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!

Six Guiding Principles for Fabulous Flavor

Six Guiding Principles for Fabulous Flavor

I have found

that making delicious, nutritious food is a delightful and rewarding process. I don’t like rules, because they can be arbitrary and by their very nature provoke insurgence from any rebellious soul. I stand by principles, however. To me, principles operate like laws of nature. There isn’t any moral value in gravity working, nor is there a question about whether it will work or not; it just does. Following are some key guiding principles that I believe apply to food preparation and beyond. Making use of these principles in a conscious way will make the food taste better!

Energy has a taste.

Have you ever eaten food prepared by someone who was in a foul mood as they interacted with the food? Did it taste good? Or was it bitter or harsh tasting? How about the opposite? Have you eaten something that was prepared by someone who brought joyful energy to the task? How did that food taste? The energy with which we do anything permeates that thing with its nature. This is the most important principle to understand and embody in order to make tasty food or really to create anything that will have a positive impact in the world. Given that I know my energy cannot be hidden in the final product, but will be revealed for all to taste, I choose to infuse the food I prepare with the energy of love. And how does the energy of love taste? It Tastes Like Love!

Anything will give up its secrets if you love it enough.

This principle was stated by George Washington Carver and is a favorite of a former mentor of mine. If we love something, we pay attention to it. We are curious about it. We listen to it and we observe it. We take time to be present with it. We notice what is wonderful about it, and we offer appreciations. If we love it enough, we make a commitment to it, and we faithfully honor that commitment over time. When we find out disturbing or unsettling things about that which we love, we lean into our love for it so we can re-cultivate a sense of connection. Through this process of paying attention, being curious, listening and observing, taking time, being present, praising the good, making a commitment, and coming back to the love when we feel separate, we do learn so much about the object of our love. And by knowing our beloved more deeply and understanding its secrets, we are able to interact with it in effective ways that result in bounteous expressions of good.

I love preparing, serving, and eating delicious, nutritious food, and this love comes naturally to me. Because I love it, I pay attention to the vegetables, the herbs, the fruits. I understand little secrets that have come to me over time, so when I go to market I can select fruits and vegetables that taste the best. Because I love it, I take the time to be present, to smell, to feel, to intuit. Because I love it, I get curious. Will this taste good with that? Or with that? Because I love it, I notice and appreciate the delicious creations that come through. And because I love it, I feel inspired to share this love with others.

But what if one doesn’t love food preparation, I hear some readers object! My suggestion is to start with willingness. Are you willing to learn to love food preparation? Declare your willingness! Are you open to the possibility? Cultivate that possibility by seeing your future self in pure delight as you create delicious nourishing dishes. Is there some small thing about food prep that you do love? Maybe you like to make smoothies in your blender or mash up an avocado for guacamole. Start with what you love and grow your love from there. Set your intention to learn to love food prep, and you will move in that direction. You will find that as you love it more, the food starts tasting better, and you will be carried into a delightful feedback loop in which love feeds more love. Through that increase of love, you too will learn the secrets of food prep and your food will demonstrate that knowing.

We are always at choice.

[1] At every moment in time we have the capacity to make an infinite number of choices. We can choose to do what we did before, or some variation of it, or something entirely new. We may be out of touch with that choice, but it is always only a conscious thought away. This is as true for food preparation as for any other area of life. I see recipes as suggestions, inspiration, and options, not as dictates that must be followed rigidly. The recipes in this book are meant to be a starting point for your authentic creative expression. When you make choices to follow the guidance you receive because of the love you have for the food, you may stray significantly from the recipe as written. By paying attention to what you love, you will almost certainly notice that food tastes better when it is fresh and in season, for example. Therefore, if you are making a fruit salad that calls for apricots and when you go to the store discover that the apricots were grown in the other hemisphere and are hard with no fragrance, you will make a choice to substitute the delightful ripe pears that you started smelling the moment you walked into the produce department. You are always at choice and the recipes are a starting place. Be creative, flexible, spontaneous, and bold!

Junk in junk out.

