A Gentle Reminder: Perspective

by moonwatcher on July 30, 2014

chalk drawing of garlic granule bottle

Long ago as a university writing instructor I didn’t have the luxury–or the confidence–to draw pictures on the chalkboard to illustrate a point. Instead it would be key words or concepts from the required reading. What I never failed to marvel at, though, is how many times it was necessary to repeat these key words and concepts and their significance. In fact as time went on, I began to see teaching as simply repeating the most essential things necessary to writing and thinking and reading–over and over in slightly different ways so that as many individual students as possible might catch on, have their very own lightbulb moment. Instead of being aggravated by this, I was comforted by it. Repetition didn’t mean failure; it was occasion for discovery.

When I received the following comment pending my approval a while back, at first I was exasperated and then stymied about how to respond:

“Honey, if you’re going to continue to live in any kind of good health, you seriously need to add some (or a lot) of healthy oils to your diet! You scare me! Your brain, for one, is made mostly of fat. Did you know that? It needs nutrition too. Coconut oil, minimally, camelina or hemp.
The diseases you’re living with could be so much smaller………..

PS: I’ve only come across a couple of your recipes and when I add an organic healthy oil, they really come to life!”

I admit to being exasperated, then annoyed (in particular by being addressed as “Honey”–although I choose to believe this person meant well enough). I decided to sit on it for a few days, and then my computer had to be spirited away to the computer hospital for several days for some TLC. So some time went by. Some perspective was gained. Enough for me to realize the following truism applied to me: once a teacher, always a teacher, even without a conventional classroom full of students. And that this was a teaching moment, if I chose it: a simple chance to remind this reader, and all readers, of the purpose of this blog.

Full disclosure: the reason this comment threw me for such a loop is that it literally is the first one of its kind I’ve received since I was invited to write this blog nearly two years ago. I’ve been blessed with the most supportive and articulate of readers who choose to leave comments. So why showcase this one in its very own post? There’s certainly no need to preach to the amazing choir of regular readers and commenters I am blessed with. But there may be others out there, searching, wondering, touching down, and not quite realizing where they have landed. So for all those potential readers, and the one who did post such a comment, here is the answer I drafted:

“The purpose of my blog is to share and reflect on how an oil free low fat whole food plant based diet has changed my health and my life for the better in amazing ways. Before I began eating this way, I ate as you suggest and did not see any improvement, only decline. Once I started eating this way my health has improved to the point that I was asked to share my experience and recipes from the last several years here on the Fat Free Vegan site. I have been able to do that and much much more, as careful reading of my blog entries will show. I am committed to this way of eating and the science that supports it. I hope you can respect that this is not the place to insist that I or anyone else add oil to their diet in order to be healthy.  I won’t be approving any more comments that insist on dietary recommendations that undermine the purpose of my blog.”

This blog and this post were not created to debate the pros and cons of oil versus no oil, or to argue why one is better than the other, or even to defend my choice to eat plant-based whole food that is as free from oil, salt and sugar as I can manage. I’m not interested in arguing about any of that. But I am passionate about sharing with you my insights and reflections on how eating this way HAS changed my health and my life, along with some recipes to try out for those interested in following a similar path to health. For those of you who may be new to my blog, there are many posts describing the contrasts in my well being between the time in my life I ate food made with “healthy oil” and after I switched to eating food made with “no oil,” if that’s how anyone wants to frame it. Here are a few of my favorites: “Return to Elk Creek,” “The Spirit of Thanksgiving Past,” “Interdependence Days,” “Zen Chores,” “Better Than It Was,” “Walking into the Future,” “The Temple of My Daily Life,” “The Envelope Please,” “Plein Air Dreamin’ Come True,” “I Want to Live,” and “The Toaster Oven.”You can find these and many more I’m not thinking of at the moment under the categories “Little Victories Over Multiple Sclerosis,” and “Plant-Based Lifestyle Epiphanies.” And of course you can find the recipes that have allowed me these triumphant experiences.

