of standing up instead of sitting down. of participating instead of watching and commentating.

and even if you don’t want to start calling your congressperson daily. or join the board of a noteworthy cause.

you have to eat every day. so you might as well start with that.

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and if anyone at all has questions about how to do even that. you have no excuse for not calling/texting/emailing me because I can’t do a whole lot but I can definitely help you eat. move. and sleep.

rest in the restlessness

It seems paradoxical. to be at rest in the midst of the realization that you are restless.

yet it is strangely comforting to admit it.

and even more comforting to hope that instead of returning over and over again to the same disturbances of grief or frustration you might, in fact, be spiraling. and every time you sense you’ve been here before. you pause and notice your depth perception has changed. you are spiraling up. up. towards light. towards change. rather than running in circles of despair that every day will be the same as before. (i.e. C.S. Lewis – “A Grief Observed”)

what if it were true? what if you lived as if it was?

I’m not where I want to be. but I’m not where I was. an so I climb. upward. onward.

Courage, dear heart. We’ve come so far.

“Let us, then, be up and doing.

with a heart for any fate;

still achieving, still pursuing,

learn to labor and to wait.”

Psalm of Life

Henry Wadsworth Longfellow

Old men make the best poets.

recently this has been calming the deep angst of getting caught up in the heaviness of things to help me return again to the lightness:

The Peace of Wild Things

When despair for the world grows in me
and I wake in the night at the least sound
in fear of what my life and my children’s lives may be,
I go and lie down where the wood drake
rests in his beauty on the water, and the great heron feeds.
I come into the peace of wild things
who do not tax their lives with forethought
of grief. I come into the presence of still water.
And I feel above me the day-blind stars
waiting with their light. For a time
I rest in the grace of the world, and am free.

– Wendell Berry

The Waking

I wake to sleep, and take my waking slow.
I feel my fate in what I cannot fear.
I learn by going where I have to go.

We think by feeling. What is there to know?
I hear my being dance from ear to ear.
I wake to sleep, and take my waking slow.

Of those so close beside me, which are you?
God bless the Ground! I shall walk softly there,
And learn by going where I have to go.

Light takes the Tree; but who can tell us how?
The lowly worm climbs up a winding stair;
I wake to sleep, and take my waking slow.

Great Nature has another thing to do
To you and me; so take the lively air,
And, lovely, learn by going where to go.

This shaking keeps me steady. I should know.
What falls away is always. And is near.
I wake to sleep, and take my waking slow.
I learn by going where I have to go.

– Thomas Roethke Continue reading

solitude. silence. serenity.

“I have come to believe that the true mystics are not those who contemplate holiness in isolation, reaching godlike illumination in serene silence, but those who manage to find God in a life filled with noise, the demands of other people and relentless daily duties that can consume the self. They may be young parents or those trying to make a living… If they are wise, they treasure the rare moments of solitude and silence and use them not to escape and distract themselves with television and the like. Rather, they use those moments to reflect on the signs of God’s presence in their day to day as they open their hearts in prayer.”

Kathleen Norris – The Quotidian Mysteries

why i stopped reading the news… again

call me “highly sensitive” or maybe on the other extreme “ignorant American” but this is an issue i’ve wrestled with for some time: I don’t read the news.

In an attempt to cultivate compassion for others have some semblance of knowledge of what is going on in the world around me, i started to read the news on a daily basis.

and when i noticed my attitude and mood becoming more cynical, my thoughts more worried and anxious. my role in the world infinitely diminished as i was reminded daily, first thing in my inbox, reminded of how the world is topsy turvy predictably unpredictable in its violence, hatred, bigotry, and disrespect for the environment.

humans are capable of pure evil.

and while my empathy grew, my actions diminished. i feel the more i hear about far and distant lands experiencing turmoil, peace talks going south, and weapons of mass destruction being secretly but not so secretly created and stored or maybe even used by powerful people on their neighbors, drugs increasing in intensity and communities falling apart… the more i realized: some things never change.

politicians bicker and gossip just at a much larger level
leaders are greedy. and their faith in themselves is so small they have to demand respect from others by bullying them. their tactics just get more violent.
pride is a nasty beast.
fear is a strong motivator.

and then as i get caught up in this whirlwind of evil all around me. i can’t help but think how desperately we need Jesus.

but how in the world can my getting up and going to work every day help the peace talks in Israel/Palestine?
How can my paying my student loans do anyone any good when there are people starving across the world because their politicians can’t agree on who gets what aid and end up keeping most of it for themselves?

and i become paralyzed.
because i can’t fix it all.
i diminish my existence.

and that is one of the biggest lies we can tell ourselves. to tell ourselves we’re “informed” but still remain “inactive”

so i’ve come to realize this:
i don’t need to actively seek out “news” – it comes to me whether i want it or not. i can depend on that.

i am well aware of the human condition and what evils we are capable of. i do not need a reminder of that every morning in my inbox.

what i do need. on the contrary. is a reason to hope. a reminder of why i get up in the morning. and a revival of breath, life, love, mercy and grace.
and if i don’t seek that out. i will most certainly not be able to depend on getting that “news” throughout the day.

i don’t need to actively pursue the news as we know it.

i do, however, need, every. single. morning. and most afternoons. and evenings. be reminded that there is a greater Grace. that there is a God who is intimately involved and infinitely generous who has provided another way. that He has provided us with options. and I can, despite what the news might tell me, choose life. i want to choose it every morning. every afternoon. every evening. and let that hope. that He has made and is making all things well because he cares infinitely more than my highly sensitive soul ever could.

and i stop spending so much time trying to be filled in on the events far away and becoming anxiously paralyzed about my inability to do anything. or fear of when it might next strike close to home.

and instead, spend that time reminding myself of the hope. the life. the joy. that is before me. and live into that. and open my eyes to what is around me within my grasp each day. the people i interact with. the conversations i have. the little seemingly insignificant events that go on before my eyes which, should i choose to be involved in. actually will affect “the news.”
and how if we all did just that. stopped focusing on the fear of the bigger picture. and started focusing on the individual news stories of the people in front of us each day. we might actually change the stories being told around the world.

so maybe i’m a little bit behind about who’s who in the political leadership ring around the world, but i know the names of the faces i see and interact with on a daily basis. and i care deeply about the world i live in here and now. rather than what the world is becoming if i sit paralyzed from a distance feeling as if my only choice is to watch from the outside what is happening to me.