How Compassion Can Help You Make Healthier Food Choices

Last night I was watching Fat Sick and Nearly Dead 2, which is a follow on from Joe Cross’ first movie about losing weight and getting healthy via juicing. The second movie primarily focuses on how the first movie changed people’s lives, but a secondary theme throughout the movie is the importance of support when making changes in our lives to be healthier.  They talked about how we can often find ourselves turning to food when we are stressed, sad or lonely and how, for a moment, food can give us some comfort.

Featured in the movie is Dr Dean Ornish, physician and president and founder of the non-profit Preventative Medicine Research Institute.  Ornish is a heart specialist and has written several books on heart disease and wellness.  I read his book, ‘Program for Reversing Heart Disease’ last year, with the aim of helping someone very dear to me.  What I didn’t know was how much this book would impact my own life.  I expected the book to be solely about food and exercise but Ornish also talks about how important it is to have a support system in your life, how important it is to take steps to manage stress and reduce loneliness.  These things not only help prevent us reaching to food for comfort but they actually have a very positive impact on our overall health.

The book struck a nerve with me and I recognised I had been neglecting those areas in my own life.  I took steps to learn more and make some changes, and I will be forever grateful to Dean Ornish for introducing me to these ideas.

One thing I learnt along the way is that mindfulness can be a great help when it comes to comfort eating.  When we eat because we feel unhappy, we are searching for something to make us feel better, to make the bad feeling go away.  But it only works temporarily and then we find ourselves eating again as the feeling is still there.  And so the comfort eating goes on.

But if we can stop ourselves for a second, be mindful, and ask ourselves, ‘what is the real reason I’m reaching for this food?’ we can address the underlying feelings.  Although it sounds intimidating at first, if we can allow ourselves to ‘feel’ and to give ourselves compassion for what we are feeling, we can begin to let go of that feeling.  We can then take constructive steps towards a positive solution, instead of reaching for the comfort food.

The same concept of mindfulness can be helpful when we are trying to change our diets, such as moving towards a plant-based diet.  We may feel overwhelmed and stressed with the changes we are trying to make.  But if we can take a step back for a second, recognise those feelings and allow ourselves to feel them, we can more clearly see a solution.

For example, we may feel stressed when we are eating a meal with friends or family who don’t eat in the same way as us.  We may tell ourselves it is just too hard and even give up on our healthy new way of eating.  But if we can be mindful we might realise that underneath our stress we are actually worried that we might not be accepted if we appear to be different.  We realise that we all have a basic need to be accepted and loved.  Once we’ve made this recognition we can give ourselves compassion and acknowledge that it can be difficult making changes and not to be too hard on ourselves, or others. Then we can think of positive solutions, such as having a conversation with our friends and family and asking them if they would be willing to accept us whatever our choices and assure them that we will still accept and love them whatever their choices.  We have allowed ourselves to feel the emotion, gained clarity on what it is we really need and then found a positive solution.

So many of us have a tendency to be hard on ourselves and beat ourselves up when we don’t stick with our healthy way of eating, and we end up adding to the emotions we were trying to numb in the first place.  When we are able to mindfully recognise the underlying cause that motivated us to transgress, we realise that we just needed to take care of ourselves in some way, that we needed love, or rest, or companionship and we can forgive ourselves and give ourselves compassion, in the same way we would to a friend or loved one.

This can extend to other aspects of our lives as well.  Instead of looking back and judging ourselves for our choices, we can recognise and reflect on the emotional need we at that time that caused us to act in the way we did. Perhaps we didn’t go about meeting our need in the best way, but we can forgive ourselves by being compassionate of our motivations.

There was another part of the movie that struck me how compassion can help us make healthier choices, but this time in an indirect way.  At one part in the movie Joe was looking at a long display of pastries.  A wellness expert was talking to him about how we do our best to avoid everything in the display until we get to the end, and then we are so happy with having ‘been good’ and managing to avoid everything that we end up buying something to reward ourselves!

As I was looking at the pastries I thought, ‘well that would be easy for me, because nothing is vegan anyway’.  It got me thinking about how having compassion for animals actually helps us to eat more healthily.  When we can be mindful of the suffering of animals in the food system, we no longer see meat, dairy, eggs as ‘food’, rather as the suffering they represent.  It then becomes easy to walk past these foods or ignore them on a menu because all we see is animal suffering and we do not want to contribute to it.

