2021: let’s choose health

The new year approaches. It’s the perfect time for all of us to collectively choose a new year’s resolution. What if we all agreed that 2021 is the year we get healthy?

It’s not complicated. For the most part, it’s as simple as transitioning to a whole food, plant-based diet along with getting our bodies into some motion. Throw in some fresh air and sunshine, and it’s a wonderful package that improves our individual and collective health while also addressing the number one factor that can help to heal our planetary environmental crisis.

The data is out there (science, you know) that demonstrates a whole food, plant-based diet can prevent, mitigate, or reverse the big name killer diseases we’ve been living with for far too long — you know, these are all those co-morbidities that have sadly compromised so many with the coronavirus. Heart disease, lung disease, diabetes, cancers, kidney disease, high blood pressure — all of these things and more can be prevented, mitigated, or reversed by simply making the switch from meat-dairy-processed to plants.

The data is out there (yup, that pesky science again), that shows animal agriculture’s negative impact on our personal health as well as the health of our planet. It is the number one factor contributing to our climate crisis as it bulldozes rainforests, pollutes our air, soils, and oceans, and drives species to extinction at an alarming rate. We are all part of this problem and have the power to fix it with a simple lifestyle change that only benefits us.

We spent 2020 collectively fear-focused on fighting Covid-19. We spent the entire year engaging in stop-gap measures, many of which were destructive for people in terms of economics, social fabric, mental health, education, and, yes, even physical health. We could have chosen health during that time, but, even now, many choose instead to simply wait, masked and reclusive, breathlessly placing their trust in a vaccine for which long-term safety is an absolute unknown.

Next year could be different. Let’s make 2021 the year we take a positive, no-fear approach to a better, safer world. Let’s make 2021 the year we actually focus on getting and being healthy — together. 

considering the food on our plates

These two won’t be food, thank goodness.

We don’t like to think about it very much. We are pretty good at avoiding thinking about the lives and deaths of the animals that we eat or use for food. It is indeed a difficult subject to contemplate, and yet it is an absolute, inescapable fact due to our choice to use animals, on a grand scale, for food.

Maybe we have seen the large trucks rumbling down the highway, and perhaps noticed the eyes and snouts of the animals packed inside. They are on their way to the slaughterhouse, but we probably never get that far in our thoughts. We just notice a truck full of pigs, never processing what that ride must be like for those beings, or exactly where it is they are headed.

As the trucks arrive at the slaughterhouse, it sometimes happens that there is a group of animal activists there. They are there to bear witness. They are awake to the fact that these are animals just like us. 

Just like us, the animals feel fear, they feel pain. They are sentient: conscious, aware, feeling.

So the activists bear witness to these last moments of these animals’ lives by speaking tenderly to them, by giving them some water to drink, by perhaps giving the animals the only real show of compassion and respect that they have ever known from humans — all while the animals are still crowded inside the transport truck. 

The animals were born trapped into a system that profits by their death. And it is all about the profit. These animals have never known freedom on this earth: born, living, and dying to serve another species’ market.

The protest also serves as an attempt to raise awareness of this cruel industry and our part in it. Rest assured, there would be no industry if not for our part in it.

On June 19, just a few days ago, such a protest took place in Burlington, Ontario. There was an additional impetus for this protest due to the fact that Canada, like its neighbor to the south, had just passed an ag gag law, Bill 156. Such laws are designed to further protect the animal agriculture industry, make it easier to keep its practices concealed, and insulate it from scrutiny or protest.

That day, one of the protestors in the Toronto Pig Save group was a 65-year-old woman named Regan Russell, a longtime advocate for animals and for other social causes. But at this particular protest, by the time all was said and done, Russell was dead, having been run over by a slaughterhouse truck.

It is my hope that even one person will stop and think about the meat on their plate, and decide to say no. In saying no, we reject a vast, cruel system of exploitation, one that abuses the animals, the planet, and, indeed, the consumers for profit. In saying no, we choose kindness and love and we help to open the world to more of that.

In the memory of Regan Russell, please give a moment to consider the food on your plate.

coming around to a planetary health diet


It’s old news for at least some folks. A recently-released report, researched and written by scientists, suggests that our animal-centered diet is unhealthy and it’s bad for the environment in a big way.

