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I love to learn about the healing value of food. In Traditional Chinese Medicine, plants and foods are an important healing source in the form of herbal medicines, and in teaching us about what foods can help us get back into balance. The basic tenet of eating healthy is to go with the flow of nature.

And I believe that is the essence of what Michael Pollan writes of in an article for the New York Times that begins, “Eat food. Not too much. Mostly plants.”

A helpful blog posting on inspired protagonist has paraphrased Pollan’s rules.

  1. Don’t eat anything your great-great-grandmother wouldn’t recognize as food.
  2. Avoid food products that come bearing health claims. They’re apt to be heavily processed, and the claims are often dubious at best.
  3. Never eat food products containing ingredients that are unfamiliar, unpronounceable, or more than five in number. Or that contain high-fructose corn syrup. These are all signs that the food has been heavily processed.
  4. Do as little of your shopping at the supermarket as possible. Farmers Markets are much better food sources.
  5. Pay more, eat less. It’s a lot healthier to eat less high quality (i.e. expensive) food than it is to eat a larger quantity of poor quality food. It’s like beer. Better to drink one really great craft-brewed ale than a whole six pack of swill that costs less than that single bottle.
  6. Eat mostly plants, especially leaves.
  7. Eat more like the French. Or the Japanese. Or the Italians. Or the Greeks. People who eat by the rules of a traditional food culture are generally healthier. Any traditional diet will do: if it weren’t healthy, the people who follow it wouldn’t still be around.
  8. Cook. And if you can, plant a garden. To take part in the intricate and endlessly interesting processes of providing for our sustenance is the surest way to escape the culture of fast food and the values implicit in it.
  9. Eat like an omnivore. Try to add new species, not just new foods, to your diet. The greater the diversity of species you eat, the more likely you are to cover all your nutritional bases.

To the last point, I would add, eat like a rainbow-eater. Eat the (natural) spectrum of food colors.

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In Traditional Chinese Medicine, balanced daily routine is said to be a key to long healthy life. I think about my grandfather who was very organized; for example, he had his breakfast at 8:30am every morning. I could practically set my watch to it. And he lived fully to 92.

So let’s say you agree that routine is good. But can too much of a good thing become not so good? I’ll share my friend’s experience of getting herself out of a rut.

For five years, my friend started each day with a walk around her neighborhood. It energized her. Got her off to a good start to write. (She’s a poet.) Recently, however, she noticed her aversion to her walks. She just couldn’t get going in the morning. She had walked herself into a rut. (Imagine if she had walked on a dirt path–instead of concrete–for 1800 days; there might be an actual rut in the road.)

So one day, she decided to make just one change. Instead of turning left, when she stepped out, she turned right. That was it. She walked the exact same route, but in the opposite direction. And that one difference made all the difference she needed. She was more present on her walk, because she couldn’t go on automatic pilot. She noticed things anew. She’s now back to her healthful routine. With that one simple–but profoundly effective–change, she has gotten out of a rut.

What daily routine could you change by just one facet, to give you a fresh new experience?

Some ideas (inspired by a great little book on neurobics called Keep Your Brain Alive):

  • Use your non-dominant hand when doing everyday things. For example, if you’re right-handed, use your left hand to brush your teeth, button your shirt, open the door, stir your coffee or tea…
  • Stimulate your other senses. For example, use touch, rather than sight, to pick out your clothes. Smell your lunch before you start eating; can you pick out the ingredients?
  • Change your seat. Choose a new spot at the dinner table. Or try a new seat at your next meeting. You might get an entirely new view of things.

Please share rut-releasing tips that have worked for you!

I keep thinking about a story last week in the New York Times about women with shoulder and back problems because their bags are too heavy. Apparently, there’s a trend to oversized bags–in the world of fashion-conscious–where women are hauling around so much stuff on one shoulder that massage therapists and chiropractors are seeing an increase in women with shoulder and back issues!

I was surprised to read that the women, and even some of the therapists, thought the physical discomfort was merely an unfortunate consequence of adhering to a fashion trend. This line of thinking is so alien to me, that I was dumbfounded. But then I thought, perhaps there are places in my life that I am a slave to “fashion.”

My commitment to sustainable choices, for example, sometimes stymies my making really sensible choices. For example, I might go out of my way to buy a box of recycled tissues (for my wellness studio.) Was that really sensible when I consider that the extra energy (fossil fuel and my personal time/energy) needed to do that may have cost more than the savings of using recycled tissues. But it’s the thought that counts! Well yes, but also the point is in weighing individual choices within the context of the larger goal.

So, I throw out this question (as much to myself as to you):

  • Are you a “slave to fashion” in some way in your life?

Be it handbag fashion, stiletto-heel fashion, or stubbornly-eco fashion. How can you make sensible choices around those? Making a habit of decluttering your purse every Sunday night; stretching and massaging your feet and lower legs after a high-heel day; or remembering the big picture for sustainable choices.

sweet potatoesLast night I cooked up a deep orange and dark green dish–sweet potatoes and chard from the farmer’s market. Simple and fulfilling, the colors remind me of autumn. In Traditional Chinese Medicine, the seasons are as much about us and our bodies and hearts, as it is about the natural world. And so we can learn from Mother Nature, eating the bounty she gives us.
squashespersimmonsbrussel sprout stalkapplesAlemany Farmer’s Market, San Francisco

Apples, persimmons, potatoes, squash… brussel sprouts on the stalk… all from the Alemany Farmer’s Market in San Francisco. We’re lucky to have year-round access to local produce here in the Bay Area; it’s where I go to learn how to eat healthy with the seasons.

Here’s a separate post on a book recommendation about Staying Healthy with the Seasons.

I forgot to add to the list of wellness ideas.

  • Take a walk around the neighborhood.

Connection to your local environment helps with your sense of grounding. And whether you’re in your own neighborhood, the neighborhood where you grew up, or some altogether new neighborhood, what better way to walk off some of that Thanksgiving turkey and pumpkin pie, get a chance to have some talk-time with your sister or uncle or friend, and perhaps even play tourist in your own town?

Anticipating tomorrow’s eating frenzy, this morning my boyfriend and I took a pre-turkey walk near our home in San Francisco. Sometimes it’s fun to be a tourist in my own town.

Seals hanging out and barking away on Pier 39.seals1.JPG

img_2499.JPGAnd you never know what you might come across. We found this scale in front of the Fior d’Italia hotel in North Beach. We tried it out and it does give an “honest weight” as it claims. Motivater for more walks!

welcome to the salon

This is a place to share, explore and discuss ideas around healthy and sustainable living. By paying Attention and setting Intentions, we can each find our individual paths to wellness. Learn more about this blog on the About page.
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