My Trip to The Seed

MindBodyPlate trip to The Seed

On my way to The Seed 2014 food festival in Soho, NYC

Last weekend I had the pleasure of attending a vegan trade show held in New York City’s Soho neighborhood with fellow foodie and friend Dr. Emma Basch, PsyD. This event was put on by The Seed, a plant-based lifestyle company here in NYC. It was the second of such events I’ve attended with Dr. Basch, and I can’t imagine it will be the last. After all, what’s better than spending an afternoon snacking your way through stall after stall of innovative, tasty, veggie centric food — and with a brilliant partner-in-crime, no less?

MBP at The Seed Food Festival

Emma and I on the red carpet at The Seed: Positively Plant Based food festival in Soho, NYC

MindBodyPlate isn’t quite “on the radar” yet, so it’s not as though I had a special press pass or speaking engagement. I was just one of the throng, meeting culinary creatives and lifestyle educators along with the rest. But that’s no reason not to report back to you guys! After all, I came across some really groovy new food items, and I’d love to share them with you.

The style of this post is in no small way inspired by two of my blog-spirations, Oh She Glows and Choosing Raw. Angela and Gena are incredible bloggers, and their recaps of various festivals and events are no exception. Keep in mind that these reviews and opinions are my own, and that I’m in no way being compensated by the companies discussed. It’s just for fun… and maybe you’ll spot the products in a store near you!

Seed Festival Picks | MindBodyPlate

1) I’m just gonna jump right in and start with my absolute favorite product from the show. Ortaggi makes a “frozen organic health snack made from vegetables with hints of delicate herbs and refreshing fruit juices.” In other words, it’s sorbet – with veggies! These treats may be packed with nutritional powerhouses, but they are perfectly sweet, intriguingly complex, and very refreshing. I loved the “spinach + kale with celery” flavor (no really, loved it!), and thought the “celery + cucumber with basil” was pretty decent too. I’d like to get my hands on the “red pepper + peach” or “beet + tangerine” flavors – they look amazing! Not sure when these tasty treats will be headed to a store near you, so keep your eyes peeled!

2) I’ve never been much of a ‘chips’ person, so I was surprised to find that I like these chips… a lot. Beanfields is a family owned company that makes bean and rice chips in a variety of appealing flavors. Though the ingredient lists get a little long for my taste on some of the more complex flavors, I was happy to see that the classic sea salt flavor used just five ingredients: black beans, navy beans, long grain rice, safflower or sunflower oil, and sea salt. The Beanfields company is committed to environmental sustainability and eschewing the use of genetically modified crops. A one ounce serving of their snack contains 4 grams of protein and another 4 grams of fiber. And you guys… they’re seriously tasty.

3) Speaking of interesting ways to use beans, Explore Asian’s line of bean-based pasta is a total home run. These noodles are certified gluten free and USDA organic; moreover, they are delicious and have an appropriately pasta-like consistency. They have four flavors (black bean spaghetti, mung bean fettuccine, adzuki bean spaghetti, and soybean spaghetti), each comprised of just two ingredients: beans and water. I personally wouldn’t recommend the soybean flavor, as un-fermented soy is notoriously difficult to digest, but the remaining three flavors are the perfect way to spice up your old pasta routine – and add protein to boot!

4) There were a great many pieces of handmade art for sale at the festival. I really liked this one, but failed to get the artist’s name. However, their signature is in the lower right hand corner, and I thought the sentiment well worth sharing.

5) Most interesting find of the day went to Our True Roots, a company attempting to popularize the edible tubers known as Tiger Nuts. Tiger nuts, also known as earth almonds (Latin name Cyperus esculentus), are a crop known to have been cultivated by the Egyptians as early as the fourth millennium BC. They have a nutty, ever so slightly sweet flavor and are traditionally used to make a horchata-like drink. I tried a few “nuts” and was pleasantly surprised! I imagine they’d be a great way to boost the fiber content of your trail mix.

