Archive for the ‘Nonfictions–Health and Food’ Category

376My pastor came up to me yesterday, having just begun a series on the book of Daniel, and commented that he had thought about me this week as he was preparing this message.  Of course, several thoughts crossed my mind, “How did he know that I had been studying Daniel?”  “Does he think I’m like Daniel in some way?”  (Prideful thinking of course.)  No, he was thinking back to ten years ago, and an article I had written addressing church people’s reluctance to make healthy dietary changes, show wisdom in food choices, and specifically become vegetarians, citing all kinds of scripture in defense of their habits.  My response in the article was that they didn’t want to give up their “sacred cows”–church picnics, barbecues, pot roast, etc.  I had talked to so many people at that time who were suffering from chronic degenerative diseases, including cancer, whose response was “I’m just a meat and potatoes kind of guy.”  Never mind that there is more evidence that cancer can be cured through dietary change than through chemotherapy, the thought of enduring several rounds of chemo and radiation with bouts of nausea and loss of hair was definitely more appealing than giving up coffee, sugar, or dare I say it “steak”!  My pastor said, “Yeah, as I was thinking about broccoli and water, I was thinking about you.”  

Okay, let me say this, I have definitely toned down my approach to people, and even become lax in my own eating habits; however, my ideology has not changed.  I am still a rank and file vegan to the core.  I don’t protest chicken factories (although I think they’re terrible), I don’t throw paint on people with fur (although I believe faux fur is just as nice); but I do think it is a healthier lifestyle, if you are a well-rounded dieter.  Let me say that in a different way.  I have spoken to extremely sick vegans who subsist on cooked starches and tofu; and rarely get a raw veggie in their body.  I do not think these people are any healthier than those who eat meat with every meal.  And, I am not saying don’t eat meat at all, unless of course you have cancer, in which case, know that protein does make tumors grow, just like they make muscles grow.  Am I going to preach a message from scripture telling you all not to eat these things?  No, but I will say a few words about wisdom.  “Above all things, get it!”

So, I say “Hallelujah!  I love vegetables!”  “Hallelujah!  I love good food!”  Do I prefer vegetables to meat?  Absolutely!  Is it harder for me now that my husband and children have decided that they don’t want to be completely vegetarian?  Yes!  Do I still make them eat a predominantly vegan diet?  Yes, because I love them!  And because they have their splurge days, and get the occasional candy bar or icecream, and because my husband gets to make his chicken wings on weekends or a ribeye every now and again, they appreciate my food even more.  However, since their diet has changed, their tastebuds have changed.  They don’t appreciate the simplicity of things as much as they used to.  I have to be creative, and I have a number of resources that help me do this.  In fact, what prompted this post, apart from my pastor’s comments, was the breakfast I made this morning.  Perfect for people with allergies to wheat and eggs, as well as vegans, it is “Rice/Millet Pancakes” from Julie Wandling’s book Hallelujah Kids.  A thick, hearty pancake, sweetened with a whole apple and honey.  It’s just the thing to fill their bellies before heading off to school.  My husband likes these so much, he even sat down and joined them for breakfast–something he never does.  The desserts, smoothies, soups, pastas, and breads in this cookbook were all designed with kids in mind.  It is completely vegan, but so much more.  All of the recipes are designed with no sugar, no white flour, no artificial chemicals of any kind, and are simply delicious.  Most of them are kid tested, and some, like the “Chocolate Granola” were submitted by children.

I have some other favorite cookbooks, or in this case, un-cookbooks.  Think you can’t get your kids to eat raw vegetables?  Well, try a “Raw Pizza” from Julianno’s un-cookbook, simply named raw.  My kids love the crust (made in a dehydrator on a low setting), the sauce, and the cashew cheese.  I am simply wild about the spaghetti with noodles made from zucchini and a saladacco.  My other favorite un-cookbook is How We All Went Raw by Charles, Coralanne, and George Nungesser.  These siblings stopped cooking their food as a result of a commitment to try it for one year.  If it didn’t work, they would go back to the traditional S.A.D. diet.  What happened was a cessation of all their physical ailments, including:  severe food allergies and asthma.  There was no going back for them, but in their quest to find new and interesting foods for their changing palates they came up with some incredible recipes like:  “Peanut Butter Chocolate Pie”  (this has avocadoes in it) and “Philly Cheese Steak” (i.e. portabella mushrooms).

