I am asked these questions around food and eating quite frequently:
What is the healthiest way to eat?
You aren’t going to tell me I have to be vegetarian or vegan to heal my health problems?
What happened to you?!… You were vegan, you had it so right, why did you change?
Just what is healthy eating? Ask that question of 10 different people and you will probably get 10 different answers… some spewed forth with the enthusiasm of a food fanatic. Hey, I only say this as I know, I could be mildly fanatic in my hey day.
I am grateful for age, wisdom, and my more laid back attitude (Thank you very much yoga). I am now more careful where and when I say my famous quote: “I wouldn’t feed that crap to my dog.” Which honestly is an insult to my dog, any dog. I have since replaced dog in that statement with my compost pile fully realizing it is an insult to my compost pile’s amazing bio-diversity and work on this planet. *Why feed my compost pile junk food, GMOs, non-organic crap? I don’t want that cycling back around into my garden plot OR worrying about the wild animals who eat out of the pile (including my dog!) and would be getting less than whole food choices. Yup, see I can be a zealot.
20+ years ago when I returned to Northern NY, my home (I grew up in Brasher Falls), I was vegan and had been for 5-6 years. Truthfully, I thought I would starve to death up here. I quickly found Nature’s Storehouse, The Potsdam Food Coop, and Birdsfoot Farm (I believe Birdsfoot was the only organic produce farm in the area at the time).
So, what made me toss aside my vegan ways, turn back the clock on my omnivorous eating? It was a circling back of wisdom I already held within.
1. I was pregnant, 33, always hungry, and dreaming of my Mom’s roast beef dinner, venison stew, and chicken and dumplings. Listen to your body. I did! Our bodies have a wisdom as deep and pure as the earth is old. I listened (with a little encouragement from my Dad that I would not rot in hell for eating meat AND he was worried about his grandson who was hanging out in my uterus at that time). Even my 100% whole food vegan diet, no packaged fake meats and cheese… processed food is processed food, was not supporting my pregnancy well.
2. A Wise Woman Native American made a simple statement to me one day (this was before I was pregnant), as we were talking about vegan eating, that brought me full circle back to the wisdom I already held within: “Everything you eat must die for you.”
Over the years this statement has held strength with me. Everything on this planet holds spirit in its being: plants, animals, the water, air, fire, the Earth herself. When we pull a carrot from the ground we are essentially birthing that carrot from its Mother, Mother Earth. That carrot is alive, alive with life force energy. The carrots roots are its umbilical cord to the uterus that was sustaining it, again, Mother Earth. Life force energy is spirit. To eat we must take a life. Who am I, as a human, to be placing higher value on one life over another. In the great web of life, all beings on this planet are required to balance out all others, all beings are equal.
Eating, actually everything we do on this planet, is a gift we receive from the Earth. Gratitude, deep and sincere gratitude, is a gift we give back to honor all the beings we use for food, medicine, building homes, driving cars, stuff we buy and own, etc. all which comes from Mother Earth.
Yes, there is more to the story but this is enough for now.
As a kid, I knew this deep life force energy of all things. Kids just do. Trees and plants have always held special energy for me (they do for everyone). I spent hours of my summer up in trees: reading books, eating meals and snacks, lounging back against a sturdy trunk to drink my quart of Homestead Dairy’s chocolate milk after school, and taking naps sprawled belly down across the length of a branch with my arms and legs dangling. I had favorite maple and white pine trees for climbing and “living” in. I had a favorite white pine for napping under: the years had piled brown needles under her branches and she faced south. Who could resist such a warm and fragrant bed? I would take my faithful friend Buster (a lop eared beagle), books, and water and head through the fields and woods to get to this pine tree a few miles from my home. Buster and I would camp out: me reading and napping in the fragrant, warm, brown pine needles with the south sun shining on me and Buster terrorizing the small animals of the woods until he was tired and napped next to me.
This deep life force energy of all things… we are culturally trained to forget it. So it was easy for me to think that the only lives I was eating that mattered were the animals. Coming full circle… the life force energy, spirit, in everything matters. (I still eat, enjoy, and am grateful for many vegetarian & vegan meals every week. Is not a meal of butter vegetarian? A meal of dark chocolate vegan?)
What are my healthy eating recommendations?
100% whole foods
Grown and raised as close to home as possible, this means eating seasonally
Eat only what you need to sustain yourself, over indulgence of anything is over indulgence
If you know a food does not make you feel vibrant… don’t eat it
A food that makes you soar with happiness & energy? Eat it… well, if it is whole. Dunkin Donuts® do not count here.
Be deeply grateful for every bite: grateful to the food, the Earth that nurtured the food, the farmers that worked hard to bring that food forth to your plate, fork, & table, the person shopping & cooking for you…
Show your gratitude by eating in peace, chewing slowly & thoroughly so your digestive tract can do the work to bring the Earth’s nourishment to every cell in your body
As We Express Our Gratitude,
We Must Never Forget That The Highest Appreciation
Is Not To Utter Words,
But To Live By Them. John F. Kennedy
Native American Gratitude Prayer
We thank Great Spirit for the resources that made this food possible;
we thank the Earth Mother for producing it,
and we thank all those who labored to bring it to us.
May the wholesomeness of the food before us, bring out the wholeness of the Spirit within us.
*Any food you eat should have been grown with healthy, sustainable, biodynamic principles in mind: How was this food fed? If a food, plant or animal based, was fed healthy food… its cells will be well nourished and therefore capable of nourishing your cells. If a food you were eating was fed less than whole food, that food will have less than whole nourished cells, and will be incapable of fully nourishing your body.
Paula Youmell, RN, Wise Woman Nurse® is a private practice, Functional Medicine-Natural Health Educator (trained in various other fun things) attempting to nourish everyone healthy without dragging them kicking and screaming into their lifestyle changes.