Wednesday, June 1, 2011

Plant-Strong Success Tip #4: Get Comfortable Asking for What You Need

I don't know why but I am having the hardest time finishing this post! I'm such a perfectionist and I want all of my posts to be very well thought out and inspirational. But somehow I'm having a rough go if it with this subject, even though it is near and dear to my heart! Maybe it's because the concept is so simple that it barely needs explanation.

Your health is your responsibility, so only you are charged with asking for what you need in social and restaurant situations. I know that this behavior may be very foreign to some of you, which is why I have dedicated an entire Plant-strong success tip to just this concept.

The realty is that no one else is going to take care of your health for you. Not your mom, not your dad, not your spouse, not your kids, not your friends and certainly not the companies that are trying to sell you food. Not your doctor. And absolutely NOT THE GOVERNMENT. They don't want you to eat lettuce and kale and collards prepared simply by you in your kitchen. They want you to spend your hard earned money in their restaurants and on their processed food. And that's okay. I'm not mad, it's capitalism at work. But just so you know, they don't give a rat's arse about your health. They just want your money.

So they load their food products with salt, sugar and fat to make it taste as good as it possibly can. To make it addictive. And they make the portions really big in restaurants, so that you feel good about the "value" you are getting for your hard earned dollars, even thought the same over sized portions will cost you more in the long run.

Do you know that I loathe the USDA and their pyramid? I believe that tomorrow they are about to replace it with a new icon. You can read more more about it here. Okay, I am being very harsh at this point, but please, check out the first two "messages" in their six how-to messages to guide healthy eating:
  • Enjoy your food, but eat less.
  • Avoid over sized portions.
  • Make half of your plate fruits and vegetables.
  • Switch to fat-free or low-fat (1%) milk.
  • Compare sodium in foods like soup, bread, and frozen meals, and choose the foods with lower numbers.
  • Drink water instead of sugary drinks."
"Enjoy your food but eat less?" "Avoid over sized portions?" That's a recipe for disaster in my mind! When I was desperate for help with my weight problem, that was the worst advice I ever got. I ate less, sure I did, for months on end. Then ended up binging my brains out on donuts. How's that for enjoy your food but eat less?

How about "eat a ton of vegetables, fruits and beans; more than you ever have in your life. Make your portions of vegetables REALLY, REALLY huge."

Now that's good advice.

And what about "switch to fat-free or low fat milk?" Has anyone at the USDA read The China Study? Or are the members of the USDA just puppets for the big dairy producers? Shouldn't they be making sure that casein, the protein in dairy, doesn't cause cancer before they promote all of us including it in our diets?

I could go on and on, but I'll move this conversation forward to the second part of my advice: You must be able to ask, maybe demand, what you need to be healthy.

At restaurants, when you can't find acceptable menu choices, you must get creative and ask the kitchen to work with you. Most restaurants have ample vegetables in the kitchen and many have a simple baked potato. So when all else fails, a baked potato loaded with steamed veggies and some salsa for the top is a great stand bye.

Looking for something more interesting than a baked potato with steamed veggies? How about calling the restaurant ahead and making arrangements for your visit? Gena from Choosing Raw was all over this idea in this recent blog posting.

How about parties and pot lucks? Are you afraid that you are going to offend people if you steadfastly say that you are choosing to eat a certain way? Are you a little embarrassed at your past history with the ups and downs of your weight and now that you are eating healthy you don't want to make a thing of it again? We have to be able to laugh at ourselves and move on from whatever failures are in our past and not use that as an excuse to hide our new knowledge.

Does this ever get uncomfortable, even ugly? It might. Ironically, I was on the telephone just today talking with a relative about what I could bring for a pot luck at her home. When I asked if I could bring a quinoa salad, I was met with a strange and disturbing remark in return. Luckily, the relative quickly called back and apologized, citing a different reason for her venom. But what I really think was happening is that some of the time, with some of the people in your life, this way of eating is going to cause conflict.

