My First Weeks as a Nutritarian

There was a waiting room, followed by an exam table, the doctor typing on a computer, taking my blood pressure and looking over my lab results. But unlike any other doctor appointment I’d been to, this doctor gave me zero prescriptions to fill. Instead I got a complete diet overhaul, and an order form for nutritional supplements as well as tests for adrenal stress and other blood work to be done. I was told to continue practicing yoga every day to keep my blood circulating and for stress relief.

Looking over the many printouts when I got home, I soon discovered I was on the autoimmune protocol designed by Dr. Joel Fuhrman, a plant-based doctor with a nutritional approach who founded the ANDI nutritional food scoring method used to easily determine the nutrient density of foods. Logically, his diet is designed around the idea that one should eat as much of the foods with the highest ANDI scores as possible.

So for the past two weeks I have been OFF the pharmaceutical drugs and on a very specific food diet that has nothing to do with counting calories and everything to do with consuming nutrient rich foods. Here is an example of what I eat in a day:

Breakfast: Cup of steel cut outs with raisins and ground flax seeds, 10 oz fresh green vegetable juice (80% cucumber or celery, 20% anything else including carrot, apple, greens, etc).

AM Snack: Fruit

Lunch: salad with spinach, lettuce, arugula, radish, celery, cucumber, carrot, any vegetables topped with sunflower seeds, 10 oz green juice (leftover from the morning)

PM Snack: Protein drink (inflammacore plant-based protein powder and water)

Dinner: another vegetable salad with hemp seeds, a bowl of vegetable/pea soup, steamed cruciferous veggies with brown rice.

Dessert: coconut milk/berry/banana smoothie with chia seeds

I’m also taking a digest supplement with every meal, probiotic, multi-vitamin, omega fats marine oil, and a liquid vitamin D.

It has been difficult to keep up with eating the correct foods and avoiding other types of foods, and getting used to not using salt or sugar has been a challenge. Overall, the ease of eating this way came about after the first week. Now I wake up and look forward to my fresh juice in the morning, and more and more I’m enjoying the taste of this simple food. My arthritis symptoms have gotten worse, but I keep reminding myself that there is still a lot of work for my body to do to heal itself and it will not happen overnight. Some people take 2 months or more to see results. Reading Dr. Fuhrman’s books have been eye opening, and motivate me to continue on with eating this way even after I heal my autoimmune disease.

When you know better, you do better.

I look forward to continuing on this journey and being amazed at the results!

 

Letter to a Former Vegan

Dear Friend,

I’m not here to pass judgement, I’m not here to lecture or go into detail about how the factory farming industries are hurting everyone and everything. I’m assuming you already know (if you don’t know, there are plenty of documentaries you can watch to enlighten you). What others do is their choice and I’m just here on my own journey with enough of its own hurdles and hardships. Recently going vegan was not a choice that I made out of compassion (although it was the first time I made the choice over a decade ago). It was not a choice I made for the environment, it was not a choice I made for humanity. It was a choice I made for my own health. Naturally when I decided to become vegan, I reached out to other people on the same path. Most vegans arrive at veganism through the avenue of choosing to face the truth about the horrors and atrocities suffered by animals in the factory farming industry, and they honestly just cannot bring themselves to eat meat without thinking about who it was, where it came from and what it experienced there. But more and more vegans are stepping up their diet choices to battle health problems that are exacerbated by the traditional American diet. This is awesome and I’m pleased this is happening more and more. But similarly to vegetarians trying to subsist on vegetables and rice, it’s not sustainable for the majority of us on this path.

Going vegan for our own health is enormously hard, because we’re only accountable to ourselves, we are only motivated by the benefits we reap. We have to say “no” to foods that would make our taste buds scream YES!, we can’t eat at certain restaurants or shop conveniently at some grocery stores. We can’t make the same meals at home as we used to. We have to get used to things tasting differently, and used to the fact that we will be the odd man out in many a social gathering, even facing stigma and occasionally ridicule. After struggling with all of it and still feeling the craving for meat, it can seem that abstinence from animal products is not worth the personal health rewards. We start to lose sight of what it was within us that made us make the switch in the first place as we feel the guilt of having these carnivorous feelings becoming too heavy to bear. But there’s a way to lighten that burden.