Gold and Glow Peanut Butter Cookie Smoothie | MindBodyPlate

The coolest part of the day by far was meeting a fellow graduate of my school, the Institute for Integrative Nutrition. Maria Marlowe is a certified health coach, speaker, and author who was at the trade show to advertise her new line of plant-based, dairy-free, soy-free smoothie mixes under the moniker Gold & Glow. The product has such integrity and the flavors are beyond delicious. It was so inspiring to see a fellow IIN grad shine like that. I brought home a bag of “Enlightened Energy Organic Superfood Smoothie Mix,” an expert blend of  hemp, maca, oats, cinnamon, & ginger. I’ve been using it to create a to-die-for smoothie that tastes like a peanut butter cookie and a snickerdoodle had a baby. I don’t know when her product will be available, but keep your eyes peeled — cause it’s the bomb.

Hope you enjoyed this recap of The Seed vegan trade show! Maybe someday I’ll be more than just a passive observer, but for now it’s a helluva way to spend a Saturday.

MBP VIP Mary Lambert

Everyone, no everyone, should see this art. Mary is beautiful and so are you.

T is for Thinking (That’s Good Enough for Me)

Do you ever think about how you think?

This is the topic explored by Nobel Prize winner Daniel Kahneman in his New York Times Bestseller Thinking Fast and Slow. In it, Kahneman illustrates that we have two distinct systems responsible for the way we think: System 1 is quick, intuitive, and often emotional; System 2 moves more slowly – it requires deliberate effort and is more logical.

When a drug addled homeless guy bum rushes you out of nowhere with hands outstretched towards your boobs and in a split second you somehow dart out of the way just in time without getting hit by a yellow cab – that’s System 1 in action. When I ask you to multiply 137 and 14 right now in your head – that’s System 2. Got it?

Encre L. Marquet Ad by Eugène Grasset

Encre L. Marquet Ad by Eugène Grasset

The answer’s 1,918, if you’re interested.

So it turns out that when the deliberative System 2 is busy, the impulsive System 1 has more of an influence on behavior than it might otherwise. In fact, a slew of psychological studies illustrate that when people are preoccupied with a “demanding cognitive task” they become more susceptible to temptation. Kahneman explains,

“Imagine that you are asked to retain a list of seven digits for a minute or two. You are told that remembering the digits is your top priority. While your attention is focused on the digits, you are offered a choice between two desserts: a sinful chocolate cake and a virtuous fruit salad. The evidence suggests that you would be more likely to select the tempting chocolate cake when your mind is loaded with digits. System 1 has more influence on behavior when System 2 is busy, and it has a sweet tooth.”

So why is this important?

Because it illustrates precisely why we tend to make poor food choices when we’re overtaxed and why relaxed mindfulness can help us make better choices in order to maintain a healthy weight.

Making positive choices for your body and mind requires mental effort, and those efforts can be easily thwarted when your brain is preoccupied with other demanding cognitive tasks. One of the ways we can override that tendency is by pausing to take stock of our present reality. When we do, we make sure that our impulsive System 1 doesn’t run off to the races (with an entire cookie jar).

columboSo how about a real life scenario: here I am sitting at my desk trying to finish this blog post. I’m struggling a bit, because now I’m at the part in the blog where I have to make a cogent point and wrap it up nicely. I can tell that it’s asking a lot of my System 2, the part of my brain that requires deliberate effort. Not coincidentally, I can’t stop thinking about the Kale Oatmeal Raisin Cookie in my purse across the room (you guys, it’s actually sinfully good). See, while System 2 is preoccupied with this damn post, my instinctual lizard-brain (System 1) is like, “I’m sooooo tired and annoyed at all of this thinking. I need some quick energy. Yeah, something sweet would be just purrrfect. K thx.” And I’m not gonna lie: that voice is making a TON of sense right now.

But if I push back from the computer screen for a moment, if I set up my meditation bench and come back to myself, if I just breathe and take stock of my present reality and needs… I may give my System 2 a chance to speak up and offer its two cents. And it may say something like this:

“Hey SKF, I know that cookie sounds really good right now, but you just finished a big lunch of red quinoa, braised purple cabbage, garlic roasted tomatoes, hard boiled egg, and pumpkin seeds. It was such a delicious meal, and it was really filling! Actually, you don’t feel all that hungry right now. But you probably will in 3 hours or so! And won’t that be a lovely time to enjoy your cookie?”