We just have to accept it an move on. My relative is not going to be paying my hospital bills if I have a heart attack or get cancer, so I can't expect that it would be her priority to make it comfortable for me to eat the food that I need to eat to be healthy. It just affirms that we all need to take care of ourselves and protect our own health. My way of doing this these days? For most big pot luck parties, I bring a Hugh Jass green salad with lots of toppings including beans and a homemade, oil-free dressing. If I suspect that there won't be much else at the party for me to eat, I might even go as far as bringing two or three dishes to the party. It may not be easy and it may not be convenient, but heck, either is getting sick.

Have you gotten comfortable asking for what you need? Can you give specific examples of social situations where you have been successful protecting your health? Or is this just too uncomfortable for you at this time?


Mama Pea said...

Love this post, Wendy. We all have to be proactive about our personal needs, physically and emotionally. And as a mom, that sometimes is especially hard to do. It makes me feel good to know that you agree that we should make ourselves a priority!

Brenna said...

This is a great post. I hear you on the USDA guidelines. We should be eating tons and tons of delicious fruits and veggies like gorillas instead of a depressing little plate of low-fat cottage cheese.

infinebalance said...

I really struggle with this very issue... I still feel embarrassed and like I need to apologize for my diet choices. I tend to make do rather than speak up.

Great advice. Thanks for posting this.

Sindy said...

Excellent post! I tend to get embarrassed if I seem too demanding about my food choices. I want to be a laid-back, easy-going, never-put-anyone-out type of vegan. This does not always serve me well, though, and I am trying to speak up more when I eat out, which is quite often.

Patti said...

Great post... It's getting easier for me although it's more difficult for my husband who is very non-confrontational. When we go to parties, I bring along food that I can eat comfortably. I just accept "the look" from people who don't get it. Then I listen as they recite the list of pills they take everyday or their physical limitations. At restaurants, I don't mind asking the server to verify with the kitchen that certain ingredients are not hidden in whatever I order. Also I've stopped saying I "don't" eat meat or dairy and have started saying I "can't" eat them. It's just as true but seems to carry a bigger message.

Jane Esselstyn RN said...

Slam Dunk, Wendy.
High maintenance now about what we eat means low health maintenance later!
I was just hearing about the new pyramid. It is a plate! Makes much more sense.

v said...

Wendy--genius post! I saw Forks Over Knives this weekend, it beautifully captured how detrimental our SAD is to our health...both physicially and well as how scientific research has deemed casein to be a contributing factor to cancer. I'm a manager and two years ago I asked staff if we could stop bringing in junk food for the gruop--initially, I was deemed "no fun." However, now other managers are hearing what I did and are following my example. What's fun about eating stale, leftover birthday cake? Wendy, you are an inspiration!

Leslie R. said...

Great post. I am always baffled at the dinosaur-age "health" advice I see in fairly reputable places. It has to be about money, because anyone with a little sense could see through a lot of this wacky advice. I'm with you...back to basics! Tons of veggies, fruit, and healthy grains!

Anonymous said...

You are right on the money about the USDA. I hate them, too. I recommend everyone read Food Politics, by Marion Nestle. What an eye-opener.

Positive Living Chic said...

Great article Wendy! Thank you for giving us all reminders of the power we must assert to keep ourselves healthy. You're right -- when it comes down to it, we WILL be the ones paying our hospital bills. We need to stay strong and stay the course, and not worry about how others take us. Thanks again for a PERFECT article!!! :-)

Caroline Miller said...

This is something I'm also struggling with now. I have been very vocal about my needs with the family and at restaurants but my daughters (ages 16 and 9) are starting to resent me. While my husband is supportive he wants to do his own thing in the house. No one in our house eats a full on SAD diet though. I haven't bought meat, chicken, or fish for awhile (I still buy dairy and eggs).

Jen said...

I have a trip out of the country coming up and will carry a translated note with me, explaining I'll be ordering salad & asking if it's possible to have several vegetable sides on one plate for my entree. Locally, when restaurants don't have vegetarian options, I'll ask for double portions of salad.

Jill in Chicago said...

