But what to do? People get confused and scared by grim statistics and dire predictions about health and our diets. Organic, non-organic, local, commercial, GMOs, farm fresh, natural — it’s like you need to be a rocket scientist to grocery shop. And after all that, after doing “all the right things,” the food is less than yummy, and you’ve given up all the “fun stuff.”
Well, what if I told you that it’s simple, delicious and totally relaxing to eat foods that will nourish you body and soul, help you achieve your ideal weight; live peacefully and compassionately and slip right past all the obstacles that keep you from making healthy choices? Yeah, right, you say? Hah! I say.
It all starts with your brain. Positive thinking can change everything for you, but is not so easy to achieve. We live in a culture that sets us up for failure and cashes in on our insecurities. Every television ad we see is telling us that we are losers, except if we buy particular pills, perfumes, lotions, burgers, drinks, mouthwashes, clothes or cars. Then we will be sane, sexy, smart, funny, healthy, fit and/or thin. These messages reinforce the notion that we cannot be whole, complete humans without this stuff.
As well, habits form in the brain. When we do something repetitively, our brains and bodies go on auto-pilot, functioning without much thought. We do a lot of mindless eating in our culture — of mostly unhealthful foods. That unconscious living has resulted in eating too much, too little exercise and too many pharmaceuticals to keep us up and keep us down. We get into a rut, with habits that make no contribution to our health and wellness. It’s always time for a good shakeup, to avoid this downward spiral our culture of indulgence has created.
But change what needs changing. Change is hard, especially when it comes to breaking long-term bad habits. Your mind is a powerful tool. Use it to your advantage. Develop a positive vision of the outcome you want and be conscious of the choices you are making. If you think that you can’t do something, then you probably can’t. A swim coach said to me when I was training hard and doing fast interval drills for a triathlon, “Stop telling yourself that you can’t do this!” I did, and I swam like never before.
To move forward, you must ask yourself how your life will be enhanced by a change. New, healthy habits are created by taking your brain off auto-pilot. The key to lasting health is to simply reinforce a new practice. But here is the cool thing: Whatever actions you take — and repeat — will take hold after 21 days and can become automatic in as few as 66 days. You can go back on auto-pilot — but in a good way. Your present lifestyle may be killing you, but it can quickly be turned around to become your source of strength, health and fitness.
Bottom line: If you live within 20 miles of a supermarket, you can make healthy choices. Consumer demand has created incredible access to healthier options. From extra virgin olive oils to organic produce and other whole unprocessed foods, you don’t need to go on a pilgrimage to make better choices for your day-to-day eating.
And get moving! Our sedentary lifestyle of Facebook and Twitter has created a culture of lethargy. Just move your body and sweat. You will feel strong, with stamina to burn. As you get fitter, you’ll seek ways to be more active, to push your body’s endurance and stamina. Whether it’s yoga, group cycling, walking, running, calisthenics, boot camp, gardening – get moving.
Here’s a high-energy recipe designed to show off the pure yumminess of natural eating. It’s the perfect way to begin the New Year: fresh, exciting and full of flavor.
— Christina Pirello, M.F.N, C.C.N, speaker & writer on whole and natural foods
Braised Tofu with Baby Greens and Pineapple Curry Vinaigrette
Makes 2 servings
Pineapple Curry Vinaigrette
3 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
1 teaspoon curry powder
1/2 (one half) teaspoon ground cumin
1/2 (one half) teaspoon sea salt
Cracked black pepper
1/4 cup fresh pineapple juice
2 tablespoons red wine vinegar
3 scallions, finely minced
2 teaspoons avocado oil
2 teaspoons soy sauce
2 teaspoons brown rice syrup
1/2 (one half) teaspoon curry powder
Scant pinch chili powder
8 ounces extra-firm tofu, cut into 6 slices
2 cups organic baby arugula or spinach
1 small cucumber, cut into fine julienne pieces
1/3 cup fine julienne pieces fresh daikon
Make the vinaigrette: Place oil, curry powder, cumin, salt and pepper in a small skillet and cook, stirring, over low heat until fragrant, about 2 minutes. This brings out the curry powder’s heat. Remove from heat and whisk in remaining ingredients. Set aside to cool and to allow flavors to develop.
Prepare the tofu: Combine oil, soy sauce, syrup, curry powder and chili powder in a saucepan over medium heat. Stir to combine ingredients and when the oil is hot, pat tofu slices dry with a kitchen towel and arrange them in the hot oil. Cook until browned, 2 to 3 minutes. Turn and brown on the other side.
While the tofu cooks, prepare the salad greens: Combine greens with cucumber and daikon in a large bowl. Toss with vinaigrette to coat and arrange salad on a shallow platter. Arrange tofu slices on top and serve immediately.