I no longer eat peanut butter or chocolate. It’s a miracle. This phenomenon does not have the quality of parting the Red Sea, nor the quantity of multiplying fish and loaves. This abstinence is more like a blessing mediating between my old habitual behaviors and my best interest.
“No-chocolate, no peanut butter” never made sense to me until I found holism. After all, peanut butter has fat and protein, chocolate has carbohydrates. That’s how I figured nutrition.
I had physical allergies, was fifty pounds overweight with an equal fifty pound burden in my head from the stress of it all, and felt just a tad bit emotional about body image. I never connected that body-mind-emotion might be related, the body intelligence a miraculous working whole. I never thought to look into diet to help with my frantic mind, pudgy body and wild feelings.
One day my doctor suggested, “Hmm. Let’s look into this. Diet can affect everything. What do you eat on a regular basis? For example, peanuts and chocolate are common allergens.”
Thank goodness he thinks holistically. “Regular basis” was an understatement. Peanuts and chocolate were my staples. I thought there was an RDA for these two essential food groups.
I clung to the paradigm of reductionism for decades, as I was teethed on rich sweets. When I shared hammock time with my younger cousins, our Pepere served us chocolate Hoodsie cups covered in Spanish peanuts. Carbs, proteins, fats. If I finished my serving of Memere’s roast beef, she “good-girled” me with bite-size Mr. Goodbars. Animal protein was a food group. Chocolate and peanuts for a reward. Imagine.
But at some point my way, based on cultural conditioning, stopped working. Being fat. Having allergies. Crazed with food frenzy. Diets didn’t work any more either. I needed a new paradigm. I found my “teacher” when I found T. Colin Campbell. Long before The China Study, I read what was then called The China Project. I signed up for mailings from his New Century Nutrition when he was at Cornell and stopped eating meat, poultry and fish. I worked over the phone with a dietician there and became vegan. When I truly understood holism, sugar was the last to go.
Knowing how one change reverberates through the whole, as a psychotherapist, I then sat in sessions with my clients holding the knowledge that talk therapy alone was not going to heal the body-mind complex. I knew that this woman’s depression might be lifted if she’d put down the processed carbohydrates which flattened her in food coma. The body and mind are one, I’d find myself saying. Or I’d know that this man’s anxiety might be helped with less caffeine and sugar, the stimulants he was ingesting. The mind, body, emotions are one, I’d remind him.
I read The China Study and took the e-Cornell classes the first time they were taught. I started eating real, whole plant foods without thinking about food groups, calories, dieting, weighing and measuring, fats, proteins or carbs. These three courses finally helped me let go of compartmentalized thinking. Thanks to “my teacher,” these courses and a lot of work, I am now a whole foods, low-fat, plant-centered eater. And I’ve written a book about that journey: Food Fix: Ancient Nourishment for Modern Hungers.
Sometimes I slip. I love chocolate and peanuts. But I and those I coach, teach and counsel, know the power through all systems when we choose plants as food. Mostly I teach and write about self-kindness, self-compassion in our food and lifestyle choices. And because the universe, too, works as a whole, the planet and the animals benefit as well. Maybe we should call it Whole Earth Eating.
I’m usually not the believing-in-miracles type. Yet I am now at a normal weight. My allergies are gone. My cholesterol is down from almost 300 to hovering at about 200. If I remember the whole when I make my choices in food, movement or in how I communicate, my mind is sharp and my emotions steady. When I forget, I suffer.
At dawn today I ate steel cut oats with organic blueberries and a sprinkling of flax. And my whole being knows it.
Susan Lebel Young, MSED, MSC, is a graduate of the CNS/eCornell Certificate Program in Plant-based Nutrition. She is an author and mindfulness teacher and her website is www.heartnourishment.com.