All posts by Michelle Cowden

About Michelle Cowden

Michelle Cowden has been writing and advocating for healthy lifestyle for over six years at her blog www.wholehealthgirl.blogspot.com. As a licensed clinical social worker, she knows all too well the importance of finding healthy balance in life. Michelle believes that in order to live a healthy life, you must embrace the whole person, not just your mind or body. She has facilitated trainings on the effects of food and behavior at conferences and universities nationwide, and balances her work life with spending time with her husband and dog. She enjoys rock climbing, cycling, and yoga, activities that help her cultivate more balance and inner peace.

The Superfood Ginger Roasted Cauliflower (Recipe)

(cc) Michelle Cowden
(cc) Michelle Cowden

Cauliflower is one of the world’s healthiest foods and with only 26 calories per cup, this power house vegetable not only packs a nutrient punch but will also help keep your waistline slim. Cauliflower is not only low in calories but also provides you with an array of antioxidants, anti-inflammatories and fiber. No wonder I was salivating when I walked by the cauliflower. My body was craving all the nutrients in this amazing vegetable. If you just allow your body to speak to you, it will tell you what it really needs in order to feel good. I’m not talking giving in to the mind’s idea of cravings but the body’s idea of cravings. You know what I’m talking about. If I listen to my mind, I would consume cookies for breakfast, lunch and dinner but if I listen to my body, it tells me what I need to eat.

Since I was recovering from being sick, my body was craving Vitamin C. It wasn’t until I looked into the nutrients of cauliflower did I realize there was 86% of the daily recommended vitamin c in one cup of cauliflower! This vegetable is amazing. You can use it to make an amazing soup, substitute it for mashed potatoes or even roast it.

Want to boost your immune system even more? Pair cauliflower with ginger. Ginger is an amazing anti-inflammatory spice. A little bit goes a long way to helping you alleviate arthritis, nausea, or detox when you have the flu or cold. And so I listened to my body as it craved vitamin C and other anti-inflammatories and came up with this amazing recipe. Thanks to Wakaya, I was able to create this amazing roasted cauliflower dish.

Ginger Roasted Cauliflower

Serves 4 side dishes or 2 main dishes

1 head cauliflower, trimmed and cut into florets

1 tablespoon of olive oil

1/2 teaspoon of Wakaya Ground ginger

1/4 teaspoon salt

  1. Heat oven to 375 degrees
  2. Put all ingredients in a baking sheet sprayed with olive oil
  3. Roast for 25-30 minutes

Enjoy!

Turning 40: How I Survived the Depression That Plagued My Youth

165I just turned 40. Even writing, 40 seems strange and yet here I am, 40 years old. I remember as a 15-year-old celebrating my Mom’s 40th birthday. At the time I was a depressed and angst ridden 15-year-old who couldn’t imagine living another year, much less turning 40. That belief that I would not live past my 20’s stayed with me until I did, in fact, live past my 20’s through my 30’s and now I’m 40. I never really thought about growing older because for a good part of my life, I didn’t think I’d live long enough to grow old. And then in my late 20’s something clicked, something changed. I decided I wanted to grow older, I wanted to enjoy life. This was a new concept for me, enjoy life because for so long I fought against life’s enjoyment.

At 15, my Dad called me into his study and when I approached he had a gun to his head threatening to kill himself because he could not handle the stress of life. At that moment, I didn’t want to grow old. I didn’t want to have to deal with life’s stressors. Thus began my downward spiral of not caring and trying not to grow old, until I was twenty-eight. At twenty-eight, after years of drugs, drinking, and virtually destroying my body, I decided to try to live. To the outside world, I had it all together, on the inside I was constantly tormented. After spending weeks in my apartment, too depressed to get out of bed, I left the apartment to see a therapist. She said to me, you have a Master’s degree, you can beat this, you just need to decide you want to. I walked out of her office feeling that I could beat this. Years later, I have in fact beaten the demon of depression. I pulled myself up by my bootstraps and one day at a time, one step in front of the other, I rose up from the dark dungeon of my depression and learned to not only live, but enjoy life.