“Food in the Anthropocene: the EAT-Lancet Commission on healthy diets from sustainable food systems” proposes the “planetary health diet” as a major part of the solution to our health and environment concerns. They assert such a diet would help us to avert climate change while preventing millions of deaths and improving health around the globe.

At the crux of the proposed diet? Globally significant reductions in foods like meat and sugar (by more than half), and doubled consumption of vegetables, fruits, legumes, nuts – you know, plants.

Surprised? I thought not.

At the same time, we’re awfully slow and tentative in our embrace of a way of eating that holds the promise of so much positive outcome. Those outcomes go well beyond the commission’s vision, too.

Back in 2005, Dr. Will Tuttle beautifully and painstakingly explored the roots and impacts of our animal-based diet here in the US, and he proposed a happy alternative in his book The World Peace Diet: Eating for Spiritual Health and Social Harmony. When you grasp the picture Tuttle paints, you realize the wild extremes of the startling damage our animal-centric diet inflicts on us, the very way we think, our relationships, on others with whom we share our earth, and on the world.

Tuttle’s answer to that is pretty simple, logical, and indeed doable. It certainly jives with the EAT-Lancet Commission’s conclusion. From their summary report:

The global adoption of healthy diets from sustainable food systems would safeguard our planet and improve the health of billions.

World Peace? Healthy life? Planetary Health? Hell, yeah!

And yet, here we are still simply romancing the concepts. They look good from a distance, but folks remain reluctant to get close. We continue to be wooed by the old, abusive amour, and thus our unhealthy addictions continue with only minor concessions to our better judgment.

It’s time. It’s time to step up. Take care of yourself. Take care of your kids. Take care of our earth. It’s right there in your kitchen. It’s one thing you can actually control – at least for now.

Even if you can’t make it to vegan yet, move in that direction. Do it with full intent, with purpose, with a plan to ultimately go full bore. There are plenty of books, blogs, and vlogs out there to help you find your way, but, honestly, it’s not complicated. We make it complicated for ourselves by our extreme dependence on all things animal and processed and advertised.

Start now. A few things to shoot for:

  1. Reduce your animal consumption, at least by half. Start reading labels and be astonished by how huge a role animals play in your food beyond that burger on your plate.
  2. Eat more plants and a wide variety. The less processed, the better. Greens and beans are your friends.
  3. Support each other. Let’s move past the snide comments about rabbit food and work compassionately together for the better.

It’s your health and our planet we’re talking about here. 

Okay, then. One. Two. Three. Go! Enjoy!

winter challenges: food and running

veru12_7_18-e1544183475255.jpgAll summer long, salad sat at the center of my eating patterns. I mean, you can pretty much throw anything in a salad, after all, and it works. It’s nutritious and tastes great.

Summer did not involve a whole lot of effort going into cooking anything, except for pasta, grains, and the occasional veggie burger.

Then, snow and ice arrived, and it seemed that my whole palate changed.

When I came in from outside, all bundled up and still cold, the thought of making a salad made me shiver. I just wanted to warm up.

The greens began to wither in the fridge as my food thoughts ranged to all things warm, like the vegan meatloaf  I wrote about here – the perfect winter comfort fix.

Chili quickly became a go-to meal. Vegan mac and cheese became an imperative. Lasagne became compelling.

Comforting, filling food took center stage. I wanted stuff I could cook ahead, too, since all I wanted to do at the close of the shockingly short daylight hours was curl up in a blanket.

That whole shorter day thing turned out to be problematic in other ways, too. Along with the snow and ice, it quickly became harder to make myself get out there for my runs. After breaking my shoulder a couple of years ago, I found myself very reluctant to run in the dark, and it’s pretty hard to find time during the day.

veru12_7_18bSo I was into this winter mode of operation – slowing down and filling up – just long enough to notice how it makes me feel different. I don’t like it, either.

I’ve been feeling kind of sluggish and full and sleepy and uncomfortable and like being a couch potato. This is not my style.

Worse, this whole winter thing is just barely getting started. We’ve got months to go.

As I sat and listened to an acquaintance the other day discussing his two heart attacks, diabetes, and various hospitalizations, it occurred to me that I need to be proactive about my unhealthy winter stagnation and feeding tendencies.

The first thing I did was bring salad back. I need my salads. I missed my salads. Comfort food is great in small doses, but salad has to be the main dish for me.

