One of my favorite things about living in Kansas City is the availability and overall "vibe" of healthy living it has, all while being rooted in the good ol' midwest. There are numerous healthy restaurants, grocery stores, boutique workout studios, farmers markets, pop up classes, juicerys, wellness events etc. Along with it, I've had the great privilege of meeting some like-minded babes that empower me to continually learn, grow, and evolve in my own health journey - one of them being Sarah Buchanan. All I have to say about her is: HOLY. FIRECRACKER. I've only taken one Mojo cycling class from her (a few months ago) and I'm pretty sure I'm still feeling it. Her energy is that amazing. She's unapologetically who she is, she owns it, embraces it and is the soul behind kick ass events that encourage women to find their own definition of healthy balance and boldly live inside that space.
As a "wellness tribe", we get coffee or brunch together once a month to discuss whatever topics come to table. A few weeks ago, Sarah was telling us about her new event coming up, "Food, YEAH!"
It's funny because until that point, I honestly had no idea how "food frustrated" I actually was. As she was describing the purpose of the event and her own frustrations and curiosities, it sparked the thought that maybe I struggle with a lot of the same concepts more than I recognized.
It's hard not to, right? I mean, think about ALL the different food trends/diets out there:
- GLUTEN FREE
- LOW CARB
- LOW FAT
- COUNTING MACROS
- COUNTING CALORIES
- WEIGHT WATCHERS
- ALKALINE DIET
- INTERMITTENT FASTING
- ...The list goes on.
SO, WHAT IS "FOOD, YEAH!" ??
The purpose of the event was NOT to push a new meal plan or to sell some trendy cleanse. It was about sparking honest, heart felt, healthy discussion about food that might cause your soul to stir as you reflect on your own wellness journey. With an open mind and without guidelines, all topics were on the table. She gathered five authentic health professionals with unique backgrounds to form an all-encompassing food panel. The fab five took stage as the rest of us got to soak in their stance on our most burning questions and address many of the food trends and fads out there today (all while enjoying some bomb protein balls, wine, and cold pressed juice, might I add).
THE PANEL: Highly recommend following them on social media!
1. Cara Harbstreet - Registered Dietician MS RD LD, @streetsmard.rd
2. Abbi Miller - Holistic Health Coach + speaker/writer/bizbabe, @abbimillerholistic
3. Brooke Salvaggio - Organic, sustainable farmer at Urbavore farms, @urbavorefarm
4. Dr. Heybrock - Medical Doctor at Health Studio Kansas City, @healthstudiokc:
5. Robin Krause - Certified Health Coach, Herbalist, Owner of Unbakery + Juicery, @unbakeryandjuicery
WHY IT WAS BADASS
First of all, I loved the variety amongst the panel. From having someone who literally grows food to someone who doctors the sick, and everything in between... it was just SO real. It wasn't five people sitting up there pretending they have the perfect lives or claiming to have the perfect diets or the perfect "one size fits all" answer. Its was just authentic, relaxed, and raw.
It has become difficult to feel 100% confident about what you're eating these days because new (and contradictory) information is constantly being thrown at us, especially now that social media plays such a big role in our lives. We have become so far removed from nature and society has made eating so numerical, complicated and processed it leads us to feel defeated, deprived, and SICK.
I've struggled with it myself. Even if I FEEL good on a plant-based diet, I question: "Am I doing the right thing?" "Do I really need more protein?" "Should I try this instead?" "Should I do that?" "Should I take this new supplement?" "Should I try this new shake program?" "Do I need to be counting calories?" "Does this fit my macros?" "Should I be eating at this time of day?" "Should I try this detox?" "Should I stop eating this or that?" AGH, MAKE IT STOP.
IT IS FREAKING HARD, especially if we choose to listen to the noise of everyone else around us.
For instance, think about the coconut oil example: (Sarah calls it the "Coconut Crisis of 2017")
*Everyone in 2016* - "Coconut oil is amazing, buy gallons of it, bathe yourself in it, eat it, feed it to your dog, put it in your hair, drink it in your coffee, slap it on your toast..."
*Article comes out in 2017* - "JK coconut oil is terrible for you. Stay away from it. Bye."
And we're all like... Well this is great, I have gallons of it in my pantry. Now WTF do I do, right?!
Listening to the newest articles or people you follow on Instagram can definitely lead to you yo-yo-ing and feeling frustrated endlessly. Which is why it was so helpful to have an open "all cards are on the table" discussion about it.