I didn’t take any miracle drugs, in fact I have found that prescriptions don’t work, you have to change how your mind thinks, eat healthy, have a routine, exercise, and surround yourself with people who believe in you. While my road to being happy has not always been easy, each day gets better and better. As I go on the path of helping others through my work, my blog, and my writing, I am constantly amazed at how each day brings a brighter future, with more dreams and more accomplishments. Turning 40 was one of those accomplishments. For most of my life I let my ego, my Self, get in the way of enjoying the moment. This birthday, I decided to try something different. I didn’t hold on to any idea of how the day should go, I just let it be. I let go of any expectations or any desires and just enjoyed each and every moment. Perhaps that was why this was one of the best birthday’s I’ve ever experienced. My husband, family, and friends showed such caring and love for me. Maybe that’s because I’ve learned to love myself. There are still days that I struggle but those days are fewer and fewer.

I surround myself with positivity to help cultivate this happiness inside. I meditate each morning, giving my mind positive mantra’s and time to just be. I practice yoga and exercise daily, read positive books, do things I love and be around people who make me feel good. Not every day is perfect, some days I go backwards a few (or more) steps but I know I will move forward again. I don’t take any medications but instead rely on healthy food and a healthy environment to keep myself going in this positive direction. I truly believe if you feed your mind and your body positively, you will see great results. I am living proof of this. And so, I celebrate turning 40. I celebrate the art of growing older and sharing with others how to accomplish what you want, if you just put your mind to it.

3 Ways Buying Organic Helps the Planet

Sometimes it’s hard for me to imagine that buying organic products actually makes a difference in the health of the planet at large. I am one of 7 billion people on earth… Can one person really make a meaningful impact on the health and wellbeing of our entire planet?

It’s easy to get disheartened when confronted with the overwhelming and often depressing statistics we have about climate change, obesity, and food shortage today. But when I begin to doubt, I remind myself that if everyone made the choice to be that one person who buys organic, collectively we could make a serious impact in sustaining the planet.

I choose to buy organic because I believe that one person can make a difference. When I buy organic, I increase the demand for sustainable farming methods, and over time if there’s enough demand the industry will have to change to meet the needs of consumers.

If you find yourself feeling doubtful or disheartened, remember these three major ways buying organic can help support life on the planet:

1. Organic farming methods reduce the amounts of toxic chemicals in the environment.

By regulating the amounts of pesticides, herbicides, and fertilizers that can be used in agriculture, organic farming methods are better for both the planet and its people. According to the Organic Trade Association,

Organic agriculture reduces the overall exposure to toxic chemicals from synthetic pesticides that can end up in the ground, air, water and food supply, and that are associated with health consequences, from asthma to cancer. Because organic agriculture doesn’t use toxic and persistent pesticides, choosing organic products is an easy way to help protect yourself.”

Buying and eating organic is just one contribution many of us can make to ensure generations behind us will continue to be able to have food to eat and a planet on which to live.

2. Organic farming methods preserve top soil.

Conventional agricultural methods — which rely on pesticides, herbicides, and many other harmful chemicals — have been shown to reduce top soil at alarming rates. Throughout history, the rise and fall of entire civilizations has come down to famines caused by low-quality soil. In the past when people wore out the land, they would move to a new area. With over 7 billion people living on this planet, we can’t do that anymore.

A 37-year study done near Spokane, Washington comparing two wheat farms found the conventional farm lost more than 8 inches of top soil while the organic farm lost only 2 inches of top soil. It takes on average 100 years to generate 1 millimeter of soil. Think of how much top soil could be saved if all farms adopted organic methods.