It becomes much easier and simpler if we remember that with every single vegan choice we make, we are saving not just ourselves, but our fellow creatures, the planet, and our fellow humans as well. We’re being the change, even when we can’t immediately see the change. Veganism needs us as much as vegans of all motivations need each other for strength of conviction in a world where we are immersed in a culture that deliberately creates vehicles designed only to get us to make choices in what we consume that support violence and destruction of our natural resources, our animal friends and even ourselves in the name of profit.

Making the decision to give up veganism to eat meat because there are just too many other problems with humanity and the world that need fixing first is merely looking too closely at just one small piece to a huge puzzle.

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Of course, we can continue to fight for what it is we believe in while being vegan. Being vegan does not mean we are willing to die to save the life of an animal- it just means we’re willing to make different choices with our diet than most- we’re willing to be just one part of the force for good in the world. It is not as complex as it seems. It actually requires no effort other than choosing food and consuming food, an activity that we’re already obligated as humans to be doing no matter what  particular cause we were fighting for. All that is required is choosing food that is vegan over food that is not. It cannot be over emphasized how amazing just this simple act of non-violence is for the planet. Even more than that, all of the problems in this world do not exist in a vacuum. They are interrelated and influenced by one another. The way we treat animals reflects the way we treat each other, the way we treat mother earth reflects the way we treat ourselves. It is all related on a spiritual level. Having compassion for IT ALL (including ourselves) is the solution.

Given that, we of course cannot devote our lives as one individual to every single cause that is deserving of our attentions- it is simply not humanly possible with time limitations of hours in a day and days on earth. But we can all make this simple decision at every meal and with every purchase. In fact, I’d argue that we should all make the best passive decisions (that is choose the more sustainable option whenever we have to do something anyway) we can. Toss it in the recycling bin instead of the trash. Buy the organic version. Buy the natural version. Buy from the mom and pop shop instead of Amazon. Go to the wildlife sanctuary instead of the theme park. Adopt a pet instead of buying from a breeder. If you do choose to eat meat, buy from a local small family farm. The power we have as individuals just passively consuming is substantial when it all adds up.

If you decide to stop being vegan, I will still be your friend. I still love my husband, my family and my country, my world even if I don’t agree with the choices that everybody makes. I’m just one person, and I do my personal best to make a difference with who I am and what I have. Consider this open letter to you, and everyone who reads it as more of an open invitation to joining (or re-joining!) the vegan movement, to joining the green movement, to joining the local movement, to joining ANY and ALL movements for good. Even just making positive actions in the world as often as you can helps- any intentional action at all helps. We mustn’t lose sight of the big picture, we mustn’t forget that we’re not alone. Let’s make a pact to follow our hearts and our passions, make steps toward our big dreams through our small decisions. Let’s shine our light in every place we can reach from our own little corners, and slowly but surely we’ll make change happen.

 

Claiming A Creative Life

“Remember to stay inside the lines” said the spinsterly teacher abruptly, making me jump in my short plastic chair. Looking up, I saw the black pits of her nostrils as she peered down at my work through the  impossibly small glasses propped on the end of her nose. Sitting there under the fluorescent lights, at the woodgrain laminate table with my peeled and broken crayons scattered around my stark white Xeroxed worksheet, I felt a hot flash of anger rush straight up from my stomach to the skin of my cheeks. As I burned with the rage of an angry boar, I swallowed hard, gritted my teeth and forced my head to jerk down in a quick nod, dismissing the intruder that interfered with my artistic flow.

That was the beginning of my rebellion. I was in second grade summer school because I couldn’t pass math. I remember sobbing over my miniature primary colored counting bears as my Dad would try to demonstrate the simple concepts over and over and over. I was able to pass, and eventually went on to take all the math that was required to get into college, and miraculously, to cobble together enough algebra and statistics courses to get a bachelor’s degree. At each and every gradual level, I struggled and worried and sweated over my assignments and exams. At the end of each semester, I sighed in relief when my grades confirmed I had made it by the skin of my teeth.