A FEW OF MY FAVORITE TAKE AWAYS
Abbi Miller - One of my favorite quotes from the night was from Abbi. She said, (this is not a direct quote but my own summary) "Every dollar you spend is like a vote for what kind of world you want to live in." What kind of world are you voting for? Another great tip from her was instead of prepping meals try prepping meal items. For example, instead of prepping 5 of the same salads, try cutting up all the fresh veggies and toppings. Have them ready to go and create different combos each day. It's like your own little mini salad bar right there in your kitchen. This was big for me. I found when I meal prepped for the week too specifically things either got soggy or I got to the point where the absolute last thing I wanted to eat was what was in that container. I've tried prepping meal items ever since this event and I am LOVING it so much more!
Brooke Salvagio - Eat as closely as you can to the earth. Eat locally from farmers in your area and support them in what they do. Ask them questions. Get to know what you're eating and where it comes from (farm > factory). Plant foods are not only nutrient dense, but HEALING and life-giving to the body.
Cara Herbstreet - To me, Cara's over all theme was to adopt intuitive eating and break restrictive eating habits. She touched on how we are born with signals from our body, telling us when we are hungry, what kind of nutrients we need, and when we are full. Over time, as the dieting mindset takes over, we become out of sync with what our body is trying to tell us and try to eat according to specific guidelines, but end up feeling even hungrier because we are either starving nutritionally or we aren't giving our body what it is needing at the time it is needing it.
Robin Krause - Robin discussed how we all have different food priorities and how what kind of foods we are eating will change depending on our priorities. "Are you trying to heal from digestive disorders? Are you trying to heal from autoimmune disease? Are you trying to live a lifestyle of healthy prevention?" etc. She discussed the upmost importance of eating according to YOUR food priorities. Even though a juice cleanse may be appropriate for some, it may not be appropriate or healing for others, etc. Her personal food priority is to prepare nutrient dense, delicious meals for her family at home, as she knows they will be exposed to "junk" elsewhere but she can control what happens within her own walls and lets the rest go.
WHAT THE COMMON THEME WAS
While each of the 6 panel members had unique positions in the "nitty gritty" of certain topics, there was definitely a common ground amongst them all:
- EAT. REAL. FOOD = LESS from a box and MORE from the earth.
- Food from a farm > Food from a factory
- Tune out the noise of fad diets, especially if they don't make you FEEL good.
- Throw away the restrictive habits + association of guilt with food
- Get more in touch and intuitive about how, when, and where you eat.
- Eat NUTRITIONALLY DENSE FOODS.
- Focus on the ingredient label of what you are eating, rather than the numerical category in which it fits. Doesn't have an ingredient label? Even better! (i.e. produce)
- Eat foods that FUEL your cells, NOURISH your body, and comfort your SOUL.
- Let go of "can" and "cannot" mindset, and adopt one of balance
WHAT DOES THIS LOOK LIKE FOR ME PERSONALLY + WHAT DID I TAKE AWAY PERSONALLY
I'm gonna get real open and "feel-y" here, even though that's not a word (yes, I have a blog, but no my grammar is not correct so you'll have to forgive me. I have an anatomy brain, not a grammatically correct one, so I try to punctuate and type as if I'm talking to a friend rather than publishing some grammatically correct novel). This is something I have struggled with for a long time now without necessarily realizing how deep it was/is (not the grammar, the food frustration ;) ).
When I went to holistic cancer treatment in 2015, I witnessed the insanely amazing, God-given capability and role Whole Foods have in healing he body. It is truly incredible what happens when you fuel your body with foods from the earth... Everything changes! YOU literally change, because your every cell of every organ of your body changes. I initially thought in order to heal from cancer I had to poison my body, cut it open, and burn it, so when I got to witness the power of the opposite, I was blown away.
While I accredit a large portion of my healing cancer journey to what I put IN and ON my body, I also acknowledge there is definitely a mental component. While 7 weeks of raw food and green juice played a major role in healing on a cellular level, I found that it wasn't a completely realistic lifestyle as I transitioned away from treatment and back into my "normal" life. I mean, I went from Arizona, a sun shining state, surrounded by other cancer patients who "ate like me" and went back to the cold, snowy midwest where no one ate like me. It was really hard, especially at first when I didn't know how to blend who I was before with who I am now.
My transition taught me a lot. I found myself caught somewhere between my "holistic cancer" friends who spoke of nothing but green juice, meditation, alkaline water, and organic salads AND my "college friends" who spoke of nothing but beer, vodka, partying and fast food. I felt guilty and conflicted no matter what. I either didn't fit in with old friends or didn't live up to the health standards of the "new me."
