Couple of things we need to get out of the way quickly.
I am not a doctor, dietician or nutritionist. I am a chef who decided to go back to school and become a health coach. I thought about getting a degree in Nutrition and then I decided that the only thing I care about putting that much time into is teaching people, and that doesn’t need a doctorate. It just needs an extraordinary amount of time and patience, both of which I have in abundance. So this food plan is based on what I know as a chef and the common sense information that I gained in teaching people how to cook. For those of you that know about my Wellness Program the reason I decided to devote myself to writing and teaching is so I can impact personal change on a much larger scale. So, if you think you need to get a doctors permission to participate in a food plan that is about eating whole and unprocessed foods, please do so before you begin. I am not encouraging any of you to go off your medications. I am, however, going to encourage you to change food choices and to eliminate the foods that don’t serve you.
Ok, so that last statement probably made a lot of you uncomfortable. Here’s the thing. You KNOW that something needs to change. You KNOW in your gut, heart, and mind that something you are doing is not working. If you signed up for this then you KNOW that you are heading in the wrong direction with the way you eat. If you are looking for someone to rubberstamp what you are eating or give you a little motivational Kumbaya, touchy-feely, granola crunchy speech about how ‘you are just fine the way you are’ then you are definitely not going to get that from me. Change is hard. Trust me, I totally get it, but if we don’t evolve and change then we are just doing the same things and expecting different results. And that, indeed, is the very definition of insanity.
I have developed an eating plan that meets our nutritional needs, allows individual discretion and, most importantly, doesn’t make us miserable. I believe that food is one of the most important parts of our human experience. I believe food gives us joy and happiness and gratifies us deep in our soul. The idea of life without comforting, loving food is an existence I can’t even contemplate. I don’t want that for you either, but I also don’t want you to live your life in a body that is not healthy, strong and vital. So, we are going to rethink our comfort foods.
With all this in mind, I wrote DIET FOR A NEW MILLENNIUM. The definition of diet is actually not one of deprivation, but a “habitual food choice.” The word was chosen consciously. If you wish to think about changing the way you eat habitually, then this is where we will begin.
Becoming healthy is a journey and like all transformational experiences we think of them as clearly defined by a beginning, middle and end. But real life isn’t always like that. We pick up pieces of the puzzle that speak to us and slowly we begin to form the outline and then maybe see a big picture through the muddle. The moments of true learning are in different places for different people. The important thing is to not judge yourself for what you aren’t able to put into practice but instead to merely be present and open. Some of this learning is practical and pragmatic how to’s and some of it is deeper more intimate personal discovery. Take what you want and leave the rest.
Clean your pantry. Remove all items that you don’t intend to eat. You won’t know them all yet but trust me you probably have a pretty good clue that Cheetos are not a fiber rich, whole food snack. “Pantry wars” will also be posted tomorrow. If you have young children at home, or a partner who is not participating make sure that you have your own space that is entirely separate. Perhaps now is also a good time to ramp up their healthy food choices. Having a safe space to keep your food items temptation free is invaluable. Make sure that the same is true of the refrigerator as well. While I cannot say enough on the value of engaging the entire family in this project it does occasionally happen that one member is more forward thinking about their health and has to pull the rest of the family along with them. If you are that person, then bludgeoning with a baseball bat is probably not the most peaceful and effective approach….here are some alternate suggestions.
Engage their support by asking for it EXAMPLE “Sam, I know you never have to worry about your weight or hypertension but my doctor is considering putting me on medication (name your drug here) unless I get my (name your condition here) under control. It would really help me if we could do this together at home.”
Bribe them. When Hadyn had turned five I decided that giving into her particular terrorism during mealtimes of only eating white foods (I kid you not! MY child!) was just OVER…So after having a long conversation with Santa Claus via the North Pole hotline we agreed that the best solution was to give her the puppy she had been begging for for two years and in return she would eat three two oz portions of vegetables OF MY CHOOSING each night. So Santa obligingly brought the dog (oh the joy!) and the letter detailing the contract .The upshot was the dog went back to the North Pole unless she kept her end of the bargain…Fast forward Adele, our little rescue, is now six and Hadyn is now 11 and loves apples and carrots but still fights me on just how much broccoli she has to eat, as well as just about everything else that has a color …nothing is perfect. I am not suggesting a puppy. I am merely suggesting that every child or spouse has something they like more that they hate vegetables. I am also pointing out that if it is not there they can’t eat it. Cheetos, Fritos, pudding cups etc. are not identifiable to any one of the major food groups (something we will be covering later) so they simply DON’T belong in the house or in your mouth. If you want to raise children that have a healthy body or have your spouse arund longer, then the best thing you can do is give them healthy foods. We now have the following options for snack time: fresh fruit, fresh cut up vegetables with hummus, dehydrated sugar snap peas, cashew cheese with whole grain crackers, raw nuts, fresh air popped popcorn, homemade granola bars, organic unsulphured dried fruit, special treat tofutti cuties….if it’s not there they can’t eat it.
