Six Powers to Transform Temptations and Halt Addictive Eating

Six Powers to Transform Temptations and Halt Addictive Eating

You Are a Hero!

Have you made a decision to eat better? To transform dietary patterns that hurt your body and the earth and torture and kill animals? To take on a lifestyle that promotes vitality for you, a sustainable human presence on the planet, compassion toward non-human animals, and the cause of everyone everywhere being able to be nourished? If so, my friend, you are embarking on a journey of transformation and you are a hero![1] What you are doing is so counter-cultural that you will need great information, effective tools, lots of support, community, and the fortitude to sustain your new lifestyle for the long haul.

Like the heroes of every hero’s journey story ever shared through oral tradition or written down, you are venturing forth in the cause of bringing forth a new way of being for yourself that will also benefit the community. And like those heroes, you will face challenges along the way. In many of the old tales, the challenges showed up in the form of fierce and terrifying dragons, blocking the way, breathing fire, and threatening to tear the hero to pieces! And in many of those tales, in order to reach the Holy Grail or whatever great treasure was sought, the hero needed to slay the dragon.

A Kinder Approach

In our metaphysical revision of this journey, we recognize that there is another approach. As people committed to adopting a lifestyle that is kinder and gentler to the human body, the earth, and all lifekind, we don’t want to kill anything! Yet, in order to be successful on our journeys, we must find effective strategies for facing the “dragons” that appear in whatever form they take, and engaging with them in a way that results in victory for ourselves and our cause of a better world.

There are many ways that dragons manifest in our path in any transformational process. Some of these dragons are internal. Such dragons as trepidation, inclination, gratification, and adaptation arise from within our own consciousness and emotional selves. It is true that they may have formed through external messages we have heard throughout our lives. Indeed the external dragons of indoctrination and enculturation prey on these internal dragons, further reinforcing their grip on our psyches. Then there are the mega-dragons of manipulation, exploitation, and addiction, which have succeeded in blocking many a hero’s path, but not yours! Regardless of the addictive concoctions that the food industry creates to hook you, regardless of the subtle and not so subtle methods of Big Ag, Big Pharma, Big Medicine, and their friends in government use to confuse you about nutrition and to lure you into hurting your body and all life, you cannot be swayed from your commitment. You are a hero!

One of the common dragons

that many Heroes face on their journey to the great jewel of Vibrant Health is Temptation. In an un-evolved way of conceptualizing the Heroes Journey Story, we might have imagined the Hero slaying Temptation or at least taming it or bringing it under control through will-power. The problem with attempting to kill, tame, or control temptation is that there is a missed opportunity to learn and go deeper. We may succeed in temporarily bringing our temptations into compliance, but the deeper need that the temptations were bringing forward is not necessarily addressed. That is a set up for falling off the wagon, substitute addictions, splitting off parts of ourselves, and other adaptive actions that can undermine our progress.

The solution is to transform our temptations,

rather than attempting to control them. Transformation is an alchemical process in which everything is used. It honors the Divine impulse that is driving the behavior, and is integrating rather than separating.

Another way people often attempt to deal with temptations is through resistance. Because of the Universal principle “what you resist persists,” it is likely that attempts to resist what tempts you will only make it more compelling to indulge. It is important to focus on what you do want, rather than what you don’t want.

Six Powers

The Six Powers to Transform Temptations and Halt Addictive Eating are all techniques that we can learn and practice over time, building our capacity, while simultaneously healing the underlying issues that are driving the compulsions and addictive eating.

1. The Self-Love Power:

Problem: Unfortunately, we often attempt to create change by taking a punitive effort towards our slips. We may beat ourselves up for giving in to a temptation, and perhaps even go into a shame spiral. If we take this approach, it increases the likelihood that we will want to anesthetize the pain of self-hatred or disappointment, and may turn to food for this purpose.

Solution: The Self-Love Power counters the unconscious cycle of eating, feeling bad, and eating some more. It also gives us time to consider other possibilities. You invoke the power when faced by a temptation by affirming that you will love yourself no matter what, whether you eat a little, a lot, or none at all. Your love for yourself is not dependent on your action in responding to the temptation.

One mistake is to do it by rote. Really feel into the love. One secret is to listen for the voice of the part who doesn’t agree that “I’m gonna love myself no matter what.” Get curious about what wisdom that part is bringing forth, what Divine impulse is guiding it. Make a space of compassion for that part to fully reveal and be heard.

