Wednesday, October 6, 2010

Back In Vietnam

I'm back in Vietnam teaching English. I'll be here till May with a few weeks break to come home for Christmas. As you may know I love it here. The people, the climate (unbearably hot sometimes), and the food. I find it so much easier to eat healthily here. Lots of alternatives, exotic fresh fruits, fewer temptations to eat junk food, and interesting healthy Vietnamese options.

My mornings begin with some yoga stretches, and a 5 mile run along the beach. I've begun running barefoot on the cement sidewalk and my feet love the freedom. Today I ran the whole 5 miles without shoes. (My daughter Gina got me interested in the benefits of running barefoot.) It was nice because near the end I could just run into the ocean for a swim, run out, and continue my jog. I rehydrate with some water, a shower, and fresh coconut water. The young coconuts cost only 50 cents each.

I have a smoothie for breakfast, usually mango, pineapple, and fresh squeezed orange juice. I go teach a class and for lunch I snack on chopped up broccoli, carrots, and cucumber while I prepare a salad. I brought raw tahini with me so I could make that marinade dip I mentioned a few blogs ago. I absolutely love that dip! Between the veggies and the salad I'm feeling pretty good. I may have a durian if I'm particularly hungry. Or some small bananas.

I teach an early evening class every night and then usually eat out at a Vietnamese restaurant. The options are endless and I've really begun enjoying the different flavors. Even the nuoc mam (fish sauce) tastes good now. I will either eat vegan or a dish with very small amounts of crab, squid, or chicken for flavoring.

I've lost 6 pounds in the three weeks I've been here without even trying. Life is good. Thank you to those of you who have made comments to the blog, and especially Isabel from Denmark. And Teresa.  And Jessica. And Renee. I feel a close spiritual connectedness to so many of you.

Thursday, August 26, 2010

Succeeding With Your Help

Those of you who have commented recently are awesome!! Your ideas and suggestions have really made a difference. I think you all have helped me get another step higher up the health ladder. Wonderful! This is what you said that made a difference:

Teresa suggested that I try drinking a large smoothie late in the afternoon to cut down on my evening cravings. I actually started doing that a couple of days before she posted that comment and had been having success. I've now been eating a simple, relatively light lunch, and at the same time making a banana chocolate smoothie and keeping it in a small cooler. Knowing that if I got hungry I could go for it. Usually sometime between 3 and 4  I drink it. This totally takes the edge off my cravings and I eat less for dinner and less after afterwards. So now I have a fruity berry type smoothie for breakfast, dehydrated flaxseed crackers and dip for lunch or a salad, a banana smoothie for late afternoon, and a light dinner and or snacks in the evening. Totally satisfying and no cravings so I can control my evening food consumption. Teresa I am completely on the same page and path as you. Thanks a bunch!

I want to thank A Little Bunny who shared about her headaches. She suggested that mine could be from the bananas. If they go past their prime they can trigger headaches. I've been watching for that and cutting out any parts that have turned brown more headaches! I was blaming it on the cacao, I am so glad that was not it. Imagine a world with no chocolate!

A number of you also wrote about being 75% raw and the rest just trying to be vegan. I totally agree with you.  Whole wheat pasta or steamed potatoes was suggested for dinner. I love both. Also hummus, which I like to have with flaxseed crackers, but that is more like lunch for me.

Well, thank you all for your ideas and support. I feel like I have made a significant advance. Actually, this may be enough. Let's see, what else do we need to do. Not much more. Blessings to you all!

Saturday, August 14, 2010

A Spectacular Recipe!

Every once in a while we come across a recipe that just blows us away. That happened the other day. I was so excited I literally ran around the house. And I found it quite by chance.

I was flipping through books and Almond Butter Marinade caught my eye. This is in Raw Foods For Busy People by Jordan Maerin. The only reason I tried making it was because I had almond butter in the cabinet that I wasn't using. What the heck? I'm not much of a marinade type of guy, but I gave it a try.

Here is the recipe with a few changes:
1/2 Cup Raw Almond Butter
1/2 Cup Water
1/4 Cup Honey
4 cloves Garlic
Lemon Juice to taste (I used one lemon)
Cayenne Pepper to taste
Crushed Red Pepper to taste
Sea Salt to taste

I generally don't waste time putting up recipes but this one is so good everyone should have this!

