Tuesday, March 22, 2011

Inside Out

I know someone who doesn’t take such good care of her body.  It’s not that she’s overweight, but she drinks like a fish and subsists on Wheat Thins and Diet Pepsi, among other things.  I want to tell you the same thing I tell her when she asks for my dietary advice.

We look at fat person and think, “That person sure looks unhealthy.”  But what makes up someone’s health?  Is it just their weight?  Absolutely not!  Weight is just one of many indicators about the state of our health.  Since we adults tend to be very visual we believe what we see, and we can see if someone is fat or thin.  However, we cannot see the insides of our bodies without cutting them open.  You have probably never seen the inside of one of your arteries, and you probably have no idea if your liver is shriveled up and sickly or if your kidneys are enlarged and diseased. 

I am a big believer that our insides tell the story of our health before our outsides do.  If you could get a camera and run it through your arteries right now, you’d probably be shocked to see signs of coronary artery disease.  Autopsy studies done on children who died from accidental deaths (like car accidents) found that children as young a 4 years of age had signs of coronary artery disease!  Unless you eat like a purist, it’s a sure thing that you do too. 

We can’t see our insides, so we forget about them.  But since we are so visually oriented, try imagining this scenario going on inside of our bodies:  Our insides (organs, blood, immune system, etc) work their tails off to keep us healthy.  We throw sugar, salt, fat and chemicals down our throats, and our insides become like a firefighting department, racing into gear to save us from ourselves!  Alarms and bells are going off everywhere!  Imagine, after eating a meal made up of salt, sugar, fat and chemicals, all your organs screaming to each other, “AAAACCCCKKKKK!  Saturated fat coming down the pipes!  Oh No!  2,000 mg of SALT coming our way!  Watch out!  Yellow #11 and Red #7! HEEELLLLPPPP!!  All hands on deck!” 

They do a great job of handling all this stress we put on them, but over years and years of abuse, they eventually wear down, and they start crying out for help.  In the early stages, these cries for help can show up in the form of fatigue, weight gain, and inability to concentrate, among other things.  Later on, if we ignore these cries for help, they become screams, and this is when we start peeing every 15 minutes … and find out that we have diabetes, or we have chest pain … and find out we’re having a heart attack. 

What would your pancreas look like if you could open up your body and see it?  What would your heart look like?  Your arteries?  Your brain, liver, kidneys, ovaries, prostate, etc?  Would they be pink and healthy and happy?  Or would they be showing the signs of how hard you are making them work?

A healthy vegan diet is so easy on our insides.  When we eat fruits, vegetables, whole grains and beans that don’t have a lot of added salt, sugar, fat or chemicals, our insides can practically process our food while they sleep.  These foods digest quickly, leaving healthy vegans feeling energetic and alert, not bogged down or groggy.  They are naturally low in calories and fat yet provide huge amounts of nutrients, including (yes!) calcium and protein.  As a result, vegans are trim, vibrant, need less sleep, have tons of energy, and in my opinion, are generally quite a happy lot.

So the next time that soda, chips and candy (even the vegan brands) are calling out your name, go consult with your insides:  Do you really want to put them through so much pain when they have worked so hard to keep you alive all these years?  If you’re mindful enough to remember to ask, the answer will assuredly be “no.”

Thursday, March 17, 2011

Lessons From Oliver

My sheep died last week.  I am devastated.  I miss him terribly, even though I only got to see him about once a year on my annual trek to Animal Acres, a farm animal rescue outside of LA.  He won such a place in my heart that he is in my author’s bio picture on the back of my book! 

But with his death, we can learn a lot from Oliver.  He, along with many other sheep and goats, were found in 2005 just after Animal Acres opened.  There were discovered in a slaughterhouse where the animals were found living in a cement building with no windows, surrounded everywhere by piles of excrement.  Many of the animals were so weak they could no longer stand.  Some, like Oliver, had horrible wounds, suffering at the hands of our fellow humans. The massive scar on his neck was a reminder of his slaughterhouse days that would stay with him for the rest of his life.  All the animals found there on that fateful day suffered from infections, parasites, and severe respiratory illnesses, presumably from smelling the toxic fumes from the waste that they were standing in all day.  Our fellow humans did this to Oliver and the other animals there.

Yet, when they were rescued and brought to Animal Acres to receive health care and to live out their lives at the beautiful sanctuary, Oliver forgave humans, and became an ambassador for the sanctuary.  He was always the first to come trotting up to visitors, and loved to snuggle and kiss.  If you stopped petting him he would gently nudge your hand, lest you had accidentally forgotten he was there.  If you wanted to go visit the cows or chickens or goats, Oliver would escort you there, and be right by your side, so content to simply be in your presence.