Engage your support systems at work, home, exercise buddies; even if your partner is not doing this with you, ask for help by making sure there are healthy and safe food choices in the home. I cannot stress this enough. Michael and I went on a cruise with the kids and when we came back I had a few extra pounds on my butt. As all wonderful partners do, he kept telling me how fantastic I looked all the while bringing home chocolate for me to eat at 9:30pm. I finally sat him down and had a serious conversation about how glad I was he thought I was beautiful but I had to be happy with the way I felt in my own skin.
Remember this is about you. Keep it there.
Make food arrangements for events planned in advance: weddings, meeting, air travel, conventions, business trips, blind dates, movie theatres, anytime you are a captive, plan your strategy. Engage people in this project with your enthusiasm, tell them what you are doing and why it is important to you. Most people are happy to support you in becoming healthier as long as they feel that you appreciate the effort they are making. I know from personal experience as a chef that it is very difficult to help people with a smile on your face if they do not appreciate the work you are doing to keep them healthy and safe. I often go out into the other side of the restaurant world as a vegan. Couple that with being a chef and I am obviously NOT the patron of choice. I manage to overcome this by being as gracious and appreciative of the efforts made for me as possible. I don’t act like a tyrant, bully the wait staff, terrorize the chef, or act like a “freaky vegan” which is what we call them in my business. Try really hard not to be one of those. Try and be as gracious and complimentary as is humanly possible and think of it as an opportunity for everyone’s growth and learning. You are leading the way for healthy food options in dining and setting the example with behavior not just education.
Get a doctors check-up if you think you need it. If you have had any recent illnesses or chronic illnesses make sure that your primary care physician understands what it is that you are doing. You will be cutting out all processed foods, sugar, dairy, conventional animal products and bleached flour. Not limiting your food intake OR going on a diet. You will have abundant amounts of protein, iron and calcium for all those people that will ask. Feel free to put your doctor in touch with me. I am very happy to answer any questions that come my way.
Have your blood pressure measured.
Get weighed. ONCE and ONCE only. In the morning, after the loo, the day you begin the food plan then put the bathroom scale away for the next thirty days. Hide it from yourself. DO NOT WEIGH YOURSELF AGAIN. I AM NOT KIDDING. This program is not just a weight loss program it is a get healthy and eat right program. If you compulsively weigh yourself (and you know who you are) you are not going to get what you need. You are going to be focusing on how you feel inside your skin, not the number.
Measure yourself. ONCE and ONCE only. Preferably with ribbon and not with a tape measure. Cut the pieces of ribbon. Label the body part and date and put them away. This is for fun to see how your body changes by getting healthy.
Take a picture but only if you want to. Your body will find its perfect weight on its own through this process and it’s fun to see how it changes.
Get on Facebook I know all the arguments against social media and I agree with everyone one of them except for the small problem that there was never a tool invented that disseminated information so quickly and so effectively to so many people. If you don’t want anyone to follow you use stringent privacy settings, use a nickname from childhood, a picture of some flowers as your profile and just follow my page. It is where the ‘how to’ videos will be posted each week and it is also a way to reach me quickly with questions. There are literally thousands of other people also interested in getting healthy and cooking with love so it is a great way to always have a support system at your fingertips.
Buy a rice maker. Any little rice maker will do. Box stores, odd lots all have rice makers super cheap. Asian grocery stores make buying a rice maker more interesting (and sometimes more expensive) than buying your first car. Learn how to use it. The best way is to go on my blog to bean and grain cooking guide. Wash grain, drain and put in rice maker with a thumbnail of water over the top. You can always add more water in but mush is mush forever. A rice maker will be an integral part of a lot of the grain work we do. I have them at work, home and am trying to rig a converter box into my car. That was a joke.
Get food storage containers and a lunch box. Seems self explanatory but a couple of small things. Make sure you have hot and cold storage available if you don’t have a way to heat or chill at work. Make sure your containers lock rather than seal. Be as good to the earth as you are being to yourself and make renewable choices. Thebiggreenstore.com has some amazingly cool and hip stuff to bring out the green in you. Make sure your containers are chemical free. Stainless steel and glass are always better than plastic.
Get a journal/composition book You will be journaling about your food and wellness journey over the next 30+ days and you will want a place to keep everything together. This sounds tedious but it really becomes very simple and fun once you get used to it. I have also used my computer and several of my students have used the NOTES app on their phone. Do what works for you, but do it.
Make sure you have the standard kitchen equipment of a cutting board that can be sterilized, at least one great pan, a strainer, a steamer, a rice maker, a blender, a food processor, a really good sharp chef’s knife, and a large stainless steel stockpot.