Just blend it all up and toss with your favorite veggies. I chopped up zucchini, carrots, and then put in cherry tomatoes. Marinade for 3 hours at room temperature or leave in the frig. Oh my god! This is sooooooo good!!!!!

A couple of days later I brought a small container of the veggies and marinade to the beach for lunch. It was so filling and delicious. This is one more easy to make addition to my raw food arsenal, what a great way to get raw zucchini into your diet!

Thursday, August 12, 2010


Well, it's been a while since I've written anything. That's because I refuse to write if I have nothing to say and I haven't had a thing to say for a while. That doesn't mean I haven't been...hum...thinking about things...and experimenting. Mostly it's been a struggle for I don't know how long. I've been stuck in the muck. As summer winds down I'm beginning to see something new going on.

As I've written before, if the day ended at 5pm I'd have no trouble living on the perfect diet of smoothies, and salads, and cereals. But come dinner time and after dinner and, well, I'm still waiting for the answer. The idea that if we just eat nourishing foods we will not want to eat the junk stuff any more is not true. At least it's not true for me. I want heavy crappy food by the time the sun starts to set.

Which brings me to where I have something to say. No, I don't have all the answers yet. But I'm beginning to get some clues.

My modest success starts with awareness and continues with planning. Just being aware that from 5pm on is when things get dicey helps. As we say in counseling...awareness itself is healing. I'm aware that I tend to make stupid eating decisions later in the day. Which leads me to the second thing happening. I plan for it. I have not found the answers yet to perfect night eating, but progress is being made. For one thing, I keep the poisons out of the house now. No junk food, no salty food, no fatty food. (I've only had ice cream sandwiches at my dad's all summer long. No Ben and Jerry's, no Cold Stone!)

I'm not satisfied that I've found the ideal foods to eat for supper, but they are better than the typical meals I was eating. Reading books by Dr. Joel Fuhrman and Dr. Max Gerson is giving me some reasonable alternatives, such as steaming potatoes. I have a feeling that the answer is going to be something simple like being happy with a salad and a tasty raw desert like my daughter Gina is famous for. Now that I think of it, a salad and her strawberry parfait...what's better than that for dinner?

To be continued...

Wednesday, May 26, 2010

Finding What Works

It has been a while since I posted a blog. That's because I haven't had anything new or worth writing about. I'm not sure that I do now but you be the judge of that.

What is happening in my life these days is that I'm trying to figure out what works best for me. Ideally I would like to be 90% raw and 100% vegan...and no junk food. These days I'm about 70% raw and 85% vegan...and more junk food than I would like. So I've been experimenting on how best to improve. I've also been having headaches which I believe has been caused by the raw cacao in my chocolate banana smoothies.

I'm not certain but I'm pretty sure the cacao has been giving me headaches. I've switched to carob and they have gone away. And the smoothies still taste really good as long as I put nutmeg in for more flavor.

My diet would be much better if I could control what I ate from 5 o'clock on. I have no trouble being raw and vegan all day long. I love my smoothies and salads and fruits, but come dinner time I have not found something that I can eat to fill me up and make the evening cravings go away. I try different things but nothing works. And that is where I am today. So, please, if any one has suggestions, I'm listening. I'll share something if I learn anything myself. But at this point I haven't got any answers.

Thursday, February 25, 2010

Catching Fire: How Cooking Made Us Human (Part Four)

In the end I did make it to the end of the book, which was a surprise. Not only in finishing it, but that the book ended before the end. By that I mean that the second half of the book was just notes on the first half. Going through the notes I don't believe they added a thing to the book. All of this just led to a frustrating experience. I like it when my beliefs are challenged, which is what I was hoping for when I purchased this book. Instead, I got the run around. The feeling of this book was more like Wrangham was a paid consultant to the food industry than an actual research writer. He just never supported his claims with logical data.

I will give Wrangham this much, it is possible that his claim that cooking made us human is true. He doesn't prove it, but he brings up the possibility and I can accept that. I can believe that cooking animals allowed human beings to live in places that they couldn't have if they depended only on the foods that they evolved to eat. So, while our bodies are designed to eat plants, we can survive, at least to reproduce, by eating animals and cooking tough plants.

