Give Your Food A Face

give your food a face

Give your food a face

Give your food a face.

“We love dogs, and eat cows not because dogs and cows are fundamentally different – cows, like dogs, have feelings, preferences, and consciousness – but because our perception of them is different.” —Melanie Joy, 2010, “Why We Love Dogs, Eat Pigs, and Wear Cows”

Why do we eat what we eat?  There are biological reasons – we eat for hunger.  But in our culture of plenty eating is not often driven by biology, it is driven by habits, seeing, smelling, reading, or even thinking about food (are you hungry now??) Recent studies show that our physical levels of hunger shows little correlation with how much hunger we say that we feel or how much food we then go onto eat.  This is because we are surrounded by food which is cheap, widely available, delicious and easy to obtain.  We are disconnected from where we get our food.  That is why we seek out, select, and consume foods that may or may not be healthful, and may actually harm us.  We even consume foods that harm the environment.

Take the lovely cow, for example.  We know from experts that eating animals is a leading cause of many of the most serious diseases in the Western World today, including cardiac disease, diabetes, and cancer.  Even the ultra conservative Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics has stated that eating a plant based diet is sound nutrition and more healthful than an animal protein diet.  In addition to the high saturated fat levels in animal protein we face other issues – contamination with dangerous chemicals including arsenic, ammonia and mercury; drugs such as antibiotics and synthetic growth hormones which may lead to drug resistant infections and growth of breasts in boys; pesticides, and even high levels of fecal matter.

CAFO’s and Animal Welfare

Learn the truth about our American food supply, and how animal protein is produced in this country by big production methods.  Learn that our meat is far from the idyllic family farms.  99% of the meat, eggs, and dairy that we eat come from concentrated animal feeding operations (CAFOs). Not only is eating animal protein harmful to our health and the environment, animals are raised in factories for us under extraordinarily inhumane and dangerous conditions.  Eating animals for food goes beyond our own and the environment’s health, and takes us, if we awaken to the information to our own empathy, compassion, and humanity.

Animals that are raised in CAFO’s live and die in misery.  They are born into gigantic, filthy, overcrowded, windowless factories.  Taken away from their mothers shortly after birth, they are castrated, debeaked, dehorned, and branded without anesthesia.  Female cows are forcibly impregnated over and over in a process where they are confined an unable to lay down or turn around.  When they are no longer productive, they are slaughtered.

Nearly every animal-based meal comes from a sentient being, who lived and died in agony.

Mindfulness and change

Take a pause for a mindful moment.  What do you notice as you contemplate your own practices and beliefs about animal protein? Notice your body.  Do you feel tightness, tension, or other holding? Notice your breath.  Breathe into any tightness or tension you feel, allowing your body to soften and expand.  Notice your judgments.  Allow thoughts to come and go like clouds floating through the sky.  Go deeper.  Do you sense any emotions, such as sadness, sorrow, or compassion?  Allow the feelings of compassion toward yourself, as you courageously face your own beliefs, practices, and habits regarding the food you eat.

Give your Food a Face

As humans, we possess an incredible capacity to look the other way when things are inconvenient or dissonant.  In one respect, it is part of our humanness.  Ancient wisdom might suggest that looking the other way is a hindrance to mindfulness.  A mindfulness practice gives us the capacity to change, by examining with curiosity and compassion our habits of mind and body.  As we develop compassion toward others, we develop compassion for ourselves, and for all living things. It is up to each one of us to decide for ourselves whether the actions we take are wholesome or unwholesome.  We can recognize our connection to all living things.

And when we give our food a face, when it moves beyond a shrink wrapped pink sanitized package in a grocery store into a beautiful, majestic creature we can choose whether or not our habits of eating have room for a more compassionate choice.

The Business of Thin

The Business of Thin is everywhere.  Its strategy is to keep us fearful and confused.   The “Queen” of commercialized thin is Weight Watchers, the “mother” of all weight loss services.  If we succumb to her siren call, we will buy and eat highly processed food that makes us fat, and scramble for weight loss services to make us –only temporarily- thin.  Processed foods, limited exercise, and mindless eating keeps us enslaved.

Is there something better in life than losing and gaining the same forty pounds twenty times?  There is!  Lifelong weight maintenance is possible through adopting a personal practice of weekly weighing, gentle calorie counting, and a whole foods based diet with self-monitoring guided by mindfulness.

Locations moving to supermarkets

Weight Watchers – Now OPRAH owns 10% of the company, so you can lighten your wallet and make her richer!!