Of course it isn’t remotely uncommon to struggle with math in an academic setting, but I’ve really never been cut out for any type of activity that depends on exact and precise maneuvers. When a very strict process of completion is required I become extremely tense and agitated. After second grade, I slowly began to detest school more and more as the years went on. Art class, and art activities offered a space where I found peace. I also took respite in a few other places at school- anywhere that granted me freedom- to write, to cut wood, to play music, to perform a poem, to do anything the way I wanted to do it, really.

a chalk drawing from high school.
a chalk drawing from high school.

Sierra gasps in surprise and points, shouting happily, “Look, Mooom, an American Flag!” every time she discovers one when driving through town. Our city, being home to the biggest army post in the country, is extremely patriotic, and somehow at the age of 2 she is already buying into the concept that that piece of fabric is revered and celebrated by everyone. Despite all the pitfalls of this country- my biggest gripe being over-consumption (by our citizens AND our government), I love this freedom that has been granted to us. I have an understanding and gratitude for how precious and protected this freedom is and must be. But what good is this freedom that we have if as a society we are put in a position where we aren’t encouraged, or even allowed in some cases, to use it the way we want to, the way our souls were meant to?

A little over ten years later, I found myself once again under the fluorescent lights of a public school classroom, this time standing next to a professor peering at my art work through her black frame glasses.

“The composition of your piece on the right is much better” she asserted.

“I kind of prefer the left one’s composition, myself.”

“Why are you here? Why do you come to class if you don’t want to learn?” she snapped. She continued on a diatribe about art theory that I again forced myself to nod along too. She never again approached me to critique my work.

It is extremely easy for conscious and creative people like us to stumble upon and conjure up thoughts, ideas, plans and dreams throughout our waking and sleeping hours. But how can we stake a claim outwardly in our practical lives so that these stirrings and impulses can become a full expression, a living fruition?

We do it by ignoring the critics, the naysayers, the “professionals,” the detractors, and most frequently, those who use the excuse of “having our best interest at heart.” We must block the negative energies and the poison arrows from flying into the camp of our deeper feeling. We must look out for the trojan horses- the advice that on the surface promises safety and comfort, but inside is full of all manner of chains and cages designed to cripple our creative forces. We fight for the time, the space, the resources to do our creative work- not just for a a half hour on Sundays but as a regular routine in our lives. We must consider our creative work with the same non negotiable priority that we apply to practicing personal hygiene and eating regular meals. Going to work, keeping clothes on our backs and a roof over our head allows us to survive in this world, no doubt about it. But what good is survival for the human body when the soul of the person is suppressed, banished and exiled?

Of course many of us are completely happy with the types of lifestyles and activities that can effortlessly be acquired and maintained in our society- for some of us the choices we wish to make happen to be those that are widely agreed upon by the popular culture, and we will face little to no adversity. But if you’re reading this blog, it’s more than likely that you are like me. We aren’t made to color inside the lines. We weren’t made to blindly be lead by people that happen to assume positions of authority. We were made with eyes that see beauty and light, with ears that hear to the call of the wild, with hearts that feel the pang of deep emotion, with instincts that smell the rancid breath of those that use fancy words to attempt to manipulate us into submission. I promise you that we have the power within ourselves to overcome anyone who would try and stand between us and our creative work. All that’s needed is a recognition that the power is there, and the conscious awareness to use that power.

When we begin to express our innermost soul urgings outwardly, people start to spot us from a mile away. We begin to stand out like a beet stuck in a bundle of carrots. We probably won’t fit in so well, if at all, and people will innocently start to ask us to please just maybe be a little less red, a little more orange, less rough, a little thinner, a little sweeter. It is then and there that we must immediately use that power, that trust and strength of conviction that courses through our veins. All that is left is to keep doing the work that we’re doing, the work that we’re loving- the way only we can do it, and not stop until WE are satisfied- when we know we have successfully brought our soul baby from the ovaries of our spirit into the earthly realm.