To this I say: So what? Cooking animals may have helped us live, but not live longer and healthier. And that is what I am concerned with in the 21st century. Over and over again Wrangham cites studies that show that cooked diets result in more disease and higher mortality rates. And, "The less processed our food, the less intense we can expect the obesity crisis to be." So why in the world this idiot rails against raw foodists is beyond me! He ends the book with this statement: "We must find ways to make our ancient dependence on cooked food healthier." Dear Dr. Wrangham the answer is staring you right in the face. You keep referring to it all through your book. We need a reasonable, rational, realistically raw food diet.

I am sorry you did not help me. I will still feel uneasy whenever I do give in to my love of...hamburgers.

Wednesday, February 17, 2010

Catching Fire: How Cooking Made Us Human (Part Three)

I am hanging in there with this book, though Wrangham is driving me crazy with his lack of logic. He constantly cites research that points to cooking being bad for food, then he argues that it is good. Most writers use research to support their claims, Wrangham does the opposite.

For example, in Chapter Three he talks about rat research that shows that "soft, well-processed foods made rats fat." The experiments results were that a softer (cooked food) diet led to obesity. And this is a good thing? For Wrangham yes, because there is more energy gain. I say "No! there is more fat! Idiot!

Someone please tell Dr. Wrangham that you can get softer, easier to digest, energy producing food, from...drum roll please...fruits!!!

There are more things for humans to eat on this planet besides meat and potatoes. Okay, fine, meat and potatoes are easier to digest when cooked. And they make you fat. And yes, humans were able to multiply in greater numbers by cooking and eating meat. But that does not mean it is healthier.

So, great, evolution did its job. More people were able to live long enough to have more babies and spread their genes. And if that is all you are interested in, fine. Wrangham you understand evolution. But you sure are not helping the rest of us who would like to live longer, healthier lives. For a guy who spent his life researching monkeys you sure did not learn anything about their eating habits!!!

I'm writing this after drinking a delicious smoothie made of fresh squeezed oranges, mangoes, and pineapple. I've got a bunch of bananas on my desk and a bag of lettuce in the fridge. You think I'm going to have any problem digesting my food? Dr. Wrangham, come over to my house for lunch some time will ya?

Saturday, February 13, 2010

Catching Fire: How Cooking Made Us Human (Part Two)

I can tell already that I'm going to be trashing this book all the way through. I'm disappointed because I thought this would challenge my raw food beliefs. Instead I'm left thinking, "who are the people who are reading this book and think the author is rational?" Is it just because he is a Harvard professor? Yikes!

For instance, Chapter One, which goes right after the raw foodists, uses the Evo Diet experiment in England as proof the raw diets do not work. The experiment, Evo for evolutionary, took people with dangerously high blood pressure and kept them on a diet of fruits, vegetables, nuts, and a small amount of fish for a short time. In the end blood pressure went down to normal, cholesterol levels fell by a quarter, and everyone lost significant amounts of weight. So, why does Wrangham say that a raw food diet is dangerous? Because it causes people to lose weight. I am not making this up.

Wrangham's major premise is that only food that can deliver energy, and apparently more weight, can be considered safe and good for us. What planet is this guy living on?Does he not know that we are a country of fat people? A mostly raw food diet is healthy because it helps us bring our weight down to what it should be.

Next he brings up journalist Jodi Mardesich, who wrote about her experience with raw food. She claimed that a raw food diet made her feel energized, mentally sharper, and more serene. However, she too lost weight, and there you go, more evidence that raw food is bad for you. Throughout the chapter Wrangham keeps writing that raw foodists do not "fair well." He says that animals thrive on wild raw foods, but there is something odd about us humans, we need cooked food. Someone tell him that last time I checked humans were animals too.

His logic drives me up a wall. For instance, he says in Chapter Two, "Very little is known about how our detoxification system and enzyme chemistry differ from those of great apes, but studies should eventually provide further tests of the hypothesis that human bodies are adapted to eating cooked foods." In other words, there is no science to back up his claims, but we should take his word for it that some day there will be. It will be a miracle if I make it through this book without breaking my Kindle.