This saying is often used to refer to data, but since it is a principle, it also applies to food preparation. My second most powerful secret for making food delicious, after “energy has a taste,” is to use the freshest, highest-quality ingredients that I can find. When you are shopping for food or picking it from your garden, use as many senses as possible. Touch it, smell it, observe it, listen to it. Look for vegetables that are plump and tender rather than dried up and woody. Choose fruits that are fragrant and have good color. Learn the sounds of ripe melons. Learn the feel of young root crops. Grow or purchase and use fresh herbs, and lots of them. If you must use herbs out of season, consider freezing cubes of herbs when they are in season instead of using shriveled up old dried herbs! Buy whole spices in small quantities and grind what you need. Perk up a dish with a squeeze of fresh lemon or lime juice, not the kind that comes from a bottle. Use whole foods, minimally processed. Purchase organic food for the best flavor, sustainability, and health value. If something gets too old, find an alternate use for it rather than spoiling your good food with junk. For example you can use wilted or dried up produce in vegetable stock, or give it to your worms or your garden.

Starting with high-quality food gives you a great head start and is the first of my two part equation: “start with good food and don’t wreck it.” After you have taken the time to use your love and your choice to select fresh, whole, nutritious food, prepare it in ways that enhance and compliment the fresh, high quality food you have. A few tips for “not wrecking it” include serving most vegetables raw or lightly cooked, combining flavors that complement each other without putting too many different flavors in any one dish, and adding salt, salty condiments, and oils sparingly. Remember you can always add more of something but generally cannot take it out once added. When I’m creating in the kitchen I often have a tiny testing bowl in which I can put a spoonful of something and add an herb, spice, or other addition. Then I taste the dish to determine if my proposed addition will work well in it or not.

Blessing food has a tangible impact on its vitality.

I remember hearing many years ago about a study that demonstrated that blessing food before eating it results in a measurable, statistically-significant increase in nutrients. I don’t know if the information I heard was correct, but I do know that significant research confirms that the regular practice of prayer confers health benefits on the person praying.[2] In the studies, the beliefs and specific practices of the person praying doesn’t matter; the act of blessing has the same impact regardless of particularities. So I consider my household’s communal practice of having a moment of silence followed by a verbal New Thought style prayer a suitable blessing, and I also consider my quick “Thank you for this delicious food” an appropriate prayer when I’m on the run. Words are not even necessary for it to be a blessing: sometimes it’s enough just to breathe in the fragrance of the food for a moment with a feeling of gratitude in my heart. In my adult son’s home, they bless each meal with a high five over the food, and I have no doubt that this blessing enhances the experience of eating as well.

One of the most powerful experiments I ever encountered regarding the act of blessing and its impact on the nutritional value of food involved some rabbits on a high cholesterol diet. As vegans, rabbits do not normally encounter cholesterol in their diet. This group of rabbits was being fed cholesterol as part of an experiment about heart disease. There was a surprise at the end of the study; one group of rabbits had not developed heart disease even though they had been fed the exact same diet as the others. It turned out that the person in charge of this healthy group of rabbits was petting and cuddling the rabbits and talking to them lovingly each time she fed them the toxic food. It seems that this act of “blessing” somehow created a different metabolic experience for the cuddled rabbits, an experience that resulted in vitality in spite of eating the same foods that were killing the other rabbits![3]

And while I have never seen studies about flavor improvements based on blessing, I absolutely believe it is true from my experience. The first time I experienced the difference that blessing could make on taste was when I was about 15 years old. My family was helping out a friend by selling a bunch of pumpkins he had grown. We would take a truckload of pumpkins into the center of a nearby town and sell them to people out of the back of the truck. One day we had a significant amount of pumpkins left when we were ready to go home. We gave them to a Hare Krishna group that was chanting in the park.