2. The “So What?” Power:

Problem: The things that tempt us project the appearance of desirable qualities, even things we need, such as fulfillment, enjoyment, safety, comfort, protection, etc. In truth, the object of our temptation is a mere projection and will never give us what we really want and need in a sustainable way. Looking for fulfillment in a pint of ice cream is like looking in the art supply store for organic food; it just isn’t going to be there.

Solution: The solution is two-fold. The first part is to recognize the projection. Say to the tempting thing: “You are a projection – so what? You don’t have what I need and you have no power over me.” Then, get curious about the underlying need. Invite the part that is feeling needy to share, and listen with compassion to the wisdom it is bringing. Figure out healthy alternatives to meet the true need that is being expressed.

This power is courtesy of New Thought pioneer Joel Goldsmith. Goldsmith writes a metaphor for how our projections function like a white poodle that a hypnotized man has been induced to believe is on the stage playing with him. In truth, there is no white poodle, only the illusion of one, but the man’s acts as though there is actually a poodle, because he is under a spell. Break the spell that unhealthy foods have what you need and they will no longer have power over you!

3. The Aversion Power:

Problem: Our unexamined temptations seduce us to do things that harm ourselves, others, the earth, and all living things.

Solution: Once the projection has been exposed as a projection by the “So What” Power, we can Get Real about the cost of indulging in the tempting food. We can then Get Info about how these foods are produced and marketed. We begin to see the foods more honestly. No longer is the chocolate ice cream my secret lover or my savior. Rather, it revealed as a concoction created for profit, often through exploitation and greed. When seen as the product of enslavement, kidnapping, and greed, the ice cream no longer tastes as sweet.

One secret to getting the most out of the Aversion Power is to use the alchemy of Education to learn about how your most tempting unhealthy foods are produced. What you discover may shock you. It is important to bring a lot of compassion and self-love to this process so that you don’t overwhelm yourself.

4. The “In the Presence of My Mentor” Power:

Problem: Through the mechanisms of denial and magical thinking, we sometimes talk ourselves into thinking that we can get away with things. The Universal law of karma is absolute however. For every action there is a reaction. We don’t truly get away with anything. What actually happens when we do fool ourselves into thinking we can do things that do not align with our values is that we experience a lack of integrity within ourselves that can undermine our feeling of self-worth. That can start the shame spiral mentioned earlier.

Solution: One way to more consistently engage in behaviors that align with our values is to conjure up the image of a compassionate mentor we admire when we experience temptations. Having our mentor “in the room” with us mentally may give us insights and inspiration to make a choice that aligns with our values.

5. The Not-Food Power:

Problem: As Michael Pollan points out in his book In Defense of Food, much of what passes for food today would not be recognizable as such to our great grandmothers. Chemical flavorings and other additives, preservatives, dough conditioners, food colorings, etc., are indeed not food, but substances you might find in a chemistry kit! We have been duped into thinking that junk food, animal flesh and secretions, and highly refined and modified food-like objects are food, but they are not. It’s like when we were children and we mixed together dirt, water, leaves, and perhaps some parts of small insects and pretended to eat our concoction. It’s posing as food, but it’s not-food.

Solution: The solution is to rewire our mental associations that tell us that not-food is food. As we carve out new neural pathways by telling ourselves that the enticing object is indeed not-food, we will eventually see it as such and it will completely lose its appeal.

One secret to success in implementing the not-food power is to refrain from purchasing not-foods. If they are not around, you won’t feel tempted to eat them in a vulnerable moment.

6. The Work with Your Physiology Power:

Problem: Sometimes we attempt to make changes without taking our physiology into account. This is one of the reasons that calorie-restriction diets fail to provide sustainable weight loss. Restricting calories is an attempt to subdue our physiology, rather than working with it. We get hungry on purpose, and if we don’t appropriately respond to that hunger, we will continue to feel hungry and continue to experience an impulse to fill ourselves. Unfulfilled hunger is a set up for compulsive eating, so far too often, when we attempt to restrict calories we find ourselves indulging in just the foods we were hoping to avoid.

Solution: There are many ways to work with our physiology instead of either ignoring it or trying to subdue it. Dr. John McDougall encourages the consumption of starchy carbohydrates such as whole grains, legumes, and starchy vegetables such as winter squash, potatoes, and sweet potatoes. These foods fill us up so we feel satiated, but they carry a much smaller caloric load by weight and bulk than foods such as meat, dairy, and oils. Since we feel satiated, we are less likely to indulge in addictive eating.