I can assure you, it won’t be easy to do. but I promise that for the artists, the musicians, the writers, the activists, the philosophers, the poets, the witches, the dancers, the builders, the designers, the gardeners, the scholars, the cooks, the adventurers that we are- it’s as essential to our soul lives as oxygen is to our physical bodies.

Trusting Intuition

Intuition is a deep feeling in our gut we get when we add moments of silence to our days. We are all born with this deep intuition, this psychic ‘knowing,’ but there is so much noise in the world in the form of visual, auditory and socially engineered input flying at us from every direction that finding this time for quiet contemplation can be a battle unto itself. First a quick update on how my week of self care is going:

I haven’t been keeping notes or marking off any dates on the calendar, but I’d say my week of self-care that I had proposed to start in last week’s post has been a success. I ordered myself a new book from Amazon, (Women Who Run With the Wolves by Clarissa Pinkola Estes, Ph.D.) which is a book that when I first started reading it, was very skeptical about, but has slowly penetrated down to my soul. I highly recommend it for everyone- feminists, free spirits, housewives- women- and men too- of all walks. After I put my daughter to bed each night at 7:30, I have done something for myself. Usually it’s been making a cup of chamomile tea, putting my most favorite essential oil combination in my bedside diffuser, rubbing lotion, taking a bath or putting on a face mask, and lying in bed naked (how I sleep best) with the book and my tea, ready to relax utterly. I used to find that I had to put the house in order every night before bed, and while yes, that is a great idea, at this time I think it’s more important I prioritize that quiet, restful, pleasure-ful time by myself. I’ve found that I have no problem catching up on the dirty dishes and floors, and the toys scattered all over the living room the next morning as my daughter is playing. I’ve found that prioritizing these little “rituals” with and for myself, I have something to look forward to and also find myself more willing and able to take on the day when I wake up in the morning.

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But now for our regularly scheduled programming. Our intuition already has these seeds deep down inside- seeds of ideas. The seeds will sprout and begin to grow at different ages and stages in our lives, the trick is to get to that quiet, trusting place where we can identify when a seed tells us it’s time to start growing. Then we need to give it the water (time) and sun (attention) that it needs to grow. The larger the seed grows, the larger our idea becomes, and the harder it is to ignore and the more pressing it becomes for us to turn that idea into a reality- to transplant the bud from within us to the outside world. Sometimes these ideas involve a process of “giving up” something. This is much in line with the post about me giving up TV, but I want to talk about it now in terms of a more general idea of adaptation.

As humans it is in our instinct to “gain.” We get great pleasure and find security in having “more”. More options, more safety, more money, more amenities. To an extent, these things are all good. We need certain things to live- and of course in this culture we have in the West, money is right up there with oxygen unfortunately. But the first step is realizing that there does come a point at which ‘enough’ turns in to ‘too much.’ Commerce would like us all to ignore this point, and it would make them so happy if we had no concept of this point existing at all, as many people do. But of course, we aren’t like those people. We have given ourselves thought, energy and space to hear our own intuition out, even, and sometimes especially, when what our intuition is telling us is going against the grain of our larger culture. We’re the types of folks that when we give up something, we know it’s to gain something else- something better. Most often, we’re giving up material possessions in exchange for non-material, but still very real, commodities or intangible aspects to our lives. These elements that we gain, though you can’t hold them or necessarily see them- they are felt. Some examples: the immediate choice of trading TV for more free time, trading unhealthy food for a longer, more exuberant life, trading expensive cars for our future financial independence, trading a high-paying job that is soul sucking for a lower-paying one that makes your heart soar. A bigger house for a tiny one which is easy to pay for, maintain, and keep organized (even to move around the country!)

For me right now, it is food. I’ve gone whole foods vegan several months ago. Recently (in the past few weeks) I’ve also gone gluten-free and cut out nightshades and high oxalate foods (you can check out this youtube video with a detailed description of the lesser- known last term from a nutritionist). Also check out this humor-filled video about gluten free folk (we have to poke fun at ourselves from time to time so as not to take ourselves too seriously).