I also did a reset on my hydration, which I realized had become reduced to pretty much anything warm – coffee, tea. I’m back to drinking water in more summerish quantities.

Running is more problematic. I am an outside runner – that is how I get zen. Nevertheless, I may have to resort to using the local indoor track if it’s too frickin’ cold or messy or dark out. This is hard for me to do.

On the weekends, I can make my outdoor runs work – or at least walks or hikes, which is fine if that’s all I manage. The point is to keep moving all through the winter.

I’d like to remain on the move at least five days a week, even if it’s shorter distances than I’m used to.

Since my running is hampered, I can give more love to core and strength exercises. Something to shoot for anyway. Maybe even break down and return to yoga.

Given my current couch potato frame of mind, this is actually a pretty challenging agenda. It’s so important, though, for my physical as well as my mental/emotional well-being.

Wish me luck. Brrrr.

lone vegan attempts to cook again

veru11_24_18aEven though I have a lot of interest in nutrition and eating healthy, I struggle to make myself cook. I’m fine with breakfast and lunch since I long ago established go-to meals that are easy and quick to make, without actually, ahem, involving much cooking.

Dinner is another story. By the time I get to dinner, I have exactly zero interest in preparing anything for myself. I am so disinterested in cooking for myself that sometimes I just skip the whole thing altogether or eat something that’s really not ultimately good for me just because it’s there and I don’t have to cook it.

This dinner thing has been bothering me. So I decided recently to make the effort to learn a few recipes for dinner meals that could be prepared and served for two or three dinners, or for entertaining.

Little did I know exactly how rusty my cooking skills had gotten!

My attempt this week was inspired by the vegan Neatloaf I enjoyed in San Diego at the delightful Jyoti-Bihanga restaurant. That neatloaf was awesome. With mashed potatoes and gravy, it’s the perfect winter comfort food, too.


I found a recipe on A Virtual Vegan’s website, including both the loaf and the gravy. Perfect!

The recipes aren’t too complicated, the ingredients are reasonable, and she gives detailed instructions and great photos.

It was my own lack of cooking habit that had to be confronted. I cooked for many years, and certainly had the tools and the expertise to put things together. Years of disuse, however, took their toll.

My first problem was pretty basic. I had gotten so bad about cooking that I never unpacked many of my cooking supplies when I moved into my current location. Hence, I had to root around in boxes looking for some elementary items like: a bowl and a loaf pan. I never did find either one, but I improvised. 

Then, there was the whole thing of actually, you know, preparing the dish. This is fundamental stuff. Chopping onions, garlic, mushrooms. Cooking lentils. Measuring spices, etc. (It took awhile, but I found my measuring spoons, yay!) We’re talking routine kitchen activities here; nevertheless, it was as if I was doing it all under water.

At any rate, I was not deterred. I actually did make the loaf, mashed potatoes, and gravy. The only thing I tweaked on the recipes was that, not having a blender around, I just used the chopped the onions and mushrooms for the gravy without blending – and actually, that is the way I would do it again.

Results? Awesome! It really turned out great. And it really is the perfect comfort meal for those wintry days.  The texture and moistness of the loaf are just right. And it really tastes yummy. If I tweaked anything, perhaps it would be just a little less thyme.  The recipe made enough loaf that it’s going to take me awhile to eat it up – which is exactly what I was hoping.

The gravy is the perfect addition, too. The flavor is there, along with the color and consistency that invites.

Thank you, A Virtual Vegan!

It was a worthwhile exercise, and I had fun doing it. I admit, though, I would never find myself doing this at the end of the day. So cooking ahead is the way to go.

So far, so good. Yum!

doubling down on healthy habits

veru10_29_18bWith the arrival of cold and wet weather, the indoor heat and all that, I lately found myself – yes – doing battle with a cold. I haven’t had one in a long, long time. And this is not how I plan to do winter.

So, I’ve been hydrating more than usual, and trying to eat a little better. I dosed up on Zicam for a couple of days. And I’ve been keeping up with the running and walking.

I suspect, though, that my defenses were down more from stress than anything else. So, there is work to be done on managing that.

The first part of managing stress is the simple recognition of my lack of control. Usually, when situations present themselves, I find myself anxiously seeking to do something, to find a way to fix things, or to at least help. But sometimes, that’s just out of my hands, and I have to accept that.