Another example of working with our physiology applies to our relationship with addictive foods such as sugar, cheese, and other dairy products. It is much easier to avoid getting into an addictive pattern with these substances if we quit them completely than if we attempt to eat them in moderation. Finding alternative ways to stimulate our dopamine response is also helpful, for instance exercising, connecting with others, or listening to music.

Which are your dragons?

Enculturation, indoctrination, manipulation, exploitation, trepidation, gratification, inclination, adaptation, addiction, trepidation. Which dragon is yours, and how will you transform it?


[1] I use the word “hero” in a gender neutral fashion. Women, men, girls, boys, trans people, and anyone who falls anywhere on the gender spectrum can be a hero, and in fact, I would argue that we are all heroes in our own lives!

Going Upstream: A Parable for Our Times

Going Upstream: A Parable for Our Times

Have you ever heard a story that so influenced your understanding that it changed the course of your life?

A story containing truths that were so…well, True, that hearing the story compelled you to see things differently ever after?

I heard such a story in the winter of 1996.

I had just begun my undergrad work as a Community Studies student transferring to the University of California Santa Cruz from a community college. I was on a mission (as usual!). This mission had its origins in a series of experiences I had in 1991, several years after entering recovery to heal from childhood trauma, specifically sexual trauma. As a result of my healing process, I felt a surge of creative energy. In releasing coping patterns of denial and control formerly used to keep myself feeling safe, the creativity began to pour forth in the form of original songs. These songs were an integral part of my healing, expressing the pain, hope, betrayal, terror, and ultimately the triumph of the journey.

I had never studied music, did not play any instrument, and certainly did not know how to read or produce written music, but this outpouring of lyrics and melodies through my voice reminded me that I used to sing original songs as a child as well. I had forgotten my youthful attempts to find comfort in a sometimes constant stream of make believe imagery set to upbeat, repetitive melodies. It was lovely to remember and to acknowledge the creativity and resourcefulness of the child I was, the resourcefulness that so many children muster up in the face of oppression, confusion, and abuse.

When the recovery era songs began to move through me, I started sharing my songs with others in recovery from childhood sexual trauma. I found that the messages moved them deeply, helping them to courageously touch their own pain, to connect with their internal strength, and to feel hopeful in the face of hopelessness. The mission was born. I would go back to school and study music, starting with community college. Once I obtained my Bachelors degree in music, I would get a Masters degree in music therapy so I could help other survivors heal as I was healing. I even picked out the school where I would get my Masters degree, even though attending that school would entail a move to Stockton, and I wasn’t sure if I could get healthy whole foods in Stockton!

As is often said in spiritual circles, we plan and God laughs.

My plan did give me several delightful years of studying music. This introduced me to long term friends and gave me the capacity to write chord charts for my songs so I could speak to my accompanists in their language. But an undergrad degree in music was not to be, nor was music therapy. The first glitch was finding out how poorly I fit the model of the successful music student at UCSC! As I prepared to transfer, I realized that the program was no fit for a single mother who had come to the study of music late in life. I held onto the dream, declared music as my minor, and took on the Community Studies major with the intent to use that major to focus on healing childhood trauma.

It was in my first Community Studies class, perhaps in my first week at UCSC, that I met the story that was to change the course of my life. The class was CMMU 100: Health Activism. The class was an introduction to the theory and practice of social change through the lens of issues related to health. The class introduced me to the public health model, a model that looks beyond individual choice to examine social, cultural, and other contextual factors that influence outcomes and produce trends. Without further ado, I present the story here, as I remember it. I acknowledge that I have certainly embellished upon the story over the course of the years, so I hope the original writer will forgive my liberties.

Once upon a time, a group of professionals was walking alongside a river, deeply engaged in inspiring conversation. In the group there was a doctor, a social worker, a therapist, an elected official, a minister, the director of a nonprofit agency, and many others who cared deeply about children and families and worked to make their lives better.


Suddenly, a nurse in the group spotted a child drifting by on the current, struggling mightily to keep from drowning. As the child succumbed and began to disappear beneath the surface, the nurse jumped in the river, pulled out the child, and began resuscitation procedures. Just then, another struggling child appeared in the currents, and the doctor jumped in to retrieve her. Then another came down river, then another, and another.


Pretty soon, all of the professionals were jumping into the river, pulling out the children, performing triage, and helping those they could help to the best of their abilities. But it was, in many ways, a lost cause, because the children kept pouring downstream, struggling to keep from drowning, and in many cases being pulled under to their death. The professionals simply did not have the bandwidth to save all of the children.


