Dissatisfied Health

Guess what, folks. I’m about to blow your mind with what you already may know or at the very least suspect somewhere down deep, but what I think is important to talk about. Especiallllyyy in the blog world, especiallllyyy in college, especiallllyyy in today’s culture.

We, as people, are masters of self deception. MASTERS, I say. At least up to a point. (At which point you say, get to the point Michaela. Patience, dear grasshopper.)

I want to talk to you about dieting. About exercise. About “lifestyle changes,” because we all know that dieting and exercise are out of vogue. Diets don’t work, the experts say, and rather than force ourselves to exercise we are encouraged to find fun physical activity and delicious healthy food so we don’t have to diet. And around this new trend, dozens and hundreds of blogs (and a whole web and non-web based health culture) have popped up, including my own. It’s called Pilgrimage of Health, for goodness sake. Health. With Healthy recipes and Healthy lifestyle tips and Healthy thought processes and Healthy healthy healthy. 

And I’m not out to bash any of that. We do need lifestyle changes. We do need to forego dieting, and find activities that we enjoy doing that make us feel good, because we’re facing a crisis situation. In my country of the United States and increasingly around the world, we’re facing an epidemic of unhealth in mind, body, and soul. We’re spending more and more time and money and energy on health, and yet collectively we’re still pretty sick. In response, we’re inundated with lifestyles and ideas and tips intended to transform us into healthy, happy, carefree health goddesses (and gods).

But I think, underneath a lot of the healthy language and healthy blog culture, we sometimes use health as a cover-up. As an excuse, to try and change ourselves into what we think we should be rather than accepting ourselves for who we are. Now, rather than esteeming thinness for thinness sake and dieting and weight loss, we’re instead consumed by this image of health that can lead us into unhealthy behaviors.

You following me here?

An obsession with health can be unhealthy. Part of the problem lies within the motivation behind strict workout plans and eating regimes, but part of the problem can come after. After we’re following the cleanest diet, practicing yoga six times a week, training for a marathon. We become dependent on these as something to define us. We become human doers instead of human beings, fixated on the high of pushing ourselves further and defined by what we don’t do, that is, consume ‘bad’ foods (which in our society can mean a million different foods). And if we’re embracing a “healthier lifestyle” out of a deep dissatisfaction with who we are, I think that’s problematic.

Because our bodies know, right? Our self knows. It knows when we act out of insecurity instead of satisfaction. We know, deep down, what actions come from abundance and deprivation. And that doesn’t come without consequences. Lying to ourselves and saying that we’re “just following this eating plan because I feel tired (or want to be healthier or save the planet or I think I’m allergic to . . .)” when we really are trying to follow a diet without calling it so because we are deeply dissatisfied with ourselves and desperately want change, our bodies and souls know. Don’t try to trick them.

I know this to be true, because I do it. Have done it. Mastered it, for the past five years. I’ve been vegetarian, vegan, dairy-free, nut-free. I’ve followed strict running plans and done juice cleansing. I’ve committed to abstaining from this or that because of that and this. And every time I eat a certain way or exercise out of a dissatisfaction, it backfires. Badly.

This is not to say that running or vegetarianism or veganism (or yoga or paleo or grain free or . . . you get the idea) are inherently bad within themselves. Nope, because those things can come from a place of true health. They can come from a place of wholeness, a clarity in communication with our deeper selves that says that running makes our bodies feel good or a certain type of food makes our bodies feel bad.

Check yourself before you wreck yourself. If you’re eagerly about to jump into another trend in the name of health, step back.  Why are you about to embark upon this plan? Is it from abundance, or deprivation? Joy, or insecurity?

 

Advertisements

Why I Stopped Eating Meat, Part One

This post could also be entitled “symptoms of being a youngest sibling.” Remember about a week ago when I introduced you to my family? Well, as you may have inferred from the introductions and photos, I’m the youngest of four girls!