Emotional stressors that are basically outside of my control mean that my job is simply to take care of myself while providing whatever support I can. If I cannot help the situation itself, I can at least stay strong for myself and others by taking good care of myself.

I like one of Louise Hay’s affirmations, “I allow my mind to relax and be at peace.” Just saying those words, “I let my mind relax,” reminds me just to sort of loosen my futile grip on things and breathe.

The other things I can do are to try to rest, exercise, and nourish and hydrate well. Nourishment is an area where I frequently falter.

Single living makes it all too easy to be a slacker. As a pretty conscious although imperfect vegan, I rarely eat anything that doesn’t have good nutritional value. Where I do have trouble sometimes is eating at all or eating a good variety.

I have used Cronometer enough to have a very good idea of the nutritional value of the things I generally eat in a day. Cronometer is super helpful for showing you what you’re getting in terms of vitamins, minerals, carbs, protein, fats, etc. 

The big issue is cooking. I find it difficult to be inspired to cook for myself. Some days, especially now that it’s cold, I have a hard time even making myself put a salad together – and that’s often my main meal in the warm weather season.

I look up recipes to try, but when it comes right down to it, I just don’t care enough to spend time on it. This makes for some really lame meals. It’s a conundrum.

Grocery shopping is also always met with inner resistance. Thus, it is no surprise when I look about my kitchen and find a pretty paltry selection from which to put together a decent meal.

This is one area, though, that I can really work on in establishing a healthy front as we lurch towards winter.  I do not intend to tolerate ill health if there’s anything I can do about it.

Ah, what would Louise have to say right about now? I suspect, and I affirm, “I take excellent care of myself, and I enjoy wonderful health!” Or, perhaps, “I enjoy preparing nutritious meals to fuel my healthy body.” 🙂

peace on the plate


So, apparently, just a few weeks ago was about the time the little turkeys were born who will be featured on plates across the USA come the holidays.

Personally, I do not want to see another feeling being with whom I share the earth slaughtered for my plate. I know that in many minds that seems like an extreme position, but it’s really not at all – unless one considers compassion extreme.

I get it. I really do. Like pretty much everyone else, meat-eating was an unquestioned way of life for me for literally decades. The turkey and all of the accoutrements defined the Thanksgiving holiday.

veru9_9_18bOne Thanksgiving when I was a little girl, my father excitedly told us that he had brought the turkey home and it was in the trunk of the car. He convinced us that the turkey was alive. My brother and I were enlisted to stand at the ready, weapons in hand, as my father opened the trunk. Our job was to subdue and kill the turkey for the family table.

Dutifully, I stood there, shaking and tearful, holding some bludgeoning tool from out of my father’s toolbox. Of course, after much build-up, he finally opened the trunk, revealing the turkey’s carcass.

My father and the rest of the assembled family and relatives had a great laugh over the prank, but the moment rests darkly in my memory – both for the odd personal cruelty of it, and for the way it made me look at the turkey. I finally got it that the food on my plate was once a living, breathing, feeling being that didn’t want to die.

Although I glimpsed that sentiment as a young girl, it would be many, many years before I seriously processed the significance of the food that I eat through the lens of compassion. At long last, I am committed to a vegan lifestyle, albeit still occasionally an imperfect one.

Veganism is a journey. It’s not a matter of flipping a switch, and, voila, you’re done. No, it’s an unfolding, enlightening exploration of food, what it really is, and the suffering involved on the path to your plate.

Once you open your eyes to it, you can’t just unsee it. It pervades every aspect of your life, and calls you to be something more – and less.

It turns out that veganism is really just part of a much larger expedition about what it means to be the human that you are, sharing this planet with other life. It is an odyssey toward compassion, peace, and justice – something I believe to be a worthwhile journey indeed, especially during these days of ever-increasing harsh rhetoric and actions in our society.


I could not celebrate a dead turkey on the table, with an inkling of how it arrived there, an understanding of how it impacts our shared earth to eat this way, and even a consideration of its impact on individual health both physical and mental. There are just so many reasons.

So, like I said, I get it that veganism is a difficult concept for most people in a culture so thoroughly steeped and invested in animal agriculture. I don’t judge people for the way they eat, even though, oddly, it doesn’t always work the other way around.

Still, you might want to think about it.



It wasn’t something I set out on a mission to do. First one thing, and then another, and suddenly, what do you know, it appears I’m vegan.

