By Jo Cooper
Not long ago I retired after nearly 10 years as manager of the Center’s Food As Medicine professional nutrition training program. I’ve been asking myself — what are my most enduring takeaways?
- Scale up the veggies. Having lunch with John Bagnulo, brilliant teacher and passionate organic farmer, and seeing his plate piled HIGH with beans and greens (picture a DOME of food on the plate). Also, John’s powerpoint slide comparing the typical size of modern (small) and paleo (big!) bowel movements. These things made plain the generous amounts of vegetables we truly should be eating for maximum health!
- Be self-aware. Annually drawing my relationship with food, a powerful exercise the program traditionally opens with. One year I drew myself bathing in a cup of miso soup (my then favorite comfort food). My partner in the exercise, a physician, drew a clock (because any food he made had to be quick), a sink (because anything he made had to be easy to clean up) and the faces of his children (because anything he made had to be something they liked). Looking at his drawing, his jaw literally dropped and he exclaimed, “I’m not even in this picture!” “And there’s no food in the picture,” I pointed out…
- Don’t worry, be healthy. Having dinner with author T. Colin Campbell and his wife when he was keynote speaker, and having him share his personal food philosophy. He said that if you eat well 90% of the time, don’t worry about the other 10%! By which he didn’t mean go eat cotton candy, but rather don’t worry if there’s a little something in the food at a restaurant or a friend’s home that you wouldn’t usually eat. 90% is great!
- Power up the flavor. Hanging out with a magical person named Rebecca Katz, who is the Executive Chef for the program, and who is responsible for the food being an ecstatic experience. Picture having lunch buffets laiden with all-you-can eat, colorful, nutrition-rich foods, that are the most delicious you’ve ever tasted. She shows us how it’s done, and how it feels to eat so many healthy vegetables. Good, is how it feels.
- Be authentic. Making friends with Kathie Swift. You can read first-rate nutrition and mind-body scientific literature until the cows come home and still not be healthy, unless you act on it — eat good food, exercise your body, reduce stress, and take care of your spirit. Kathie Madonna Swift, FAM Education Director, embodies this in her teaching and life. She swims, walks, and does qigong regularly, and cooks beautiful, simple meals full of fresh, organic vegetables every day of the year.
Which brings us back to veggies. And that’s my top takeaway: eat your veggies