Food Is Everything: What Is It to You?

Food Is Everything: What Is It to You?

Food Is Everything: What Is It to You- by Annie B Kay -
When I first chose to study nutrition at Cornell so many year ago, I could not have imagined the evolution in what we think about when we think about food.  Nor could I have imagined the changes in the food we eat in this country.
Food, here and now, is just so everything.
My friend, colleague and visionary Kathie Swift often quotes Jean Anthelme Brillat-Savarin, who was right and prescient when he said: “Tell me what you eat, and I’ll tell you who you are.”
Food is…


It’s the center of most gatherings of family, friends and colleagues. What we feed others communicates how we feel about them and expresses to them who we are. We have intimate dinners, casual nights, celebratory feasts. To be a good friend, feed someone. To show love, feed someone.


Growing up, the quality of food available not so directly related to income as it is today. Now we have food deserts, over-consumptive malnutrition (the real epidemic of weight, where those without eat a higher-calorie yet lower nutrient-density diet), and food marketing is disguised as real nutrition information or education. If you are poor in America, you just don’t have access to high quality nutritious food. Thank the Lord for WIC and other food assistance, which can close the worst of the gap if used well.


What you choose to eat impacts the planet and you can’t get around that. Meat is rich in every sense of the word. It is nutrient dense, resource-rich, high-impact, and energetically hot stuff. No inherently evil, but easy to overdo, and human nature seems to make us overdo it in spades. Today we eat twice as much protein as we physiologically need, yet new diet after new diet tells us we need more more more. The truth is we don’t if we cultivate a balanced whole-food active life.


Every 5 years, a big bill works its way through congress. That bill, the Ag Bill, determines to a great extent what America eats. What America eats these days is subsidized GMO soy, factory-farmed meat, dairy, corn (to be made into the high-fructose corn syrup which researchers agree is undermining health on a grand scale). We can change it – the last round had a bit of funding for organic fruits and vegetables, and linking school lunch with farmers’ markets. You can vote on this by calling your congresspeople and insisting on the funding shifts you want.


I personally have an emotional relationship with food. Changing my diet takes a long conversation, and a bargain with myself. Do this and I’ll treat myself in this way (often a massage or oil dip at Kripalu healing arts, or a new get-up).

Tactile and Sensual

Food is beautiful. It’s smells, textures, and of course, flavor absolutely thrills most of us. Yum. I’m working on a book project on whole food, and how to make it as easy as possible to eat healthfully. There’s no getting around the need to come into close personal contact with food when it’s whole. You have to cut the bottoms off asparagus and put fresh spears in water. You have to trim herbs and place them in water. You have to crack the egg, (and hopefully, put all the scraps into your compost bucket – wowsaa another spring topic!). We can do things to make cooking efficient and as easeful as possible, but ultimately, you have to revel in the sensuality of whole food.
I could go on – it’s love! So, take a little time considering a two-way relationship with the whole food you cook and eat. As you slice a carrot or dice an onion, take a breath to wonder what the carrot would say to you if you’d listen? Who is that onion, anyway?!
This is why changing your diet is such a huge deal. Because when you change your diet, you change everything. You become someone else, bite by bite. So, be easy on yourself if you are finding it challenging. Notice what’s hard, and press on. Make the healthful choice anyway. If you fall off the wagon for a meal or a day, get right back on. Practice practice practice, not perfection.
Food Is Everything: What Is It to You- by Annie B Kay -