My simple chalk drawing of the nearly empty bottle of garlic granules is a reminder to me of how complex something that looks empty actually is.  Often, such objects or experiences are not empty at all; they’re just filled with memories or beliefs or experiences that aren’t readily visible to those unfamiliar with them. So perhaps to those who find they benefit from oil in their diets my eating plan looks empty of what’s necessary for good health. They may wish to follow other blogs, other doctors, other lines of science. But for me, this eating plan is “more than enough.” I know in my heart and my body that I would no more be drawing a bottle and photographing it for my blog than I would be able to fly on a carpet if I hadn’t changed my diet to be low fat, plant based and virtually oil free. Let alone do the work it took to rezone my old house to sell it with integrity, and buy the one I’m now writing to you from.

Another important subset of my purpose is that I have chosen not to take any medications for the MS or the fibromyalgia or any other chronic ailment. This wasn’t a knee-jerk or uninformed choice, and so far it is the right one for me. Anything’s possible, but I doubt I’ll change that course at this point. So it isn’t the purpose of this blog to comment on medication, or to debate whether using medication is better than not doing so. My choice is not to, and I’m not qualified to give advice about it as far as anyone else is concerned, and I’d appreciate it if those who are enthused about a medication that’s working for them would refrain from suggesting I try it too.

Perhaps because of the serious health issues I’m living so well with, maybe it’s assumed I write this blog hoping others will follow the same path I’m on. I love it when others are moved and inspired and encouraged by my words, or my experiences remind them of their own, but I think such change is a decision each person has to make on his or her own. I just started reading a book I know I’ll have a hard time putting down titled “A Wolf Called Romeo.” It begins with a breathtaking non-aggressive “social” encounter between the author and his wife, their yellow lab, and a huge black wolf on an ice covered lake near Juneau Alaska. The reason I bring it up is that although our purposes are completely different, at the end of that initial encounter with the wolf the author, Nick Jans, writes some words that also pretty much sum up one of the essential reasons I write my blog:

“It’s a story of our time on this shrinking world I need to tell–most of all, to myself. Late at night, it fills the spaces between heartbeats, nudges me awake. By speaking, I hope not to be rid of it, nor even to understand, but just to set down all the facts, the musings, and unanswered questions as best I can. Years from now, at least I’ll know that I did more than dream. . .”

My sweet departed neighbor once said in response to how I eat: “You’re a fighter.” I didn’t think I was. But maybe I am; not in the way of arguing my case, but in the way of illustrating and documenting for you how I walk my talk. If you are here for the first time, and you want me to debate the path I’ve chosen, you won’t find that here. It isn’t my purpose, or my passion. Instead, you’ll find plenty of reflection and memoir. It is my passion to render how this way of eating, in Doug Lisle’s words, “seems to work for me.” It’s seeming limitations have set me more free than I’ve ever been.

I’m sorry if it alarms those who believe otherwise, but there’s not much I can or want to do about that. Instead I’ll leave the defense of the sound science that supports this way of eating to experts like Dr. Campbell,  Dr. McDougall, Dr. Esselstyn,  Jeff Novick, Dr. Fuhrman, Dr. Neal Barnard, Dr. Greger and many others. (There is some mention of them and what standards I follow in posts such as “Reading My Way to Straight Up Food,” A Slice From Whole,” and “How Much Is an Ounce?”) But most of the time you’ll get stories, art, poems and recipes about what living a  low fat whole foods plant based life can yield by sticking with it–from my admittedly personal perspective. My passion is to strive to raise personal testimonial to the level of art, literature and delicious food–made possible by low fat plant based whole foods eating. If it’s debate or recipes using oil you’re looking for, I’m sure there’s many other places on the internet to find both of those in abundance.

Maria (moonwatcher)

 

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{ 29 comments… read them below or add one }

1 Debra Maslov July 31, 2014 at 7:53 am

I love each & every one of your bog entries. They are absolutely beautiful & honestly written…..I commend you highly for sharing your life journey with us. I also love your exquisite artwork. Thank you and may you stay healthy.

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2 moonwatcher July 31, 2014 at 9:31 am

Welcome Debra! Thank you so much for these very kind words about my writing and my art and its purpose. I also appreciate the well wishes to stay healthy. Back at you!! :)

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3 Annie July 31, 2014 at 8:11 am

Thank you so much for this thoughtful and honest post. You’ve really helped me to clarify my own purpose with a low fat plant based whole foods blog I’ve been trying to launch for months. My passion isn’t for arguing or debating either, and yet somehow that’s exactly what I’ve gotten caught up in — defending, defending, defending — instead of just sharing how much I love eating this way.

