Category Archives: health

delighting in the daily experience.

I promise I will actually share some kitchen creations again (starting tonight!) – I’ve been doing quite a bit of running around recently, and my knives and cutting boards have sadly been neglected.  Last night, I enjoyed dinner courtesy of Beam Green, the raw food community I was happily invited to by Gena last month.

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When I arrived, I immediately found the lovely Danielle and hit up the buffet for vegan sushi, raw zucchini lasagna, and other assorted goodies.  I may have returned for seconds.  

The evening’s speakers consisted of Gene Stone, a writer and founder of the Manhattan dairy free ice cream shop, Stogo; Gil Jacobs, a highly knowledgeable cellular cleansing specialist; and David Philips, an expert spiritual counselor on Kabbalah.

I settled down to listen with green juice in hand (a bit different from my last glass of a similar shape!).  I later won a gift certificate to Liquiteria, which is wonderful, as their juices are both delicious and expensive.  Now I get $20 worth!

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Like the last meeting, I left with many thoughts running through my head.  [Although we were all a bit distracted by the bombshell that this was the last Beam Green meeting ever.  No explanation as to why!]  One comment, however, stuck with me, from Gil Jacobs.  His words:

“Find the daily experience that works for you.”

One of the main reasons I enjoy a life full of whole foods is because the options seem limitless.  I find excitement in anticipating the produce that will next come into season; I find joy in combining and experimenting with different foods and flavors.  My lifestyle is not strict.  It is not work.  It’s fun.  Otherwise, I don’t think I could live it.

It doesn’t end with food.  I’ve dabbled in different forms of exercise, and I’ve kept my mind open to learning about health-focused lifestyles (high-raw, for instance) different from my own.  As my knowledge grows, my philosophies develop, and that constant state of being a work in progress is what makes this life a true joy to live.

Jacobs stressed that if one is counting the days until the torture of a healthful life is over, then something has to change.  It should never be painful; it just requires some experimentation to find the mix that works for you.

If we open ourselves to walks of life, to eating styles, to dogma foreign to our own, it may be uncomfortable, strange, and different.  But if we never take the chance, we’ll never experience the beauty of personal growth and change.  Missing out is too much of a shame.

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I certainly wouldn’t have wanted to miss my sample of Stogo’s coconut milk ice cream.  I love my healthy life.


What delights you about your health style?

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the organic question.

When I revamped my eating habits a few years ago, I did it for one reason, and one only: vanity.  In that world, people ate fruits and vegetables not for health, but because they had less calories.  People didn’t exercise for enjoyment or mental clarity; they suffered through it to burn off what they ate.

I never could have predicted the journey that an awareness of health would take me on.  With both the good and bad, it has ultimately transformed me for life.  Perhaps what I’ve come to enjoy most is that my approach to health is in  a constant flux: I am always learning more, about nutrition, about myself, about exercise and my relationship to it, about my decisions regarding food.

One piece has remained in the background up until the past few months.  I’ve developed a strong sense of responsibility to support local farmers, and I try to shop at the farmer’s market when I can.  But, when I stand in the aisles of the supermarket, staring, for instance, at the brands of Greek yogurt I eat daily, I am hit with a dilemma: organic or not?  To be perfectly honest, I very often go for conventional.  I see the price difference, I know I am on a strict budget, and money wins out.

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At the summit this past weekend, the speaker that truly moved me was Regina Beidler, an organic dairy farmer.  She spoke with passion and conviction, presenting the life she leads as a farmer devoted to a responsibly produced product.  She really got me thinking.

While I believe I have an open mind when it comes to eating styles, as I feel strongly that the elements of a person’s diet are personal and unique, I nonetheless wish the fresh foods I adore could become more of the norm.  It would be nice to join friends who might not care about health at a restaurant and not feel I need to dissect the menu and pay $15 for a salad that wouldn’t fill up a five year old.  

One of the ways I support this way of life is through the groceries I choose to buy, particularly farmer’s market or local produce.  Leaving processed foods with unpronounceable ingredients on the shelves and opting for whole foods allows me to do my small part in supporting a more natural lifestyle.  Regina Beidler’s speech alerted me, however, that I am choosing to see only a piece of the big picture.

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I support naturally produced foods.  How is it ok then, to purchase, for instance, a conventional dairy product?  Knowing full well, as Beidler emphasized, that the cows who produce that dairy are anything but responsibly raised?  Beidler showed us pictures I had seen before, of cows lined up in miniscule, individual stalls overflowing with corn and grain.  Leaving the inhumanity of an animal who never sees the light of day aside, the entire process of overfeeding a cow with chemically-infused feed she was never meant to eat, simply to produce an excess of hormonally-altered milk, is anything but natural.  How can I support that when I have the option to buy organic?

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I was struck most by a question asked of Beidler towards the end of her speech.  Over lunch, I spoke with a couple bloggers who grew up on farms, and I questioned how it felt to eat meat from animals they had known and raised.  Beidler was spot on in her response, as she presented the two options we have.