3 Big Lies Weighing You Down

3 Big Lies Weighing You Down

3 Big Lies Weighing You Down by Annie B Kay -
There are more than 3 lies being fed to those trying to follow healthy lifestyles that lead to natural healthy weight, but these three are an excellent place to start. These 3 lies point to the truth of feeling better, being healthier, and authentically expressing and doing what you are here to express and do.
Did you know that size does not necessarily correlate with health? In over twenty years of clinical nutrition practice, I have seen many people – women and men, who are technically overweight yet metabolically healthy. Too, I have seen many women and men who are slim yet metabolically imbalanced in mind, body, and spirit. In today’s culture, with a highly refined diet and ever-increasing stress, for many it is harder than ever to lose weight. It’s not impossible, but it just may be aiming at the wrong target.
You and I have a job to do. It’s to stop feeling bad about who we are, and start taking fantastic care of ourselves. It’s to stop believing lies and half-truths designed to make us feel bad and to follow healthy satisfying and balanced eating and physical activity that works to make us the healthiest, happiest version of ourselves that we can be.
Here are 3 big lies that are keeping you heavy, and the truth that will point the way to feeling fantastic:

1.If you can’t lose weight there is something wrong with you.


It’s not you. For years I’ve spoken to women who feel responsible for weight gain and feel like failures because they can’t achieve the weight they were in high school. They are successful in all areas of life  – big wage earners (despite economic discrimination) who run families, have healthy relationships, and yet in this one area, unsuccessful.
The toxicity in the food supply, years of metabolic dysfunction, an unhelpful mindset, and the resulting stress is the perfect storm to feeling unwell and defeated. The fact of the matter is that what will make you feel better – no matter the number on the scale – are your daily habits and choices, and your mindset.

2. You have to be ever-perfect at a diet for it to work.

NOT (usually) true!

Deprivation diets don’t work. Starvation or fasting diets, even intermittent fasting, which has some merit, has the dirty little secret of lowering your metabolic rate, sometimes by a lot and for a very long time. There may be a variety of advantages to lowering metabolic rate (it may make you live longer), but please go in with eyes open. If eating less is not something you’d be happy doing evermore, save yourself the time and grief – don’t do it.
The truth of the matter is that small changes, that you are able to practice day after day without feeling deprived, is the only way forward. Most people can’t transform overnight, but I have seen lots of folks do great with a step-by-step path. If you feel the energy of transformation, there are ways of taking advantage of it without it setting the stage of yo-yoing your way to nowhere.

3. It’s all about calories.

So NOT true!

Energy balance (calories in as food and drink minus calories out as activity and metabolism) is important but quality (nutrient density, macro-nutrient balance and quality) matters just as much or more. If you have inflammation in your body – if your joints are achy, if you are bloated (swollen, really) you can do ‘all the right things’ for weight management and not get anywhere. Cooling inflammation with thoughtful choices is critical and independent of calories. Beyond that, how you eat matters as much (even more) than that. Taking your time to chew your food (can you slow down to take 10 chews per bite?), and taking a few moments to breathe and enjoy your food with all five senses can go a long way to improving your digestive wellness and your weight.
As a high-schooler, I developed bulimia. It was a seemingly easy (or at least doable) solution to an impossible problem; how to eat all those cheeseburgers and cokes and milkshakes that everyone else was eating and still look as slim as the models in the magazines. I could almost do it. But not quite. I tell that full story in Every Bite Is Divine.
For decades now, I have been thinking and writing about how yoga can help us to be more fully aware of who we are. But there is a shadow underfoot. I’m a 55-year-old post-menopausal woman and I feel fantastic and beautiful. I’m an excellent yoga teacher at the top of my game. I don’t, however, fit the beauty ideal of the yoga world. The media world of yoga is getting awfully slim. Sigh.
But that’s not the whole of the yoga world. There are beautiful women and men of every age, of every size, or every color and creed using the gifts of yoga to feel better, look better, live longer and be the fullest expression of who they are today. If that’s you, look around this space. See if there is something here for you. Come be part of the conversation of how we live and love each day in a balanced, happy expression of our unique and blessed place in the wonder of nature and life.
The best way to participate in the conversation is to sign up for my monthly newsletter. My newsletter takes you deeper into the practice of being fully and happily blessed no matter who you are.
3 Big Lies Weighing You Down by Annie B Kay -


