Thursday, March 10, 2011

How I Finally Got on the Raw Food Bandwagon

I first heard about Raw Foods back in 2005 when I was studying at the Institute for Integrative Nutrition in New York City. You can learn more about IIN and my nutrition training by clicking here. One of the unique things about the school is it’s philosophy: there is no one diet that is right for everyone. And so IIN aims to educate its students about a variety of dietary theories (versus other schools that focus on teaching one specific way to eat). Raw foods was but only one of the dietary theories we studied.

For three hours, David Wolfe, the darling of the Raw Food movement, inspired us all with the amazing health benefits of eating raw. For the uninitiated, a raw foods diet consists of unprocessed raw vegan foods that have not been heated above 115 degrees Fahrenheit (46 degrees Celsius). "Raw foodists" believe that foods cooked above this temperature have lost their enzymes and thus a significant amount of their nutritional value and are harmful to the body, whereas uncooked foods provide living enzymes and proper nutrition. Proponents of a raw food diet claim that there are many benefits to eating raw foods, including weight loss, more energy, clear skin, improved digestion and improved overall health. Who doesn’t want that??

But it was December, in New York. It was cold. I was pregnant at the time. I just could not fathom skipping soup, or cooked quinoa, or black beans, or tea. Or chicken on Shabbat. Among my other reasons for resisting going raw: I don’t normally eat a lot of fruit. Eating a lot of exotic fruits and superfoods from far away places went against the “eat locally” philosophy. And I felt like I was cheating on my macrobiotic roots. (Macrobiotics is a dietary theory stressing the importance of cooked foods!)

So, I added some raw cacao and goji berries to my diet (not much of a sacrifice-let me tell you!) and that was about as far as raw foods and I went.

Fast forward almost three years: my husband and I are headed off to Miami for a much needed mid-winter weekend getaway without kids. I’m feeling burnt out by winter; run down and frazzled. He buys me a few magazines for the journey, one of which is a raw foods lifestyle mag. All the folks featured in the magazine looked radiant; they were so healthy they were practically glowing. I was totally inspired and intrigued by raw foods, but not yet completely won over.

Fast forward another year and a half. Now we’re living in Israel, enjoying warmer weather year round. The shift to include more raw foods in my diet feels natural, organic, and inevitable. Suddenly, opportunities to learn hands-on techniques for incorporating more raw foods into my diet present themselves. Not nursing or pregnant for the first time in nearly 10 years, I do a major detox, eating mostly raw foods for a month. I start sprouting, pickling and fermenting, and juicing. I make smoothies, soak nuts and seeds and and turn them into nut milks and raw pates. While I would never claim to be a raw foodist, I can say now that I eat a high percentage of raw, vegan, unprocessed food, most of which I make myself. And, I feel great.

This slow acceptance of more raw foods into my diet was the right way for me; perhaps it’s more your style to go full throttle straight away. But for me, the changes I adopted feel right, and more importantly, like they are here to stay. I still eat cooked food, and I’m not at all a vegan, but I’m grateful for the folks who taught me about raw foods the techniques to prepare them simply at home.

In my effort to pay it forward, and share the raw food love, I invite you all to a hands on workshop at my house this Sunday evening, March 13th. Join me at 8:30pm to learn why sprouts are a great first step to eating more “live” foods, how to make sprout in your own kitchen, and how to serve up sprouts so even the pickiest of eaters will enjoy them. Your investment: 55 nis.

Feeling intimidated by raw foods? Click here to clear up any myths about a raw food diet.

Friday, March 4, 2011

Too Much On Our Plates…

We’ve all heard this phrase before (or the related expression “my plate is too full”). Mostly we’re referring here not to our literal plate, though it’s often the case that indeed, we do have too much to eat. I’ll come back to the food later; for now, I’d like to focus on the metaphor.

When we say we have “too much on our plates”, we really mean that we are inundated, often drowning, in our responsibilities and obligations: work, family, household, community, relationships, etc. We simply can’t handle one more thing; there is literally no more space, no more energy to spare. We’re overworked and overwhelmed, and for many of us, this leads to overeating!

I first heard this idea several years back from Hale Sofia Schatz. If you’ve not read her excellent book If the Buddha Came to Dinner: How to Nourish Your Body and Awaken Your Spirit I highly suggest you do so soon. Reading the book and participating in a cleanse with Hale was transformative for me personally and professionally. She’s one of those gentle, soft spoken powerhouse women. Check her our at

Anyway, recently this idea of too much on our plates came around again when I stumbled upon the website of Dr. Melissa McCreery. Dr. McCreery specializes in emotional eating and offers solutions for women “struggling with food, weight, and overwhelm”. Last week I listened to a free teleseminar entitled “3 Emotional Eating Triggers You May be Overlooking”. Wow. Powerful stuff. You can visit her site and dowload the teleseminar. Dr. McCreery specializes in emotional eating and to get access to the teleseminar and other free goodies, but I’ll summarize the 3 main points here.

According to Dr. McCreery, the three things that trigger many of us to overeat are:
1. perfectionism
2. anger
3. lack of sleep
Allow me to elaborate just a little bit on each of these three triggers.

Perfectionism is seeing things in “black and white”. We’re either good enough, or we’re awful. We’re eating really well (“being good”), or we’re grabbing the leftovers off our kids’ plates and scarfing sweets late at night. When we’re in perfectionist mode, we are judging ourselves all the time, and we don’t allow ourselves to experience our innate goodness. This rigid view can keep us stuck from making lasting changes in our eating and our lives. Her solution for moving beyond perfectionism? “Acknowledge it, look for it, label it, and start reminding yourself that it is not helpful.” Perfectionism is not a virtue, and there is no such thing as a “perfect diet”!!

We’re not speaking here about rage; but rather the low-level, insiduous irritation, frustration, sense of unfairness, or anxiety that many of us experience on a daily basis. We’re often uncomfortable with these feelings, and unsure of how to process them. So, we use to food to soothe ourselves; we literally swallow our anger! If we learn to cope with and express our anger directly and with compassion and kindness, then we won’t need to turn to food.

Lack of Sleep
Wow. As someone who has been fairly consistently sleep deprived for over a decade, this one blew me away! According to Dr. McCreery, sleep deprivation (which she defines as 5 hours of sleep or less a night) contributes to us being less effective, less focused, more irritable, more stressed, more overwhelmed, more hungry and weighing more!! Simply put, lack of sleep drives hunger. When we’re tired, we often turn to unhealthy foods to give us energy, lift our mood, or simply keep us awake!

Sleep deprivation causes a decrease in levels of the hormone leptin, which tells us we are full, and increases levels of a hormone called grayling, which tells us to eat. Not only that, sleep deprivation can predispose us to gain weight by affecting our metabolism, regardless of what or how much we are eating. Startling facts, indeed. But the resolution is simple: getting 7 ½ to 8 hours of sleep a night can help us transform our relationship with food permanently.

Which one of these 3 emotional eating triggers affects you the most? I’d love to hear about your experiences, your goals, and your successes.

To close, a quote from If the Buddha Came to Dinner:

Not only are our plates to full, our bodies are too full, our houses and calendars and just about everything else in our loves are too full…This excess creates confusion. Anytime there’s excess, we can’t think straight, feel straight, or know what kind of nourishment we need to receive from moment to moment. To receive nourishment, we need to make space, and making space means perpetually letting go of that which is no longer necessary.” Hale Sofia Schatz

What can you let go of right now??