The problem was.. I am BOTH people and this event really helped me make sense of my own internal battle. My soul will always be somewhere between green juice and a good time. But what I didn't fully acknowledge before is that IT IS OKAY!!! It is okay to be both. It's okay to drink green smoothies during the week and chug (...I mean, sip...) wine on the weekends. It is MY choice. Whether I choose to indulge or not is in my control, and it doesn't make me less than. I don't have to FEAR anything and I certainly don't need to apologize for my decisions that I feel are best for my body. I don't have to fit into a square box. I'm NOT suppose to. I am me. What works for me is going to be different than what works for my cancer friends or my college friends or my family or strangers on the street or YOU.
What today's fad diets say to us is that we have to have lists of "I can eat/do this" and "I cannot eat/do this" and we call anything outside of these guidelines "cheats." We get down on ourselves for eating some french fries. Wanna know whats worse than a french fry? Depression, guilt, shame, anxiety, fear, and seclusion are. A LOT WORSE.
For example, there was a time I got warped into fearing fruit.... like.... umm... what? It's FRUIT. It is made by God, grown from the EARTH, fully and purely packaged with the perfect ratio of nutrients, fiber, hydration we need. The sugars in it are PURE. We don't have to cook it, boil it, or season it to make it edible, it's ready as is.
WHY WOULD I FEAR AN APPLE?! WHY DO WE HAVE TO TAKE OUR BLESSINGS AND TURN THEM INTO BURDENS?
Now don't get me wrong, I am human too. I ironically find some sort of twisted comfort in diets. Sometimes it's easier to just have someone else tell me what to do. I'm like, "Just give me list of "can" and "cannot" and I'll just follow it and all will be dandy and life will be great... right?"
What ends up happening is I'm all jazzed up and I clean out the pantry and I prep all these meals and I crush it for a day or two and then I "mess up" ... and what happens when you "mess up?" GUILT. Thats what happens. And for me, I'm an emotional eater. So me messing up leads to me eating my whole carton of cashew milk ice cream and binge eating chips and salsa with a "F it all" attitude. Its like the children's book When You Give a Mouse a Cookie. I start with a diet and end up with a disaster.
What I'm getting at is the emotion of failure attached to all of it - THAT is what HAS to go. Because it is NOT failure, its freedom. We are not meant to live within guidelines created by someone else because THEY DONT HAVE YOUR BODY OR YOUR GOALS OR YOUR AILMENTS OR YOUR PAST.
To me, mental health drives your physical health. If you either feel "deprived and proud" (i.e. mindset of, you go girl you only ate 1000 calories today who cares if you're starving) or "fed and ashamed" (i.e. you feel good but you're also ashamed because you ate some carbs on a no carb diet) something is NOT right, girlfriend. Change that shit up. Ditch the numbers and focus on eating real food, eat more greens, find whole food recipes that make you feel gorgeous on the inside. Quit plugging every ounce of food you eat into a calorie counter if it leaves you feeling like you're a failure at the end of the day because you ate an extra calorie or two (hundred..?). But if calorie counting works for you and you're not tying your worth into those numbers, then by all means, keep doing yo thang girl. JUST BE HONEST WITH YOURSELF, because I didn't even realize the pattern I was living in until I got out of it.
I am still finding my own balance and I know it will evolve as seasons change because its a lifestyle, not a diet. I've learned to let go of the frustration of imperfection because THERE IS NO SUCH THING as a perfect lifestyle. Instead, I embrace the knowledge gained along the way. I personally eat plant based not because anyone says I have to, but because it makes me FEEL good. Whole plant foods played a HUGE role in healing my body. I had a hormonal cancer so the thought of consuming exogenous hormones in animal based products is not appealing to me, but I don't fear it, nor do I feel deprived by not having it. If I'm out for dinner with friends I don't dwell on perfection, I just make the best decision I can according to my nutritional needs that will also be satisfying to the soul and fulfill the social component we all need as human beings. Life is meant to be enjoyed and CELEBRATED, together!
I want to thank each one of the panel members for their contribution to this event and for Sarah being the "health curious" womanimal that she is. You don't even realize how many people you're helping by simply being who you are, by having a need yourself and being a voice for others. You are empowering other women, lifting them up, and encouraging badassery ;)
If you struggle with food frustration, want to find B A L A N C E within wellness, or just want to be friends, lets chat!
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