Yoga Therapy in Dietetics – Here Comes FNCE

Yoga Therapy in Dietetics – Here Comes FNCE

Yoga Therapy in Dietetics by Annie B Kay -
I love dietitians! They’re smart, well-educated and enthusiastic.
Unfortunately for them, they are also  a great bargain relative to similarly-educated clinicians (I ponder what the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics, AND, our professional organization has been doing in the last decade as nurses value has soared…and ours has not). There are many new certificate players in the nutrition field, and that’s good and there is room for everyone in the land where 7 out of 10 Americans die of preventable lifestyle-related chronic disease. I just don’t see, however, a credential with the required biochemical and broad nutrition coursework background, from community to food service to mind-body to communications, as dietitians. Nutrition is science, and psychology and biochemistry and even after nearly 3 decades, helping people with food often pushes me to the edges of my knowledge and ability. Granted, I’m biased. I am an RDN (registered dietitian nutritionist), so have the inside view of what it takes to earn and maintain it.
The way forward for dietitians (and everyone in a female-dominated profession) is for each of us to focus on our value. How can we, as individuals, boost our personal, professional and market value? One way is to cross-train. To expand your knowledge and expertise in several areas. Dietitians, here comes Ayurveda and yoga therapy.

Yoga & Nutrition

Those of you who have known me for a while know that I have been combining nutrition with yoga since before there was so much great science explaining the mechanisms of why it’s helpful. Yoga, it turns out, makes us better choice-makers. Yoga also creates an internal biochemistry that calms inflammation and when practiced regularly can be protective against chronic disease.
While I criticize the AND for our salary situation, I am also grateful for the ways they have supported me in my work as a writer and teacher of nutrition and yoga. I am thrilled to be speaking at FNCE in Boston this month, with world-renowned educator Dr. Sat Bir Khalsa of Harvard, and my friend and colleague the lovely  Anu Kaur of the NIH. We’ll be talking about the science and practice of yoga therapy in dietetics, and highlighting how the field of yoga therapy is evolving through credentialing.
I’ll also be featuring colleagues in the field who are using yoga and yoga therapy in their nutrition practices. I’m inspired by this collection of practitioners. Thinking back to 2006-2007, when my first book came out, I was at FNCE (the Food and Nutrition Conference and Exhibition, the AND conference), and a tiny dark-haired woman came up to me at my booth, smiling ear to ear. She introduced herself, and only years later did I realize how sisterly we were. It was Beverly Price – a dietition-yoga teacher blending the two to help people with eating disorders. Now, Beverly owns a center in MI with an integrated staff including MDs, RDNs, and RYTs offering yoga-based therapies. She’s my business hero!
My work at Kripalu gives me a visible perch and happily, RDN-RYTs come to me when they are passing through. That’s how I met Andrea Leiberstein, a dietitian who works with mindful eating researcher Jean Kresteller on the program Mindfulness-Based Eating Awareness Training (MB-EAT), offered at Kripalu and elsewhere. Andrea also trains health professionals to use Mindful Eating to help with weight and eating.
There are so many more RDNs in this budding field and I look forward to featuring them over the next months here on the blog, but if you are at FNCE, check out our talk on Sunday morning. If our last talks are any indication, it will be STO, so get there early!
For anyone in DIFM, I will be giving a short demo on plant energetics with a plant-song device from Italy at the Happy Hour, But I have to say, the best reason to stop by there is to see the incomparable Kathie Swift get yet another award (how does she find room on her mantle for all her awards?) for Lifetime Achievement in Integrative and Functional Nutrition.
I will also be at the Member Product Marketplace on Monday, offering special pricing and free shipping on my 2 books, and a special on my CE-program: Yoga and Meditation: Tools for Weight Management through Wolf Rinke. Please do come by!
Yoga Therapy in Dietetics by Annie B Kay -


The Politics of Protein

The Politics of Protein

The Politics of Protein by Annie B Kay
Protein is critical but most Americans overdo it. Animal-rich diets have a larger carbon footprint – not so good for the environment. In a vegan (animal-free) diet, protein is widely available. We humans love us some protein!
How do we eat in balance – healthy for us and also our beautiful planet?