Finally, the minister, having just lost yet another child, stood up and loudly declared, “I’m going upstream to see what’s causing all these children to fall in the river!”

And so ends the story,

at least as I heard it in CMMU 100, and at least as the potent impetus that provoked my shift from focusing my studies on the healing of childhood trauma to prevention. That decision proved to be much more than an academic choice. It opened up a different way of thinking that ultimately led to different career choices. I never became a music therapist, but after that incident the lesson of the story had informed my rich and varied career. And eventually I did get my Masters degree, but in a different field than envisioned.

The story has deeply impacted how I think about problems in the world.

Where there are trends, there are macrocosmic causations, and the most powerful place to make change is at the level of those macros, rather than with the individual. It doesn’t mean we shouldn’t fish the kids out of the river, but by all means, let us also go upstream and keep them from falling in if we can.

Fast forward to now.

That story, and the systematic approach it inspires, is now deeply embedded in me; yet, as most people enculturated in our individualistic society, I often find myself looking for the cause of things within the individual. Up until recently, when I spoke with people about the connection between food and health, I have been focusing on the individual food choices that result in disease and those that result in health.

What’s great about an individual focus is that since we do each have choice, we are empowered to make a new choice. What’s not so helpful is that in failing to acknowledge the labyrinth of contextual factors which condition and sometimes even constrain our choices, sustainable change cannot occur. Some very resourceful child or a child with proactive parents might learn how to be a super strong swimmer, and therefore survive the dunking in the river, and her act might inspire others to also learn to swim well. But the paradigm remains the same, and the majority of children are still being swept up into the treacherous currents.

This is the place where we find ourselves

in the realm of food today in the 21st century in the United States of America, and increasingly around the world as people adopt our dietary patterns.

If the minister in our story went upstream to find out what was causing so many of our “children” of every age to be drowning in the river of overweight, obesity, asthma, high blood pressure, diabetes, heart disease, cancer, Alzheimer’s, depression, etc., she would find that the Standard American Diet is throwing the people of America into this mess. And if she looked further upstream at what was putting the Standard American Diet onto so many people’s plates and forks, she would find a complex interconnected collection of contextual factors, intentionally chosen by industries and other vested interests who are more focused on their own bottom line than on the health and well-being of those drowning in the river.

I write a little about the specific components of the web of contextual factors that condition our food choices in my post “Set Up for Disease? We CAN Overcome!”

For today’s post though, I want to return to the story of the river.

I told this story recently in one of my classes, and I got a very astute question from one of the participants. She asked what happened after the minister went upstream. In retrospect, I realize the answer I gave her was less than visionary. I told her that is where the story ended. While it is true that when I heard the story, it ended there. As a parable, that ending makes the point of the lesson, I think, because it provokes the insight that proactivity is essential, and that reactivity is unsustainable. I truly hope, however, that a river of people “drowning” as a result of the food they are eating is only the current phase, and not the end of the actual story.

If I could go back to that class, here is the ending I wish I had given:

The minister started her journey up the river, joined by the physician. Now this physician had been a very proactive and resourceful person all her life. When she was attending medical school and, like her peers, was only given one cursory nutrition class, she decided to learn more about nutrition so that she could more effectively steer her patients toward a healthful lifestyle. She completely continuing education through the Physicians Committee for Responsible Medicine. Her friend, the minister, was also well versed in whole foods plant-based nutrition, having started on a health food path in her very early years.


When the two of them made it upstream to the cause of the trouble, neither one of them was terribly surprised to find that the Standard American Diet was throwing not just the children, but most of the people of the United States of American into a fast moving, treacherous river of disease, that was sweeping up people of every age, putting them on a fast track to death and robbing them of their vitality for the final years or even decades of their lives.


Being smart and curious professionals, the doctor and the minister decided to go upstream a little further to figure out what was causing that diet to be the choice of so many Americans. They found the first layer of causation in nutritional confusion, significant cultural pressures, and the addictive nature of so many of the food items of choice. They also noticed that the Standard American Diet with its emphasis on meat, dairy, and convenience foods, was the most accessible, normalized choice. Inquisitively, they headed upstream to see what was normalizing these toxic foods and making them the most expeditious choice.