In one, we choose meat from a package in a grocery aisle, with no concept of the animal it came from, the farm it was raised on, or the way it was processed.  The other: we know the animal, know it was fed grass, as it is naturally meant to, know it was allowed to pasture and didn’t live its life in a pitch dark barn, and even know that it died in a humane way.  She emphasized that she eats and enjoys all forms of meat and has never intended to become vegetarian.  She simply wishes to support responsible and sustainable farming.

I’m not going to stop eating dairy.  And while I very rarely eat meat or poultry, I’m not going to stop having bites of my dad’s or limit myself should I want to eat it myself.  But, I am going to make more of an effort to know where my food comes from.  I never want my dollars to go to conglomerates who are modifying the product I buy.  So, if that means spending a few extra dollars on organic, I am going to find a way to make that work.


Is organic important to you?  

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moderation.

One evening over vacation, my family was dining together (as usual), and my mom posed a question to my dad.  I can’t recall exactly how it fit into our conversation, but the query was made.  “How much do you weigh now?”

I am usually a very soft spoken person.  I choose my words carefully, always think before I speak.  So, I surprised myself when I unabashedly blurted, “Who cares?”

But those words were the truth.  

I’ve just enjoyed eight nights of vacationing.  Eight nights of restaurant meals.  Eight desserts, many glasses of wine, pieces of bread, tastes of heavenly food.

It has nothing to do with weight.  Weight is irrelevant.

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It wasn’t always this easy for me.  [Sometimes it still isn’t].  But as I’ve often said, and hopefully demonstrated, food is one of life’s pleasures and privileges, and I never want to associate it with weight again.  I never want to associate it with “should” or “shouldn’t.”  I never want to associate it with guilt.

I’ve struggled to determine my feelings on the popular philosophy of moderation.  I’ve been far from it, forbidding a list of foods that only became longer as time went on.  I very, very slowly learned to practice it.  And since I found a healthier balance, I’ve started to wonder if I really believe in moderation at all.

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Sometimes, I think it’s necessary to eat an ice cream cone the size of your head.  It’s necessary to eat pancakes in the morning, even if you ate pasta for dinner.  It’s necessary to eat a salad so big that your stomach hurts from all the fiber.  It’s necessary to scoop hummus liberally, even if the serving size is two tablespoons.  It’s necessary to be the exact opposite of moderate, and go completely over the top.  

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Balance is eating breakfast in the morning, even if I had a big meal the night before.  It’s eating two bites of dessert when that’s all I want, but also knowing I can clean the plate when I desire that as well.  It’s eating fruits and vegetables in any quantity I choose, never apologizing for being “too healthy.”  It’s eating a bit lighter during the day when I know I’ll be eating more at night.  But it is never allowing one day of “light” to become habit or restriction.

ally and leslie at hotel

Balance is appreciating the view on a vacation, rather than obsessing about the image in the mirror.  It’s treasuring the moments with my favorite people in the world, not adding up the calories of the plates we are sharing.  It’s savoring the memories I’ve created, and it’s realizing that measurements and numbers don’t exist in those memories.

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I had a wonderful vacation.  And now, I’ll go back to normal.  Has my weight changed?  Will it change?  I don’t know.  My jeans still fit, and really, it doesn’t matter.


Do you believe in moderation?

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beam green.

Last night, I had the pleasure of attending the monthly meeting of Beam Green, an eco- and health-conscious community that I learned about through Gena.

The group meets each month in a cozy sunroom at Tavern on the Green, reached through a long and winding passageway of mirrored walls.  Exiting the tunnel of reflections into the warm, sunlight filled space felt instantly comforting (as did the plethora of green juices that Gena directed me to upon entering).  I had to rush to the meeting after a long day, and my “dinner” was a packed almond butter sandwich – but I had a feeling I’d manage to get my vegetables in once I arrived.  I was right.  🙂  Can every gathering please have a healthy spread like this one?

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The instant Mary Boehmer, the community’s founder, began to speak, I knew I was in good hands.  She shared a member’s story, who mentioned receiving ridicule from co-workers after attending a meeting with a cupful of green juice.  Without spreading rhetoric or pushing philosophies, the healthy habits became contagious all on their own, and slowly other workers began to arrive with their own juice cups, reaping the benefits of whole foods.  If you read my recent post on food confidence, you’ll understand how dear this tale was to me.  So often people jump to criticize the health-loving.  Staying true to what we believe manifests itself both mentally and physically, and that dedication to ourselves is by far most important.

The evening’s agenda consisted of three speakers, representing the book Clean Plates NYC, the Green Depot, and Green Grass Life.  I was greatly anticipating the speech from Jared Koch, the author of Clean Plates NYC, as his health philosophy echoes mine almost identically.  

Of the many enlightening comments he related to us, three struck me in particular.

  • “Nutrition is foundational to our existence.”  The statement is basic, yet it is lost on most of our society.  Nutritional education is a blip in school curriculums, and with the demand for chemical supplements and medicines to cure our ailments, the building blocks within food have been forgotten.  This has to change.
  • “Perfection is not the goal.”  I am a perfectionist.  I’ll admit it without hesitation.  That tendency has gotten me into many troubling situations in the past.  Much as I’ve learned form Gena, Koch encouraged us to make conscious, mindful decisions that honor our individual desires.  A universal diet doesn’t exist, and berating ourselves accomplishes nothing.
  • “Our society is overobsessed with calories and quantity, rather than quality.”  Why else would supermarkets be overstocked with 100 calorie packs, New York restaurant menus covered in calorie totals, and nutrition labels topped by calorie amounts?  What an interesting concept it might be to have one label, with one criterion: real, quality food/ not real, quality food.