The “collateral damage” related to the business of thin has resulted in food and body preoccupation, self-hatred, eating disorders, discrimination and poor health.  Few of us are at peace with our bodies.  We’re no closer to solving the obesity crisis in this country since it has multi-factorial causes and conditions.  If we focus on “going on a diet”, we shortcut the dialog needed to permanently change our disordered eating culture.

Learning the truth about food marketing helps us understand that Weight Watchers – formerly a food company subsidiary of HJ Heinz – is only interested in our money, not our well-being.  Weight Watchers knows that few Americans can resist the seduction of fat, salt, and sugar –the key ingredients in their food products.  Food marketers can only survive by getting us to eat more food; how can a commercial weight loss organization that acts like a food company help us?  Here’s the truth about the business of thin:

Four Steps to Weight Loss

Do you crave pizza when you are stressed? It's likely a learned behavior.

Do you crave pizza when you are stressed? It’s likely a learned behavior.

My holiday gift to you is support for your weight loss goals. Here are four steps to weight loss: Awareness, Rules, Structure, and Peacefulness.

Eating, and liking certain foods are learned behaviors.  As omnivores, we eat different foods based on our learning.  This means that our preferences for certain kinds of foods developed over time and become habits.  Some of us think we are “addicted” to different foods like sugar, or even fatty foods.  Research tells us that we may have preferences for sugary foods (and who doesn’t??) but these preferences are actually learned behaviors.  Since they are learned behaviors, we actually can end overeating in four steps.  

Healthy Holiday Swaps

Have a healthy holiday season this year! The holiday season is all about family and food – and Photo-2-centerall too often, adding a few extra pounds to our waistlines. Try these healthy holiday swaps for your favorite meals.

Stay active! Increase your physical activity during the holiday season by going for a walk after each meal or gathering. Shooting hoops, jumping rope or playing catch are also good family/group activities.

Baking Swaps

  • Instead of butter, substitute equal parts cinnamon-flavored, no-sugar-added applesauce.
  • Instead of sugar, use a lower-calorie sugar substitute.
  • Instead of whole or heavy cream, substitute low-fat or skim milk.  You can also swap for any plant based milk (no cholesterol or saturated fat).
  • Instead of using only white flour, use half white and half whole-wheat flour.
  • Instead of adding chocolate chips or candies, use dried fruit, like cranberries or cherries.
  • Use extracts like vanilla, almond and peppermint to add flavor instead of sugar or butter.

Cooking Swaps

  • Use vegetable oils such as olive oil instead of butter.
  • Use herbs and spices, like rosemary and cloves, to flavor dishes instead of butter and salt.
  • Use whole-grain breads and pastas instead of white.
  • Bake, grill or steam vegetables instead of frying.
  • Instead of whole milk or heavy cream, substitute low-fat or fat-free/skim milk or any plant based (soy, almond, rice, hemp) milk.


  • Instead of alcohol in mixed drinks, use club soda.
  • Instead of adding sugar to mixed drinks, mix 100-percent juice with water or use freshly squeezed juice, like lime.
  • Instead of using heavy cream or whole milk in dairy-based drinks, use low-fat or skim milk.
  • Instead of using sugar to sweeten cider, use spices and fruit, like cinnamon, cloves and cranberries.

Dog Training and Weight Loss

Five things that dog training taught me about weight loss…

Dog Training and Weight Loss

Dog Training and Weight Loss

  1.  Dog training is not about the dog.  It is about the human.  Dogs don’t need to be trained, we humans do!  As we worked with our great dog trainer, we practiced, practiced, practiced.  We bought special supplies, made sure we had the right equipment on hand, and did our assigned homework.  Every day.  It was the most important thing in our life, since we were interested in supporting our dog’s change process.  Dogs learn well – so do humans.  We can absolutely lose weight if we make sure we have the right equipment on hand, do our homework assigned by our human weight loss “trainer” (contact me for a quote), buy special supplies of food, and practice, practice practice. Losing weight is learned behavior.  We absolutely can be trained!
  2. Dog training works best if you don’t use food as a reward.  Dogs can learn things in the short term with treats; long term we create food motivated monsters!  Never use food as a reward.  For us, that is obvious.  Think of all the times we say, “I had a hard day, I deserve a treat.”  Hmmmm. Sounds like we are creating a monster?  Anyone know this one?