Wednesday, February 10, 2010

Catching Fire: How Cooking Made Us Human (Part One)

I am reading a very anti-raw book called Catching Fire: How Cooking Made Us Human. I believe that it is important to hear all sides of an argument. I truly believe that a raw diet, or mostly raw diet, is far better for people and the planet, but I want to hear all the evidence on both sides. So I'm reading the other side to see if my beliefs hold up.

This book targets raw foodists directly. There is no mistake about it,  the author, Richard Wrangham, goes after those of us who do not like to set our food on fire. I have no problem about that. Maybe he will convince me that I don't have to feel guilty when I stray and treat myself to a burger and fries. Hey, boiled lobster and butter is awesome. Just please make a reasonable, rational, realistic argument for it.

For me, Wrangham gets off on the wrong foot right in the introduction. He states that humans began cooking nearly 2 million years ago. However, there is absolutely no archeological evidence for this at all. Controlled fire, and we do not even know that this involved cooking, only begins to appear 800,000 years ago. I don't like writers who play loose with the facts.

The worst part of the introduction is that first he states that "Little change has occurred in human anatomy since the time of homo erectus almost 2 million years ago", then he says that cooking changed our brain size, our jaws, and our hairy bodies. Which is it? Has human anatomy changed or not?

Wrangham's inconsistencies are one thing, but he draws conclusions that just do not follow logically. For instance, he says that humans had small jaws and teeth, not made for eating meat. So we had to have cooked it. It never occurs to him that maybe humans just didn't eat meat.  After all, our bodies were not designed to digest meat, cooked or raw, like they for eating fruits and vegetables.

He goes on to say that the strongest voices that argue for cooking being a core influence on human nature are students of food and eating. Duh? How stupid does he think his readers are?

The main point of the introduction, and possibly the book, is that cooking increases the amount of energy our bodies can obtain from food. I'm looking forward to seeing how he proves this. I think what he should be saying is that by cooking foods, particularly meats, humans had more food and energy available to them to survive. I could agree with that. But being able to process sugar cane and make twinkies also allows humans to extract more energy from nature. That doesn't make it more healthy.

I was hoping for a good challenge to my raw beliefs, but when Wrangham says that human bodies are biologically adapted to cooked foods like cow are adapted to eating grass he makes breatharians look good.

Thursday, January 28, 2010

Reasonably Raw in Vietnam

I'm back in Vietnam for the rest of the winter. My main activity here is teaching English to Vietnamese university kids. I absolutely love it.

I would say it's nearly impossible to be as raw here as in the states. Not nearly as many standard ingredients here, like nuts, cacao, herbs, etc. But, the fresh fruits do make up for it and the variety of restaurants here in Nha Trang keep things from becoming boring.

Probably the best thing here is the low cost of fresh young coconuts. 50 cents each. I have the water and meat of one every morning after my 5 mile run. There is something about the water in a coconut that totally hydrates my body because I have very little thirst after drinking one. I make a smoothie after going to the market in the morning. Usually it consists of mango, pineapple, and oranges. Not a green smoothie because my travel blender will not break up greens very well. After that I really don't drink any water the rest of the day. To break things up once in a while I have watermelon for breakfast.

Lunch consists of a big salad with homemade raw dressing. I bring a few jars of raw tahini with me and make a tahini, lemon, garlic dressing. When I run out I'll buy olive oil and make a dressing of oil, lemon, and nutritional yeast (brought that along with me).

For dinner I usually go out to eat and try to be reasonable. I do eat some meat and occasionally have a burger and fries or Pad Thai Gai.

Life is good here. I usually lose nearly ten pounds not even trying. I do miss my afternoon banana cacao smoothies and homemade guacmole. Anyway, I can't be perfect, but I can be reasonable. And that's life here in Vietnam. Probably not much more to write about till I return home in April. Except that I've ordered a book for my Kindle which I will be reading shortly. It's called Catching Fire. Something about the history of cooking. It is supposed to be about how humans have always cooked their food. I'm thinking I should read something that will challenge my beliefs and see if they stand up. I will report back on that. In the meantime, I'm loving my coconuts!