Make sure your pantry is completely stocked with the right foods, condiments, oils, and dry goods. You will be buying fresh fruits and vegetables more frequently so the big shop is the first one. I will be posting two blog posts tomorrow with this information so get ready! This first shop might cause a sticker shock but the reality is you will be saving so much money from not buying conventional meats, cheeses, snacks, fast food that by the end of the month your grocery expenditures will be lower. The important thing is to not penny pinch on the things you need. A bottle of extra virgin olive oil for 20 dollars might seem a lot but it comes out to less than an order of fry’s everyday at Mickey d’s and in the long run is going to save you money on all that cholesterol medication the pharmaceutical companies are planning to sell you. And let’s not even talk about what a triple bypass costs!
Clean out your car. Your car is not a dining table or a pantry or a trash can or a refrigerator. You will not be eating through your car window anymore so make sure there is nothing there to remind you of the French fry house (Hadyn’s name for it). Conversely, make sure you have ample nuts, rice cakes, dried fruit, seeds etc. stored in sealed containers so when you feel like you must snack while driving there is a healthy option to the drive thru…
Watch ‘Food Inc.’ and read ‘The China Study’ I could teach solidly the whole next month every hour of every day and I could not impart a fraction of the information as well as these people do.. There is a surfeit of knowledge out there with so many reasons why a whole food lifestyle is better for your health (and your karma!) that I don’t need to rewrite all the nutritional information again. Look at the suggested reading material and start picking them off one at a time. The local library will order anything you want free of charge so it costs nothing to be well-informed.
Be prepared to defend your choices. I usually ask each new client why they want to change their lifestyle and the way they eat and the answers are humbling and powerful. Look deep inside yourself and examine your motivations. Know why you want to do this and have that conversation with your kids, partner, spouse, coworkers and family so they can be on the same page. Also have a script written in your head for everyone else. Here’s an example; “I want to feel better and live longer. I decided the only way to do this was a complete overhaul of what I eat. Numerous medical studies have shown that a diet rich in antioxidants, omegas, plant based nutrition, and containing very few animal proteins can virtually eliminate most western diseases and help you live a healthier and longer life.” Or try this one on for size, “I decided not to support agricultural big business making choices about what I put in my body any more. I also decided that if I ate more peacefully I could set an example for the leaders of our world.” Whatever your motivations: health, planet, or personal karma plan the answers out ahead of time. You are your own advocate and anyone that ever told you that one person can’t make a difference is just plain wrong.
Plan to get some physical time. You don’t have to join a gym but just make sure you have sensible shoes and a place to walk and move your body. Movement helps your body in every way.
Make yourself a quiet space for meditation and clearing your head. So much of what we will be working on in the next few weeks is the connection of the mind and body. Have a place that is sacred and special and peaceful for you. If at all possible try to keep it completely separate from all other distractions in the home. You don’t NEED this space for your mind to become still but it sure is nice. I have created small little “altars” in my high stress zones to remind myself of who I truly am and why I am here. All I have to do is look at these spaces and I instantly become more calm and breathe more deeply. I also use my bathtub as a safety zone. When I am in the bathtub my girls know to never walk in or talk to me through the door.
Know who you are. I like to think that I am Mary Poppins (practically perfect in every way) but the reality is that I’m not. I get cranky, bossy, demanding, and I always, always, always, want things my way. I don’t remember to take my vitamins, I like to drink too much and I don’t floss as often as my dentist thinks I should. I don’t like green tea and keep buying it even anyway. I often have bread instead of the whole grains that I just made and are delicious. I don’t always practice what I preach in either being peaceful or eating right and that makes me judge myself harshly. And then I remember that…
I am still learning. This is a journey and each and every minute is an opportunity to learn another lesson. When you accept your shortcomings with grace and humility and practice constant vigilant forgiveness and unconditional love towards yourself, you are much more capable of doing the same for others. You will make choices you are not happy with. It doesn’t mean that you are caught in a pattern of failure. It simply was that moments lesson and now you have passed onto the next opportunity. Do the best as you are capable with this next one. Make peace with yourself and the whole world will follow.
Suggested Reading List:
Skinny Bitches – Freedman and Barnounin (an in-your-face look at veganism and plant based lifestyles)
The Kind Diet by Alicia Silverstone– not a diet at all, delineates choices with a gentle nudge
The Omnivores Dilemma by Michael Pollan – Thoughtful, insightful and provocative
Anything at all by Michael Pollan – not going to lie, I have a huge crush
Food Inc. – a must watch …nothing you put in your mouth will ever taste the same
The China Study – Dr. Colin Campbell The best most comprehensive nutritional study ever done EVER
Diet for a New America – John Robbins
Food Revolution – Ocean Robbins (anything by either Robbins, literally the coolest father/son duo ever)
Eat to Live – Joel Fuhrman
Healthy Aging – Andrew Weil
The Blue Zones – Dan Buettner