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I took this picture when we were traveling back home after visiting my family for Christmas. It is to me the embodiment of winter in the mountains–rolling fog, gray skies, the tiniest bit of blue peeking through. It is also a picture of how I feel in the winter–a desire to hibernate, nest + be cozy, while knowing that spring is just around the corner.

In years past, I have found it challenging to attempt a New Year’s Resolution-esque cleanse, and I am now connecting that to my wintertime feelings of slowing down + staying in. A new year is always a fresh start, yes, but it falls right in the middle of a dark winter that encourages stillness and quietude. I don’t want to start a juice cleanse + rigorous exercise routine on January 1st–I want to eat soup, take a grounding yoga class, and curl up to watch a movie. (Of course juicing and exercise are wonderful things–I’m just expressing my own seasonal feelings. I’ll rendezvous with juicing + rigorous exercise in the spring.)

Right now I’m seeking comfort food–nourishing, fulfilling, warming, and grounding.  “When we turn to food for solace, we should choose dishes that are an expression of our principles and beliefs, not an exception to them, ” writes Tamar Adler about what comfort food should mean in this lovely article (that also includes 3 delicious-looking comfort food recipes).

Another great resource for eating comfort foods that still express principles of healthy eating was in today’s Goop newsletter about adding superfoods to your winter diet–easy and delicious for body + soul alike.

This soup from Good Things Grow is next on my list to make–health + comfort can and should live together in harmony!

 

If you pay attention to any news source, or to advertising, or to any nutrition-specific publication, chances are good that you’re very confused about what to eat.  Actually, it’s much stronger than just paying attention: if you’re walking through life with your eyes open, you are constantly being shouted at about what kind of food (and food-like substances) to put in your body.  Beyond the obvious (Soda! Chips! “Meat”!) onslaught of big business advertising, we have headlines like this one yesterday from NPR:

Billed as clarity, but only adds to general confusion–now we are supposed to incorporate the glycemic index into our daily lives? (Not to mention the language “may help keep weight off longer than other diets” that has failure built right in!)

The most recent confusing food news is the study on organic food from Stanford University’s Center for Health Policy. “Based on data from 237 previously conducted studies, the Stanford report concluded that when it comes to certain nutrients, there is not much difference between organic and conventionally grown food. ” (source)

But…of course that’s true! The wisdom of the plant remains through many layers of pesticides and human intervention.  (Though humans are trying to intervene with the wisdom of the plant, but I’ll save my thoughts on GMO and Monoculture for another day.)

However, the study also found that “organic foods have 31 percent lower levels of pesticides, fewer food-borne pathogens and more phenols, a substance believed to help fight cancer.” (source)

So what does this study mean/who is it for/why does it matter? I agree with Alice Waters that this study misses the point–conversations about the nutrient density of foods or the gylcemic index aren’t going to fuel a food revolution because they’re not exciting.  Those conversations don’t account for taste, or beauty, or sharing a meal with friends.  They don’t address the eater as an intelligent being capable of listening to his body, and they certainly don’t communicate that food is love.

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To know what to eat, we need to change the conversation–to something that’s more palatable, accessible to anyone getting in touch with their taste buds. These are some great starting places for new conversation:

and

  • “Eaters must understand that eating takes place inescapably in the world, that it is inescapably an agricultural act, and that how we eat determines, to a considerable extent, how the world is used.” Wendell Berry

and

  • “In the pursuit of great flavor, you’re attached to great ecology by definition.  A delicious carrot, a delicious slice of lamb, has attached to it these decisions in the pasture/in the field that are both thoughtful and intensely ethical.” Dan Barber

image // my lunch

Part of my journey for the past few years is the quest for freedom.  Freedom in all things–relationships, food choices, spirituality, artistry, personality.  My life changed when I realized I was free to be who I wanted–free to love myself as is and also free to work at making changes that disrupted the freedom process. What naturally ended up happening with my diet changes was a process that looked (and looks still) like this:

1. When you set goals for yourself, you begin to ask yourself questions. “Will this serve me? Am I honoring my body with this decision?”  It naturally becomes easier to make the choice that honors your commitment to yourself.

2. As you become comfortable navigating the process of honoring yourself, your diet becomes well-balanced for you and satisfying, which means that you automatically self-regulate and moderation is not an issue.

