Thursday, 11 July 2013

Why instinctive eating doesn't work

Our body is intelligent. Intelligent beyond our control or knowledge. And some people claim that our bodies "know" exactly what conditions are necessary for optimum functioning and well being.

I personally agree with all of this. I agree that our body wants to heal, and that healing happens by the body without any external inputs. 

The problem, however, is that we cannot always recognise the signals from our body. Sometimes the message gets distorted or overridden - by our mind, our subconscious, or our ego. Sometimes, we hear the message but we misinterpret its meaning.

On a purely physical level, our modem environment makes it difficult for us to understand the message. When we spend years ignoring our natural instincts, is it surprising that we might have lost touch with our true self and our true needs? We rob ourselves of sleep, night after night, and use food or drugs or stimulating activities (like caffeine and sugar and television) to prop ourselves awake, without repaying our sleep debt. We sit all day in dehydrating office environments, ingest dehydrating substances (like salt and caffeine and alcohol), without ever properly replenishing our fluids. We use food or drugs to numb ourselves from the realities of our life. 

So while it seems simple and beautiful to just "listen to our bodies", unfortunately the message we receive is often far from the truth. 

Tuesday, 9 July 2013

Vegan and gluten-free hearty minestrone soup

It's still cold and windy here in Melbourne, and soup is calling more than ever. 

What's not to love about minestrone soup? Well, if you're trying to avoid gluten and/or animal products, it's pretty tricky to get a decent minestrone soup unless you make it yourself. Most of them contain wheat pasta (sometimes egg-based) and have hidden nasties like milk powder and palm oil. 

There are gluten-free pastas available, but usually they don't hold up well in a soup. And, since I like to eat whole foods wherever possible, pastas are a bit too processed for my liking.

So here's a recipe for a satisfying vegan and gluten-free minestrone - without pasta. 

1 onion, diced (optional. I also have used a leek, if onions are too strong)
2 medium or 1 large carrot, diced
1 large stalk of celery, diced
Half to 1 cup cabbage, chopped
3 large potatoes, diced
5 large tomatoes, diced (or one 400gram tin of tomatoes)
A tsp dried basil
2 tsp dried oregano
1 clove garlic, minced (optional)
1 chilli, minced (optional)
1-2 cups hot water

In a large soup pot, sauté onions (or leeks), celery, carrots, potato, and chilli and garlic (if using) until the onions are translucent. You can sauté in a teaspoon of oil, but I find that water sautéing works just fine. 

Add tomatoes and dried herbs, and add 1-2 cups of water until all vegetables are covered. You may need more water if you have a really big soup pot.

Simmer until potatoes are almost soft, and then add chopped cabbage. I like to add the cabbage towards the end of cooking so that it still has a little texture, but it can always be added in the first step with the other vegetables.

Salt isn't necessary with this soup, because the tomatoes add quite a lot of salty flavour. If you do add salt, be cautious because it is really easily to over-salt.

To serve: Add a few sprigs of parsley and a bit of cracked black pepper right before eating. 

Saturday, 6 July 2013

30 day gratitude challenge

I love 30 day challenges! And I don't do them often enough. (I've mentioned them previously here)

This month, I have decided to to a 30 day gratitude challenge. It's pretty simple - for 30 days, I spend a few minutes focusing and writing on things I appreciate and for which I am grateful.

It takes only a couple of minutes every day.

For example, this morning I am grateful for:
waking up early to do a yoga class
lazy weekends
banana-carob smoothies (I swear they taste like a decadent chocolate milkshake)

Why a gratitude challenge? Quite simply, to improve my quality of life. My mood lowers slightly this time of year, because of the cold weather and short days. For a few years, I took antidepressant medication during the winter. I know I'm not alone - many people experience a shift in their mood during winter. Sometimes, if severe. it's labeled Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD).

Psychologically, I am in far better shape now than I was a few years ago (thanks in part to a low fat raw vegan diet). I am vulnerable to shifts in my mood, which is why during the winter I have to be extra careful to look after my physical and mental health. Maintaining a positive focus is a big part of that. This challenge is actually a segue into 30 days complaint-free, which I have set as a challenge for August.

I'm not sure what to expect after 30 days. I do notice that after I think about or write my appreciations, I feel uplifted. Even if I was already feeling happy, there's a definite shift in my mood. And somehow, life just feels easier when we're in a good mood!