    Dog Training and Weight Loss

    Dog Training and Weight Loss

  3. Dog training is about practice, practice, practice.  Learning new skills requires repetition.  We are animals, just like dogs.   We require repetition in order to learn new skills.  Want to lose weight?  Give yourself every opportunity to practice your new skills.  For example, our dog trainer had us do two sessions every day, twenty minutes each, for each dog.  That was four twenty minute sessions every day for two months.  WHEW!  After two months, what did we get?  Perfect dogs!  Was it the trainer, the training, or the dog?  Or the combination?  It was amazing to get such great results.  Want to lose weight?  How about two sessions a day, 20 minutes every day of practice?  Making new, fresh, healthy food.  Shopping for food. Researching recipes.  Healthful restaurants.  Walking.  Practice, practice, practice!
  4. Dog training is about calm, assertive energy.  There is no room in dog training for fear, violence, or aggression.  This just produces fearful or aggressive dogs.  Calm and assertive energy creates respect and adoration.  After two months, our dogs (who were pretty good to begin with) ADORE US.  They listen, they are well behaved, and do great on leash (most of the time!)  Losing weight is also about calm, assertive energy.  Calmness and mindfulness inspire regulated blood sugar, and promote digestion and ease.  Assertion is necessary when confronted with those people, places and things that sabotage our progress.  Be a food whisperer!!
  5. Dog training is about forgiveness. 
    Dog Training - and Weight Loss - is about Forgiveness

    Dog Training – and Weight Loss – is about Forgiveness

    Forget about all the things that your dog did wrong.  It doesn’t matter, since every walk, every training activity, every day with your dog is a new one.  Does your dog chase bunnies? Forget it, forgive your dog, and move on.  Don’t flinch every time you see a bunny!  Just use your calm, assertive energy and move forward. Losing weight is about forgiveness, too.  Sustainable weight loss takes time, patience and practice.  We will succeed only if we can find the capacity to forgive ourselves for each slip, lapse of judgment, or any time we turn toward food and away from ourselves.  Be dog like.  Forgive, learn, and move on.

    Need a weight whisperer to help you on your journey?  Contact me.  With nearly 30 years experience helping people of all ages lose weight and improve health, I know what works.  I can’t wait to hear from you!

Sustainable Living and Mindful Eating

Sustainable Living and Mindful Eating is the name of the course I am teaching at Arizona State University.   I wrote the book and it is currently available from the publisher.

The book that is inspiring a movement!

The book that is Inspiring a movement!

Based on scientific nutrition information, students are learning about the industrialized food system, highly processed foods and their effect on our brains, moods, and appetites.  They hear from local and national experts generously speaking about how our food system works.  Last semester, they learned about CAFO’s and how animal protein is raised in this country.  Do YOU know that 98% of all animal protein consumed in this country comes from a CAFO, where animals live and die in misery?  My students didn’t know that either.  They learn how to put together three days of healthy meals on a budget.  Some students ate for $1.45 a meal!


Comments from students on Sustainable Living and Mindful Eating:

Life changing learning.  Judge for yourself.

“Research studies quoted by guest speakers are interesting, especially the connection between recovery time and a plant based diet.”

“I really want to inspire my dad to move towards plant based eating because of his disease.”

“I think that plant based eating program for diabetic patients is astounding.”

“It is very encouraging to hear from a Physician Assistant that a plant-based diet actually can heal your body.”

“I learned how changing your diet can help prevent diseases.”

In addition to learning about the benefits of a mostly plant based diet, they learned how their moods affect their eating.  They learned the practice of Mindful Eating, and how to establish a mindfulness practice.  Some comments:

“Whenever I have a busy day and don’t stop to take a break to eat, I overeat at night.  I get to a point of being too hungry that I indulge when I finally get the chance.”

“Sometimes I feel that I need to have something sweet to eat every day.”

“I need to pay attention to my mindful eating so I don’t feel that its ok because it can count as my carbs.  I choose to pay more attention to this habit.”

“Whenever I make pasta I make the entire box, so I can have leftovers.  Well, instead of spacing out my meals over the next few days I tend to eat the pasta:  breakfast, lunch and dinner until its gone.  I also don’t always add sides to the bowls of pasta, so it is straight pasta!  It is a really bad habit!!”

It is truly life changing to notice how habits affect your eating.  This can help you improve your health, and even lose weight!  You may not be able to take the course, but you can buy the book.  Contact me for more information.

Your Diet and Breast Cancer – What’s your risk??

Sesame Kale

Your Diet and Breast Cancer – eat to improve your recovery, prevent a relapse, protect from illness

In recognition of National Breast Cancer Awareness Month, we focus in October on the second-most common cancer among women in the United States. In 2015 alone, an estimated 200,000 new cases of breast cancer will be diagnosed, and 50,000 U.S. women are expected to die from the disease. However, in the same year more than 2.5 million will survive due to improved treatment outcomes.

Factors that affect cancer risk

While there are many factors that influence your chance of getting cancer, scientists believe nutrition has a major impact. Over 30 years ago, the National Research Council published a report called Diet, Nutrition, and Cancer, showing the evidence then available linking specific dietary factors to cancer of the breast and other organs. Research since then has only confirmed the strong connection between diet, cancer and survival outcomes.