Compassion and kindness are so important when it comes to our food choices.  Behind each bite is a complex system which involves much suffering of animals and people.  If we can be mindful before making our food choices we can have a significant, positive effect on animals, the environment, other people and ourselves.  We can support a food system that is peaceful, just and healthy.  We can contribute to a cleaner, kinder world and a healthier, happier future for ourselves and our families.

Next time you reach for that comfort food, pause for a moment.  Ask yourself what it is you really need, listen to what’s in your heart and give yourself, and others, some love and kindness.

Hayley

For further reading I recommend:

  • Creating True Peace by Thich Nhat Hanh
  • Nonviolent Communication by Marshall Rosenberg
  • Program for Reversing Heart Disease by Dean Ornish

‘Cowspiracy: The Sustainability Secret’ showing at Whistler Library on Thurs, Nov 6 with speakers Ken Melamed, Claire Ruddy & Hayley Ingman

Cowspiracy: The Sustainability Secret exposes the number one threat to our planet and investigates why none of the major environmental organizations want to talk about it. This humorous and informative documentary has been getting much attention since it premiered and has been dubbed the movie every environmentalist needs to see. There will be a Q&A after the movie with Green Party Candidate and ex Whistler Mayor, Ken Melamed, AWARE Executive Director, Claire Ruddy and Earthsave Whistler Co-Founder, Hayley Ingman.

Watch the trailer at cowspiracy.com

Cowspiracy: The Sustainability Secret

Cowspiracy: The Sustainability Secret is a ground breaking feature-length environmental documentary following intrepid filmmaker Kip Andersen as he uncovers the most destructive industry facing the planet today – and investigates why the world’s leading environmental organizations are too afraid to talk about it.

Animal agriculture is the leading cause of deforestation, water consumption and pollution, is responsible for more greenhouse gases than the transportation industry, and is a primary driver of rainforest destruction, species extinction, habitat loss, topsoil erosion, ocean “dead zones,” and virtually every other environmental ill. Yet it goes on, almost entirely unchallenged.

As Andersen approaches leaders in the environmental movement, he increasingly uncovers what appears to be an intentional refusal to discuss the issue of animal agriculture, while industry whistleblowers and watchdogs warn him of the risks to his freedom and even his life if he dares to persist.

As eye-opening as Blackfish and as inspiring as An Inconvenient Truth, this shocking yet humorous documentary reveals the absolutely devastating environmental impact large-scale factory farming has on our planet, and offers a path to global sustainability for a growing population.

There will be a panel of speakers leading the discussion after the movie – Green Party Candidate and ex-Whistler Mayor, Ken Melamed, AWARE Executive Director, Claire Ruddy and Earthsave Whistler Co-Founder, Hayley Ingman.

Ken Melamed

Ken is the candidate for the Green Party of Canada in the coming federal election. Twice elected mayor, three term councillor and past AWARE president, Ken has been instrumental in Whistler’s evolution as a global leader in mountain resort tourism and community sustainability planning.

Ken has served on a number of boards including Smart Growth BC, Fraser Basin Council, Tourism Whistler, Whistler Housing Authority, and the Whistler Chamber of Commerce.

In 2012, Ken received the Queen’s Jubilee Medal awarded to honour significant contributions and achievements by Canadians.

Claire Ruddy

Claire has studied and worked in the environmental sector since 1999. In the UK she has worked with businesses to reduce environmental impacts and since arriving in Whistler in 2006 she engaged heavily with Whistler’s environmental charity AWARE, where she now works with as Executive Director. While on a push to reduce her personal environmental footprint Claire decided to change her diet to become predominantly plant-based, with a ‘vegan at home’ regime. Three years on and there is no looking back.

Hayley Ingman

Hayley runs the Whistler chapter of Earthsave Canada, a registered charity helping people choose foods that benefit our health, the environment, and the lives of all animals. She has been enjoying a plant-based diet for the past 17 years and continues to learn about its benefits. She has a certificate in Plant-based Nutrition from Cornell University and a Raw Food Chef certification from Matthew Kenney Cuisine.

