Apr 3, 2009

Food for Healing- More Than Just Nutrition?

For the past month and a half, I've been cooking dinners for Mom. Sometimes, she's chipper and optimistic. But lately, she's been more and more depressed and sad. Today, she returned from a pretty stressful visit to the hospital and looked particularly haggard, but mustered up enough energy to cry and express her sense of hopelessness to me.

I held her and told her there is only hopelessness if you allow it to be, and to remember that death is only in the future. The important thing is to live for now and not stress about what you have so little control over. She cried some more, slowly acknowledging what I said.

I then pulled dinner out of my green shopping bag, as I've been doing for so many evenings. