April 27, 2016

Book Review: Growing Tomorrow

Tl; dr – read, read, read, love, love, love.

Growing Tomorrow is the second book by author and farmer Forrest Pritchard.  As I said in my gushing praise for his first book, the NYT bestseller Gaining Ground, the dude knows how to write. (He also knows a little something about farming. If you live in the DC area, check out Smith Meadows farm in person if you are so inclined, or if Berryville, Virginia is a little far for you to wander out to, you can find them at many markets all over greater DC.)

Growing Tomorrow is part travelogue, part cookbook, and above all, an homage to small, family farms, sustainable and humane production of plant and animal foods, and the people who dedicate their lives to making sure those of us who can’t or won’t farm for ourselves have access to food we trust, raised in ways we value. The book is an account of the author’s visits to eighteen farms across the U.S., to share the stories of how they are growing and raising plants and animals sustainably, humanely, and, believe it or not, profitably. It’s proof that one can make ends meet without cutting corners, exploiting workers, poisoning the land, abusing livestock, or cheating consumers. Working in tandem with mother nature and reliable, regular customers, small farms can do things “the right way” and stay in the black. (Granted, it often takes several years to get there after pants-wetting years spent in the red, but farming is generally not a quarter-by-quarter profit seeking enterprise. If you are unable to take a long—very long—view of things, farming is probably not for you.)       

As the author discussed in an interview he did on the Real World Paleo podcast, one of his goals was to highlight the diversity of today’s American farms and farmers. Forrest visited farms on the west coast, east coast, north, south, and everywhere in between. In 2016, we’re about as far as it gets from the dour couple in the famous painting, American Gothic. From fruit orchards in southern California to an organic grain farm in Iowa, to a sustainable fishery in Massachusetts, there’s no region ignored, and certainly no lack of ethnic diversity, either. The farms featured in Growing Tomorrow show that farming has nothing to do with the color of your skin or the language you grew up speaking, and everything to do with courage, grit, determination, and most importantly, a sense of humor and a pathological love of hard work in difficult conditions.     

From what I know of Forrest, he pours himself into everything he does. Nothing is done halfway and nothing is done without an unwavering dedication to quality and authenticity. Not on his farm, and not in his writing. This was evident to me before I even got to page one of the book. From the dedication alone, I knew this book would deliver:

“To my fellow farmers—people of faith, creativity, and deep good humor. It’s long overdue, but on behalf of our country, thanks for lunch.”

Are you kidding me? I told you he could write!

April 18, 2016

Podcast Interview - Ketogenic Diets for Neurological Health

For those of you who don’t follow me on Twitter or Facebook and missed the announcement last week, I’ve recorded another episode of the Real World Paleo Podcast with Christine Lehmann, the Reverse Diabetes Coach, and a fellow Nutritional Therapy Practitioner. (In fact, Christine and I met when we were in the same class for our NTP training.) You can check out the details here, and the show is available on iTunes and Stitcher.

You may recall I was on this show a few months ago, talking about ketogenic diets for Alzheimer’s disease. This time, we expanded the discussion to other neurological conditions, including Parkinson’s, ALS, epilepsy, and multiple sclerosis. We briefly touched upon the potential efficacy of ketogenic approaches for psychological conditions as well, such as schizophrenia, anxiety, and bipolar disorder. We also spent a few minutes talking about intermittent fasting and how it might be an additional tool in the arsenal to combat neurological and neurodegenerative conditions.

April 15, 2016

Food for Thought Friday: Shut Up, Judgey McJudgerson

Humans: we’re a funny, scary, crazy, strange, terrible and beautiful lot, aren’t we?

Case in point:

I was walking along a scenic trail not far from where I live, enjoying the bright blue sky, the greenery, the fresh air, birdsongs, and generally just feeling grateful to be alive, healthy, and strong, when a man jogged past me. Well, it was more of a shuffle than a jog. Before he passed me, while he was still behind me, I could hear his feet scraping along the ground with each step, almost as though the effort to fully lift his feet was too much. I got the sense that he was struggling. It sounded like he was struggling. And when he did pass me, I got a look, and I continued looking for a while when he was in front of me, until he turned the bend and was out of sight. Indeed, it looked like he was struggling.

The man was very thin, and was sporting two knee supports. (The ones that look like thick, rubbery ACE bandages.) He had the physique of the semi-emaciated marathoner: not a lot of muscle mass, skin hanging loosely, pale pallor to his skin. His face struck me almost as gray, in fact. He looked like he had—in the words of that great phrase—“been rode hard and put away wet.”