Recently I was teaching with a colleague I love and respect, who mentioned that the latest thinking on protein needs is 30/30/30 (grams per day). I sat up – that’s a lot of protein and has environmental implications, I thought.  At that level of intake, it’s difficult if not impossible to get adequate protein from a vegan diet. I wanted to know more. This higher recommendation is nearly twice what the NIH recommends (around 50 grams – a little more for men, a little less for women).
That sparked a months-long investigation for me, that’s not yet finished!
It sent me to pubmed, the NIH’s library of clinical research, to see where the recommendation came from. All I could find were a collection of papers from something called Protein Summit 2.0, and I’m grateful that now clinical research papers need to list funding, because there they were – many of the business interests and advocacy groups whom you’d think would support it. Sure enough, papers from that gathering recommended this higher level, with nods from the egg, beef, pork and dairy industry.
Protein is critical for health throughout the lifespan, and can be a challenge if protein needs are high, as in performance athletes and those healing from injury or disease. However, it has been well established that in a vegan diet, protein is widely available. Vegans do have to be aware of protein, and taking some with each meal and snack is a great guide – think nuts or nut butters, beans, seeds and seed butters, whole grains and most vegetables.  Vegan diets with these foods at the center are some of the most healthful on the planet. The planet smiles on vegan diets too, as protein is the macro-nutrient that tends to have the greatest impact on carbon footprint.
For more on the link between protein and the environment, look at this set of graphics from the World Resources Institute, and the Environmental Working Group’s Meat Eater’s Guide.
Recently a smart RDN (Registered Dietitian Nutritionist) gave me the name of a researcher she respects who has been publishing studies on this higher level of protein. I have yet to investigate, but will (and will pass my take along).

What’s an eater to do? Here are my thoughts.

  1. No matter what your choice – vegan, flexitarian (an eater of a whole-foods plant-based diet with a little fish, eggs and dairy), or other – have some protein – mostly plant protein – with each meal and snack.
  2. If eating animals helps you nutritionally, please don’t feel bad about it. Honor the life that has been given. It is the cycle of nature and life and ultimately, nearly everyone gets eaten in the end.
  3. Honor the fact that protein is richly sustaining, and takes more resources to create – so, resist the temptation to overdo it. It is human nature to overdo it. Protein powders likely have the greatest carbon footprint of all – could you do it with an egg or seed powder? Focus on eating the CDC-recommended 9-13 servings of plants daily. Can you have a bit more of your protein from plants without suffering nutritionally?

What about me? I am a flexitarian – I eat about 1 serving of animal per day, in the form of mostly eggs, but occasionally fish or meat. I put whole grass-fed milk in my morning coffee, and enjoy a bit of ghee (clarified butter) from grass-fed cows.  I mostly hit the recommended number of plants, but left to my own devices my taste would be pure starch! So, when life is full I have to remind myself to eat plants, and do on occasion retrace my day and find myself swimming in toast, and potatoes. Then it’s time to begin again, dust myself off and chop up some – hale kale!

Here are a couple of my plant-protein-rich recipes:

I’m big on soups!
What about you – how do you honor protein and meet your needs?
The Politics of Protein by Annie B Kay