I know that many of you are rolling your eyes and are contemplating that Big Mac you want for lunch, and that’s fine, my mouth is watering too.  Only, I am trying to decide whether I want to make “Purple Mystic” salad or Hummous and tabouleh sandwiches.


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I had a friend who recently threatened to comment on my site, “Stop watching politics, get off your duff, and start posting something.”  I appreciated the humor, but honestly I was feeling a little bad that I hadn’t written anything lately.  It’s not like I haven’t been reading, as a matter of fact, I’ve been working on some fascinating books.  As to thoughts in my head, there are a plethora.  However, it seems that this little entity being created inside me has me both too tired to sit and write and too inward focused to comment on the world around me.  This post is indeed a labor.  It is 9pm–a new witching hour.  The thought of my bed drives me to distraction, but I must press on for the good of those ten or so people that actually read my blog regularly, and who have become tired of waiting for this baby to come.  Not that my regulars will find it interesting, but I did finish a remarkable book by Marie F. Mongan called Hypnobirthing.  It is remarkable in its claims and yet simply believable at the same time.  Maybe I’m just easily convinced having given birth to two girls naturally (that is without drugs for all of you epidural moms out there), or maybe I am eager for it to be true.  Either way, the information wasn’t entirely new, and I know at least two people personally that can attest to the results.  What am I talking about–painless childbirth of course!  Now, for those of you who do not believe that there is such a thing, let me ask you a question:  “Why not?”  Some would say, “Well, aren’t we promised in the book of Genesis that we would have “great pain in childbearing”?  Others might add, “It hurt me, at least” or “Are you telling me that pushing a 7 lb baby through what once was a tiny opening is not going to hurt?”  I would say these are all legitimate reasons for believing this way, however, bear with me, or rather, bear with Ms. Mongan.  She starts out by explaining a history of pain in childbirth, and more specifically, a history of our beliefs about childbirth.  Much of her information is based on the writings and experiences of an early 20th century obstetrician by the name of Grantly Dick-Read.  Dr. Read’s transformation came about as he witnessed rural women giving birth outside the hospital arena, naturally, and without pain.  When inquiries were made by him, there was always a common denominator–the woman did not expect it to hurt.  Her expectations and therefore her lack of fear and anxiety in giving birth resulted in a virtually painless, easy birth every time.  Years of experience and many case studies later confirmed his suspicions that there was indeed a fear/pain relationship.  What he didn’t understand at the time about the body’s chemistry, such as endorphins, or about the sympathetic nervous system and specifically how fear affects and sometimes stops labor is now understood.  Ms. Mongan goes into great detail as to how all of this works, the history of pain and birthing, and has developed a method of self-hypnosis whereby women can speed up labor, encourage their bodies to produce these endorphines, and have a relaxed, peaceful birth experience.  As I said before, having birthed two babies naturally, I was intrigued.  What was different about her method than the way I had birthed before?  After all, I had taken the lamaze classes, learned coping methods, and even birthed my second in a tub of warm water.  How could this be improved upon?  Well, it was obvious to me, before I had gotten too far into the book, that the thing that had affected my labors most (the average was around 30 hours each) was fear.  I would be doing fine until anxiety and fear took over, and then my labors would drag on and on.  Even if I could not accomplish the said “pain free labor”, I was hopeful that I could at least learn to let go of anxiety.  “It couldn’t ‘hurt’ to try” (pardon the pun).