Do you have people in your life that you are still holding grudges against?  Are there events from your past that you are still bitter about?  Is there someone in your life that you need to reach out and snuggle with more often?  No matter what you have suffered at the hands of others, you can still turn your heart around and learn to love again.  Although some may think “he’s just a sheep,” Oliver has taught me an amazing lesson, and I hope that, with his death, he can still continue to teach others, too.

Tuesday, March 8, 2011

The Mysterious Case of Sarah Button

I got carded tonight at a restaurant.  It’s true!  I’m turning 40 later this year, and I got carded tonight at a restaurant.  This is probably a bit flattering for anyone my age, but let me tell you why it is especially flattering for me…

When I was a teen, my best friend and I baked in the sun for hours every day each summer.  I mean we would slather on the baby oil (forget sun protection!) and lie there without moving until we were blistered and red.  It’s horrible to admit, but it’s true.  One time I blistered really badly … and laid out again the very next day.

Fast forward 15 years.  When I was about 28, the company I worked for had a couple of meetings every year where they spoiled us a bit and paid for a spa treatment.  I always chose a facial, which was a love/hate thing.  I loved facials because they were so relaxing – I always feel asleep I was so relaxed!  Yet I hated them for a self-imposed reason … whenever I sat in the chair and the facialist started looking at my skin up close with her special light, she would always ask, “And how old are you, honey?”  I always turned the question back to her:  “Well, based on my skin, how old would you guess I am?”

Ahem.  I can hardly say it out loud, but over the course of about 5 facials over a 3 year period, every single facialist guessed that I was between 39-42, yet my real age was 28-30.  I was so dejected each time it happened, but figured it was my penance for baby oil and hours baking in the sun.  I figured my skin would never get any better, but I hoped I could keep it from getting worse.  Maybe I would actually catch up with the age I looked!

Well, when I went vegan I read somewhere that the vegan diet gives people great skin.  But when I went vegan, my skin wasn’t at the forefront of my mind, and quite honestly, I was pretty skeptical about that claim anyway.  I truly believed that skin damage couldn’t be reversed.  Yet over the years as I aged, people’s estimates of my actual age kept decreasing!  It didn’t happen quickly, but for sure people started regularly guessing 35-36, then 32-33, then 30, and then … a couple of years ago, someone guessed I was 29.  I couldn’t believe it!  I laughed out loud, but inside I wrote it off as an “older lady’s guess” and figured that since I beat her in singles tennis, it just made her feel better to assume I was in my 20’s.  But it seems I was wrong.  No kidding, I have had at least a dozen people since then guess I was in my 20’s.  No one ever guesses 40 anymore!  It’s like the mysterious case of Benjamin Sarah Button!

As I get older, I am trying to lose my attachment to all things that support my ego, including my looks among other things.  I haven’t found one piece of evidence that our egos do us anything but harm.  But it does tickle me to know that I actually looked young enough to someone that they felt they had better card me tonight.  It goes to show you that there are short-term effects of the vegan diet (weight loss, lower cholesterol, lower blood pressure, etc) and long-term effects too (better skin!)  Even if you aren’t vain (or are trying not to be,) it’s amazing to know what incredible things the vegan diet is doing for your health.  If, over many years, your skin starts to look a decade or two younger, imagine what is happening to your arteries, liver, kidneys and heart! 

So if you are vegan, be happy about the good things you are doing for your body.  If you are not vegan yet, keep making good choices each meal.  You may not be 100% vegan, but as you get closer and closer, you’ll be doing your body more and more good!

Friday, March 4, 2011

Coconut Curry Lentil Soup!

I had a lunch meeting recently, and my clients kindly took me to an organic restaurant that had several vegetarian and vegan options.  The soup of the day was this amazing coconut curry lentil soup.  I went home and tried to re-create it, and surprising no one more than myself, I nailed it!  (I’m not known for my culinary skills!)  Here is the very easy recipe.  Enjoy!

2 Cups Dried Lentils
3-4 Cups Vegetable Broth
1 Can Fire-Roasted Diced Tomatoes (if you can’t find fire-roasted, you can substitute for regular diced tomatoes)
1 Can Regular Diced Tomatoes
2 Cans Lite Coconut Milk (Use 1 1/2 cans to make it thicker than the photo)
1 t Red Curry Paste

Cook lentils in the vegetable broth until almost all the way cooked through, about 40 minutes.
Add all other ingredients and simmer, about 5 – 8 minutes.