Skimming through Clean Plates, I adore how accessible it is – this is not a guide only for the health-obsessed; it is a handbook directing everyone to the freshest, tastiest cuisine in the food capital.  Tabla is in there!

I also learned quite a bit from the other speakers (did you know one shot of wheatgrass is the nutritional equivalent of five pounds of salad?  I didn’t!).  Over and over, throughout the evening, I was overwhelmed by the plethora of reasons to eat whole foods.  I heard stories of vanishing illnesses, renewed energy, completed triathlons, disappearing cravings.  I know this to be true:  I spent college lusting after Starbucks pastries; now I hunger for kale and bananas.  Obviously there is something to this way of life.

When Koch took the microphone, he asked us why most people choose to eat healthfully.  The responses were varied, and to my delight, he had to continue asking for more responses before finally hearing what he deemed the most common motivator: “to lose weight.”  I’ve said it often:  health is about so much more than size.  The group in that room last night was dedicated to their futures, their nourishment, and the way they felt.  It was wonderful to witness.

Thanks again to Gena for allowing me to be one of her guests.  It was great to meet her in person, as well as spend time chatting with my fellow travel-loving blogger, Danielle.  I had a fantastic evening!


I’m curious: what is one benefit health and nutrition have had on your life?

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local.

With all the buzz recently about Food, Inc (I swear I’m seeing it this week!), I have been spending a lot of time considering the importance of supporting locally grown food.

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Growing up, I remember traveling to a blueberry patch with my mother.  Though I refused to eat a single berry myself, I’ll never forget the sensation of being warmed by the sun, filling a basket while kneeling in the midst of rows of bushes.  As a child, it felt like a paradise, a place all too removed  from my suburban reality.  

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Local food wasn’t a complete mystery.  Some August evenings, we would walk a few streets from our house to purchase fresh corn from a Connecticut farm for dinner. I would dutifully shuck it on our backyard porch, painstakingly working to pull every last “hair” off the kernels.

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Some of my favorite travel experiences have involved browsing local food markets. Striding through the vivid colors and overpowering smells at Istanbul’s Egyptian spice bazaar, gazing at endless berry baskets and dark breads at the Viktualienmarkt in Munich. My parents and I spent an afternoon in Vienna noshing dried fruits and artisan cheeses on our way through the city’s Naschmarkt.

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I know some people who dread grocery shopping. But if you’re willing to try fresh foods, I think browsing a farmer’s market is one of the most rewarding ways to spend a grocery trip. Knowing exactly to whom your money is going, from where your food is coming, and exactly how it arrived is a right we should never have sacrificed.

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Plus, food that hasn’t traveled far always has the richest natural flavors.  Taste and environmental friendliness?  I’m sold.


When was the last time you visited a farmer’s market?  Is buying local a priority for you?

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clean eats.

Ever since I began to educate myself on nutrition and apply it to my life, I have struggled to classify the way I eat for the rest of the world.

I’ve never wanted to be a vegetarian or vegan, for better or worse – I know that having the freedom to eat what I choose is healthiest for me.  I generally consider myself a flexitarian, but that isn’t much of a universally recognized term (outside this community, of course).

A few months ago, I met someone new, and (surprise), we got onto the topic of food.  After stumbling through an explanation that I’m not vegan, but much of the food I eat falls within the realm of veganism, but I still eat some dairy and fish, and I’ll also try pretty much anything once, I was feeling frustratingly long-winded.  But then, my conversation partner responded, “Oh, so, you eat clean.”

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I’m not sure I can proclaim to the next person I meet that “clean” is my culinary category.  But the term has stuck with me – it seems appropriate.

Recently I have been learning more about the food industry in this country, and I’m becoming aware that clean is not as simple as it should be.  I’d like to do further research on this, and I plan to see Food Inc. as a start this weekend.  

I have to admit that in the past, my approach to food was often vanity-based.  Somewhere along the way, and it has certainly been happening slowly, I’ve turned away from the mirror and instead thought about food as what it is: energy.  Energy for the mind through flavor, energy for the body through proper nutrition, energy for a long life through vitamins and minerals.

As I focus more on health and less on calories, I continue to wish that healthy food was more mainstream.  The food industry is peppered with misguided information, hidden agendas, and countless loopholes, all of which can make health chaotic and confusing.

Before losing all faith, however, I have to be grateful to have taken steps forward from where I was a few years ago.  Eating “clean” began as a personal choice for me.  If a focus on nutrition ever becomes the norm, I believe it has to begin with individual journeys.  

As I type this, I am munching on the most delicious black velvet apricot, and I have to wonder: what processed food could ever taste this good?


Do you classify the way you eat?  Has your eating style changed over time?

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