Event details:
7pm, Thursday November 6th, at Whistler Public Library
Admission is by donation (please arrive early as seats cannot be reserved in advance)
Trailer & website – http://cowspiracy.com/
Event co-sponsored by Earthsave Whistler and Whistler Public Library

Whistler’s First Ever Vegan BBQ Contest, August 31st, 2014

HUGE thank you to everyone for making Whistler’s first ever Vegan BBQ contest & Crafty by Nature event a great success and so much fun!

Three teams from Whistler competed to win the title of Whistler First Ever Vegan BBQ King or Queen with their vegan BBQ sliders. The Whistler Blackcomb Team, headed by Executive Chef Wolfgang Sterr, served a quinoa, bean and veggie burger, Team Four Seasons served a walnut and mushroom burger, with olive tapenade and cashew cheese, recipes created by chef Margaret Barnard, and Team Gardein, headed by Whistler local Kristine Leise, served Gardein’s Chick’n Sliders with a home-made pineapple salsa.

Extra special thanks to the awesome competitors and congratulations to Team Gardein on winning the contest! The sliders from all teams were so delicious and we can’t thank you all enough for coming out to this new event and putting so much effort into your burgers. We hope you enjoyed it as much as we did.

And a big thank you to Claire Ruddy and AWARE for organising Crafty by Nature! We are looking forward to next year’s event already.

Vegan BBQphoto 4 (4)photo 1 (2)  photo 2 (4)photo 5 (2)photo 3 (4)photo 1 (4)photo 3 (2)photo 5 (4)photo 1      photo 4   photo 5Vegan BBQ Contest in Whistler

Whistler’s first ever Vegan BBQ Contest with The Four Seasons, Whistler Blackcomb and Gardein – Sunday, Aug 31st

The Four Seasons, Whistler Blackcomb and Gardein battle it out this coming Sunday for your votes to be crowned Whistler’s First Vegan BBQ King or Queen! Sample their vegan sliders and be the judge of who should win this prestigious title.

Come on down to Rebagliati Park between 11am and 3pm (BBQ is noon to 2pm) this Sunday, August 31st, for the inaugural Crafty by Nature + Envirofest event. Join AWARE and partners for a day of nature crafts, live music, food and fun to celebrate our natural environment. Lots of fun for adults and kids alike.

More details here – http://awarewhistler.org/crafty-nature/

Vegan BBQ Contest in Whistler

Director James Cameron on Vegan Diet: Like I’ve Set the Clock Back 15 Years.

Not only does eating a plant-based diet help you to feel incredible and obtain optimum health, it’s also the single biggest thing you can do to help the environment!

Read more about how James Cameron embraced, and loves, the plant-based lifestyle:

Director James Cameron on Vegan Diet: Like I’ve Set the Clock Back 15 Years..

A must-watch video from NutritionFacts.org!

New video from NutritionFacts.org on food contaminant exposures of children. 

“Recently the diets of California children, ages two through seven, were analyzed to determine the cancer and non-cancer health effects from food contaminant exposures. Food may be the primary route of exposure to toxic heavy metals, persistent pollutants, and pesticides. Though food-borne toxic contaminants are a concern for all ages, they are of greatest concern for children, who are disproportionately impacted because they’re still developing and have greater intake of food and fluids relative to their weight. Pediatric problems that have been linked to preventable environmental toxin exposures include cancer, asthma, lead poisoning, neurobehavioral disorders, learning and developmental disabilities, and birth defects.

But the good news is that changing one’s diet can change one’s exposure. A diet high in fish and animal products, for example, results in greater exposure to persistent pollutants like DDT and dioxins and heavy metals than does a plant-based diet because these compounds bioaccumulate up the food chain, and plants are at the bottom of the food chain. Unfortunately that’s the not the kind of diet this sample of kids were eating. Cancer benchmark levels were exceeded by all 364 children for arsenic, the banned pesticide dieldrin, a metabolite of DDT called DDE, and dioxins.”

“What foods were the worse? For preschoolers, the #1 food source of arsenic was poultry, though for their parents it was tuna. The #1 source for lead was dairy and for mercury it was seafood. And the #1 source of the banned pesticides and dioxins was dairy.”

 “Because these pollutants accumulate in animal fat, consuming a plant-based diet, decreasing meat, dairy, and fish consumption may reduce exposure for children and adults alike.”