OMG you’re totally right, System 2! I’m not even that hungry, not really. But I was getting kind of overstimulated finishing that blog. I’m so glad I took some time to relax and recharge!

What a paradox that mental health involves so much talking to yourself like a crazy person.

The takeaway, I think, is that this ‘two systems’ knowledge can help us identify why we’re having certain cravings at certain times. And the more we understand our cravings, the more agency we wield in our food choices.

talking to yourself like a crazy person | MindBodyPlateAnd guys, I’m literally only 10% done with this book. Hopefully, there will be some more MBP-worthy gems to share in the future. Yay!

Two Steps to Your Perfect Bikini Body

TGIF and Happy August 1st, everybody! Summer may be coming to a close, but it’s

NOT TOO LATE

to achieve your

BEST BIKINI BODY EVER!!!

These two miracle steps will unlock the bikini body you’ve been waiting for:

two step bikini body | Mucha | MindBodyPlate

Inspired by Alphonse Mucha and rendered by your very own SKF of MindBodyPlate

Good Food / Bad Food

New York Magazine recently featured a piece on orthorexia nervosa, the unhealthy obsession with eating only healthy or “correct” foods. The term isn’t officially recognized by the American Psychiatric Association, and some are skeptical that it has diagnostic criteria unique enough to warrant a separate designation, but I think it can be helpful in describing a specific kind of extreme attitude towards healthy eating.

beet leaves | MindBodyPlateWhile the behaviors of orthorexia may overlap with anorexia or bulimia, it’s the motivation behind the behaviors that are different. In the case of anorexia or bulimia, the underlying desire is to achieve thinness or weight loss; in the case of orthorexia, the desire is strictly (and paradoxically) to achieve optimal health.

So it doesn’t surprise me that those who are recovered from eating disorders are particularly susceptible to orthorexia. After overcoming a dangerously rigid set of unhealthy eating behaviors, it makes sense that one might get caught up in an equally rigid set of “healthy” ones.

there are no bad foods | MindBodyPlateWhether it’s in the DSM or not, I’m glad orthorexia is getting this kind of attention in the mainstream media. Ferocious commitment to dietary health is widely accepted and even encouraged in our culture, especially as we become more and more preoccupied with the “war on obesity”. As such, it’s important that we encourage mindfulness and dietary moderation with equal fervor.

The slippery slope of orthorexia is exactly why I spend ample time with my clients exploring how we improve our health & wellness and make more positive food choices without relying on the labeling of certain foods as inherently ‘bad’. As soon as we label foods good or bad, we enable the kind of extreme thinking that can lead to orthorexia.

foods are not inherently bad | MindBodyPlateWhat are your impressions of orthorexia nervosa? Should it be considered its own eating disorder? I’d love to know what you think.

Commitment Therapy / 7 Posts in 7 Days

Today brings my week-long blog writing challenge to a close. I’m feeling pretty groovy: proud that I accomplished what I set out to do and grateful for the outpouring of love and support from the MBP community.

butterfly lens flare - MindBodyPlate

When I started, I made the disclaimer that the posts “probably won’t all be home runs, but they will get written.” And yet I’m delighted to report that I truly poured my heart and soul into every single post and was proud to hit the publish button each time.

We talked about a lot this week:

A little mental health, a little physical health, and a little nutritional health: mind, body, plate.

There were days when I worried that I had nothing to write about. Then, usually over an almond milk iced latte at  my neighborhood coffee shop, I’d come up with a hook, with a little seed of a thought. And to my surprise, those seeds never failed to bloom into fully realized conversations.

Regardless of the quality of the work, what surprised me most about this process was the incredible energy I felt in response to carrying out a commitment. To say you’re going to do something and then actually decide to do it creates a kind of power inside of you, a kind of secret pride that actually makes more space for possibility, not less.

It’s addictive, in a way; perhaps commitment begets more commitment. For instance, five days ago, my husband and I began a new regimen of early morning runs. We’ve been up at 6:20 AM every single day, just making it happen. And now that this week-long challenge is finished, I’m wondering what new area of my life could use a little commitment therapy, as it were.

