Sunday, January 18, 2015

Empowerment on a Plate

On Thursday, I taught the second of the four classes in my Eating for Health workshop series for the very first time. The results are so dramatic, inspiring, and even funny, that I feel compelled to share. To receive my Holistic Nutrition Certification, I have to complete a practicum. As part of my practicum, I must teach the Eating for Health approach to health, wellbeing, and nutrition in a series of four classes. I have a PowerPoint presentation provided by the college, which I revised to suit my own teaching style, and I have put together handouts and other materials for my students. Thus I have made this course my own version of teaching Eating for Health. I set up my practicum at a local clinic and I have 12 women taking my class. (Note:  Dr. Ed Bauman developed the Eating for Health Model and founded the college where I am training.)

The first class I taught was an overview of healthy eating. The second class focused on proteins and fats. The third class, to be taught this week, will focus on carbohydrates. The final class is about sustainable eating and living to protect our health and our food supply in the future; and how to set up a personal plan to learn more and keep improving after the classes end. At Thursday’s class, I finished my presentation early enough for us to go around the table and share anything we changed during the previous week, and tell what, if any, difference it made. The brief stories related by the women in the class blew me away. I was moved and honored that I could make such a difference in the lives of others simply by providing them with information about food.

Several of the women had never read labels before and they were astonished by how much they could learn about food by reading labels. They also could not believe how flagrantly manufacturers and advertisers deceive the consumer about what is contained in packaged foods. One woman spent the week trying to give up sugar and she was amazed to find that it is put in just about every packaged food she buys. This same woman also successfully quit drinking soda. She went from a two-can-per-day habit of Diet Coke to drinking organic green tea and water. Hurray for her! She said she could totally feel the difference. After giving up sugar and soda, she slept better, had more energy and mental clarity, and she felt really good about herself.

She and another student in my class are in the accounting department. They reported that they have the clinic’s accounting department engaged in conversations about healthy eating. They told me that the CFO brings donuts to the office regularly, and they are gone in a minute. But when he brought a box after my two students had talked to their coworkers about the damage caused to the body by sugars, refined flours, and trans fats, the donuts sat in the box uneaten. My two students are going to ask the CFO to bring them fruit instead of donuts in the future. The rest of the gals in accounting are behind this change 100%. Goodbye donuts. My students laughed when I told them that donuts no longer look like an edible object to me.

Several women have set for themselves the goal of drinking more water. The clinic that has partnered with me for my practicum is an OB/GYN practice, serving a high population of pregnant women. My students had me laughing as they talked about increasing their water intake and having to compete with pregnant women to get into the bathroom all day long. But they feel better being more hydrated and so they will continue to drink their daily water and figure out how to get a toilet stall when they need one.

The lard conversation had me laughing my head off. I explained to my class that lard from pastured pigs (organic, free-range, NOT commercial) is much better for them than commercial corn oil, soy oil, or sunflower oil (like that horrendous Crisco stuff sold in clear plastic bottles, which is rancid before it even reaches the grocery shelf because of exposure to light and because of the way it is processed). Several Mexican-American women in the class were incredulous. They said that when they were children, their mothers had discontinued using lard because they were told it would cause heart disease; and after that refried beans never tasted so good again. Well, my friends, I will tell you what I told my class:  good quality (let me say that again GOOD QUALITY) fats are important for proper body function. Do not fear fat. The thing that causes heart disease is sugar and refined flour. More and more information about the truth of this is coming out. If you don’t believe me, or you want to read the research, check out the book The Great Cholesterol Myth by Bowden and Sinatra. Anyway, back to the lard. Real lard from organic, free-range pigs is an excellent fat. One of these Mexican-American women in my class exclaimed, “Woo-hoo, I am going to the Coop right after work and buying good lard and we are having refried beans tonight!” The excitement about the lard was ridiculous! I’m not sure my students will find lard at the Coop; however, I talked to two different local pig farmers at the Farmer’s Market yesterday morning and they have excellent lard for sale. I will bring this information to my class this Thursday, and I guarantee you I will be viewed as Saint Burrito.

Another woman in the class said she never thought she’d see the day that she would buy grass-fed beef; but, she told us how she went to the Farmer’s Market and talked to the cattle farmer there. Come to find out that the farmer’s beautiful pastured, grass-fed, ground beef costs only $5 per pound. Full fat. The real deal. She bought 25 pounds and went home and divided it up, froze what she couldn’t use right away, and made burgers for her family. In the midst of this story, another woman in the class interjected, “The commercial lean beef that I buy is more expensive at $6 per pound!” I reminded them that her commercial lean beef is loaded with toxic antibiotics and hormones and lacks any real food value, especially beneficial fat. The grass-fed beef convert told her coworkers, “I am here to inform you that you can easily afford high quality grass-fed beef.” She said she fried up those burgers and the meat was gorgeous. She had never seen anything like it. Her detailed account of the fat it produced in the pan sounded like poetry. She practically swooned trying to describe the flavor. I keep telling the class that when you eat high quality food, you don’t need to eat as much because you feel satisfied with less. The grass-fed beef convert confirmed this. She said she and her husband couldn’t even finish their burgers and her teenage son only ate one, even though he usually eats at least two commercial burgers. I teased her that she is going to start a cattle ranch. She says she’s tempted, but as long as she can buy that lovely grass-fed beef at the Farmer’s Market, she’s as happy as can be.

I don’t eat meat so I could not identify with the grass-fed beef story. But it was gratifying to hear that my students are discovering that eating real food is not only possible for them but will improve the quality if their lives in immeasurable ways. The grass-fed beef convert claimed that everyone in her family felt noticeably better (than when they ate commercial beef) after eating the good beef. They were energized rather than sluggish.

I saved the best story for last:  the soft-spoken woman who described her decision to buy organic produce. She said that her family does not have much money and so she has always believed that organic fruits and vegetables are beyond her reach. This past week, she decided she would buy only organic fruit to see what that was like. She bought oranges, apples, and bananas. She said that the organics were more expensive, but that they were not as much more expensive as she had previously imagined. She related that she had never eaten an organic banana and the flavor knocked her socks off. She had not realized what a banana really tastes like. She said she refuses to go back to nonorganic and one way or another she will buy organic. She will work out her budget, make changes in the family spending, rethink how she shops and where she shops. “I refuse to deny my children good quality produce any more just because we don’t have much money. We are as entitled to eat this delicious and high quality food as anyone else,” she said so quietly, so firmly, with such determination. She is a rebel! 

She fired me up. All of them fired me up! I have a passion for changing the world through nutrition. We are all entitled to eat real food and we are all entitled to be well. The time when agribusiness and marketing executives and corporations can turn their lousy profit by railroading us into eating garbage that’s killing us is over! We refuse to be force-fed toxic crap. We will not be exploited and made sick and then sold expensive pharmaceuticals. This is my calling. I teach people to read labels, make choices, learn about food, and to just say no to nonfood passed off to us as food. Talk about empowerment! Here it is on a plate. We are going to nourish ourselves and be well against all odds. Like the woman with limited money who is now determined to feed her family organic fruit, we are making our lives better and refusing to be bought and sold in the marketplace like ignorant fools. We are taking control of what we put in our bodies. We are voting with our forks.

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