So, I have been creating my own meditations.  Along with reminding myself that my body knows how to do this, I have been reciting scriptures on faith and not having fear.  I have been putting my confidence in a different place than Ms. Mongan has recommended, but I believe that my hope is in something much more stalwart and unchanging than the chemicals or muscles in my body.  My hope must be in the Lord.  I am learning to relax and to trust the instincts that he put within me, and that he will bring this little boy into the world.  I wish I could tell you what the results will be now, but you’ll just have to wait around four more weeks.  Until that time, don’t count on me to blog about every book I’ve read.  I’m much too distracted for all that, and besides it might cut into my meditation time.  Ummmmmmmmmmmm.

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The doctor laughed at me as he shoved his hands into his white lab coat.  “What is a toxin anyway?  Just the other day a guy told me he was avoiding toxins in his diet, but I don’t think he knew what he was talking about.”  I was ushered out the door feeling belittled and given little help for my problem.  That day I learned what some in mainstream medicine think of those who try to take responsibility for their own health.  Don’t get me wrong, I believe that we have one of the best health care systems in the world when it comes to trauma.  I just think that in treating disease, our conventional methods can be dangerous at their worst (i.e. cancer treatments) and at their best, commit the patient to a lifetime of drugs in order to feel good (i.e. allergy treatments, heartburn med’s., etc.)  I have learned a lot in these last 10 years, including what a toxin is; and I’ve learned how to navigate through the myriads of health literature and super-diets that have flooded the market in recents years.  First, why do these books exist?  They exist quite simply because Americans are getting sicker and fatter and guess what–traditional medicine isn’t helping.  Understanding how the body works, the disease process, false healing methods, and yes, what a toxin is is integral to living a long healthy life–and keeping in shape.  I have gotten off course a couple of times, oh not drastically; but I have forgotten many times that health not “ideal” weight was my goal.  Despite my wanderings, I have come full circle and returned to the diet I know is best, and my body is thanking me because it is full of energy, well rested, able to exercize without pain, resistant to disease, and has restored mental clarity.  I have no seasonal allergies, no rashes, no persistant coughs, no mood swings, no heartburn, etc, etc, etceterra!  I tell you this, because it has not always been the case.  My friends will tell you that 15 years ago, I was 60 lbs heavier, kept inhalers in my car, used steroid creams daily for chronic eczema, got strep throat at least twice a year, as well as suffered from other various illnesses which are considered “normal”. 

One of the things I have learned that along with other so-called illnesses, fat is really a toxicity problem.  Toxins are stored in the fat and for them to be released into the bloodstream, the body must first have the energy and nutrition to deal with them.  Next, I believe in something called “innate intelligence”.  This is the body’s ability to heal itself and prioritize its actions to restore health to the body.  For instance, if there is a heart condition, the body is going to focus on this primarily and other things only as much as its energy will allow.  If I am dieting, strictly, and to no avail, I might first want to consider that the body knows what it is doing, and it may not have the energy to burn fat or deal with the toxins that will be released. 

So, what is a toxin?  Well, according to Dr. Joel Robbins (of previous post fame), a toxin is a substance that the body cannot use, and that takes energy to get rid of.  This can be anything from the sulfites in your hot dogs to the cup of coffee you had this morning.  No matter what the articles say, coffee is not healthy.  The reason you have that burst of energy after drinking it is not because it is acting on the body to “rev” you up, but because the body is “reacting” to it to remove it promptly before it kills you.  I could go through the steps it takes, but your better off getting Robbin’s book Health Through Nutrition and seeing for yourself.  Anyway, it is diets that are in line with this philosophy on health that I both support and subscribe to.  Some books I can recommend:  The PH Miracle by Robert O. Young, Ph.D., and Shelley Redford Young.  This book is based on the understanding that the body thrives in an alkaline environment (a blood PH of 7.365).  Neutral is 7, and below that is acid.  The body’s buffer system reacts when our blood shifts toward acid, as acidic food, and toxins from the environment such as pesticide residue and heavy metals, etc. enter the bloodstream.  The Youngs mention vicarious elimination of these toxins in the early stages (just as Dr. Robbins does).  These would be what most people consider disease and are really symptoms of an acid state (allergies, skin eruptions, headaches, etc.).  In later stages of imbalance weakened organs and systems result and the body’s attempt at restoring balance results in it pulling alkaline minerals from the bones, and as they say, “this is just the tip of the iceberg”.  This book recommends eating a mostly alkaline diet, and includes many recipes in the back, just as any good diet book might; but the writers are not just trying to help you with your weight problems, their goal is to help you “Reclaim Your Health”.