What area of your life could use a little commitment therapy? What’s the difference between saying you’re going to do something and then actually doing it? Let me know in the comments below. Thank you for a wonderful week!

Spiced Summer Slaw with Pistachios

spiced summer slaw - MindBodyPlate

It was a humid one in Brooklyn today. And after a short morning run with my husband, a 90 minute yoga class, and a sunny, mile-long walk home from the studio, I was feeling the heat. I needed something light, fresh, and cooling.

Enter my subtly spiced summer slaw with pistachios – a raw green cabbage dish with a delicate hint of coriander, celery seed, and nutmeg. It’s just the side dish for your next dinner party, BBQ, or picnic.

cabbage - MindBodyPlate

Ayurvedic wisdom tells us that coriander is a cooling spice, good for dissipating the excess pitta energy that tends to build within us during the summer months. This recipe asks you to warm it on the stove top with some extra virgin olive oil in order to bring out its unique flavor, a step that you can probably omit without much consequence if you’re stretched for time.

pistachios - MindBodyPlate

In case I haven’t made this clear before, I’ll say it again: I love sauce. The dressing for this slaw is designed to be rather abundant, so that each bite of cabbage will be fully saturated with flavor. If you don’t want your slaw to be a tad on the soupy side, you may wish to add more cabbage or refrain from using all the dressing.

spiced summer slaw - MindBodyPlate

Spiced Summer Slaw with Pistachios

Vegetarian / Gluten Free / Soy Free

Ingredients:

  • 6 c green cabbage, finely shredded (there’s more than enough in one small head)
  • 1 c yellow onion, finely diced (approximately one onion)
  • 1/2 – 3/4 c shelled pistachios, roughly chopped
  • 1/2 clove of fresh garlic
  • 1 c plain organic yogurt, from grass fed cows
  • 1/8 – 1/4 c champagne vinegar
  • 1/4 c extra virgin olive oil
  • 1 tsp coriander
  • 1 tsp celery salt
  • 1/8 tsp nutmeg
  • pepper to taste

Preparation:

  • Heat the olive oil and coriander on the stove top over low heat for approximately 5 minutes. Then turn off the heat and let cool completely.
  • Peel away and compost the outer leaves of the cabbage and rinse what remains thoroughly. Divide the head into wedges and finely shred them in a food processor (I like the pieces of cabbage to be quite small). Set 6 cups of shredded cabbage aside in a large bowl.
  • Finely dice one onion (ideally about 1 cup), and add to the bowl of shredded cabbage.
  • Add the cooled coriander-infused olive oil to a blender, along with the garlic, yogurt, vinegar, and remaining spices. Blend until incorporated.
  • Pour the finished dressing on the cabbage and onion mixture, add more pepper to taste, and stir in the roughly chopped pistachios (leave a few whole pistachios for garnish).
  • Stir thoroughly and refrigerate until serving. Can be made a day ahead of time, giving the flavors a chance to really mesh!

Serves 4

spiced summer slaw - MindBodyPlate

Whatever you do, don’t try to meditate

Have you ever taken time to meditate or sit quietly in the hopes that it would help you through a stressful time, only to find yourself even more wound up afterword? What went wrong?

Or how about this: have you ever said something along the lines of, “I’d love to meditate more often, but I’m just so bad at it. I can’t get my mind to stop thinking about things!”?

buddha statue - MindBodyPlate

Well, I’ve been reading an excellent translation the Yoga Sutra of Patañjali by Chip Hartranft, and he has something to say about the process of stilling the mind that I think addresses some of these meditation issues pretty well.

Hartranft tells us that, “as we sit in stillness – meditation – we inevitably find ourselves struggling to acquire more power over some aspect of our lives. Without necessarily knowing it, we are trying to feel happy or to conquer a physical or emotional problem or to become more attractive to others or simply to do a better job of meditating than we did last time. Each of these types of effort arises from attachment to previous thoughts or actions. Even our desire to let go of all this is mired in concepts about what letting go should feel like or what it might bring us.”