As he passed me, several ugly, judgmental, closed-minded thoughts crossed my mind:

April 11, 2016

Idea! -- What Not to Eat

If you are not familiar with the American TV show What Not to Wear (which was based on the British version), you might want to skip this post. Without a thorough steeping in the ins and outs of that show, this post will not make any sense to you. I could take time (and several hundred words) to explain it, but honestly, if I do that, I guarantee the magic of the show will lose something in translation. So if you’ve never seen WNTW, no worries. Just sit tight and wait until I post something else. (If you were hoping to kill some time with one of my super-long posts, take a few seconds and go check out the book Growing Tomorrow, by the author of Gaining Ground, which I reviewed here. Hard to say which one I like more. (Actually, no. It's Gaining Ground.) Frankly, this guy is a friggin’ dynamite writer [and farmer!], and both books are excellent. Growing Tomorrow review coming soon!)

For the rest of you, if you have seen WNTW, I think you’ll agree that I have a million dollar idea here.

April 1, 2016

Food for Thought Friday: Modern Medicine Rant (Part 2!)

“I know many physicians who enthusiastically endorse a low carbohydrate diet for many medical conditions. The great majority of them have experienced personal health benefits from actually adopting the diet for themselves and that includes me. Although physicians are taught to ignore anecdotal evidence, it is difficult to do when it applies to oneself.”
                          -Keith Runyan, MD, Why Your Doctor May Question a Low Carb Diet

I have the utmost respect for doctors. Not all of them, but most. Getting through medical school, an internship, a residency, and more, is certainly no joke. Heck, just preparing for the MCAT is a challenge. Medical education and subsequent professional life is not for the lazy. There’s a reason I’m a CNS and not an MD. (Yes, I recently earned the CNS designation. Woohoo! I am now among the ranks of such greats as Jeffrey Bland, PhD, the founder of the Institute for Functional Medicine.)

And while I envy the paycheck and the cachet that come along with being an MD (much more impressive at a dinner party than being some lowlife nutritionist), I don’t envy the actual tasks that come along with being a doctor. This is particularly true for those who work in emergency rooms or emergency situations, so I’m not talking just doctors, but nurses, orderlies, paramedics, EMTs, cops, firemen…the whole crew. At my old office job, if I made a mistake, maybe the printer got jammed, or I spilled coffee on my keyboard. (Or accidentally hit “reply all” when sending a particularly scathing email about the boss, hehheh.) In an ER, if someone makes a mistake, someone dies. Someone’s kid bleeds to death. I can’t imagine being halfway through my lunch when someone gets rushed through the doors with a limb three-quarters of the way severed off, or with some kind of freaky implement impaled somewhere you really don’t want anything—freaky or not—to be impaled. I would not want to be tasked with walking out of an operating room to tell a family that their child “didn’t make it.”  

Bottom line: modern allopathic medical professionals see and do things on a daily basis that I cannot imagine in my scariest, don’t-want-to-take-responsibility-for-this nightmares. While I wish I were cool under pressure, and I have lots of daydreams in which I am a totally confident, take-charge-and-save-the-day kind of person, the truth is, I do not want to be the person responsible for knowing exactly what to do in a matter of seconds when someone is literally going to die unless I remember the correct procedure. 

I love medical doctors. Love em!

In the right context, that is. When it comes to trauma, please, for the love of all that’s holy, get me to the nearest modern, big-city, suped-up technology hospital you can. Do not—repeat, do not—call a naturopath, or a chiropractor, or an osteopath, or a nutritionist. I want someone to stop the bleeding, stop the pain, and stop them now.

Really, MDs are pretty awesome. (Especially ones like this, who get it.)

So why do I rail against them so much?  

March 27, 2016

Thank You.

So the blog’s been quieter than usual, eh?

Sorry about that.

I have many posts in various stages of completion, but I haven’t been able to get myself to finish any of them. It may or may not have been reflected in the blog, but for the last six to eight months or so, I have been experiencing the worst depression of my life. The long-time readers among you may have gathered by now that I am not, and never have been, a happy-go-lucky type. I’ve always been pessimistic and gloomy. Definitely an Eeyore, as opposed to a Tigger or Piglet. (At least, when it comes to myself, and my life. For other people, I could see roses and rainbows and magical unicorn happiness, no problem.) Anyway, so yeah, I’ve always been this way to some extent, but the past few months have really been awful. To the point that, for the first time in my life, I was actually worried about myself.