philosophy

world gone wellness

Are we still spending all our money to fill a void?

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Let me begin by saying I am totally of this world; totally of the world of ancient ayurvedic adaptogenic herbs and the food-as-medicine / listen-to-your-body mantra-touting alternative subculture.  I drink the koolaid just to see if it will have a positive effect.  But I’m also totally relieved by articles like this one in Man Repeller, and this one in the New York Times.  They bring the “spiritually transcendent” and “pure” wellness initiatives under the microscope, much like I’ve always done with religious tradition and what I call “old school-ism” (i.e. doing something just because it’s always been done).  I’m in a stage of my life where I am nothing if not searching searching searching; for the right career, for the right city, for the best fuel for my body, for happiness and adventure.  Part of that searching includes health and wellness, and as I’ve always tapped into the new and up-and-coming and trending health scene in the way that some people know what’s coming down the runway before NYFW.  It’s classic VATA nature to always be searching, going where the wind blows, evaluating and re-evaluating and moving on to the next thing.  I like it; it’s fun and ever-new and matches my eternal desire to not be bored.  But it’s totally possible to be unhealthy in it.  Unhealthy in health?  Yes ma’am.

While it’s true that foods / herbs have qualities in their own respects that affect us in some way, the aspiration towards elite foods and lifestyles can be more damaging than not eating organic.

If we’re breaking the bank for seven jars of powdered mushrooms to make a morning herbal latte, there’s less money for spinach and avocados and pastured eggs to really fill us up.  If we’re untouchable because we can’t go out for brunch with friends, does it really matter how pure our systems are?  Summer at SheLivesWholly.com talks about how soul food is more important than actual food, and I totally agree with her.  I mean, I’d rather eat vegetables at brunch than chicken & waffles, but I’d rather eat meat and pastries with friends than eat vegetables at home alone.

The health scene has been blamed for being another eating disorder in disguise.  We are totally capable of using wellness regimes and a desperate search for self to control or numb out, much like we might use partying to escape our woes.  But more than anything, I can’t get beyond the use of healing and powerful plants in pure capitalism schemes.  It’s one thing to deal herbs in a small shop stall, or hawk vegetables at the farmers market.  But paying for your mansion by selling juices and magic potions with daring promises?  Seems a little fish-hooky to me.  But then I’ve always had a particular hostility toward consumerism.

I have fallen in love with wellness and living a lifestyle that suits me best many times over in my life.  And some of those times have been to numb out or try to grasp at any last tempting branches as I tumbled over the edge of the cliff of my life.  Most of all, it fit my budget and priorities: I didn’t want to have to buy and keep buying cleaning products, clothes, body care, and expensive specialty foods to have the life of my dreams.  Freedom meant being able to come up with something entirely homemade at a fraction of the cost, flexing my creative fingers and being able to stand back and be proud of what I accomplished.  I love to support someone else’s craft if it’s entirely evident they’re sharing their love and superpowers in a product (like a handmade card or cutting board at a craft fair).  I’m still drawn into minimalist product labeling and things that offer to change my life, but every time I spot something on the Chalkboard Mag, Well + Good, GOOP or MindBodyGreen, I immediately examine the basis of my infatuation.  Those platforms SELL a lifestyle that costs money I don’t have for rewards I’ll likely only see by squinting through deeply tinted designer glasses and reciting a mantra in an effort to convince myself everything is perfect.  I’m over it.

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EIGHT WAYS TO RESIST:
Fight back against wellness-shaming and lifestyle consumerism,
for your health!