A few days later when we returned to the city where we had encountered the Hare Krishna devotees, we gratefully accepted the free meal they were offering, and part of the meal was the pumpkins. Now these were not Sugar Pie pumpkins. They were Halloween-style pumpkins that I had tried unsuccessfully to prepare for consumption in many ways. They just didn’t taste good. On that day in the park with the Hare Krishnas, I found to my surprise that the pumpkin dish they served, made from the very pumpkins that had completely stumped my considerable culinary capacities, tasted absolutely delicious! When I asked the cook the secret, she put her index finger up in the air and said she had made the dish for that One and had given Him the first taste. That was a lesson I will always remember. So although I stand by the importance of selecting fresh produce with naturally-obtained deliciousness, when that is not possible the food can still be made whole with a blessing.

Our thoughts are creative.

The final principle for fabulous flavor is a truth that has been known and written about by sages and teachers from ancient times through today. This principle has many variations: “What you think about comes about,” “Whatever you focus your attention on grows in your experience,” “Thoughts become things,” “Every idea in consciousness finds its corresponding expression in the physical world,” “Cause and effect,” etc. When I say that our thoughts are creative, I’m not talking about creativity in the artistic sense, though that can be true as well. What I am pointing out is that things that we experience and create in the world start out with thoughts. I cannot make a delightful five-course Asian California Fusion meal without starting with some idea in my mind. I cannot make endless varieties of nourishing salads or raw whole foods desserts or new flavors of live sauerkraut without first having an inspiration.

It is also true that I cannot make a spectacularly failed pot of soup or batch of muffins without first having this thought in mind! For example, on the few occasions on which I have made a dish or a meal that was truly awful, I can always trace the origins of that mess back to a thought or series of thoughts. Typically when this has happened, my ego was engaged in trying to impress a person or group and I started entertaining fears of disaster. Instead of moving my mind back to love and aligning my consciousness with the possibility of deliciousness, I have allowed my mind to fixate on the possibility of failure. I have worried and fretted, therefore infusing the food with the energy of worry, fret and fear. No wonder the food tasted less than spectacular!

I have proved this principle to myself so many times that I trust it implicitly. I encourage you to give it a try and see if your experience doesn’t replicate mine. Just remember to discipline your mind, keeping your thoughts on the beautiful, powerfully nutritious, scrumptious food you are preparing, and hold a vision of it done. See yourself in joy as you nourish yourself and all life by preparing and consuming the fruits and veggies of the earth!

Excerpted from the book Tastes Like Love: Sensational Salads to Cool the Earth, © 2016 Beth Love. Several of the photos of salads are from the book.





[1]One of my editors pointed out that the phrase “we are always at choice” is not standard English. This phrase is a statement of principle that would most likely be familiar, however, to people who study New Thought metaphysics or similar philosophies, and to those who have been exposed to popular culture figures who have been influenced by these movements. After my editor made this observation, I did consider changing it to something like “we always have a choice.” For me, however, there is more power in the original phrasing. It has an immediacy that is lacking for me in the standard English version. The phrase “we are always at choice” conjures up a mental image of this now moment, this point in time, this place where I am in consciousness right now. In this place, I am always at a point of choice. Acknowledging that I “have” a choice, does not call me up to the same level of accountability as knowing that I am making a choice in this moment, and in this moment, and in this moment, and that each of these choice points is a place of tremendous potential power. What will you do with the power of your choice of this now moment?

[2] See, for example, Kenneth F. Ferraro and Cynthia M. Albrecht-Jensen, “Does Religion Influence Adult Health?” Journal for the Scientific Study of Religion 30, no. 2 (1991): 193-202,  (accessed September 16, 2016.); or Richard Shiffman, “The Blog: Why People Who Pray Are Healthier Than Those Who Don’t,” Huffington Post, January 18, 2012, (accessed September 16, 2016).

[3] Robert M. Nerem, Murina J. Levesque, and J. Fredrick Cornhill, “Social Environment as a Factor in Diet-induced Atherosclerosis,” Science 208, no. 4451 (1980): 1475-1476, cited in “Study Shows Cuddling of Bunnies Helps Keep Their Arteries Clear,” Ocala Star-Banner, April 13, 1980, (accessed September 16, 2016).

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.