What they found amazed them! It turned out that billions of dollars were being spent to get the American people to eat this dreadful diet! They found a cluster of individuals, groups, corporations, industries, governmental bodies, and policies that contributed to the confusion, the cultural pressures, and the food addictions. And they found that the reason these expenditures were being made is that these individuals, groups, corporations, industries, and their buddies were making trillions of dollars off of the sickness of the multitudes being swept into the river of disease! It was no accident that so many people were sick, disabled, and dying; it was entirely intentional, strategically created for the purpose of greed.


And it turned out that sweeping people into this river of disease by promoting animal-based diets was also causing the torture and death of billions of animals each year, and the destruction of our precious earth. Sadly, it was also contributing to food shortages and economic instability in third world countries.


These realizations catalyzed our dynamic duo into action! Together, they rallied all their friends. They used the power of social media, their Facebook networks, YouTube, LinkedIn, and so many other tools of connection. They spoke to all of the groups and organizations who truly cared about human health, the earth, the animals. They spearheaded a coalition of concerned parties that were stronger together than any single entity was on its own.


As this coalition earnestly set about the task of dismantling the constellation of factors that had resulted in the pervasiveness of the Standard American Diet, they also began putting in its place supports, incentives, and education that promoted consumption of whole plant foods. Their efforts began taking hold and a paradigm shift began to happen. Meat, dairy, eggs, fish, and processed food were moved to the margins of many people’s plates, and entirely off the plates and forks of many more people. Fruits, vegetables, whole grains, legumes, nuts, and seeds began to take their rightful place at the center of the plates, and entirely filling the plates in many, many cases.


And what was happening downstream? Well, as the cause of the epidemics was being addressed, the rescue team had fewer and fewer people to pull out of the river. They were able to more effectively address the downstream victims, because the upstream measures insured that far fewer individuals were being pitched into the roiling waters of disease.


Eventually, the whole culture was changed, and those peoples around the world who had previously copied the toxic eating patterns of Americans had a new, healthy, vibrant model to emulate. Health and vitality became the norm. The earth began to recover. Mistreatment of animals ceased. It was a new age of Eden, and everyone tasted of the fruit that was good.

Is this fable possible?

I don’t know, but I do know that it is worthy of our time, love, energy, and attention. If you feel called to be part of this upstream revolution and want to go there with me, please let me know!

Set Up for Disease? We CAN Overcome!

Set Up for Disease? We CAN Overcome!

In the United States of America, we have had our psyches profoundly shaped by an enduring story of personal responsibility and individual agency. We have been steeped in the myth of the American dream, a dream that fully embodies those values. This dream, in essence, says that anyone who works hard enough, who is persistent, who uses ingenuity and will-power, can achieve the good life, a life of happiness and prosperity. This dream embodies the idea that, as individuals, we can do whatever we set out to do if we apply strengths of character that anyone can cultivate if they choose.

As a New Thought metaphysical minister, I agree that we are creative agents in our own lives and that we have tremendous personal power to shape our experience. I find that there is a potential pitfall in this way of thinking, however, because personal responsibility and individual agency are an important contributor to our experience, but they only represent part of the picture. In fact, this incomplete view of our creative capacities distorts Universal spiritual principle in a way that often results in people feeling shame and blaming themselves when their life doesn’t turn out the way they want.

One of the areas in which I notice this is the arena of physical health, especially as it relates to diet. I find that many people feel shame about what they are eating or not eating, about when they are eating, and about how much they are eating. I hear people blaming themselves for their weight, their addictive eating, their food-related chronic illness. I hear people repetitively “shoulding” on themselves, yet not being able to bring their behavior into alignment with what they know they “should” be doing. (Just for the record, my position is that eliminating “should” from the English language would be extremely liberating and empowering!)

I think we might be able make a good case for people being solely responsible for their food-related disease, if we chose to do so, if the majority of people enjoyed vibrant health and if sickness was rare, and only conferred on those who refused to follow the dominant dietary pattern. In the U.S., however, the opposite is true. We find that the majority of people contract chronic diseases that rob them of health in the last 5, 10, 15, 20 or more years of their lives, and ultimately kill them. One of the largest studies ever done on the cause of death and disability was the 2010 Global Burden of Disease Study, commissioned by the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation. It found that in the United States, the largest cause of death and disability is food. That’s right; what’s killing and disabling the vast majority of Americans is what’s on the end of our fork.

Wait a second. Wouldn’t individual agency dictate what’s on the end of our fork? If what we are eating is killing us, couldn’t we each, as individuals, make another choice about what to put on our fork? Isn’t it just that simple?

