Let Them Eat Cake!?

Chocolate Cake

Photo from Flickr by texascooking

Great article today at the Guardian on fad diets by Emma Brockes. Every year in January there is a new crop of fad diets to help people forget the one they tried last January that didn’t work.

She reminds her readers that when the Paleo Diet first was introduced by the New York Times – in the Style section – “everyone mocked it for going so far beyond parody that it threatened to service another trend piece by actually spelling the death of something?” However, now its gone mainstream and this month there were four new Paleo books available – including a dessert cookbook. Did our Paleo ancestors make the first lava cake?

This years new fad – the MAD or Marie Antoinette Diet – How to Eat Cake and Still Lose Weight. The author, Karen Wheeler, was inspired by reading about Marie Antoinette and her eating habits. Pastries for breakfast, a hearty lunch, small dinner and 12 hours of fasting.

As the book blurb has it, “the French queen ate cake for breakfast and was fond of hot chocolate, but seems to have known instinctively what scientific studies have recently shown: for example, it is not what you eat, but when you eat it.”

As I wrote earlier this month – don’t try to lose weight this year with a fad diet, make a lifestyle change for better overall health.


The problem is that a large part of the diet industry would like you to fail and come back next year for more. The best-seller lists know us too well – our lack of attention span, our need to be teased and bullied into a regimen – and reward us with built-in obsolescence.

The cycle of weight loss and gain that characterizes most individual diets, applies to the industry as a whole.

Don’t get trapped in this game, take charge of your health.

If you need help, Rip Esselstyn of the Engine 2 Diet fame is sponsoring a 28-Day Challenge in collaboration with Whole Foods Markets. The stores are holding classes, demos and dinners to make it easy to get Plant-Strong. The Challenge begins February 3, so find a Whole Foods near you and get started.

Blessing the Hands That Feed Us – Part 2

Vicki Robin

I went to see Vicki Robin at Copperfield’s Bookstore in San Rafael. There were 12-15 people there who braved the mid-January near 70 degree temperature and clear skies – actually she was surprised there were so many people there, why weren’t we at the beach?

She didn’t have time to read from the book, Blessing the Hands That Feed Us: What Eating Closer to Home Can Teach Us about Food, Community, and Our Place on Earth. She spent the hour talking about her experience and how it woke her up to the issues related to our modern industrial food system.

Her book chronicles her 10-mile diet challenge. Starting September 1, 2010 she spent a month eating only what she could get (with some minor exceptions – caffeine (tea), oil, salt and lemon) within a 10 mile radius of her home on Whidbey Island in the Puget Sound. That meant a month without, among other things, grains, beans and nuts.

Robin talked about the inventions that started us on the path to an industrial food system – the railroads, refrigeration, fertilizer made from nitrates. She talked a bit about the dark side of industrial food, like food-related illnesses and chronic diseases, and how it has changed us as a society. So many people have lost the skill of cooking for themselves and once they get hooked on fast food and take-out they have no reason to relearn to cook. She talked to a family in New York City where the children know it’s dinner time when the doorbell rings. Or cities where they are building apartments w/out kitchens.

The industrialization of food didn’t happen overnight, and it won’t be replaced quickly. In fact, it may not be able to be replaced, totally, by a local food system. She does believe that local food will continue to become more popular and accepted, the way alternative medicine and organic food did over time.

Before industrialization, people depended on the vitality of their place for their “diet” – what and how they ate. Everything was local and you made do with what you had. Can we go back to that? Can we challenge communities to keep local businesses? See local food as a growth industry? Challenge our personal notions of how we spend our time, money?

In the book she makes the case that eating fresh is usually cheaper that buying fast food or a box of Hamburger Helper or other “prepared foods.” A box of rice pilaf mix is nothing more than rice and some spices that you then have to cook. Making your own rice and adding your own spices and vegetables will cost less and be a healthier meal.

Skimming through the book, I found this quote. Robin was looking at the bounty in the box of food left for her by the farmer who would supply the majority of her vegetables during her 10-mile diet month.

The bond of love and vulnerability between feeder and eater began with that box of food. Later I came to realize how this experiment was as much about the love as about the food, the knitting together of producer and consumer into the fabric of community. Indeed, one of the oddities, once you think of it, of our modern industrial system is this lack of relationship. I was headed, unknowingly, into relational eating.

Relational eating meant getting to know her community and the abundance that was there. It also meant paying $25 for a chicken. When the person who sold it to her described the process of getting that chicken raised, fed, and prepared to sell she understood that it was worth the money. Her other question was, how does the industrial food system sell the same chicken for so little?

Finally, Robin believes that we need to “De-school our thoughts about food, cooking, local vs industrial” and work to make local food a viable alternative to the industrial food system.

Personally, I want to thank Copperfield’s and our other independent bookstore Book Passage for bringing wonderful authors and speakers to our area. These local stores are treasures.

I Have a Dream

This is a beautiful video of the last four minutes of Dr. King’s I Have a Dream speech recited by a mixture of young and old; black, white and Hispanic. In the background is a soulful rendition of the song My Country, ‘Tis of Thee, which Dr. King quotes from in his speech. It was created by the Salt Project, a not-for-profit project dedicated to reclaiming and sharing the beauty of Christian life through film, photography, music, poetry, and ideas.