I’ve got some things for you to keep in mind as you navigate this worldly obsession, because a) I think it is entirely okay for the world to want to be well, and I don’t think it should be cast as hippie-dippy, and b) I think it can be really easy for us to shell out all our money to companies claiming to help us do just that, when in fact we’re still just trying to fill a void.
  1. DO YOU and hold fast your non-negotiables: first and foremost, trust your gut.  If you want a matcha latte, by god, have one.  If you don’t want to make space on your supplements shelf for any supplements, totally fine.  Unless you have something in hand that totally works for you and you know it, you’ll likely just find yourself in another battle of will – wondering why you’re trying to be so pure anyway… You also (hopefully) know yourself best; you know if you’re willing to pay for water, if you eat animal products, if you are capable of skipping a workout without getting off track, if you want to suffer through food intolerance.  Babe, it all matters.
  2. Don’t get sucked into fear-based wellness regimes: you are not mentally unwell because you do not meditate.  You are not unhealthy because you do not “hit the gym.”  You are not too poor to be healthy because you cannot afford a juicer.  You do not need Beauty Dust to be radiant.  You do not need visible abdominal muscles to be attractive.  When you learn about what worked for someone else, take it with a grain of salt.  If you want to try it, by all means…give it a go.  But this idea that we have to be all things all the time is impractical at best, and senseless beyond that.  I’m constantly telling myself, Pick one: Go for a walk, play with the dog, have a bowspring session, call a friend, cook an elaborate meal, read a book.  I cannot possibly – nor do I care to try to – fit it all in one day.
  3. Consider your budget, honestly: societies lived for centuries without juicers and Vitamixes.  I could stop there, because you probably get my point.  Basically, my fear is that many of us resign to unhealthy habits because we think we can’t afford to be healthy, because much of the media world is telling us that we can’t be healthy without fancy tools and ingredients.  The honest truth is that in our modern world of e-commerce and having our wants and needs met instantly, we are grossly unhealthy and unhappy.  If you didn’t have it when you were a kid and you got along just fine, you’ll probably be okay without it now.  iPhone included.
  4. Examine your WHY: No, self-care in and of itself is not self-indulgent.  But it’s important to check in on what self-care is really about for you.  If you require a weekly massage or an hour-long soak in an epsom salt bath every night to cope with the stress of your life, maybe you’re still not getting to the root of the issue.  Maybe it’s not that you don’t allow yourself enough personal time; maybe you hate your job or aren’t being honest about toxic relationships in your life.  Personal experience: yoga and nutrition helped sustain me during a particularly hard time, but they didn’t cure me of my woes.  I still had to make huge life changes to find some semblance of happiness and positive cell vibration.
  5. Don’t give up!  We hurt ourselves the most when we believe we are not worthy of true health.  We hurt others when we are not our best selves for them.  And being our best selves does not mean always oozing sunshine and pooping rainbows.  PLEASE.  Our best selves are loving and inspiring and supportive, and we can do all those things even if we have a bad day once in awhile, or if our sense of humor errs on the side of cynical.  We are totally worthy of love, including self-love.
  6. Adapt adapt adapt.  Life is so ungodly messy.  If it’s not you, it’s someone close to you.  Then it’s you again.  Then it’s your pet.  We’re constantly bowled over by forseen and unforseen events and research shows that the key to winning life is RESILIENCE.  This is also something I love about the teachings of Ayurveda – that where we are today is not likely where we’ll be tomorrow, and there’s always an opportunity to come back from that or to move in a different direction.  We’re never too far gone and we won’t always be in the exact right place.  We can use what we know about ourselves and a willingness to break out of any sense of rigidity in order to claw our way back.
  7. Don’t eat the same thing every day: this is a recipe for food intolerances, boredom, settling for mediocrity, OR overindulging.  No need for ice cream every day.  No need for bananas every day.  Your body wants so many things, and personally I find it hard to eat 30 different vegetables in a day, so I spread it out 🙂
  8. Do the thing that gives you warm fuzzies: this is a mental health thing, and it’s totally important.  Many health gurus eschew watching TV, but I grew up watching FRIENDS and it holds more meaning to me than a way to disengage with my current situation.  I also love to talk to my mom.  You know what your thing is.  Call upon it when you need it.
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fu-un

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We are currently nursing a post-yoga turmeric tonic.  At lunchtime, we slammed ginger lemon shots.  One of us is sick, another feels it coming on and a third (me) feels the subtleties shifting inside me raising a flag.  Two days ago I was out of sync with the universe; or at least that’s how it felt.  I told my coworkers to look out, because I’d woken up on the wrong side of the bed.  We laughed and they joked with me and, ultimately, everything was fine.  But anytime the phone rang I was irritated.  And as if I was being plotted against, everyone on the other end of the line had dementia and a thick accent.  The stapler wanted to see me use my fine motor skills AND my upper body strength (to no avail).  My kimono with the cute little fringe on the bottom kept snagging on everything and cartoonishly pulling me backwards, knocking over chairs and signs and generally drawing attention to myself.  (Eye roll.)  I was in a funk, my head hurt, and a dear friend mentioned that she usually gets that way when she’s getting sick and her body is busy fighting for her.  I wondered; it reminded me of the Pixar movie about feelings and how, when certain ones were preoccupied, or one was left alone in the control room, things leaned precariously in one direction.

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I’m constantly striving to remain balanced in my health – physically and mentally and otherworldly – and I generally have a sense of why things are off-kilter.  And I have a wonderful community around me, including folks far far away, to set me upright when I’m tipping over.  What of people who don’t find themselves in the way of self-awareness?  What of people who don’t have social supports, or at least not ones that can help them get to where they want to go?  Side note: There’s been a rather widespread conversation about the homeless population in my small town and it has me fizzled.  I’m not doing anything in the way of direct service to that community, as I did for years in other cities.  But people’s ideas about homelessness and “what to do about it” still get my gills (seriously, colloquialisms are highly encouraged here…).  More on that another day.