From left to right: my sister Kelsey, myself, my sister Megan, and my sister Lindy. As long as I can remember, I’ve wanted to be just like my older sisters, especially when I was younger. While I’m sure they were just as nerdy and homeschooled as I was, in my eyes they were the most beautiful, smartest, and coolest girls I could conceive of. If they cut their hair, mine was immediately too long. Their current pastime was the only thing I wanted to do, and whatever room they were in immediately became a desirable fortress.

I’m sure having a mini-me that constantly imitated them and followed them around was irritating, but for the most part they included their annoying lil’ sis.

Why do I tell you this? Well, because my sister Kelsey is the original reason I stopped eating meat. She went vegetarian, and shortly thereafter I swore off meat as well. February 2008, I decided to go vegetarian for a year, whatever that meant. I’d abstain to see what it was like, and I completely expected to be eating meat once the year was up.

This from the girl whose favorite foods were Wendy’s hamburgers and beef-laden tater tot casserole. From the ages of 8 until 13, when we got fast food (a somewhat rare occasion) I would knock back two junior hamburgers, ketchup, mustard, and extra pickles, an order of chicken nuggets, french fries, and a root beer or frostie if my mom would let me. I cringe to think of the type of food I ate, but I was growing up on a farm and growing fast! I needed a lot of fuel, with my mom’s home cooked meals supplemented by . . . “food” that I thought was delicious.

Since I did grow up on a farm of sorts, I grew up eating lots of fresh vegetables and good food, and knew my way around a kitchen. I could cook and follow a recipe and I enjoyed cooking, but it wasn’t always a priority. Once I stopped eating meat, I started to increase my time in the kitchen, cooking and experimenting with different combinations.

It was after, and not before, I became a vegetarian that I started reading books like Michael Pollan’s An Omnivore’s Dilemma or Jonathan Safran Foer’s Eating Animals. I began to discover a whole wealth of literature about our food system and its flaws, and the health, environmental, and social benefits of ascribing to a vegetarian diet. Once the year was up, I never looked back–I knew I wasn’t going to eat main stream meat ever again. Now, sustainable food is my passion and what I’m studying in school.

I guess it’s good that I’m a copycat who wants to emulate her big sisters so much. Even better that I have strong female role models that I can emulate and know that I’m aspiring to something wonderful. Without my big sis Kelsey’s influence, I probably never would have discovered my interests in what I am now pursuing as a vocation. So there it is: no breaking, philosophical moment that made me decide to stop, only a little sister wanting to be like the person she’d always looked up to.

She just graduated with a degree in Nutrition, and secretly (or not so secretly) I still want to be like my big sis. She’s my go to source now for nutritional wisdom, and a continuing inspiration to find out about the effect food has on my body.

Who has had the biggest influence on you?

 

My First Taste

Travelers, yesterday I sampled some of the local cuisine. For the first time in over four years, I had a taste of meat.

Crazy, huh? It was chicken, and just a bite at Greenbrier. Since I’m working there, I get to see how the chickens live, and sometime this month I may get to see how they die. They live like chickens–skittish and slightly stupid, but seemingly happy out on the pasture.

I’ll have to post a series soon on my reasons for eating vegetarian, vegan, and now being open to some good farm raised animal flesh. Even eating it, I don’t think I’ll ever prepare meat for myself. Maybe when it is offered to me on the farm, or when I’m with my sister preparing her chickens, or if my other sister cooks some quality meat from the farmer’s market to share with the family . . .  But it isn’t something I particularly want.

I actually only ate about a third of the chicken showing here, if that.

It tasted fine, nothing spectacular or anything I felt like I needed. And even though I only had a bite, I felt slightly sick to my stomach about an hour after. I guess my body wasn’t acclimated to it yet.

When I got to the farm, we headed out to harvest some more spinach for the CSA that was going out yesterday. Much of my day yesterday was bagging and prepping for the CSA. I got to leave early, which was nice! I’ve been working hard, and haven’t been working out. By the time I get back to the house, I’m usually super tired. Yesterday, though, since I was done early I got to walk around the farm a bit. It was great to get a whole picture of it, and appreciate it for what it is–beautiful. I’ve been so enmeshed in washing greens, I feel like I haven’t been outside beyond the morning harvesting.

Be excited for tomorrow! I have a super tasty dish to share with you that I’m preparing for some friends tonight.

