and My way toward optimal health is led by many good resources and inspiring people online. I'll link up some of my favorites in these categories: food as medicine, plant-based eating, healing journeys, and mindfulness/meditation.
FOOD AS MEDICINE This is my current obsession, for good reason. For no good reason, 2017 was my unhealthiest year yet. For the first time in my life, I was dealing with two chronic diseases and started having to take prescription medications. When I began to wake in the morning with signs of what looked to be a third chronic condition, I said enough. With the help of sites like greatist.com and wallflowerkitchen.com, I was able to gather information about how I, vegetarian since 1994, could work to heal myself, starting with an elimination diet. It's a long haul that sometimes needs repeating, but the results speak for themselves. I've put an end to some symptoms that I've had for more than two years. It has taken some research to get here, but I found that the Auto-Immune Protocol (AIP - vegan style) along with guidelines by the Thyroid Pharmacist (especially getting to the "root cause," rather than following a one-size-fits-all diet) and some (not all) of the food lists - mostly grain-free and sugar-free - of the Plant Paradox, offer me the best info on how I should eat for optimal health. As always, what works brilliantly for some will not work well for others, if not only because your root cause will come from a set of circumstances, and habits that are unique to you. Using food as medicine is a personal journey and process of discovery that can only happen step by step and requires persistence and, above all, patience. As I like to say with one of my favorite affirmations: Every day is another chance to solve a mystery.
PLANT-BASED EATING Somehow this phrase has popped up all around me lately. It's like a runaway train. From vegan Olympians to vegan doctors and all things plant-based diet on YouTube and Pinterest, there seems to be no shortage of information that brings to light the immense benefits from this healthy eating lifestyle. I'll mention Dr Michael Greger first and foremost because he is indubitably The Man With the Plant-Based Plan. He is the MD with the hilariously titled book How Not to Die and gives yearly lectures that all start with this catchy opener: "Every year I read through every issue of every English-language nutrition journal in the world so you don't have to." I'm not here to shove footnotes and citations in anyone's face (and prefer others to refrain from same, please and thank you), but if I were, Dr Greger would be my go-to source. He appears to make it his life's work to do such footnote-shoving. His website nutritionfacts.org is full of multimedia information, has no ads, and is not funded by Big Pharma (or Big Farm-ah) or anyone wanting to sell you their agenda. Even the money he makes on lectures and the abovementioned book goes straight into the website, a 501c3 non-profit charity which, as of 2017, employs 19 researchers among other staff to keep the resources coming and up to date.
Getting back to the idea of the root cause. I discovered Dr Izabella Wentz on Youtube with this video from her "Root Cause Podcast." There are so many theories about how you must treat a thyroid problem, the first and most popular of which seems to be a variation of taking thyroid hormone for the rest of your life. What doctors often don't tell you is that you may need to periodically increase your dose, and it may or may not eliminate symptoms (e.g. a symptom of hypothyroidism is hair loss and a side effect of thyroid medication is hair loss!). Not only that, but according to Dr Wentz, an estimated 90% of people diagnosed with underactive thyroid actually have Hashimoto's, an auto-immune disorder that can include fluctuating (both high and low) thyroid hormones and the buildup of inflammation, which for many people ultimately leads to additional inflammation-based disorders. So if you're looking for some guidance on getting to your root cause, Dr Wentz has two books and recipes that could give you a start (and, again, ultimately are responsible for finding what works best for you).
Speaking of recipes, I have to take a moment to give special attention to some of my favorite YouTubers who have consumed me (no pun intended) to the point of me falling asleep to a seemingly endless string of auto-played videos of people talking about veganism (I especially like the "what I eat in a day" videos). Some favorites are: Peaceful Cuisine, Simply Quinoa, Pick Up Limes, VeganLovlie, and Mic the Vegan. These days, I'll find myself on Saturday morning playing cooking videos while scrolling through Pinterest to bombard myself with the best recipes out there. Pinterest is a definite favorite - you can simply sign up and search for terms like: plant based, vegan, gluten free, AIP diet, etc.