3. Organic farming methods protect our water supply.

Because organic farming seeks to maintain a balance of microorganisms in the soil, farmers use composted manure and other natural materials, rather than petroleum-based synthetic fertilizers. Synthetic fertilizers can not only disrupt the balance of nutrients in the soil, they can also result in chemical runoff that pollutes local water supply and creates “dead zones” in larger bodies of water.

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The more I read about the benefits of organic farming, the more I am amazed at the earth’s ability to renew itself when given the opportunity. We can continue to have a great planet for coming generations — all we have to do is treat the earth with kindness and respect, just like we should our personal bodies.

When we choose organic products, we not only take care of our personal health the health of our planet, too. Think of the power all of us have to make a change. If each of us made the decision today to buy mostly organic, mostly local and mostly whole foods, we can make a difference.

I encourage all of you to try to buy at least one organic product each time you go to the store. Just think, if all 7 billion of us did this, what kind of impact we could make on the planet.

Note: This article represents the views of the author, and not necessarily those of Intent or its sponsors.

photo by: Nick Harris1

3 Reasons I Eat Organic

For years I have lectured and written about the benefits of eating organic, but a new study I read about on Discovery News seemed to contradict my philosophy that eating organic is better for you. This study made headlines by stating that eating organic does not provide any additional health benefits to eating conventional foods. I beg to differ.

If you think about it, we are exposed to a host of pesticides and chemicals on a daily basis that we have no control over — from the air that we breathe to the artificial lights we have in our homes and offices. What we do have control over is what we put on our skin and in our mouths. Granted, it is much more expensive to buy organic, and even I can’t always afford it. But contrary to what this single, limited study suggests, eating organic provides numerous benefits.

Organic produce and meats, logically speaking, are better for your health. If the vegetables, fruits and meats you’re eating have not been exposed to pesticides, then it follows that you’re not being exposed to these toxic chemicals either. In a society in which we take pills for just about everything, most people aren’t thinking about the trace chemicals they are ingesting; and, if they are, they probably aren’t worried about it given the popularity of fast food in our country.

It is ironic that we, as modern consumers, even have to worry about how our food is being grown. Before small farms were wiped out by mass factories, people grew food the old-fashioned way — without the use of chemicals or pesticides. As the demand for more uniform food came, new methods were developed to ensure that crops and animals produced greater yield and less waste. Pesticides, antibiotics and hormones became common practice in an effort to ensure that products had a longer shelf life.

Why would you want to put food in your body that you know has been drenched in chemicals? I understand the relevancy of supply and demand in the use of non-organic farming methods, but in the last 30 years our society obviously demanded too much, becoming one of the most obese nations in the world. In fact, some research suggests that the obesity epidemic could be the result of the types of food we’re eating and the chemicals added to it.

Three Reasons to Eat Organic:

  1. Organic food tastes better. You might notice that organic produce is smaller and may not have as long a shelf life as conventional produce, but most people say organic tastes better. In order to have a long shelf life, conventional produce must be chemically altered or preserved, which affects the way it tastes. Eating organic is not only better for the planet, it will make your taste buds happy too!
  2. Eating organic creates a more mindful relationship with your food: Many people find when they start eating organic that they think about their food more. They ask themselves questions like, “Where does my food come from? Who produced it? How will eating this effect the health and wellbeing of the planet?” Essentially, eating organic makes you more conscious of the relationship between you, your food, and the rest of the world.
  3. Keep the antibiotics out of your food: National organic regulations prohibit the use of antibiotics in livestock farming, which keeps the  antibiotics you’re consuming through your food to a minimum. Many non-organic farmers give their animals antibiotics to protect them from disease, but scientists believe this practice is contributing to new antibiotic-resistant “superbugs” that threaten human health. By choosing organic options, you’re protecting the probiotics, or “healthy bacteria,” in your gut and keeping your immune system strong.
The solution is easy. Eat organic, drink organic and eat whole unprocessed foods. And if convenience is a major issue for you, remember that there are plenty of “on the go,” minimally process products to choose from — from bottled teas, to nutrition bars, to yogurts.