To me, your blog is the best kind of art: it speaks to me and helps me. Thank you again. xo

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4 moonwatcher July 31, 2014 at 9:30 am

Welcome, Annie! And thank you so much for this heartfelt comment, an the kind words about the art of my blog. Best wishes to following and expressing your own passion on your own blog–send me a URL so I can take a look sometime.

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5 Silvia July 31, 2014 at 8:49 am

THANK YOU!

This is a wonderful post.
I am going to read again some of the posts you reference here:

So happy that you can stand up for yourself and your way of life.

Greetings from Germany

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6 moonwatcher July 31, 2014 at 9:28 am

Hi Silvia–thank YOU!! :) I so appreciate your thoughtful regular reading, all the way from Germany. Thanks for getting what I’m up to. :)

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7 Kathleen July 31, 2014 at 8:57 am

Thanks for your sharing through the years. I’m glad you’ve retained your focus and have been able to side-step debates. Your peaceful spirit shows not only in your words, but extends into your recipes. I experience some of that peace when cooking your recipes. I love that your recipes allow time to appreciate the food itself and even to dream while cooking. I hope you will always remain your peaceful, sharing self. Thanks for not being drawn into conflict.

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8 moonwatcher July 31, 2014 at 9:26 am

Thank you so much, Kathleen, for this lovely comment. If I can spread a little peace around, and it comes your way, I’m so much the happier and better for it. I really appreciate your thoughtful words. Thank you, too, for being such a faithful reader. :)

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9 Veronica July 31, 2014 at 9:50 am

I get stuff like that all the time! Though I still use oils in my cooking (though not all the time), I also get other people saying how I need to eat some chicken – they know someone who has MS and they eat meat, but don’t eat whatever… Or something else – same story, different items. It gets very frustrating! Each person has what works for them – there is no “blanket” solution for any ailment. There are guidelines, that you hone, and see what works. Why can people not understand this, and just butt out? It’s between you, your body, and your doctor. Your response is much better than mine is… I tend to get really sarcastic and snippy… ;) Or I just stare blankly until they shut up and awkwardly change subjects (if in person).

I love your blog, your writing, your recipes – and though sometimes (not often) I do modify them to add a bit more oil or fat, I love how versatile your ideas are. I am amazed at how wonderfully this way of eating is helping you – sans drugs – and it gives me so much hope that whatever happens, little changes here and there can always get me to a healthy place. Your blog is kinda like a warm blanket; comforting with vivid stories and loving food, and I enjoy it as that.

Anyway, you can’t please everyone all the time, especially on the internet, but I think you’re succeeding in what you want your blog to be- beautiful art.

Oh – and I HATE it when someone calls me “honey.” Because it usually comes with that condescending tone… UGH. Whatever they say after that, I just don’t hear because I can’t get over the fact they just called me honey. Back to the blank stare and awkward exit…

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10 moonwatcher July 31, 2014 at 1:29 pm

Thanks for the great comment, Veronica–I so treasure your faithful readership and feedback! I also sympathize with your frustration. I always expect that others will modify my recipes to suit their own needs, which may be simply low fat rather than oil free. There are a lot of people over on the Swank Forum who do very well with careful use of select oils, and I applaud their success. I really love your insight that my blog feels “kinda like a warm blanket” to you, “comforting with vivid stores and loving food”–wow, thanks!! And that you love how versatile my food ideas are–that makes my day. And I won’t call you Honey, I promise, no matter what!! xoxo

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11 Julie July 31, 2014 at 12:26 pm

Bravo!!! I wait with anticipation for the time I set aside to thoroughly read and enjoy your blog. Your words always inspire me, make me smile and even more importantly make me want to share your story with others. I hope that you continue to share your life with us for many years to come.
Bee well.
Julie

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12 moonwatcher July 31, 2014 at 1:31 pm

Thank you so much, Julie! I am always so honored and moved when a reader tells me how this purpose I am following as I write my blog is so moving for them, too. I, too, hope I’ll be sharing from my life with all of your for many years to come. Thanks for the well wishes, and many more back to you!