Cutting out all these other foods that I loved, and was so used to eating (we’re talking about dishes I’ve made myself for DECADES), has been painful for me. I’m still at the rounded area of the steep learning curve. Finding new recipes, new ingredients, serving my daughter foods that I can no longer eat as well has all been a struggle. But I know my body needs as little obstacles caused by my nutritional intake as possible considering all my other health issues that it’s battling. I’m embracing the concept of food being my medicine. I know that no condition of ill health is worth nutritionally yucky food- no matter how temporally satisfying it is. The video below is one that has rekindled my fire for making all these dietary changes, and bird jokes aside, I hope it will light or kindle your fire within to keep you going on the sometimes painful changes you’re making in your life for your ultimate health and happiness. Let me know about what changes you’re making and how it’s going for you. We’re in this together!

Why I Broke Up With Wholefoods

You know when you were a little kid and you knew a field trip was coming up? And the night before the field trip you’d toss and turn with excitement? Well, I used to think of making the journey to the Wholefoods in Sacramento with the same feeling. I had just become vegan at the time (I was a teenager living at home in the suburbs), and Wholefoods was like the golden ticket to eating all the food I was used to eating in my sinfully omnivorous days. Tofutti Break! was a popular outcry in my house, and I had several brands of soy burgers always in rotation. There was also a point a few years later when I had just finished reading Alicia Silverstone’s The Kind Diet that I spent $500 on a whole slew of macrobiotic groceries that filled up my personal mini fridge and a dedicated pantry shelf at Wholefoods. The checker did not bat an eye.

ingredients

Now that I live an hour from the nearest Wholefoods, I’ve learned to completely live happily without it, and have grown to respect the many ways in which taking Wholefoods out of my grocery equation has saved me time, money, and a whole lot of empty calories from my diet. First I started with the organic options at my nearby HEB, which I’ve found you really can get by with most of the basics such as spinach apples, and all kinds of pantry staples. In the produce department I graduated to using Bountiful Baskets, a more direct supplier-to-customer type of group that has spread nearly everywhere.

They have the regular basket and also the organic basket, which is regrettably quite a bit smaller than the regular basket at while a full $10 more is tacked on to the price tag. Now I am so happy with a strait up CSA (community supported agriculture) program brought to me by Austin’s own Johnson’s Backyard Garden. Not only is the organic produce so much more fresher, it is very local and a farm that is actually a family business that cares about its customers. There is no huge line to wait in either! I just pick up my basket at my local organic restaurant So Natural.

I have been very excited in stocking up on most of my bulk dried items (such as beans and grains) at In.Gredients, the FABULOUS zero-waste market in Austin. But because of the distance I only go by when I have other activities that call me that direction. Otherwise, it’s the organic options for these one-ingredient packaged foods at HEB. I also use SAM’s Club for their surprising offerings like organic agave nectar, almond butter, bananas and Chia seeds.

Melluvia Babe enjoying organic whole rolled oats for brekkie

Nowadays, most of the food I eat is very simple, and made of extremely basic ingredients, such as oatmeal with raisins for breakfast, a simple salad with leftover veggie soup for lunch, and a flavorful asian stir fry with rice for dinner. As you stop buying packaged, frozen, canned and otherwise processed foods you really begin to stop craving them. As you only have the basic items in your arsenal, you are forced to get creative in the kitchen. I’ve started to love cooking again, and really knowing that the food I’m eating and feeding my family is not only completely healthy but didn’t cost me an arm and a leg.

I still have many friends that continue to shop at Wholefoods and love it. One friend on the Dr. McDougall diet fills her cart with frozen fruit. Another is an overweight vegan who stocks up on the wildest of novel concoctions of foodstuffs like lemon bar flavored sugar free raw paleo dessert morsels. While I do think Wholefoods can be an exciting place with a world of flavor possibilities, it is so easy to spend a WHOLE lot of money on (when it comes down to it) what is simply energy for your body.

I look forward to posting my next blog about other new changes going on in my life right now!

10 Things You Can Stop Buying Now

Over the years, I have picked up many different ideas for how to become more sustainable, how to save money, and how to live a healthier life. Many of these ideas are a perfect union of those three attributes, and even though some of these may require a small investment up front, the items can be used for years to come.