What are your favorite ways to integrate organic food into your diet? Share your ideas in the comments section below.

Note: This piece article represents the opinions of the author alone, not that of Intent or its sponsors.

How to Detox in 3 Minutes or Less

Imagine if every day you could rid your body of thousands of toxins in just a few minutes? Each of us has the capacity to do this, but often we choose to ignore that which is easy and seek that which is difficult.

Every day I see numerous articles and book on how to detox and how to lose weight by detoxing. It’s such a buzz word, detoxing. The idea that we must detoxify at all is an interesting one. Believing that you need to detox means you believe you have been doing something that is not good for you.

I would imagine that when most of you read the word detox, the images that comes to mind are green vegetables, juicing, eating bland meals and suffering until the detox is over. What if it’s simpler than that?

You can detox right now by just breathing. I’m not talking the easy in/out breath that most of us do every second and nanosecond of the day. I’m talking the real, deep breathing that comes with mindfulness. We hear it all the time: Breathe, take a few deep breaths, inhale slowly and exhale slowly.

Have you ever thought about what it is you are doing when you breathe in and out s-l-o-w-l-y? You are breathing in oxygen and then breathing out carbon dioxide. When you take a deep breath and exhale a deep breath, you are exhaling that which doesn’t serve your body and allowing your body to rejuvenate.

According to Dr. Weil, the easiest way to do this is his 4-7-8 Deep Breathing Exercise. He recommends three “reps” of this exercise done about twice a day for maximum benefits. Inner toxins, be gone.

  1. Place the tip of your tongue against the ridge behind your upper teeth and exhale completely through your mouth so that you make a whoosh sound.
  2. Close your mouth and inhale deeply through your nose for a count 4, hold your breath for 7 counts, then exhale through your mouth for a count of 8.
  3. Repeat three times.

After learning this technique at a yoga conference a week ago, I couldn’t help but try applying these breathing techniques in times of stress. I’ve noticed myself feeling more calm, more relaxed and less likely to react but to think through my thoughts and then react. We are all looking for that magic pill that will help us to detox, help us to weight less, be less stressed and more at peace. There isn’t a magic pill, you have that magic inside you, if you choose to use it. Just Breathe.

photo by: ValetheKid

How One Man Went From Fat, Sick & Nearly Dead to the Epitome of Health

As someone who believes in the connection between food and disease, I am so excited that a film like Fat, Sick & Nearly Dead attempts to show the masses how a healthy diet can cure an illness. It’s a must see movie!!!

Suffering from a rare autoimmune disease disorder, Joe Cross, was tired of taking prescription pills and feeling miserable. Looking at himself in the mirror, his 300+ pound image looked back at him and he longed to be healthy again. Knowing if he kept eating junk food and taking these pills, he was on his way to an early death. Armed with a generator, a juicer, his car, and a desire for a better life, Joe takes an oath to only juice fruits and vegetables for the next 60 days. Unsure if this experiment will work or not, Joe is desperate to feel better.

Traveling cross-country from New York to California, Joe set off on a journey to juice, talk to people about juicing and the negative effects of junk and fast foods on the body. Out of the 500 people that he met, many would try his juice but only two agreed to actual participate in a juice fast.  At an unlikely place, Joe meets one of these people, a truck driver, Phil Staples, who also suffers from the same rare autoimmune disease. Phil, like Joe, is overweight, topping the scales at 400+ pounds. Joe encourages Phil to try the juice fast, demonstrating to Phil that with the right foods, Phil can stop suffering, lose weight and get off his medications. What emerges is an inspiring story about how much control we have over our bodies, if we just feed ourselves properly and how one man’s journey ended up saving Phil’s life and countless others.