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13 Patti Sumida July 31, 2014 at 3:45 pm

Hello Maria,
I enjoy reading your blog and especially today’s post, for its thoughtful, articulate and respectful contribution to the dilemma many of us ultimately find ourselves having to face and reconcile as we strive to strike the fine balance between enjoying one’s food to the fullest (including all the social and cultural pleasures and traditions that go along with eating) whilst preserving our health by consuming and/or eliminating specific foods that we believe to be “good” or “bad” for us. As I continue to make my way through the complex maze of assertions and warnings regarding the consumption of added oil, I am regularly inspired by the contributions, recipes and musings provided by yourself and Susan at Fat Free Vegan Kitchen. Omitting all oil from a recipe that is designed to taste good (otherwise why would you post it) is, in my opinion a brave thing to do as many would argue that the texture, richness, and wow factor of a dish are completely dependant on the inclusion of butter or oil. I believe that your (and Susan’s) blog(s) create the gold standard for the notion that food can be simultaneously tasty and healthful, and by example, you challenge each of us to be creative, resourceful and mindful as we create dishes and prepare food that is both delicious and healthy. Thank you both for your recipes and posts that consistently demonstrate that we can indeed “have our cake and eat it”. PS As “Honey” is not vegan, the contributor who assigned you this nickname might want to consider addressing you with a more vegan friendly alternative. :) :) :)

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14 moonwatcher July 31, 2014 at 4:01 pm

Welcome, Patti, and thank you so much for this wonderfully articulate comment that so aptly expresses the process we go through in learning to eat moreo healthy food. I am honored by your kind words about my blog, and Susan’s, too–without which mine would not have been possible. To be creative, resourceful, and mindful is a continous work in progress for me, and I’m glad to have such delightful company in my readers along the way. And you make me laugh about being “Honey” not being vegan!! :)

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15 Melissa C. July 31, 2014 at 4:40 pm

I must say you handled the comment with grace and elegance in a way that only you can. In those situations I have not responded favorably to individuals who felt their “medical advice” was superior to how I manage my illness. Many of those individuals were my family, however, not strangers and my frustration with their responses were even more intensified. My journey with rheumatoid arthritis over the last 17 years has been just that – MY journey. And what I have done to care for myself has been my decision, no one else’s. Nearly 15 years ago I adopted a completely plant-based diet (though not entirely oil-free) to help treat my RA and almost a year ago I ended up going gluten-free and discovering other food triggers I needed to avoid. Today I am almost completely off of my medication taking far less potent medications and hopefully be completely off of them soon. Controlling my disease through my diet has been the best thing I have ever done for myself and no one can make me believe otherwise. I feel those changes and they have empowered me. And your blog has been a big help in inspiring me to keep pushing forward.

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16 moonwatcher July 31, 2014 at 8:24 pm

Thank you, Melissa, for sharing some of your own healing journey through plant-based eating, and how you have been frustrated at times by family and others who wanted to give you what they thought was “superior” medical advice in comparison to what you were following. I agree that the journey each of us is on is our own. It’s often complicated to negotiate the mostly good intentions of others who don’t agree with us, and it can be very exasperating at times. I’m so glad to hear you are doing so well, and most of all, that your years of experience has taught you how to feel empowered by learning to trust the choices that have brought you such positive change. I am honored my blog has been a big help in inspiring you to go forward. xo

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17 Carollynne Kelly August 1, 2014 at 12:21 pm

Marie, I love love all your writings. You inspire us all here. And I agree with your answer to that lady about how your blog is written, and not written. I , too, completely do not tell anyone how to eat, or why I eat. I simply live my PBWFNO life and let the results speak to anyone. So I applaud you!! A few ladies I know of who have MS and are getting worse and worse, well, I don’t say a word to them either. Not my day to try and change anyone. but I love my life, and will continue living it PBWFNO!

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18 moonwatcher August 1, 2014 at 12:31 pm

HI Carollynne–thanks so much for your faithful readership and your kind solidarity on this matter. I agree that it’s very powerful to walk your talk, rather than wasting energy telling people what to do. So happy to hear you love your life–I love mine too–and I love the acronym PBWFNO! :)

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19 AmyLu August 2, 2014 at 3:54 am

Maria,

Warm congratulations on your new home and all it represents! I have followed your blog from the beginning, and I am so excited with you about all that has unfolded in your life.