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You know what I was thinking today?  That I’m having fun.  I’m having fun at my job – the office from the seventies that does everything by-the-book and with oh-so-much civil comedy.  I’m having more fun at the Y than I did when I worked there, yoga-ing with my brother and goofing around with my old coworkers.  I’m having fun with the dog (big surprise) and I’m reading a really good book and knitting a new project and going on a date.  And today I got revenge on that stapler by banishing it to the stock room.  Sometimes it’s right and necessary to set up our demons in a cool dark corner where they don’t mold or cook themselves but just set and wait until someone is willing to tinker around and fix them.

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  1. A girl and her dog at enjoying the brightness before the sunset.
  2. A sort of baba ghanoush (originally posted on my instagram) created on the fly by pureeing a whole burnt eggplant with a roasted red pepper and some salt, pepper, and good California olive oil.  A heavy sprinkle of paprika and it becomes a meal for dipping turmeric-roasted potatoes and baby greens (which I do eat with my fingers…)
  3. Dog contemplates forest.
  4. Dog contemplates old building at the local mission site.
  5. Dog finds fresh water.  Dog does not understand why people have to drink bottled water or why cities have to contaminate their water sources with poison.
  6. Dog wishes he could’ve eaten this: spaghetti squash with the leftover Christmas turkey (steamed in parchment paper to keep it juicy), whiskey-caramelized onions, a mashed up California veggie burger, and a creamy vegan sauce made with pantry staples like almond milk and tapioca starch, happy powder (nutritional yeast) and other spices.  Topped with avocado.  THIS was decadence.

woman

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In one hand I have a warm and spicy apple cider vinegar digestif. In the other, a novel translated from Spanish into English with a particular writing style which takes some mental wrangling. In my head, Amy Winehouse. She’s been there for several days as I digest and mentally wrangle the story of her life. Empathy at an all-time high. Dinner is still on the stove. It’s been there for hours and the yellow split peas just won’t cook down; won’t soften. They were passed onto me by a friend, who received them from her friend, whose husband of Indian descent recently passed and “she never has to look at Indian food again.” (I’d look at Indian food for the rest of my life, if I could.) The cut beans might be old, inedible, funk. But I can’t bring myself to move on. I’ll cook every last one of those hard beans, likely, even if none of them go quietly. I ended up with roasted turmeric potatoes and spicy mayonnaise to sustain me. Isn’t it funny how often our tide-me-over snacks become dinner themselves? I was washing the wooden cutting board and thinking about the nasty political climate. I remember researching how to wash a porous, wooden cutting board and reading that it’s not so much about the cleansing agent as it is the pressure of the water dispersing the residue. I started to think that maybe organizing is about the pressure, too. We don’t so much have to have solutions but we can say what we don’t want here any longer. Now I think it’s too scary a metaphor. Isn’t that maybe, possibly, what’s happening now? Suddenly there are people in ranks who never wanted anything to do with those ranks other than to clean house. Clean House. Unrepresent. Suddenly it’s all like a haunting movie. One of those blockbusters with a big message that people sort of overlook because culturally aware individuals are leaning on independent films and artists to reach assimilation. I remember telling my youngest brother, ten years my junior, that the world depicted in edible books like the Hunger Games was a possible future, not realizing that it takes at once decades and single instants to develop those realities. Though I feel dazed, it’s the people that don’t that I see living in some alternate universe, one where the most grotesque behaviors are unspoken norms shielded paradoxically by the very principles they seem to resist. Let us not pretend it isn’t as though a man who would take a mistress and police his wife would condemn a stranger who decided not to bring up a child in an unpredictable world. Mostly, though, overtaking my usual underlying stretch of general anxiety is a newfound hope. Probably because I’m not personally connected to any one present tragedy. Unexpectedly, because my general anxieties usually surmount about the plight of the earth and human existence. I’m the farthest away from my family I’ve ever been. I’m in the most uncertain terrain of my short history. But I am constantly overtaken by feelings of resounding stillness and the peace that comes with that. By taking one giant leap I forced myself to stand on a rock far enough out into the sea to require a smart plan for rescuing myself and that takes time. And sustenance. I’m determined to feed well along the journey, which seems barren and destitute, but in fact comes with great chocolate and a nice skillet. My tears, once wrought with daily panic, arise now only for raw onions. I thought everything that came before had to work, or I wasn’t working hard enough. Now I know that we are left, that we leave, and such sincere moments of truth-telling do not denature our humanity. I am currently surviving on chummy political discourse reminiscent of the talk radio my father insists upon in the car; coconut milk blended with all kinds of interesting flavors from sweet potato to savory dal for the mere fact that it is an absolute d e l i g h t; and the mighty guerilla that is optimism and believing that people are mostly good despite evidence to the contrary. Call me blind, call me liberal, call me crazy, call me woman.