Wow, what a thought-provoking post. I consider myself pretty educated about being plant-strong, but I don't think I'm advocating for myself nearly as well as I should be. Your last sentence "It may not be easy and it may not be convenient, but heck, either is getting sick." is so TRUE! So is the point about your relatives not paying your hospital bills. Thanks Wendy, you've given me a lot to think about!

Anonymous said...

Hi Jen,
Where are you going?
I have traveled to more than 35 countries and have found that ordering "a salad" doesn't always get me what I had intended. In many countries "lettuce" is "iceberg," a "mixed salad" might be just iceberg lettuce and tomatoes and nothing else. I once ordered a tomato salad that came with tomatoes and capers, drenched in mayonnaise. Grilled veggies might come dressed with oil and salt, neither of which I want. My suggestion is to be VERY specific about what ingredients you want and don't want. Also salad dressing might be olive oil and vinegar, so if you are "oil free" you'll need to keep that in mind.
The first time I traveled out of the US I inquired whether a dish on the menu had meat. I was assured it did not. When the dish came it had pieces of chicken. I spoke to the waiter and he said that I had asked for a dish without meat - to him that meant no pork or beef. Chicken didn't mean "meat." to him. I now know to be very careful and specific.

Anonymous said...

Thank you for addressing this subject. This is such a challenging area for me, especially with my husband's family, they are first generation Sicilian and do act insulted if I don't at least "try" everything they serve. Larger potlucks I can handle a bit easier, as people are less likely to notice what I eat, but it's the smaller sit down dinners where they serve us that I struggle with asserting myself. I need to be more like the children, who aren't afraid to say what they will and won't eat and the adults respect their opinions. Recently discovered your blog and love it, thank you!

nonni said...

I could really relate to the part about being embarrassed about past attempts to loose weight. I lost a lot of weight on Weight Watchers in the early 90'sand found it again and I lost weight With Dr. Oz and amazingly it found me again.In Feb. I got a copy of The China Study in the mail from a friend and embarked on a whirlwind adventure in veganism. Next I read 2 of Joel Fuhrmans books and one by the McDougalls and bought some Vegan cook books. When people ask me how I am losing weight "this time" I tell them I am on a lifetime quest to feel good and be as healthy as I can be. I am 60 and I do feel better than I have in years.I have lost 35 lbs. but the real benefits are the freedom from cravings and the feeling of being powerless over food.I am convinced that I was addicted to cheese and sugar and now I can be around any food and feel normal. After 40 years of food "issues" It is wonderful. One of my favorite benefits of my new lifestyle is that I never have to deal with greasy dishes! Everything easily rinses clean and it makes me think about how greasy my insides used to be and how much better they must be now. Sorry to go on so long but it's nice to talk about it without sounding like I'm preaching.I wish I had started on the net instead in the bookstore. Sites like yours are soooo helpful. I really enjoy it. Thanks so much!Nonni

QZB said...

Great post! I say, bring the delicious vegan fare and watch how many people dive into it, even people you wouldn't suspect! Scott routinely brings fresh fruit to early morning meetings and most people are relieved to find a healthy alternative to the usual donuts or bagels with schmeer. And his colleagues have started returning the favour, and making it a point to bring something nutritarian/vegan for Scott when it's their turn to buy.

The only problem, in my experience, is that we now have to double or triple what we bring, or we run the risk of having it all eaten before we get to load up our own plates, LOL.

And for the record, I still kinda hate the govt dietary guidelines. Plate = good, and the majority is plant based, but c'mon with the dairy and meat protein, people!

Caroline said...

Love your comments about the USDA and everyone else that gives antiquated advice. I once told a Weight Watcher leader that I was a vegan, and she said, "You have to be sure to get enough protein". I told her that non-vegans had to worry about getting too much protein!

Amy said...

I amreally enjoying every post since I found your blog. This one really resonated with me. I am just embarking on my plant strong way of eating and in the past have always allowed myself to use other people's reactions or even potential reactions as a way to jusify my bad eating. After reading this post, I am even more resolved to make these diet changes work. I don't want to "diet" anymore. I want to change my whole lifestyle and eat healthy all the time. I have a 3 year old and 2 year old twins and I want to really work on getting them to eat healthy young instead of trying to break bad habits when they are older!

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