In other words, it’s natural for us to get somewhat tangled when we attempt to still our mind, because the very act of trying to still the mind is – paradoxically – the opposite of stilling the mind.

So what the heck are you supposed to do when you meditate, then? I mean, if you can’t try to still the mind and the mind is going crazy, with thoughts zigzagging across your consciousness like a bad laser show, what then?

Luckily, Hartranft doesn’t leave us hanging.

He explains that “exerting the will to arrest or blockade thought… [is] unlikely to succeed though certain to perpetuate suffering.” Instead, he says, one should try “repeatedly relaxing back to the ever present object. Concentration (dhāraṇā) builds spontaneously as the yogi softens and opens to experience, not through steely attempts at mind control.”

Did you catch that? When we meditate, our aim isn’t to do anything at all; our aim is to relax into the present moment, to stay soft, and to open to experience

That means just noticing those thoughts as they ping pong inside your head – just noticing them: hm, isn’t that interesting. That means giving yourself space to be “not good” at meditating. That means accepting that there is nothing wrong with whatever you are experiencing at this very moment.  And again in this new moment. And again in this one. And again and again.

Not so intimidating after all, when you break it down like that.

So, whaddya say? You up for 5 minutes? xo

I don’t believe in portion control

That’s right – I don’t believe in portion control.

Now hold on a second, don’t go running to the Cheesecake Factory just yet. I’m certainly not saying we should consume volumes of food irrespective of our dietary needs, it’s just that I’ve got a bone to pick with the concept.

throw away your food scales - MindBodyPlate

Abandoned food scales.

It’s the phrase that gets under my skin, more than anything: portion… control.

To suggest that a person practice portion control infers that they are inherently out of control and in need of some external constraint. As if, left to their own devices, they would inevitably gorge themselves to death. As if they would be foolish to trust themselves.

The irony is, the more stringent we are with imposing these external constraints, these portion controls, the more likely we are to binge uncontrollably. It’s as if the approach itself has some sort of sinister boomerang effect. The more you think you need portion control, and the more you try to wield it, the more likely you are to need it.

Why is this? A big part of it, I believe, is that forced restriction separates us even further from the possibility of intuitive eating in a culture where we are already so desensitized to our hunger and satiety cues.

Now for those suffering from food addiction, it may be the case that externally imposed restrictions serve as helpful training wheels, for a time. But sooner or later, if you really wanna feel the wind in your hair, you gotta take off those training wheels and trust that you’re not going to fall. I’m not saying this will be easy, by any means. Cultivating a relationship with your intuitive appetite is just like any new relationship: exhilarating, frightening, confusing, and requiring time, attention, and serious commitment.

But it’s easy enough to begin. Start with making a habit of checking in with yourself every few minutes before, during, and after you eat. That’s all – just check in. And once you’ve become accustomed to making that kind of space, you can start to ask yourself more specific questions.

For instance, “How hungry am I on a scale of 0-10, with zero being not hungry at all and ten being starving?” You might even practice getting curious about what kind of hunger you are experiencing (Physical? Emotional?) or what it is specifically that you’re hungry for ( Lasagna? A hug?).

And while hunger and fullness seem to be on opposite sides of the same spectrum, they most certainly are not. Though their interplay suggests otherwise, they exist on two different spectrums entirely. You can be physically full but still hungry for more, not very full but lacking in appetite. And therefore, you must also ask yourself, “How full am I on a scale of 0-10, with zero being not full at all and 10 being uncomfortably full?”

Hunger Fullness Scale - MindBodyPlateAnd you must keep checking in with these questions, not just before you chow down, but also after the first few bites, and again after the next few, and again and again. What seems tedious at first will, over time, become more second nature as you build a bridge toward intuitive eating.

“That’s a lot of work,” you may be thinking, and you’re absolutely right. I’ll probably continue to work on it for the rest of my life. But if you can learn to tap in to the inherent wisdom of your body, to its highly tuned sense of exactly what and how much it needs to stay in balance, you’ll never have to diet, restrict, or use “portion control” ever again. And that seems well worth the effort.