It is true that we each can make a choice to put life-sustaining foods on the end of our fork and can, as a result, enjoy vibrant health. The evidence is clear that many of us do that. I make that choice every day, for example, and at 60 years old I’m healthier than I was in my 20s and 30s, in large part because of my dietary choices.

SADly, though, most people in our country eat some variation of the Standard American Diet (SAD), the very eating pattern that is implicated in the findings of the Global Burden of Disease Study as the number one killer in the U.S. I do not believe the reason is a lack of personal responsibility, individual agency, strength of character, or a deep intent to care for ourselves. In fact, during the course of my life, I have witnessed the incredible strength, ingenuity, resilience, and responsibility of the human spirit over and over and over again. I have witnessed adult survivors of unspeakable childhood trauma tackle their healing process with ferocious passion, ultimately emerging as victorious as they re-imagine possibilities for their lives. I have seen little children take on significant community problems and find solutions that adults had not yet envisioned. I have witnessed collective acts of courage, persistence, and agency that have resulted in mind-blowing paradigm shifts in institutions, systems, and governments that appeared to be unchangeable.

The root cause of our eating problem is not that we are inherently flawed and making poor individual choices. I am convinced that the reason most people in our country eat so much unhealthy food can be explained by a deeper look at the Universal principle that drives the creative process. Yes, each of us does have tremendous personal power to shape our experience and our destiny. Yet we are not isolated beings untouched by external influence. There is tremendous power in the collective to influence our world-view and to make certain choices easier, more expedient, and apparently more “normal” than other choices. In the U.S., although most individuals might be aware on some level that there are problems with the Standard American Diet, the fact of its ubiquity testifies to the collective acceptance of this as the normal and natural lifestyle.

In fact, we are indoctrinated into the cult of normalcy that surrounds this dietary pattern from the time we are little babies and so many of us are bottle-fed with dairy based formula, made from the mammary secretions of a cow and intended to take a baby calf from 60 pounds to about 400 pounds in a short period of time! Even if we are fortunate enough to be breastfed, when we are introduced to solid foods we will most likely progress through our developing dietary experience immersed in this SAD diet. We are too young to question what is being fed to us. We are simply hungry and we eat what we are fed. We trust our parents to care for us. And our parents, in the vast majority of cases, are trustworthy in terms of their intent to care for us in ways that reflect their best understanding of the world and how it works.

Yet our parents, like all other Americans, are making food choices in a context that not only normalizes the SAD diet, but has been intentionally constructed to make such a diet the most common choice. If we ask the question about how that food got on your fork, we could stop with the simple answer that you chose to put it there. That is insufficient to explain the disease epidemics, however, so it is imperative that we dig a little deeper. It is imperative that we uncover all of the systematic factors influencing our food choices.

When I speak with people about this, I find that most people are pretty savvy about certain factors. Most of us are not ignorant, for example, to the presence and influence of marketing and advertising. Most of us are aware that food producers employ a wide variety of effective tactics to lure us in and win our loyalty. Many are aware that foods are subsidized. There are also some large stories that I would call collective trances that influence food choices. For example, so many people I speak with say they don’t have time to make healthy food or that healthy food is too expensive.

There is also tremendous confusion about what constitutes healthy food, and confusion often results in paralysis. It is challenging to find accurate information about nutrition in a landscape so cluttered by vested interest. And it is the vast, interconnected web of vested interest that I think is the most compelling factor driving our dietary choices. I would love to share just a little bit about these influencing factors, and will also give resources to dig deeper for you if you like.

Here are just a few of the components of this web of factors that create the context of food choice in the United States (and increasingly elsewhere). I am not listing them in order of importance, since they feed off of and reinforce each other.