A friend of mine (taking the juice challenge) couldn’t get up before 9:30am, had aches and pains all day and overall felt horrible. After juicing for a month for breakfast, he wakes up at 6:30am, his complexion has cleared and he’s even starting to lose weight and exercise again. I can’t stress enough the correlation between eating healthy and feeling good. After a week in another city on a business trip, I’ve been unable to juice or find particularly healthy food alternatives and I feel it. My body is sluggish, my mind is not as sharp as it usually is and my body aches. I cannot wait to get home, juice and reap the benefits of eating healthy. I firmly believe eating healthy is even more beneficial than working out. I encourage all of you to watch this movie and share it with those you love. It will change your life and those around you, for the better.

Want to watch Fat, Sick & Nearly Dead for free? GaiamTV is making the movie available for FREE to Intent readers who sign up for a 10-trial. Stream the film — along with hundreds of other inspirational documentaries, yoga classes, and lectures — from the comfort of your own home.

5 Ways to Let Go

Every time I go to a yoga class the teacher reminds me to breathe, let go and let it all out. What’s funny is that you would think at my age (the fact that I’m not excited about my age should give you an idea that I’m a bit older) I would know how to breathe and how to let go. But my shoulders and my neck do not reflect that I know how to let go.

In yoga class, I drop my head down and tell myself to breathe and let go. I feel my neck becoming softer, my tension dripping away to some other place, allowing me to freely move my neck without pain. All the while I’m in yoga class, I am able to let go, I am able to breathe. So why is it so hard to remember to do these basic things outside of yoga class?

For years I’ve held onto my past fears, disappointments and regrets. My anger is slowly changing who I want to be. I feel like a hypocrite: going to yoga, exercising, dedicating my career to helping others and eating healthy; all the while harboring anger that manifests itself, under just the right circumstances, in very ugly ways.

Why is it so hard to just let go?

I remember as a teenager telling myself that I would never allow myself to be like the bad side of my Dad and Mom and yet, I have become both my Dad and my Mom — some good things about them but also some bad things. It’s the bad traits that bother me. The way I hold in my anger, the way I release it and the way I hurt those that are closest to me. After years of working in the mental health field, intellectually, I know what’s going on.  When I try to correct my negative traits, my emotions throw any logic out the window.

I have recently begun to understand that my struggles of breaking learned behaviors will be life-long. When I was a teenager, in my 20’s and early 30’s, I would give myself timelines which always involved this sequence: “When I stop doing [fill in the blank], I’ll do/feel/act [fill in the blank].” Funny how this statement applies to just about anything.  Some examples: When I make enough money, I’ll feel secure. When I weigh 115, I’ll feel I have the perfect body. When I can control my anger, I can then have a child. Oddly enough, if I keep this sequence going, I’ll be dead before I realize my life has been one big waiting game to be a little better, richer, perfect, etc.

I’ve decided that life is too short to wait to do/act/be the things I need because I’m not perfect and yes, I still have issues. During a recent argument with a loved one, it was pointed out to me that sometimes I say mean things. Instead of trying to defend myself, I agreed. I agreed that I was sometimes difficult to live with and I had issues. I admitted to saying things when I was angry that I meant at the time but didn’t feel that way about that person, all of the time. It felt so liberating to be honest with not only myself but to my loved one. I could see in that person’s eyes that they also found it refreshing to have me admit my faults and know that while I want to be a better person, sometimes, I’m just a bitch.

To help myself let go, I’m going to give myself permission to be imperfect and sometimes screw up.

I’m going to give myself permission to feel like I live two different lives, the person I show to my co-workers, most friends and acquaintances and the person I am at home, the raw me. I’m also going to continue to strive to be a better person, knowing that I can let go, even for just 5 minutes in a yoga class and then 10 minutes later on the way home from yoga, yell at a driver that cut me off. After all, I am just that complex.