I am one of those people who just thinks about things, some of which may be obvious to others. Things like the actual ethics involved in, say, the seemingly innocent act of drinking milk. Maybe it’s not the ethics, but the health implications. Or maybe I start to wonder just exactly what’s in that milk. Or I start to ponder the relationship between the milk and the environment. Inevitably, gender becomes a topic when considering milk, too.

And then I look from the milk, to the yogurt, to the cheese. And then there’s a little jump to the eggs. And even though I don’t particularly want to look, there’s all that meat splayed out in front of me.

These things are looking us in the eye every single day, but they are not even noticeable as troubling in the context of our culture. When you do start to notice, however, eventually you have a preponderance of things shouting, “Plants, dammit!”

It’s not all about food. It’s about so many things. It’s mainly about compassion for animals, for people, for the earth. It’s about justice and injustice on many, many levels. It’s about health. It’s about corporations. It’s about kindness, and peace, and economics. It’s about gender and status and ethnicity.

It’s about discovering the way so many disparate things all weave together, you know, the way life does. It’s just so hard to see sometimes. And uncomfortable, perhaps.

We are each part of that rich fabric. Pull one little thread, like changing how one eats, even just a bit, and see how things change.

closer to life

skyAnd then sometimes I think about living closer to life. Like growing my own food. Which you would think is funny if you knew me because I have a pretty terrible track record with gardens. I always start out with the best of intentions. Then things just get out of hand. That’s not to say I haven’t managed some tomatoes, cukes, zucchini…. Basil.

So I think about growing my own food and then it just seems ridiculously impossible. Really, though, it’s just a matter of planning and discipline, right?

I even think about growing stuff indoors during these Michigan winters. Remember that character on Northern Exposure who had his greenhouse full of growing food up in Alaska?

Of course, then there’s the cat. If I’m growing anything inside, I have no doubt he’s going to eat it, at least strip the leaves off. Why worry about tomato hornworms when you’ve got a cat?

Again, a matter of planning and discipline – arranging things so the cat can not get access. Is that really so hard?

Which leads me to ponder other things that seem ridiculously impossible. Like making my living in a way that makes me happy, that’s authentic and meaningful, and, well, closer to life. Maybe, just maybe, I need to revisit that through the lens of “planning and discipline.”

I have ideas of things I’d like to do, but I never get very far with those thoughts before the “That’s ridiculous!” voice sounds off in my head. Whose voice is that anyway? Who is it that tells me I can’t? That it’s silly. That what I need is to have a marketable skill.

Ah ha! I recognize that voice. But that was then, and this is now. So I need to find and listen to my own voice, silly. Planning and discipline, eh?

musings on motion

Tonight’s salad, which has little to do with musings about self-powered journeys, but was simply too delightful not to photograph and share.

So sometimes I think about making a self-powered journey with a little distance to it. Like riding my bicycle across Michigan, or maybe heading somewhere south. Or maybe it would be a walking/running journey of some sort. Think of all the things you’d see. And the people you would meet.

What a meditation each day would be.

I would probably start small, say, just take a two or three day trip – out and back. See how it goes, work the bugs out. Try it a few times ‘til I know I’ve got just the equipment I need. And it would definitely be minimal. Still, I’d have to be prepared to camp and all that.

I noticed All Seasons Cyclist rode just under 6,500 miles in 2012. Bravo! That’s pretty cool. That’s all miles in the now.

An acquaintance of mine is preparing to hike the Appalachian Trail. Maybe I could tag along for a bit.

People are out there doing this stuff. (I know because they’re blogging about it.) Many years ago, I made a truly epic journey by boat. I’d do that again, too. I used to think a lot about building a sailing dinghy and taking it along the intracoastal – a slow and careful trip where you would see all the details up close. For that matter, I could spend months just messing around a place like, say, Pamlico Sound with my little imaginary dinghy.

Back to real life, ahem, I went for a three mile run with my buddies just as it was about to start getting dark. Two new people showed up, which was great. It was cold, of course. The roads were icy, so it was slow going – we all went cleatless since not everyone was so equipped.

Back at home, warmed up with homemade split pea soup with carrots and onions and garlic. And had a delightful salad with my fave baby spinach blend, cucumber, tomato, sugar snap peas, and sprouts. Life is good.