Intentions Can Last – Here's How

Intentions Can Last – Here's How

Intentions Can Last - Here's How by Annie B Kay
Welcome to 2016! May yours be the best one yet.
I admit to loving New Year’s resolutions. I just adore the divine consciousness within each and every one of us that is aspirational. We so want to get it right – do it better, move in the right direction, make a difference, life a healthy meaningful life. I say yes to that.
But as the wheel of the year turns, it’s easy to get sidetracked. Some of you have already broken those vows you made just a few short days ago. No worries! Positive change usually involves missing the mark – and in fact, close but no cigar is a really good sign – a sign that you are heading in the right direction.
The way to begin to keep the aspiration rolling is to think more in terms of intention than resolution – if you did make a promise, let’s take a deeper look at it – what were you looking to cultivate through that resolution – what is it you are heading for? For example, as you might imagine I am awash in resolutions to lose weight – it’s my job, after all. Here. In sugaropolis.
What is it you are cultivating through your resolution to lose weight – do you want to be healthier? Feel better about yourself? Often the things we are really looking for can be cultivated regardless of, in this case, the number on the scale. If you want to, for example, feel better about yourself, there are things you can do right now to do that. Aiming at what you really want is actually a wonderful strategy to make the number of the scale get in line too – more easily and happily. By getting clear on just what we really want is the first step.
Here are a couple previous posts that can help you think about setting intention.
Before you set intention, practice letting go.
Intention in action.
It’s not too late, by the way, to set intention for the year to come. May your intentions take root deep in your heart and blossom beyond your wildest dreams.
Intentions Can Last - Here's How by Annie B Kay


5 Nutrition Trends for 2016

It’s that time of year again, where we look back at trends for the year that was, and set a course for a happy and productive 2016. May yours be filled with good food, good friends and family, and good work.
Here are a few of the food-related trends I see in the natural nutrition world:

  1. Authentically whole                                                                                                                                   Many Americans think that frozen meals, take-out meals and packaged smoothies are whole foods. They may be made from whole foods, they may be made from high-quality ingredients, but if it’s packaged (no matter how pricey the package is), it’s processed. Not all processed food is bad, and we can eat some and still be vibrantly healthy. Just remember, it’s the whole produce you find at your farmer’s market and the produce isle that is the center of nutritional wellness.
  2. Post-paleo ancestral eating                                                                                                                              I have truly enjoyed the enthusiastic discussion about just what paleolithic man really ate. We know he didn’t have bacon (poor paleo man). Nor paleo power bars. Nor did he use those little rubber toe-shoes. But the inquiry at the root of the debate – just what is the genetic imperative for humans when it comes to food – is a true and fascinating one. For most of us, following a whole-foods, plant-based diet that contains clean protein and healthful fats, as in the Mediterranean and other ancestral diets, will do the trick.
  3. Beans on the rise…again                                                                                                                         Plant-based protein is finally getting its due. We are finally also getting the idea of quality, as well, since another trend is continued growing interest in GMO-free eating and labeling. Non-organic soy is now predominantly GMO, unfortunately. But, increasing the beans in your diet will bolster fiber and is in better balance with the earth. If beans give you excess gas, choose smaller varieties like lentils.
  4. Eat fish…consciously                                                                                                                                     Fish and shellfish are the riches sources of anti-inflammatory omega-3 fats, and figure prominently in patterns of eating shown to be most healthful. Yet, the oceans are not getting cleaner, and over the past decades, fishes considered high in mercury and PCBs have steadily grown.  This is a great year to sample your first sardine, or herring, or anchovies. These small fishes tend to be lowest in contaminants.
  5. Holistic cannibus                                                                                                                                              As most states approve medical marijuana, and many states eliminate all penalties for having or smoking pot, get ready to learn more about THC to CBD ratios, and what various strains of marijuana can do for various ailments.
  6. Mindful eating 2.0                                                                                                                           McMindfulness. Yep, it’s the new black. Now we just need to learn what it is. Mindfulness is a form of meditation, so when the lunch line suggests the mindful choice of the day is turkey burger, just sigh. Nonetheless, as more people practice the meditation of eating more often, all of our relationship with food and with the planet will improve. One breath, one bite at a time.

Here are a couple other good trend pieces from around the web:
Restaurant trends
2015’s big moments for the natural food industry
Happy New Year! May yours be the best one yet.