Two more books that address overall health and not just weight loss are Ann Louise Gittleman’s Fat Flush Plan and The Fast Track One Day Detox Diet.  Ann agrees with the premise that toxins are the reason we are fat.  In fact, all three of these books surmise that since toxins are stored in your fat, it will not release them unless their are some good alkalizing nutrients coming into the body.  In other words, unless your body is given the nutrition and energy to deal with those toxins, it will not drop the weight.  Your body is primarily concerned about keeping you alive, and aren’t you glad it is.  Anyway, Ms. Gittleman gives you a diet plan that eliminates toxic foods (she tells you what fish to avoid because of their mercury content, as well as which fruits and vegetables have the most pesticide residue) and she recommends foods that heal your liver and don’t stress it as it is trying to do it’s job.  I can tell you that I felt great at the end of the One Day Detox Diet and will use it periodically to cleanse.

The last book I want to mention is one I haven’t read, but I have been on the diet and lost 6 lbs in 3 weeks.  This diet was so similar to the way I was already eating, I was surprised I lost anything, but I can wholeheartedly recommend it because it speaks to a growing problem in America–estrogen dominance.  This was something I was concerned about in my own life as well as that of my little girls.  I am concerned about young girls going through puberty way to early to emotionally and physically deal with it, the rise of breast cancer, as well as the various affect on men like a reduced sperm count.  You can see an interview with the writer of The Anti-Estrogenic Diet, Ori Hofmekler at this website http://www.antiestrogenicdiet.com/the-anti-estrogenic-diet-introduction.  You may be surprised at how estrogen is getting into your body.  Of course the hormones in beef and poultry are synthetic estrogens, but how about soy?  Did you know that soy (which is in everything from salad dressings to veggie burgers) contains substances that mimic estrogen in your body.  Fluoride in your toothpaste is a culprit as well as the pesticides on your food.  Knowing how to balance your hormones and support your liver are the key to this diet.

So, I’ve given you more than food for thought, as well as some resources for eating that will help you stay on the road to good health.  And if you’ve been doing some off-roading, just know that those bumps your feeling don’t mean you need to change your tires.

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Claire first heard about it on some talk show.  “I just ordered this fantastic book” she announced.  “It is going to help us with our running.”  The book she was talking about was Danny Dreyer’s Chi Running .  She really had me excited about it.  Supposedly, Mr. Dreyer held workshops all over the country that had “newby” runners going from 0 to 1 mile their first lesson, all with less pain, fatigue, and no injury.  “Intriguing” I thought.  Claire was suppose to read the book and then pass along the training tips to me, as we were training for triathlons together.  My DH calls us “tri-wannabes”, and unfortunately, he is right, because we have only competed in two and have recently been on hiatus.  Anyway, “chi” pronounced “chee” like “tea” and not “chai” like “sky”, which actually is a tea, refers to that invisible life force or energy within every person.  Very important in oriental philosophy and medicine, your “chi” is the thing that when either harnessed or impeded affects your physical and mental output, as well as your health and well-being. 

“When your Chi is strong, balanced, flowing and focused you exude energy and good health. Good health and strong, balanced Chi are almost one and the same. In Chinese Medicine one of the causes of ill health is the stagnation or blockage of Chi.”    