California Children Are Contaminated | NutritionFacts.org.

Crazy Sexy Cancer movie screening with speaker Nicolette Richer – March 19th

Kris Carr is a cancer survivor and an incredible inspiration to so many people, whether they have a connection to cancer or not. She is also the author of several awesome books, including Crazy Sexy Diet and Crazy Sexy Kitchen. She’s an upbeat, sassy, caring wellness guru and we wanted to introduce you to her via her documentary, Crazy Sexy Cancer.

We are excited to also bring you Nicolette Richer, owner of The Green Moustache, as our speaker. Nicolette is a certified Gerson Trainer and Health Consultant and teaches people with cancer and chronic disease how to heal themselves. Nicolette is a great speaker and is always very inspiring!

Wednesday, March 19th at 7pm at Whistler Public Library. The room is limited to 50 people, so please arrive early to make sure you get in.

About the Movie:

In 2003, when I was a 31-year-old actress/photographer, I was diagnosed with a rare and incurable cancer. Weeks later I began filming my story. Taking a seemingly tragic situation and turning it into a creative expression, I share my cancer documentary of survival with courage, strength and lots of humor.

With experimental treatment as my only option, I became determined to find answers where there were none. Traveling throughout the country interviewing experts in alternative medicine, I dove head first into a fascinating and often hilarious holistic world. Along the way, I met other vivacious young women determined to become survivors and included them in my cancer documentary. Their stories are as poignant and exciting as the women who tell them. As my journey progressed, I realized that healing is about truly living rather than fighting.

Crazy Sexy Cancer is more than a thought provoking documentary, it’s an attitude! It’s about rising to the challenge of life and turning lemons into champagne.

Fat, Sick and Nearly Dead showing at Whistler Library on February 19, with special guests and juice samples from Naked Sprout

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FAT, SICK & NEARLY DEAD is a heartwarming story of personal transformation following the tales of 2 men as they seek to lose weight and regain their health.

This popular movie has had an impact on viewers’ health all over the world. Sales of juicers sky rocket wherever this movie is shown, with sales in the US increasing by 71% at the end of the year the movie was released.

With cartoons, interviews with the public and storylines following the incredible transformation of the two men in the movie, the documentary is both uplifting and entertaining. The focus of FAT, SICK & NEARLY DEAD is juicing, but Earthsave Whistler believes the documentary has a strong message about the benefits of consuming more fruits and vegetables, something that has a positive effect on everyone’s health.

Earthsave Whistler is excited to welcome juicing expert Shandy Rae, owner of Whistler’s Naked Sprout, as guest speaker for a question and answer session after the movie. Naked Sprout will also be providing juice samples for everyone to try.

DOCUMENTARY SYNOPSIS

100 pounds overweight, loaded up on steroids and suffering from a debilitating autoimmune disease, Joe Cross is at the end of his rope. In the mirror he saw a 310lb man whose gut was bigger than a beach ball and a path laid out before him that wouldnʼt end well— with one foot already in the grave, the other wasnʼt far behind. FAT, SICK & NEARLY DEAD is an inspiring film that chronicles Joeʼs personal mission to regain his health.

With doctors and conventional medicines unable to help long term, Joe turns to the only option left, the bodyʼs ability to heal itself. He trades in the junk food and hits the road with juicer and generator in tow, vowing only to drink fresh fruit and vegetable juice for the next 60 days. Across 3,000 miles Joe has one goal in mind: To get off his pills and get healthy.

While talking to more than 500 Americans about food, health and longevity, itʼs at a truck stop in Arizona where Joe meets a truck driver who suffers from the same rare condition. Phil Staples is morbidly obese weighing in at 429 lbs. He is a cheeseburger away from a heart attack. As Joe is recovering his health, Phil begins his own epic journey to get well.

What emerges is nothing short of amazing – an inspiring tale of healing and human connection. Part road trip, part self-help manifesto, FAT, SICK & NEARLY DEAD defies the traditional documentary format to present an unconventional and uplifting story of two men from different worlds who each realize that the only person who can save them is themselves.

Event Details:
Wednesday, February 19th – 7pm
Whistler Public Library
Admission by donation.
Note: the room has a 50 person capacity so please arrive early to ensure entry