Here are five ways you too can let go:

  1. Give yourself permission to be honest with yourself. Sometimes you are not perfect, sometimes you are a bitch and sometimes you say things you don’t mean when you are angry/stressed/overwhelmed/anxious.
  2. Don’t wait to strive for the things on your bucket list because you don’t feel you are ready. You are ready, regardless of how much you know.
  3. Recognize that right now you are as perfect as perfect could be. Allow yourself the knowledge that these perfect moments may last for a second or longer but they do exist.
  4. Embrace the whole person that you are, the good and bad. And even if you don’t find anything amazing or enlightening about the “bad” part of you, it still makes you, you and that’s ok.
  5. If you are angry with someone, forgive them, often. Forgiving them once will not erase the anger but each time you forgive them or try to see the situation from that person’s point of view, your anger will slowly dissolve.
photo by: squacco

3 Delicious Vegan, Gluten-Free Summer Dessert Recipes

(cc) Michelle Cowden

As a healthy vegan who also has trouble with wheat, I am constantly searching for good vegan and gluten-free and when I stumble upon recipes that even my meat-eating, will eat anything friends like, I have to share. These recipes came about because I was looking for fruit that was in season. The cookie recipe I just had to throw in because who can resist a healthy, vegan, carob chip cookie? Hope you enjoy the results of these recipes as much as me. Scroll down for two other recipes!

Whole Health Girl Health Vegan Gluten-Free Strawberry Cheesecake
Crust
2 cups almonds (soaked overnight)
pinch of salt
4 medjool dates – pitted and chopped

Filling
3 cups of raw cashews (soaked overnight or at least 3 hours)
1/2 cup agave syrup
1/4 cup fresh lime juice (I just used one lime)
1/4 cup water
1 tsp vanilla extract
3/4 cup coconut oil, melted
2 cups strawberries

Directions
Lightly grease a 9-inch spring-form pan with coconut oil and set aside.

For the crust, pulse the nuts and salt in a food processor fit with a metal blade. When nuts are fine crumbs, add the dates and pulse until the dough holds together when you squeeze it between your fingers. Firmly press crust into the bottom of your spring-form pan and set aside.

For the filling, put the cashews in the food processor and pulse until crumbly. Add agave, lime juice and water and puree until smooth. Feed the strawberries through the top of the food processor while running and puree until mixed. The filing should turn pink. With the food processor running, add the melted coconut oil.

Pour filing into a the spring-form pan, cover with plastic wrap and put into the fridge to set. I left mine overnight and it was perfect but leave it at least 4 hours in the fridge. Serve!

(cc) Michelle Cowden

Whole Health Girl Vegan Carob Chip Cookies

1 1/2 almond meal flour
1/2 cup oats (gluten-free or regular)
1/2 brown rice flour
1/2 tsp baking soda
1/8 teaspoon sea salt
1/3 cup agave syrup
1/2 cup applesauce

1 cup carob chips

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.

In a food processor pulse almond meal, oat flour, rice flour, baking soda and salt until mixed. Add the sweetener and applesauce. Process until mixed. Transfer to a bowl and then add the carob chips. Put a spoonful of cookie dough on a greased cookie sheet. The cookie dough will not spread so you can put them pretty close together. Bake for 7 minutes (if you like cookies soft) to 9 minutes or until brown.

Blueberry Tart (made from 2 different Terry Walters’ recipes)

Crust
1 1/2 cups teff flour (she calls for Ivory but I had the dark and it turned out just fine)
1/4 tsp sea salt
1/2 cup maple syrup
1/4 cup canola oil

Preparing crust
Preheat oven to 350
Place flour, salt, syrup and oil in a food processor and pulse to combine. Pour mixture into 9-inch oiled tart or spring-form pan. Press down to form crust. Pierce several times with fork and bake 15 minutes until lightly browned. Remove from oven and set aside on wire rack to cool.