Excerpt from “What is Chi?”  www.chirunning.com
Well, after naggin Claire day after day, she finally gave me the book and told me to read it and then tell her about it.  What I got out of it was some of the best exercise advice I have ever gotten.  Mr. Dreyer explains that proper posture, technique, and execution achieves better results than years of long runs or weight training.  In fact, the most important part of Chi Running is “core strength”.  This did not surprise me at all, because it seems that every exercise physiologist, health club, dance class, etc. is touting the benefits of core strength as it relates to other disciplines.  Mr. Dreyer gives us a series of focuses which include:  core, a lean (from the ankles), and proper foot strike.  I can honestly say that when I was keeping these focuses in mind and concentrating on my core, that my running seemed almost effortless.  This may be the only thing that gets me through the Kid’s Road Mile that I’m suppose to run with my DD’s this weekend.  DD1, at the age of 8, is an under 8 minute miler, and DD2, who is 5, does her best to keep up; and honestly, I can’t keep up with either one of them.  So, I am off to the Chi Running website to get some last minute pointers before my children abandon me somewhere along the route.  I wonder if I can get my chi to run instead of me.  Hmmmm.

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I finally got Lauren F. Winner’s book Mudhouse Sabbath and it is a pleasant surprise.  I didn’t even imagine that it was going to inspire my own “practices”, but it has, and by the third chapter nonetheless.  I would like to devote an entire post to it soon; but one of her chapters, the one on kashrut  or “fitting food” got me thinking about some other books I’ve read on food and health.  When Lauren talks about eating Kosher, she is not merely talking about the “law of eating”, but about being conscientious in your eating.  She says that what is missing in how she eats now as oppose to when she was “keeping kosher”, is that there was a purpose to her eating–a God-centeredness to her eating.  I have had so many people ask me to read and review The Maker’s Diet and books of that sort that I feel I need to devote several posts to that subject.  I will say this, however, I have gotten away from teaching that God has a “perfect” diet for people, only because food can become so important to people and it can become their means of justification.  It should not be. It cannot be. (Incidentally, Lauren addresses this in her book as well.)  We should have wisdom, however.  We should eat conscientiously; and “whatever we do, in word or in deed” we should do for the “glory of God”. 

I do have an opinion on these matters, but I have been hesitant to share it, because I’ve found that in the area of food, people really don’t want to be critiqued.  If they are sick, they want an outside cause, they don’t want it to be something they’ve brought about by lifestyle.  I know.  I don’t like it either.  The only problem with this now, for me, is that I know too much.  I know what it takes to be healthy and to get healthy once you’re sick; and I’m just not willing to do it–half the time.  I, like most people, think that eating nutritiously (really nutritiously) is too much work, or takes too much will-power, or isn’t any fun.  The funny thing is, in the words of one of my favorite health “guru’s” Joel Robbins, “You have to really work to be sick”.  Dr. Robbins has written my favorite book on health called simply Health Through Nutrition .  This book, and the accompanying tapes, contain the most concise, clear, simple text on the disease process, and how the body works that I have ever read.  It is short, you can listen to the tapes in about an hour or so, but it all makes sense.  Are you one of those people who have said, “There is just so many different views on health out there, how do you know who is right?”  I mean, if you listen to Atkins, Pritikin, Wiel, Gittleman, etc., they are all saying different things.  Well, Dr. Robbins really puts the power in your hands, because once you know how the body works to get well, you will know what to put in it.  The crux of Dr. Robbins theories (supported by facts) is the acid/alkaline balance.  The body thrives in an alkaline state and alkaline food contributes to that state.  Acidic foods and other things like drugs (prescription or non), alcohol, tobacco products, etc. contribute to an “acid state” which the body tries to deal with through various God-given and life-saving means:  the body’s buffer system, the adrenals, thyroid, and pituitary attempt to remove the offending toxin from the body.  When the body has no more energy to neutralize or remove them, it will store them in fat to keep them away from vital organs.  Now the tissues are diseased and you have what is called “chronic degenerative diseases”.  This is a very simplistic and rushed summary of this book; but disease is often more simplistic than conventional wisdom would lead us to believe.  You see, many complex names have been given to the variety of symptoms that the body produces as it is trying to keep itself alive.  These names are what we think of as “diseases”.  The underlying cause, however, of all of these symptoms is basically a toxic body that is trying its best to maintain homeostasis and we must either remove the offender or give it what it does need to get healthy.  An allopathic physician, might prescribe a drug for the symptom, but as my friend Dr. Robbins would say, the patient is not sufferring from a “drug deficiency”.  If you are interested in learning more about Dr. Robbins or his clinic in Tulsa, Oklahoma, check out his website at <http://www.hwclinic.net>.  It is a fairly new site, so they have several pages unfinished.  It also doesn’t have a link to their product order line where you can get this great book and others like Attitudes and Health or Pregnancy, Chidbirth, and Children’s Diet.  That number is 1-800-653-5444.  Check it out and “Here’s to your health!”