  • Food industry lobbying that results in laws, policies, and government recommendations created for the purpose of enhancing the pockets of industry at the expense of human health.
  • Subsidies: two thirds of farm subsidies go to support animal agriculture. These subsidies allow foods to be sold for much less than the cost of production, which forces taxpayers to pay for the remaining cost of producing these foods. David Robinson Simon estimates the externalized costs of producing animal foods to be $414 billion per year in the U.S.! We are all paying for this, regardless of our purchasing choices, through health care costs, costs to the environment, and our tax money being used to prop up huge agribusiness operations. One of the other devastating outcomes of subsidies is that U.S. corporations are able to dump commodities into other nations at prices that are lower than it costs to produce the same foods locally, therefore running the local farmers out of business. (Is this the way most of us Americans want to treat our world neighbors? I think not, and yet we are!)
  • Conflicts of interest in government agencies and so-called “expert” policy-making panels. In some cases, a single agency has conflicting purposes; e.g. the USDA is charged with promoting agriculture and is also responsible for making dietary recommendations to Americans. On the one hand, it tells Americans to eat less meat and dairy. On the other hand it provides funding to promote pizza with 40% more cheese. And the panels that give input to the USDA, FDA, and other policy-making institutions are made up primarily of industry representatives.
  • Food industry investments in the development of products that are intended to be extremely addictive, exploiting your physiology to get you to buy unhealthy food, eat unhealthy food, and eat more than you want of this unhealthy food. And through subsidies, making these foods the least expensive choices in some cases.
  • Complicity through ignorance on the part of doctors schooled through a medical educational system that, in most cases, requires very little, if any, nutritional instruction.
  • Huge government expenditures into costly responses to disease and the complicity of researchers and pharmaceutical companies. There is a tremendous amount of money to be made by developing and selling expensive technological and chemical interventions. And nobody is going to get filthy rich encouraging you to eat your veggies, beans, and rice.
  • Laws like state ag-gag laws and the federal Animal Enterprise Terrorism Act which make it a crime to write or say anything that hurts the bottom line of corporations involved in farming or food production. (That’s right, if my activism threatens the bottom line of a meat or dairy producer or the industry, I could be tried as a terrorist under federal law!)
  • Food industry donations to health advocacy organizations like the American Heart Association, the American Diabetes Association, and the American Cancer Society. These organizations are unable to give unbiased, truthful information because of financial ties to industry, and in fact the dietary recommendations they give are influenced more by the fact that they are beholden to funders than by the preponderance of scientific evidence about nutrition and human health.
  • Nutritional myths that have their origins in flawed scientific conclusions of bygone eras, but that keep getting reinforced because these myths have financial payoffs for so many players. The myth of protein as the primary nutrient for human health, and its companion myth, that of the supremacy of animal protein over plant protein, are two of the most destructive myths, and also two of the myths that most powerfully shape the meat-centric nature of the SAD diet.
  • Our own physiology also disadvantages us in some ways. We were programmed to seek food in a time when we had to work hard to gather our food and when there were times of scarcity and famine. In the U.S. we now have access to too much food, too many choices, and in particular, foods that are super rich in fats, sugars, salts, and animal proteins. These are foods that we are evolutionarily-programmed to seek in an environment in which these things were scarce. They are ubiquitous now, however. In fact, the diseases that are killing most Americans, heart disease, diabetes, cancer, etc., are called “diseases of nutritional extravagance” by T. Colin Campbell.

So, to make it clear, who are the players that are beneficiaries of the current U.S. health epidemics? Here are a few:

  • Meat, dairy, egg, and fish producers and industry groups
  • Junk food producers and industry groups
  • Elected government officials who are in the pocket of industry
  • Scientists and researchers who work for the food industry
  • Nonprofit advocacy groups that take donations from industry
  • Pharmaceutical companies and companies that make medical devices
  • Individual doctors and the so-called “health-care” system
  • Purveyors of fad diets
  • The weight-loss industry

I think it is very telling that Kaiser Permanente, a very large provider of medical care but also an insurance company, has taken a strong stand in favor of whole food plant-based nutrition. As an insurance company, it is in their financial interest to promote health, not disease. They have instructed their entire network of physicians to recommend such a diet for their patients, and created a free downloadable pamphlet for consumers to encourage a shift to a plant-based diet.

Follow the money. I believe that doing so is the best way to understand the context of food choice in the United States of America, and SADly in an increasing number of countries worldwide as they adopt our dietary patterns. This is an expression of the collective conscience that greatly impacts personal choice.

In closing, though, I want to end on a hopeful note. I want to remind myself and anyone reading this who may be feeling angry, paralyzed, depressed, or otherwise impacted by this information, that we are, indeed, always at choice. The environment can constrain our choices to some extent, and can certainly make it more likely that we will favor some choices over others. But ultimately, we are always at choice. When we educate ourselves about the many interests that delight in our sickness on their way to the bank, we can respond with a resounding “NO” to their enticements, “NO” to their lies, and “NO” to them having any power over us or our lives. We can make the choice to feed ourselves and our families whole, healthy, vibrant foods that result in vibrant health.