3. My favorite part, from this interview with Rebecca Wood–something that naturally happens, and she describes it beautifully: “When your overall diet is sound and you’re doing your homework (in terms of developing unconditional friendliness to yourself and others) then occasional indiscretions are not problematic.” YES. I love ice cream. I don’t eat it every day, but I also don’t work up to “deserving it”–I just eat it when I want to. And that is the goal–freedom!

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[Rebecca Wood on the what being “well-nourished” means to her: “When a meal utterly satisfies you it meets your energetic and health needs and is pleasurable. You can attain this with every meal. It’s doable. Just imagine how much more ease, health and pleasure our whole society would enjoy if this were so. The way to start this fork revolution is with your next meal.”]

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“I moved on because I had to, because pain gets heavy when you carry it far from its source, like a bucket of water hauled miles from a stream–it acquires a whole new value, which is the sum of its primary essence and your secondary investment.”

from Anthropology of an American Girl by Hilary Thayer Hamann

Worth thinking about–the weight of sorrow is equal to the initial pain plus the effort of having to carry it. In what ways could we seek freedom by sorting through things that no longer serve us?

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“The practice of peacemaking begins in our own bodies. It begins in our digestive system, the way we prepare food, the way we grow food, the way we consume food. And we begin peacemaking by healing that process that is so disorganized in our culture, so that food becomes something nourishing and valuable and something to rejoice in.”  {Michael Stone}

This definition of “Good Food” from FEAST Together is really resonating with me:


But who has the privilege of eating this way?  The beautiful carton of local eggs above was purchased at Marche for $4, and they were the best eggs we’ve ever eaten.  I feel perfectly at peace paying over 2 times the amount a standard carton of eggs goes for because this is the way I have chosen to feed my family after much research on our current food systems.  But I recognize that this is a privilege, and I find that fact very disturbing.  “Justice for eaters” certainly does not mean that the most affordable food happens to be processed, denatured, and filled with additives.  “Nourishing for our planet” means limiting or not using pesticides.  Where can we find food that meets all the criteria?  I reached for an organic head of cauliflower at Publix before quickly drawing back upon discovering that it was $6. SIX DOLLARS.  That is privilege, and I certainly cannot afford to shop that way.  I will pay $4 for eggs but not $6 for cauliflower because it seems to me like organic sections of chain grocery stores are a niche market and they can raise the price accordingly, whereas local/free-range eggs are usually around the same price.  As I sort my way through all of this, I find I am getting more lost and feeling somewhat hopeless about the state of our food systems in America.  We have a very long way to go–because it’s not just about making sure every plate has food on it, but also about making sure the “food” on the plate is actually contributing to the health and nourishment of the eater.

While it is easy to feel hopeless, there are people doing this extremely difficult work and there are amazing organizations committed to food justice all across the country.  Here are a few that make me proud to call Nashville home:

http://www.feasttogether.org/

http://www.thenashvillefoodproject.org/

http://encm.org/

http://www.communityfoodadvocates.org/

http://secondharvestmidtn.org/

As I am entering the world of nutrition and health (starting school next week!), I am reminded time and again that the best thing you can do for your own health is listen to your body.  Our bodies truly know what they need for optimal health and they will tell us; the process of learning to listen will greatly inform the depth of our wellness.  For example, I am prone to getting colds and sinus infections–last winter alone I had 4 sinus infections that knocked me out for a week at a time.  In the past year I have changed some ways I go about life (cutting out meat, eating mostly whole foods, eating when I am hungry and drinking when I am thirsty, going to bed when I am tired…), and it’s these small changes that have given me a greater awareness of my body and how to listen to it.  I am very aware of my symptoms of a cold/sinus infection, and my new favorite remedy is a homeopathic medicine called Coldcalm by Boiron.  A dear friend gave me some when I felt a cold coming on recently and I was amazed at how quickly it worked to alleviate my symptoms.  From the Boiron website: “Homeopathic medicines are therapeutically active micro-doses of mineral, botanical and biological substances.”  Homeopathy is often looked down upon in the medical community (the wikipedia page definitely uses the word “quack”), but only you can decide what works best for your own self care.  Coldcalm has a list of 9 ingredients all written in latin, so I did some research to see what it is I’m actually taking (something we should do for every medicine/thing we put in our bodies, no?) and I’m really excited about what I discovered.  Do some research and decide what’s best for you, but I will say that I haven’t had a cold since last January.  Here’s to a new year of good health!