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Have you ever thought about salad dressings and of the many different kinds there are.  Have you ever thought about how everybody has their own idea of what constitutes a good vs. bad salad dressing.  When I was a child, I can remember going through 10 different “favorites”.  First I liked Italian, then “Creamy” Italian, then Thousand Island, Bleu Cheese, Ranch, French, Catalina, Russian (those last three are just slightly different versions of the same thing).  I would eat my salads with one until I absolutely couldn’t stand it, and then I’d switch to another.  When I got married, I understood a little of what people experience who go through the toothpaste disagreement.  You know the one I mean:  one likes to press the tube uniformly from the bottom, while the other just squeezes it somewhere in the middle.  Well, my source of frustration comes from not liking the same kind of salad dressing as my DH.  See, my DH fancies himself a “super taster”.  He picked up on this lingo when a good friend of mine talked about a test she was given in college where everyone had to lick a piece of paper.  If you could taste the subtle flavor on the paper, you were a “super taster”.  She was one, and no sooner had my DH heard about this than he started using it against me.  If he didn’t like something I’d prepared, he’d say, “Listen baby, I’m just a ‘super taster’.  That’s why you like this and I don’t.”  Well, there must be as many degrees of “super taster” as there are breeds of dogs, because there is never a night that goes by in my house that everyone “likes” the food that is served.  With that said, you can understand why our refrigerator is literally cluttered with salad dressings.  I mean, I should have a sign on the door that says, “Open at your own risk” because inevitably one of those tall bottles will come crashing to the floor the moment the door is opened.  I don’t know why I become offended if someone doesn’t like a particular dressing I’ve recommended.  People have such particular tastes.  Some people don’t like acidic, some people don’t like tarty, some people don’t like sweet, some people don’t like change–they will eat ranch dressing on anything regardless of whether the salad lends itself to a creamy dressing or a watery vinaigrette.  Consider this conversation: 

Me: “Honey, try this dressing.  It goes perfectly with the walnuts and cranberries in the salad.”

DH: “Really?  I’m just not in the mood for that.” 

Me: “Oh, just try it, you’ll love it.” 

DH: “I don’t want to try it.” 

Me: “Come on.” 

DH: “Well, okay.” (He tries it.) “Grunt”. 

Me: “Well?” 

DH: “I’m just not crazy about sweet dressings.” 

Me: “You don’t like it? Why don’t you like it?  I just don’t understand.  It’s delicious!  You’re crazy if you don’t like that dressing!”

So, for all of you out there who are spending a lot of money on salad dressing, because no one in the family likes the same one, I have the book for you–Salad Dressings for Life by Rhonda Malkmus.  This book is full of delicious, easy to make salad dressing recipes.  They are organized according to ingredients (whether they are lemon based, vinegar based, etc.).  The recipes call only for fresh healthy ingredients, are full of good fats (like flax seed oil, or cold-pressed olive oil), and have no preservatives, because you make them yourself.  It also has a spiral binder that allows it to lay flat.  My favorite dressing in the book is a “Lemon Herb Dressing”.  I have adapted the herbs to fit my own tastes; but I like it so much that I’ll even have it for breakfast served over fresh tomatoes.  Mmmmm!  Warning:  the book does not include any ingredients considered to be “unhealthy”.  Therefore, there are no dairy products or sugar in any of the recipes.  There are creamy avocado dressings and replacements for sugar like honey or maple syrup.  Regardless, it is a great book to add to your recipe collection.  You might even find something to please those “super tasters” in your family.

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