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1. Unintentionally dried roses from my birthday bouquet (read: we forgot to continue watering them)
2. La Purisima Mission, a hike on the back trails
3. Mango fruit leather: fresh mango puree with cider vinegar, vanilla extract, and salt.  Dehydrated overnight.  Rolled, sliced
4. Inclusive pins-turned-fridge-magnets and a chakra candle.  Radiant love shouldn’t have to be radical
5. Kale chips: lacinato kale massaged with avocado oil and peppered with himalayan salt and nutritional yeast.  Dehydrated overnight

eat responsibly for all mankind

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Prepping for breakfast/dessert

My philosophy around food and eating has probably changed as many times as I’ve been asked the question.  I really think that is okay.  We are constantly learning and educating ourselves, testing out our theories, finding out what is practical and sustainable, and what we are willing to make sacrifices for.  Below is what I submitted in an assignment for the Academy.  It’s an overarching theme rather than a strict yes-this no-that.  What also follows is my current interpretation of my own food philosophy.  I hope you will let me know your thoughts, what your food philosophy looks like, what you eat or don’t and why.  I am so curious!

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The components of a typical meal

Eat responsibly for all mankind.
Honor your privilege of choice. Choose foods with a positive impact on the planet and humanity; it is an ethical imperative. If you aren’t growing your food, someone in the world is. Make sure that someone is compensated fairly so they can afford their share of the crop.   Make sure your food practices do not compromise vulnerable communities around the world. Source, production, packaging, shipping, distribution, and price all have an affect on the overall health of the world and humanity. When in doubt, stay local and small and purposeful.

Eat foods found in their most natural form. 
Eat like a hunter/gatherer: from the earth, hand-processed, nutrient-dense, seasonal, wild and naturally grown, homemade, grateful and without waste. Know the source.

Eat intuitively. Look to the planet for healing.
Eat to fuel your body and brain. Eat what feels and tastes good, makes you groove and laugh and find your creative niche. Don’t be fooled by tricks and trends. Eat what you would make for yourself. Don’t eat the same thing every day. Eat sweet and savory and succulent and smart. Above all else, let the earth be your healer and guide. Nature already has what you need to survive.

Eat for best health.
Eat the right foods for your body so that you feel good in your skin. Eat because you get to, not because you have to. Keep an open mind and try various styles of eating to find what works best for you. When you fuel your body with the proper nutrients, you gain a certain zest for life, and in turn make yourself a better companion for your loved ones. You don’t have to be the grumpy one whose mind is always “elsewhere.” You can be present in your life and full of vibrancy.

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I was baking.  No refined sugar or flour in sight!

I wish we could talk about our diets in terms of what we DO eat, not just what we don’t.  But that doesn’t always give the whole picture, as you might tell from my philosophy.  Although I’d love to give the long list of wonderful, healing, and delicious foods I eat, it’s probably more clear if I note foods I avoid.  I’ll do a bit of both just for clarification.

Nay

  • Meat, fish
  • Dairy (all animal milk and byproducts, including sheep/goat cheese, etc)
  • White sugar and flours, gluten
  • Processed food: things with refined sugar, refined carbohydrates, vegetable/canola/corn oils and other modified oils.  To me, processed foods generally include anything that itself is not an ingredient  (granola bars, cereal, munchies, beverages, veggie burgers, yogurts, ice creams, etc) and also includes doctored-up almond milks, canned soups, chocolate, protein powders, etc.  All this because they almost always include preservatives, food colorings, MSG, other chemicals, GMO derived products (soy, corn), and cane sugar in all its various forms.  I am definitely one of those people that reads every. single. label. and almost never purchase packaged foods.

Maybe

If I’m dining out, it’s a bit of a different story.  I mean, at the end of the day, I’m a FOODIE, and I have needs. 😉  Because I don’t do it often (read: once every couple months), I stretch the limits and basically just avoid meat.

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We made frittata!

YAY!

  • I eat what I call “backyard eggs,” which means I get them from people I know who live in town, have small flocks of birds and let them run free in their yards, feed them vegetables, and hand pick the eggs themselves.
  • I am loving ghee, which is clarified butter with all the milk solids and lactase removed (it is not a dairy product and is a healing food; can be used like butter and other cooking fats).
  • I also love honey and it is my preferred sweetener of choice because the raw, unfiltered kind is packed with health benefits that many alternative, plant-based sweeteners are lacking.
  • I love fats (even saturated) and eat fairly low-carb.  I definitely could get more protein in my diet, and I’m working on that with things like sea vegetables and seeds and the like.
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Local honey sets us back a pretty penny, but it is SO incredibly worth it