1. Notecards/Thank You Cards/ Stationary / Birthday cards

You don’t have to be a master scrapbooking hobbyist to make your own notecards. It can be as simple as using the back of your children’s artwork, or cutting out pictures from old cards and pasting them on the blank spaces behind the front of old cards.

2. Wrapping Paper and Gift Bags

When I think of all the Christmases as a child where we overloaded our trash can with heaps of crumpled wrapping paper, tissue paper and ripped up gift bags I cringe. I’ve been saving my gift bags and tissue paper for years, and have a stash of about a dozen or so to choose from at any given time. I keep ribbons and bows, and a variety of small boxes as well. My dad always used the funnies from the newspaper as wrapping paper, and my aunt always sewed simple gift bags from discount fabrics. She also made reusable cross stitched gift tags to accompany the bags, and they’ve had decades of use with zero waste! Ingenious!

3. Cleaning Products

With a few very inexpensive household products (think vinegar, and baking soda) you can make very dependable and eco-friendly cleaning products that get the job done. You can make fancier recipes using alcohol, hydrogen peroxide, lemon juice and essential oils as well, but I’ve found most things can be easily cleaned using just those two ingredients.

4. Paper Towels and Napkins

Start stocking up on dish towels (keep a drawer or basket of them in the kitchen) and you will never again need to buy paper towels. Same for cloth napkins and disposable napkins. To make it easier on myself I put a small bucket on the counter to throw the dirty ones into, then I just throw them in the wash when the bucket gets full.

5. Herbs

It is so simple and easy to grow your own herbs. If you live in a cold climate, you can always find an empty windowsill to use. Herbs grow relatively quickly and take up very little space. Right now I’m growing oregano, mint, dill, rosemary, sage and basil, but you can grow virtually any herb you can think of. For an even cheaper option, you can order organic herb seeds online. Many herbs are perennial meaning they will continue to grow, giving you a limitless supply of fresh herbs! You can even grow rosemary just by taking a sprig off and putting it in the dirt. So easy!

6. Bottled Water

This one is kind of a no-brainer. I think the key to this is thinking ahead. For one, you will need several high quality water bottles (think stainless steel or these glass ones I love) for multiple members of your family, and also for when some are in the dishwasher or lost. Plastic ones are cheaper, but they may release nasty chemicals into your water when they get hot or sit for a long time. Keep some in the fridge so they are cold and ready to grab and go when you’re headed out the door. Then when you get back home, make sure to bring your water bottle back inside. It starts to become second-nature when you do it consistently.

7. Disposable Diapers

Cloth diapers are not the cotton fabric and safety pins that your grandma used. Today they come in many different kinds that are so easy to put on with snaps and Velcro, and come in many cute patterns. They are also much easier to store and wash then you’d think. All you need is a large wet bag for home, and a small wet bag for on the go. It zips completely closed and keeps them nice and contained. About half of the diapers my daughter uses now are the same ones we bought before she was born (she’s now 2!). I think I will write another blog post just on cloth diapering soon!

8. Pads or Tampons

Cloth pads are infinitely more comfortable than disposables, and all you need is enough for a few days as you can just throw them in the washer. On the other hand, there are many reusable menstrual cups such as the Mooncup that can be easily rinsed off each time.

9. Tupperware

I actually can’t believe that I’ve just started doing this, it is so obvious and easy. Just save all the glass jars when you use up your pantry items such as all-natural peanut butter, pasta sauce, jam and pickles. You can use them to store dry goods like beans, grains, loose herbs and teas, and also to store leftovers in the fridge. Just rinse them out and run them through the dishwasher to use again and again.

10. Toothpaste

There are many recipes floating around out there for home-made toothpaste, and most of them involve baking soda, charcoal, and mint essential oils. Infinitely cheaper, infinitely less waste, and much healthier for you as they don’t contain dangerous chemicals like fluoride.

There are so many other things you can stop buying now if you think outside the box. Oftentimes when I feel the need to buy something, I just wait a few days and I usually think of something I already have to use instead. What have you stopped buying?