Breast Cancer by Geography

For instance, in Asian countries such as Japan, we see low rates of breast cancer, while Western countries have cancer rates that are many times higher. The protective difference is thought to be the traditional Japanese diet, which is low in fat and primarily plant-based. By comparison, the standard American diet is centered on animal products, leading Americans to overeat fat and under consume other important nutrients. Diets that are low in animal fat but high in fiber, carbohydrates and vitamin A seem to help cancer prognosis. For reasons that are not entirely clear, vegetables and fruits, and the vitamins they contain, help keep the cells of the body in better working order. Vegetables and fruits are not only important to help to prevent cancer, but also to improve outcomes following treatment.

Foods that Prevent Cancer

While no one food can prevent or cure cancer, the combination of foods you choose to eat seems to make a difference. Experts recommend a predominantly plant-based diet including a variety of vegetables, fruits and whole grains. A plant-based diet means eating mostly foods that come from plants: vegetables, fruits, nuts, grains and beans. Plant-based foods are cancer-fighting powerhouses because they have less fat, more fiber and more cancer-fighting nutrients. These three elements work together in a synergistic way, supporting your immune system and helping your body fight off and recover from cancer.

Shifting to a more plant-based diet is simple!

Choose unprocessed foods, close to their original form. For a visual reminder, think of filling a plate at least two-thirds full of whole grains, beans, vegetables and fruit.

Use these tips to enjoy more plant-based foods:

  • Breakfast: Add fruit and a few seeds or nuts to whole grain breakfast cereal  such as oatmeal.
  • Lunch: Eat a big salad filled with beans, peas and combinations of veggies. Pile extra lettuce and tomato (plus any other veggies you can!) on sandwiches. Choose whole grain bread. Enjoy a side of veggies: Suggestions include carrots, sauerkraut and cherry tomatoes.
  • Snacks: Choose fresh fruit and vegetables. Grab an apple or banana for snacking. Raw veggies such as carrots, celery, cucumbers, jicama and peppers are excellent with a dip such as hummus. Make trail mix with nuts, seeds and a little dried fruit, and eat in modest amounts (suggested serving ¼ cup).
  • Dinner: Add fresh or frozen veggies to pasta sauce or rice dishes.  Or top a baked potato with broccoli and low-fat yogurt, sautéed veggies or salsa. Replace creamy pasta sauces with sautéed vegetables or tomato sauce made with healthy olive oil.
  • Dessert: Choose fresh fruit topped with Greek yogurt drizzled with maple syrup. A single square of dark chocolate is a healthy indulgence!

Enjoy this easy recipe featuring cancer-fighting dark green leafy kale, which is loaded with vitamins, minerals and fiber. Plus, you’ll get added flavor from garlic, sea vegetables and sesame oil, which also are powerful cancer preventers. Enjoy this recipe hot or chilled.

Sesame Kale

1 large bunch kale
2 cloves minced garlic
2 teaspoons sesame seed oil
2 tablespoons water
1 teaspoon reduced-sodium soy sauce
2 teaspoons toasted organic sesame seeds
1/8 cup dried sea vegetables (optional)

Prepare sea vegetables per package directions. Mince garlic. Wash kale, strip the leaves from the spines and tear into bite-size pieces. Heat sesame oil to medium; add garlic and sauté until lightly browned.  Add kale, sea vegetables, water and soy sauce and cook until kale is just wilted, approximately 2 minutes. Be sure not to overcook. Add sesame seeds and serve.

Nutrition information: Calories per serving (1 cup): 181; Total Fat 12.6g; Sodium 311 mg; Total Carbohydrates 14.8 g; Protein 5.0 g; Dietary Fiber 2.9 g; Sugars 2.2 g; provides 181% daily RDA for Vitamin A; 24% Calcium.

The healing power of plants

“Let food be thy medicine and medicine be thy food”–HippocratesThe Healing Power of Plants

The father of modern medicine scribed these words nearly 2,500 years ago. The words of Hippocrates have been used to communicate how a connection with nature through a relationship with food can provide health benefits far beyond any other type of “prescription”. Seen through this lens, eating is an intimate way to extract life-sustaining energy from Mother Nature. 

Sustainable Living & Mindful Eating

Cover photoHow do you want to spend the rest of your life?  Whether its traveling, spending time with your loved ones, living out your passions, or even climbing Mt. Everest, what you eat and how you eat can help you get there.  It also can help the planet, too!  

What is Mindfulness?

Mindfulness is paying attention to the present moment without judgment.  Here is a cool way to learn more about it and why it’s important: