Real food for real people

One of my famous breakfast fritata’s filled with whole food

I happened upon an old Oprah show this morning. The topic was about food, specifically being mindful about what we put in our mouth. The entire Oprah staff was offered the opportunity to go vegan for a week as a process of becoming mindful about food. I was thrilled that she had Michael Pollan as one of her guests, plus a food writer who has gone vegan.

I’m not the sort of person who easily worships personalities, but I have a lot of time for Oprah and for Michael Pollan. I read his book “In Defense of Food” a couple of years ago and it is up there on my Top Ten List of Books that have Rocked My World. His concept that in today’s world we don’t so much eat food as eat food-like substances really startled me and started me on a pathway of improving an already well above average mode of eating.

Pollan’s notion that the closer to the ‘original’ form of food that we eat, the healthier we will be is an important one. I’ve always been a cook and have tended to eat food cooked from scratch, but Pollan’s ideas have helped me clean up the hidden corners of over processed food that were still present in my dining life.

So I had to laugh as I watched the vegan expert help one of Oprah’s staff with her shopping. Where did they head? To the parts of the grocery store that were chock-a-block filled with highly processed foods that were vegan. Soybeans processed to within an inch of their lives before being turned into ‘food-like substances’: pretend sausages, chicken breasts, hamburger, etc., etc., etc. I was stunned that nobody seemed to notice the incongruity of promoting these ‘food like substances’ as part of a healthy diet. Sure they provide protein, but at what cost? They have to be filled with artificial colourings and preservatives to make them have any shelf life, to say nothing of the amount of plastic and cardboard packaging they require. I found myself wondering if, beyond ideology, these types of food products really have much to offer us.

I can’t believe that in the long run ‘pretend meats’ are any better for you than a well raised piece of beef or chicken, given how processed they are and the number of chemicals that are undoubtedly present in them.

So it was a good reminder to me to never forget the big picture. Rather than getting lost in the details of whether something is animal, vegetable or mineral, I was reminded how important it is to keep in mind how much has been done to a product before it passes my lips. How ‘real’ is the substance that I’m chowing down on compared to the original format of the ingredients involved?

Now that feels like it will help us all eat the real food that we very ‘real’ people need in order to remain hale & hearty for an entire lifetime.

Nothing to say?

My friends and clients would tell you that I am not a person who has nothing to say. So I find it interesting that this blog seems to have turned into an annual posting of where I’m at! Strange, that. So unlike me. But I continue to age disgracefully, doing things that older women aren’t supposed to, exploring life, living life large.

As I talked with a friend this morning it dawned on me that it would be more useful for me to take a few moments after I have one of my regular chats with my 3-4 very close friends and create a blog post about either what we talked about or what surfaced in my Self awareness during the discussion.

Today’s chat was interesting because my friend is someone who invests very heavily in traditional approaches to getting fit and losing weight and yet isn’t ever able to lose the weight that he lugs around. We share the fact that we are both overweight. But where he swims, walks, uses the treadmill religiously and heads off to one diet program or another each week (it’s Weight Watchers at the moment) his shape never seems to change a whole lot. He expressed his admiration for the fact that I do marginal exercise, don’t follow any kind of diet except for eating whole foods and cooking everything I eat from scratch, and yet seem very hale and hearty.

Indeed, that’s how I experience myself most of the time. I very seldom ever get sick, and when I do I’m not down for long. I take no meds other than a couple of vitamins and I’m still quite strong. Now, I have begun a regular stretching routine that I do pretty religiously because I was starting to find that I was ‘seizing up’ in the joints. I felt like my brain was getting as inflexible as my hips so that was a big incentive to return to some gentle yoga.

Chasing a good photo is one of my best invitations to get out and move! Here I am at Amoreira Beach, Algarve, Portugal

I could probably do more in the cardio department but I’ve discovered that I’m one of those people who respond better to having an active life than to doing exercise. In summers for me that means camping. Hauling my little trailer around, setting up camp, breaking down camp, going for walks, schlepping water all make a big difference. In winter I spend a lot of time in Portugal where I walk all the time. And when I’m in Nova Scotia during winter, I love to head out to its many wild beaches looking for beach glass, driftwood and other great finds. I’ve been amazed at how my body feels so much more robust with just those activities.

So I do have something to say today and that is that remaining active, in whatever form feels right for you, is important. Doing the traditional ‘fitness’ routine just about kills me simply because it is a ‘routine’. In part, I love my life because each day is different than the one before it. And having discovered that being active, for me, is my way of staying fit has been one of those small but important discoveries that shifts staying fit from being drudgery to being fun.