Filling
1 cup apple juice
2 tbsp cornstarch or arrowroot powder
1/2 cup maple syrup
2 tbsp lemon juice
1/4 tsp vanilla or almond extract

Zest of 1 lemon
pinch of sea salt
2 cups blueberries

Preparing Filling
In a small bowl, whisk together 1/2 cup apple juice with cornstarch and set aside. In a medium pot over medium heat, combine remaining 1/2 cup apple juice with maple syrup, lemon juice, almond/vanilla extract, lemon zest and salt and bring to simmer. Add 1 cup blueberries and stir until berries start to pop and liquid turns red/blue. Reduce heat to low and whisking continuously, pour cornstarch-juice mixture into berry mixture. When liquid is thick, remove from heat and fold in remaining blueberries. Pour into crust, spread evenly and refrigerate for at least 1 hour to set.

Why is it so hard to laugh?

Think about what a better world it would be if we were able to laugh when things became difficult instead of get angry. I tell myself all the time I need to be more positive, relax, enjoy life and just laugh. And yet, it seems I have to force myself to laugh. Laugh.

I have no trouble crying, getting angry or frustrated but when it comes to smiling in a situation that is difficult, I fall short. When did this happen? How did I become this way? When I’m around my niece, age 4, I laugh most of the time, because she’s laughing, at everything. She can find humor in the most dismal of situations. I have noticed as she is getting older, though, and trying new things that she is getting in trouble more.

We teach our young that making a mistake = anger. We teach anger to each other by criticizing and pointing out the negatives.  As I watch my parents and grandparents interact, I’m struck by the one constant – complaining and dissatisfaction with each other over every little thing.  I can remember saying I would not be this way and yet, just now, as my husband poured wine for me, I complained it was in the wrong glass! Why could I not just thanked him for the act of being nice to me? Will I ever be able to break this pattern that is so engrained in my mind and culture?

Imagine a society where “parents never scold or nag, and they never criticize or punish their children,” John Robbins: Healthy at 100. Imagine a society that claims the secret to living to beyond 100 is to treat other’s nicely? The Abkhasian’s from Southern Russia, claim to not only have figured out how to live to 100 and beyond but to do this in a healthy, loving way. The Abkhasian parents discipline their children by withholding praise and the kids listen and abide by the rules. The Abkhasian’s feel that discipline does not equal punishment. The Abkhasian’s feel that showing any form of punishment such as spanking or threatening physical violence (spanking or other threats) creates disrespect. Since the Abkhasian’s don’t harness punishment, the kids don’t harness resentment. In fact, in the Abkhasian society, the elderly are the most respected and everyone wants to be old.

Vigorous Abkhasian Centenarians

I have hope. If a society like this exists not just in Russia but in other cultures as well, then I know it’s possible to change. While I may live in a culture that harnesses punishment, disrespect and anger, that doesn’t mean I have to continue to be this way. I may struggle each and every hour to laugh more… but I will laugh more. I will strive to be more positive and see the humor in each and every event, no matter how tragic or bad the event may appear. As my amazing yoga teacher said today, it is our choice how we respond to events. We have the option to see joy in any circumstance, no matter how bad or horrible the event may be.

And so I think back to the man in the sports car that cut me off today. The time I wasted being mad at him only brought me to this place of laughing at myself for wasting the precious time we have here on earth, being angry.

photo by: dieupham206

Eating Healthy Now or Pay for it Later (includes a delicious smoothie recipe!)

I became a vegetarian in my teens, and in my late 20’s a doctor told me I needed protein. My meat eating husband (boyfriend at the time) couldn’t have been more happy. What the doctor didn’t ask me is what I was eating as a vegetarian, he just figured no meat was the reason I was constantly ill with colds and allergies. At that time my “dinner” was some form of alcohol and chocolate chip cookies. Besides coffee and cigarettes, I don’t remember eating breakfast. Lunch usually consisted of the cafeteria food at my then University job — think grilled cheese and fried foods, best for sopping up the alcohol from the night before.

But don’t tell the people that know me now how “un”healthy I used to be. Now, everyone looks to me for advice on how to eat healthy, how to lose weight, how to get enough protein, best exercises, healthy meal planning, etc, etc, etc.  I have come full-cirlce but now I am a full-fledge vegan. This time around, I am doing it the right way by eating healthy food at every meal and I feel great. In fact, my doctor tells me I’m his most healthy patient, 6 years running! All from eating healthy and not having to rely on any prescription medications.