HEALING JOURNEYS In my work, I mostly meet people who are looking for some kind of healing, so I love a good journey-to-healing story. Back to Michael Greger, MD, already. Again. He has the best healing journey story. It's not his own story but that of his grandmother, who was sent home in a wheelchair at age 65 with end-stage heart disease by doctors who told her there was nothing more they could do. They were done operating on her. She went home and signed up with Dr Pritikin's now-famous study into healing heart disease through diet; according to Greger, she walked home sans wheelchair within three weeks, lived another thirty years, and was the reason he went into medicine.
Dr Wentz is another higher profile healing journey, as her research and help with Hashimoto's came from her own need to manage this disorder for herself. Anita Moorjani is the author of the book Dying to Be Me, and tells a truly awe-inspiring story about how she arrived at a hospital with end-stage cancer and was given mere hours to live. But instead of dying, she had a near death experience or NDE, where she says she discovered "that heaven is a state, not a place;" she woke up, and her cancer was completely gone within weeks. That was in 2006, and today she's still telling her story. Another source for those of you with video streaming subscriptions and a propensity to binge-watch like the rest of us normal humans, you may enjoy the many seasons available of two shows: "Unsolved Mysteries" (with Robert Stack) and "It's a Miracle." Both of these are on Amazon Prime and, I'll forward, require at least a healthy tolerance for videos from the 1990s, Also, if you're not okay with seeing some crime-related content you may need to skip the former but do check out the latter for inspiring stories of not only healing but amazing "coincidences," reunions, and rescues. You may hear people's references to "God" in some of the stories, but it is not a Christian or Christianity-based show. And yes, the theme song is cheesy. You'll have to get past that.
MINDFULNESS & MEDITATION Oh good. I get to talk about the well-admired Thich Nhat Hanh, whose very face is an image of peace for many people. This Buddhist monk, who as of this writing is still alive in his 90s, founded Plum Village, the world's biggest mindfulness training and retreat center. He started his journey during the Vietnam War as a peacemaker working with none other than Martin Luther King, Jr. They were just about to really set out working together to promote ending the war when the fateful April 4th occurred. After MLK Jr was shot, Thich Nhat Hanh was dumbfounded. As he was banned from his home country of Vietnam, he settled in France where, in the 1980s, Plum Village was born. Thich Nhat Hanh, a.k.a. Thay (pronounced like tie, meaning "teacher") is best known to me as the man behind the walking meditation. He can be seen in the 2017 documentary Walk With Me on the sidewalks of Manhattan blocking foot traffic with scores of people behind him as he carefully and mindfully takes each step. In fact, mindfully doing anything (ehem, dishes, anyone?) is an integral part of his whole message.
Some other resources to consider include Palouse Mindfulness, a free, eight-week online course composed of video, audio, and written materials. You can even print out and create your own binder to help structure your learning and follow along. Greater Good in Action is an excellent educational resource, easily and fully accessible by smart phone, composed of "How to build" practices, such as how to build empathy, kindness, gratitude, self-compassion, and forgiveness. And similarly, 10% Happier: Meditation for Fidgety Skeptics is a multimedia resource by creator Dan Harris, an ABC television reporter whose meditation journey started in 2004 with him having a panic attack on the nightly news. Yes, that's right, he was on air. You can read his books, listen to his podcast, or download the 10% Happier app for smartphones and gets started being, well, I guess just a little bit happier.
This article will be updated from time to time as I learn about more resources. If you have a "healthy living" resource you'd like to add, feel free to leave it in the comments or use my Contact page.
Healthy living, mindfulness, meditation, healing, plant-based eating
I am Lisa and I believe we create our reality. I hope to help empower people to create more mindfully, be kind to oneself and others including animals and the environment, and just generally feel better.