Living a Healthy and Peaceful Life

February 11, 2014

As a cooking teacher I get asked a lot of questions about food and health. My conclusion? People are so confused. Each day we hear statistics that are scarier than anything that Stephen King could imagine. So now we’re not only confused, we’re scared witless about what to eat!

Organic, non-organic, local, commercial, GMO’s, farm fresh, natural…it feels as though you need to be a rocket scientist to grocery shop. And then, after all that, the food will still not taste good and you’ve given up all the ‘fun stuff.’

Well, what if I told you that it’s simple, delicious and totally relaxing to eat foods that will nourish your body and soul, help you achieve your ideal weight, live peacefully and compassionately, and slip right past all the obstacles that keep you from making healthy choices?” Yeah right,” you say? “Hah,” I say.

It all starts with your brain. Positive thinking can change everything for you, but is not so easy to achieve and maintain. We live in a culture that sets us up for failure and cashes in on our insecurities. Every television ad we see is telling us that we are losers, but if we buy their pills, perfume, lotion, burger, drink, mouthwash, clothes or car, we will be sane, sexy, smart, funny, healthy, fit and thin. These messages reinforce the notion that we cannot be whole, complete humans without their stuff.

I’m saying re-think everything – and then change what you need to. But change is hard, especially when it comes to breaking a lifetime of bad habits.

Habits form in the brain. (I told you…). When we do something repetitively, our brains and bodies go into auto-pilot, functioning without much thought. Mindless eating and unconscious living means we eat too much – and too much of all the wrong things, exercise too little, and depend on pharmaceuticals to keep us up and keep us down. We get into a rut. Our life becomes routine, replete with habits that are not contributing to our health and wellness, so we have to give ourselves a good shaking up or we’ll continue in this downward spiral that is typical of our culture of indulgence and convenience that is eating us alive.

Letting old habits fade and new ones take their place starts with developing a positive vision of the outcome you want. If you think that you can’t do something, then you probably can’t do it. I remember something very valuable that a swim coach said to me when we were training hard and fast interval drills. He said, ‘Stop telling yourself that you can’t do this.’ And when I did that, I swam like never before. To move forward, you must ask yourself what your life will be like as you change. How will your life be enhanced? Your mind is a powerful tool. Use it to your advantage.

New and healthy habits can be created by re-programming yourself and taking your brain off auto-pilot. The key to lasting weight loss and health is to simply reinforce a new practice. But here is the cool thing: Whatever actions you take and repeat will become automatic in a mere twenty-one days. Just as your present lifestyle may be killing you now, it can quickly be turned around to become your source of strength, health, and fitness.

Bottom line: If you live within twenty miles of a supermarket, you can make healthy choices. Because of consumer demand and the press, healthier options have been made available on just about every supermarket shelf. From extra virgin olive oils to organic produce, tofu, tempeh and other vegetarian and vegan options, you don’t need to go on a pilgrimage to make better choices for your day to day eating.

If you live within a mile of a gym, go to it. But if that’s not your cup of coconut water then grab a pair of shoes and take a walk. Just moving your body in the most simple and natural of ways will improve your health and make you want to be stronger and fitter…gym or no gym. You will seek out ways to be more active, to push your body’s endurance and stamina. Whether it’s yoga, group cycling, walking, running, calisthenics, boot camp, gardening…get moving.

Here’s a high-energy recipe designed to show off the pure yumminess of natural eating. It’s perfect for after a good, hard workout.

Braised Tofu with Spring Greens and Pineapple Curry Vinaigrette
Makes 2 servings

Pineapple Curry Vinaigrette
3 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
1 teaspoon curry powder
_ teaspoon ground cumin
_ teaspoon sea salt
Cracked black pepper
_ cup fresh pineapple juice
2 tablespoons red wine vinegar
3 scallions, finely minced

Braised Tofu
2 teaspoons avocado oil
2 teaspoons soy sauce
2 teaspoons brown rice syrup
_ teaspoon curry powder
Scant pinch chili powder
8 ounces extra-firm tofu, cut into 6 slices

Spring Greens
2 cups organic baby spring greens
1 small cucumber, cut into fine julienne pieces
1/3 cup fine julienne pieces fresh daikon

Make the vinaigrette: Place oil, curry powder, cumin, salt and pepper in a small skillet and cook, stirring, over low heat until fragrant, about 2 minutes. This brings out the curry powder’s heat. Remove from heat and whisk in remaining ingredients. Set aside to cool and to allow flavors to develop.

Prepare the tofu: Combine oil, soy sauce, syrup, curry powder and chili powder in a saucepan over medium heat. Stir to combine ingredients and when the oil is hot, pat tofu slices dry with a kitchen towel and arrange them in the hot oil. Cook until browned, 2 to 3 minutes. Turn and brown on the other side.

While the tofu cooks, prepare the salad greens: Combine greens with cucumber and daikon in a large bowl. Toss with vinaigrette to coat and arrange salad on a shallow platter. Arrange tofu slices on top and serve immediately.