How did I help myself heal? I started to read, A LOT. What spawned this radical shift from slowly killing myself to creating a healthy and happy love affair with food came about because I started riding a bicycle and rock climbing. Exercise and smoking just don’t mix. I gave up smoking and my fear of being fat, leading me to find healthy foods to snack on – thus was born the girl who constantly carries celery and carrots. I can munch, instead of smoke, and not gain weight. Brilliant!

Because I was paying attention to what I was putting into my mouth when I couldn’t smoke, I began to notice when I was stressed, I would reach for chocolate or candy, LOTS of candy. I would feel GREAT for a period of time and then BOOM, I would crash. Not only did the sugar cause me to have lots of energy and then crash, my moods would be elevated and then I would become the biggest bitch. There had to be some connection to this. And thus my obsession with reading about food and how it affects our bodies was born.

Thanks to authors Barbara Reed Stitt: Food and Behavior, Elizabeth Somer: Food & Mood and many others, I started to see a connection, and research to back it up, between what people ate and how they behaved. Being a therapist and social worker, this intrigued me. If we could change what we ate and feel better, why doesn’t everyone do this?

(cc) Michelle Cowden
From my garden

Then I read Michael Pollan who explained in his books the fight between those who control the food supply and those who eat the food. Eating healthy does not make anyone rich. When you are healthy, you don’t need medicine or doctors. You are in control of your life. When you are sick, you help the multi-billion dollar prescription companies remain in business. Food is a business and the more fast food you eat, the more pills you have to take. In 2009 alone, the fast food industryspent more than $4.2 billion dollars on commercials to make sure that not only did you want fast food but your kids did as well.

How has this hurt America? As we all know, many of our kids are fat. Not just a little fat, they are obese. And whose to blame? The government, the way of America to be rich, the establishment? Why don’t we start with ourselves. We are to blame. We have allowed ourselves to eat food that has been manufactured in a laboratory and can withstand sitting on grocery store shelves for years. Remind me how this is food?

When you spray your weeds with weed killer, what happens? They die. When you put chemicals in your body, what happens? You die. Being vegan is not just a catch phrase, trendy or the latest fad, it’s a way of life. It’s embracing growing your own vegetables, even if it’s just herbs, eating food from local farmers, buying organic when possible, eating as many whole foods as possible and if it has ingredients listed on the package you can’t pronounce – don’t buy it, much less eat it. It’s that simple. Really.

Still stumped on how to do this? Start with this: try making one meal a day with just whole foods.

For example, cook a whole grain like Quinoa or brown rice, add some lightly steamed broccoli, shredded carrots, shredded cabbage and sliced avocado. You don’t even need dressing but if you feel you need a little something, add juice from a lime. That’s it. There’s your lunch or dinner.

As for breakfast… do you have a blender that’s mainly used for those alcoholic drinks? Try this delicious smoothie recipe, it’s especially good in the summer.

1 banana

handful of blueberries

Hemp Seeds (can be found in grocery stores)

handful of spinach (or not if you can’t stand the idea of drinking your greens)

spoonful of ground flax seeds (also in grocery stores, Bob’s Red Mill is my favorite and it’s cheap!)

handful of ice

water to desired consistency

Blend and enjoy!

 

For the month of July, Intent Blog is featuring 30 Days of Recipes. Everyday we’ll feature recipes and food-related articles contributed by bloggers in the health and wellness sphere. Our intent is to encourage you to get back into the kitchen and re-connect with your food in a way that promotes greater health, happiness and well-being! This week, we’re focusing on veganism and vegetarianism. If you have a recipe to contribute, please send it to us (along with a brief story about why you love it)  at editor [at] intent.com.

 

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photo by: AnneCN