I have always found this part of the speech so powerful and moving – especially when he talks about freedom ringing from the mountaintops and hills of New Hampshire, Colorado, California, Georgia, Tennessee and Mississippi. Having lived in or near most of those places it is a dream I can relate to also.

The creative director behind the film, Elizabeth Myer Boulton, asks this question:

How far have we come on the journey to social justice and what must be done to achieve the dream King so eloquently articulated in 1963?

That is a hard question to answer. In some ways, we’ve come a long way. President Obama is living proof of that. However, I am saddened by the continuing racism I see in our society and on display in the media, our courts and justice system, and some of our elected officials. It is a reminder that the struggle is never over and that hard won gains need to be strengthened every day for all of us.

How would you answer this question?

Note: I found this on the On Being Tumblr, On Being is a public radio project hosted by Krista Tippett, originally called Speaking of Faith.

Blessing the Hands That Feed Us

Vicki RobinVicki Robin, co-author of the best-selling book Your Money or Your Life, has a new book entitled Blessing the Hands That Feed Us: What Eating Closer to Home Can Teach Us about Food, Community, and Our Place on EarthThe book chronicles her 10-mile diet challenge. Starting September 1, 2010 she spent a month eating only what she could get (with some minor exceptions) within a 10 mile radius of her home on Whidbey Island in the Puget Sound.

The challenge changed her attitude about food and community. The book also includes recipes and strategies for all of us to eat closer to home.

Vicki is on a tour of the West Coast promoting the book and will be at the Copperfield Books in Santa Rosa this evening, January 17, and the new Copperfield Books in San Rafael tomorrow afternoon.

I’m looking forward to hearing her. I’ll write more tomorrow after the talk.

Vicki Robin Book

Food for Life

Food for Life

Last weekend my wife and I coordinated a Food for Life event at our UU Church. We showed the movie Forks Over Knives and made dinner for about 60 people – which helps explain why I haven’t had time to post anything here the past two weeks.

The dinner was sponsored by the church’s Social Justice Committee. We wanted to make the point that, along with the personal health benefits, a plant-based diet could impact other areas like

  • Climate change
  • Clean, potable water supply
  • Sustainable food systems
  • Healthcare costs

Along with planning, shopping and preparing food we put together a fact sheet with information related to the impact areas listed above and books and websites for more information. I’ve uploaded a PDF and Word version of the file. Feel free to use and edit them.

For dinner we made Bad 2 the Bone Chili and Raise the Barn Butternut Squash-Vegetable Lasagna from Rip Esselstyn’s book My Beef with Meat.

The event was a great success. The audience reacted well to the movie, the food we made got rave reviews and the questions people asked after the movie showed there was interest in finding out more about how to improve their health through what they eat.

Black-Eyed Peas for Luck

New Years Day LunchA feast to start out the new year with good luck.

I hadn’t had black-eyed peas until I met my wife who grew up in Tennessee. I have to admit they weren’t my favorite, but with enough seasoning they were OK. According to her, and her family, eating black-eyed peas on New Year’s Day brings good luck and prosperity. Wikipedia – of course – explains the possible origins of this practice.

I made a pot of vegetable soup the other night and instead of using white beans, I added a couple of cans of black eyed peas. The soup was delicious.

The market had collard greens on sale, so I made those today to have with the soup and cornbread.

Here’s how I cooked the greens.

I chopped half of an onion and a couple of cloves of garlic in the processor and sauteed them in a large pan with some vegetable broth. While that cooked, I pulled the greens off the stem in small pieces.

I then added the greens to the pan with some more broth. I covered the pan and cooked them on medium for about 10 minutes. After the first 10 minutes, I lowered the temp to just above low and cooked them covered for another 20 minutes. Then I left the lid off to cooked them a bit more. Depending on your taste, you can cook them as little as you want or an hour or more.

It was quite a tasty lunch and I hope it continues to bring us good luck.

Happy New Year.

Don’t Make a New Years Resolution to Lose Weight

2014It’s the new year, Happy 2014. Time for the weight loss ads to pummel us from the radio to Facebook. We’ll also see the promotions for exercise equipment – that many of us will buy and then sell at a garage sale a year from now.

This year, don’t make a New Year’s Resolution to lose weight, make a commitment to a lifestyle change.

That’s the path I took in 2013. After watching the movie Forks Over Knives and reading Dr. Esselstyn’s book Prevent and Reverse Heart Disease my wife and I made a lifestyle change to a whole foods, plant-based diet. We didn’t necessarily make this change to lose weight, although we did, we did it to change our long-term health outcomes. To prevent the chronic diseases that have impacted others in our families.

What do you want for the new year? Everyone’s path is different. If you do have a chronic condition like high blood pressure, pre-diabetes or cardiovascular issues then look at making a lifestyle change following the advice of Drs. Esselstyn, Campbell, McDougall or Barnard; or Rip Esselstyn’s Engine 2 Program. If you would like to lose weight – and keep it off – then look to the programs offered by Drs. Ornish, or Pulde and Lederman that provide a continuum approach to diet and lifestyle.

In 2014 make a commitment to changing your life. Eat whole foods, get exercise, sleep well and use meditation or other means to reduce stress. This is my prescription for a truly Happy New Year.