When enough of us choose to act in this way, we will turn this around. We will collectively create a context in which healthy, life-serving, just, and compassionate choices are more likely to end up on the forks of Americans and others around the world.

That’s where I’m going! Are you with me?

Recommended Reading:

Vibrant Food, Vibrant Life class

Vibrant Food, Vibrant Life class

A week from today I will be teaching a free workshop through Dominican Hospital’s Prevention Education Program (PEP). The class is called Vibrant Food, Vibrant Life. I’m super excited about this opportunity! I’m thinking of all sorts of cool ideas for making it a meaningful, fun, and interactive class. If you are interested in learning about the connection between what you eat and how you feel, I encourage you to sign up!

I’m delighted that my friend Muna AlSheikh will be assisting me with the class and sharing her testimony about a transformation in her diet and health. I know her contribution will make the class richer. I will also be bringing some tasty snacks to share with the class so people will be able to Taste the Love!

Welcome to Tastes Like Love!

Welcome to Tastes Like Love!

Vibrant Vegetables and Fruits

Welcome to the website for Tastes Like Love! I invite you to engage with the information on this site: comment on the blog posts, check out the photo galleries, sign up for your free gift, and contact us with questions and comments!

This website is another in a series of recent firsts for me: writing and publishing the first book in a series, quitting a secure job of almost 20 years to start a business, and now, creating my first website!

My intent was to hold the energy of love while putting together these pages, though I do admit that the energy of frustration took over my being from time to time! I am so grateful to the support team at Elegant Themes; they helped me through many a technical challenge!

I hope that you will find something in these web pages and posts to inspire you to eat more plants and less animal products, or to leave animals completely off your plate. Your health, the well-being of the animals, the sustainability of the planet, and the cause of human food justice will all be served by that action! Please let me know if you are interested in support. I would love to serve you in this endeavor.


A Time for Reflection and Action

A Time for Reflection and Action

As the New Year gets underway, many people who follow the Gregorian calendar are thinking about changes we would like to set into motion. I was unaware of the statistics, but had a hunch that one of the most common New Year’s resolutions that people make is to loose weight. I imagined that other health-related changes are also potentially high-ranking resolutions. Well, I turned to the internet for answers, and guess what? A site called “Statistic Brain” has this to say about New Year’s resolution statistics:

  • The most common New Year’s resolution for 2017 is “Lose Weight / Healthier Eating!”
  • This resolution captured 21% of the responses.
  • The statistics came from a poll of 1,273 respondents. (The poll was U.S. based.)

It should come as no surprise to anyone in the U.S. who pays attention to any media that many people are concerned with their weight and their diets. I have been deeply engrossed in reading The China Study lately. This book by T. Colin Campbell, MD, and his son Thomas M. Campbell, M.D. exposes and clearly explains a huge body of decades of nutritional research, including the huge “China Study” for which the book is named. I may be an unusual bird, but I find this book to be a page turner! It’s pages contain ample support for all those people who resolved to loose weight and eat better, in the form of information from study after study that come to the same conclusion: that a whole foods, plant-based diet is the most optimal form of nutrition for humans. This diet leads to weight loss for those who are overweight or obese, and can also prevent and even reverse the chronic diseases that kill most of us in the U.S.: heart disease, circulatory system malfunctions, diabetes, cancer, etc.

The other fascinating book I just finished reading a couple of weeks ago is Proteinaholic: How Our Obsession with Meat is Killing Us, by Garth Davis, MD. Both of these books encourage readers to adopt a whole foods, plant-based diet, and provide ample convincing evidence to support this recommendation.

One of the many compelling reasons to make a switch to plants is that fully 40% of Americans will die of heart disease or other malfunctions of the heart and circulatory system! (according to a study cited in The China Study) That’s pretty shocking. Just think, four out of every ten people we know will die of diseases that can be prevented by a diet high in plant foods such as vegetables, fruits, legumes, and whole grains. Not only that, but a low-fat plant-based diet has also demonstrated that heart disease can be reversed.

Reading these books has really inspired and provoked me to do more to support people in eating healthy foods. I realized that people are dying for lack of knowing what I know. I am ready to share in a big way. What we eat can heal or harm. What we eat can restore our vitality or kill. We are at choice in every moment about what we put in our mouths. Let’s choose wisely. Let’s choose vegetables, fruits, whole grains, legumes, nuts, and seeds: vital, life-giving foods. If you want support to get on track with your food choices, please don’t hesitate to contact me. I would love to serve you in the cause of vital health!