Are you particular about where your meat comes from? 

 

First Day on Farm (2)

So, yesterday I finished with my visit to the hogs. Afterwards, we cleaned the onions we’d just picked.

Even though I’d had my super duper delicious breakfast, I was ravenous by 10:00. I’m going to have to eat more in the mornings before I go to work! I ate lunch at one after washing several batches of spinach and salad mix. Throughout the course of the day, I think I washed about 60 pounds. This was my view at lunch:

For lunch, I had brought some food because I wasn’t sure what the situation would be. I ended up eating some food Amy, one of the owners, prepared, as well as everything I had brought! It was a hungry, food-filled day yesterday. This is the quinoa dish they prepared, and it was sooooo tasty.

Roddy, another owner, showed me several of the meat products they’ve made, including some sausages. I told him If I eat meat this month, it will be the first time in over four years. He was quite excited that I’m open to trying some Greenbrier meat! I am completely comfortable with the way the animals live and are cared for. Ten minutes after this conversation, a concerned Amy came to tell me that she didn’t know I was vegetarian, and that the delicious quinoa dish had their chicken stock in it. Probably the best way to get my system acclimated, I assured her.

After lunch consisted of more washing and packaging!

 All in all, it was a great first day. It wore me out though–I was exhausted and ready for more food by the time I got home.

xoxo Michaela.

What’s the most satisfying thing you’ve done this week? 

Are the farmer’s markets in your area getting started?

Vegan Fudge Pops!

I am already getting such good use out of the blender my parents brought me this past weekend! It’s only Tuesday, and I’ve used it twice. The possibilities are truly endless!

This little guy is born out of my love for chocolate, smoothies, and snacking. These past few weeks a vegan diet has been particularly challenging for me, especially around desserts and goodies other people were eating. My family was in this past weekend, and I was at Spill The Beans (a local coffee/ice cream shop) not once but TWICE and definitely tempted by the delicious frozen treats everyone was enjoying.

Super versatile and easily modified, these pops can be made out of a variety of combinations and altered easily for taste. (I’m thinking of some strawberry-chocolate and mint chocolate espresso chip flavors in the future!) Keep in mind, many of these measurements are approximate. I tend to shy away from following exact recipes when I cook, preferring to add “a little bit of this” and “a little bit of that.” Rest assured, however, that these can’t be messed up!

Spices! Coca powder has antioxidants and fiber, cinnamon helps insulin production, and stevia is a natural sweetener.

I don't have a lot of experience with silken tofu (I usually use extra-firm for cooking) but this worked wonderfully!

Vegan Fudge Pops

1 Frozen Banana
1 1/2 cups frozen spinach (you can’t taste it, I promise!!) 
1 tablespoon almond butter (or any other nut butter)
3/4 cup almond milk (or any non-dairy milk)
 1 1/2 tablespoons of cocoa powder
1 tablespoon protein powder 
1/5 packet tofu (I used silken, feel free to omit or use a different consistency) 
1 tsp chia seeds 
1/2 tsp flaxseed
2 tsp instant coffee
1/2 tsp cinnamon 
2 packets of stevia  

Blend ingredients together. Pour into popsicle maker and freeze. If you are using the amco express popsicle maker as I was (which I do not recommend), freeze the base 24 hours first and then pour the liquid in and pop it into the freezer for another 20 minutes or so. My parents just brought me the blender and the popsicle maker, and I didn’t know how to use it–I just froze it with the liquid. The pops refused to budge, so I had to let them warm up a bit in the fridge before they slid out.
You can omit the spinach, protein powder, and flax and chia seeds without consequence! I like them because of the added nutritional boost. Spinach is full of vitamins, fiber, and phytochemicals; flaxseed has healthy omega 3s and fiber, and chia seeds are full of protein, omega 3s, and several vitamins and minerals! Super foods for the win.

Even had some left over for a smoothie, which made a delightful afternoon snack!

I didn’t include a picture of the fudge pops themselves, because as you can imagine they are a long, dark brown log shape. Though they are delicious, they resemble…something unpleasant!