I haven’t heard this talk yet, so I don’t know if you would find it inspiring or not, but I heard that Terry Wahls has also experienced reversing of MS symptoms and is going to share about it as a speaker in the Detox Summit. Just in case that is something of interest to you, I thought I would share. It’s free to sign up and listen online, and it starts Aug. 4. For info or to sign up, here’s my affiliate link: https://dm177.infusionsoft.com/go/detoxreg/AmyLu

Thank you for sharing your chalkboard drawing! When I read in a recent post of yours that the new kitchen had a blackboard for drawing, I knew we were in for a treat :)

Hugs and best wishes!

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20 moonwatcher August 2, 2014 at 8:02 am

Thank you, AmyLu! I so appreciate your faithful readership from the very beginning! Thanks for passing on the information about Dr. Terry Wahls. I have listened to one of her online talks. Our approaches have some overlap, as in lots of fresh vegetables, greens and whole food–but she is decidedly not low fat and certainly not vegan. I am glad her good work gives others who don’t want to try this path another viable option. And finally, thanks for enjoying the chalkboard drawing!! Oh, I am having fun with that!! :) Hugs and best wishes back to you :)

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21 Mrs. Doodlepunk August 2, 2014 at 3:46 pm

I have not read all of your blog entries (yet) but look forward to reading more. I remember you well from the McDougall forum! I’m so happy that you are doing well.

I thought the empty bottle had a firefly in it! Glad to read it was just a few garlic granules, I was worried about the firefly being trapped and imagining him being part of what this blog entry was about… silly me!

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22 Shannon August 2, 2014 at 4:56 pm

What a wonderful, graceful response to that comment. I’ve never left you one before but I’ve been reading for some time. Though I’m not completely oil-free, I try to make most of my cooking that way and even to cook a single meal oil-free is sometimes met with dramatic protests from others. I’ve thought it must be because I’m being placed on a soapbox that I didn’t intend to be on, about whether or not we should use oil in the first place. But in reality, like you, I’m swayed by the science in addition to observing the difference in my own health (I was able to get off of medication with a low-fat diet, as well). That, and I’m frustrated at the political filters through which we seem to receive much of our nutrition information.

Anyway, I just wanted to say thanks again for your lovely blog and sharing your experiences with all of us. It’s really appreciated. :)

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23 moonwatcher August 2, 2014 at 5:03 pm

Thank you for following my blog, Shannon, and welcome! I’m really glad you decided to leave a comment. I appreciate that you found my response to the comment about oil graceful. That was my aim, and I waited to be able to get there. Congratulations on better health due to eating more low fat, whether or not you are always oil free. I’m happy for you to experience a noticeable difference. In general, it’s a touchy subject. I especially liked the way you phrased your frustration at “the political filters through which we seem to receive much of our nutrtition information.” That was well put, and feels accurate to me as well.

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24 Judy Hughes August 3, 2014 at 5:58 am

Beautifully written

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25 moonwatcher August 3, 2014 at 8:58 am

Welcome, Judy, and thank you!

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26 Carole August 3, 2014 at 8:04 am

I’m a registered dietitian who recently also became a therapist (MFT LAC) due to my specialization in eating disorders. I identify strongly with your teaching observation: I repeat myself dozens and dozens of times, in slightly different ways, knowing that my clients will “hear” what I am saying as they are ready and able. I have the deepest respect for what you are expressing here and sincerely thank you for sharing your experiences!

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27 moonwatcher August 3, 2014 at 9:00 am

Welcome, Carole, and congratulations on your professional accomplishments. Those two trainings sound like a great combination. It means a lot to me that your professional experience mirrors mine in terms of slightly varied repetition and knowing others will “hear” when they are ready and able. Thank you for taking the time to tell me this, and much respect back to you in your meaningful work. :)

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28 Danielle August 8, 2014 at 4:06 pm

Hi Moonwatcher/Maria,

I suppose the going thing is to harp on people who are “taking away” from the standard American diet, e.g. “taking away” oil, “taking away” salt, “taking away” animal products.

I eat straight from the McDougall plan, and I am so happy with the food I eat. I truly wish those people who have a difficult time accepting that other people want to eat a different way from them could have one iota of how fulfilling, delicious, and healthy this way of eating is.

Thanks for writing on this subject!

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29 moonwatcher August 8, 2014 at 10:06 pm

You’re welcome Danielle, and thanks for your comment. I agree how fulfilling this way of eating is. It’s something that has to be experienced by trying it out. Conceptualizing it can lead all too often to that “taking away” mentality.

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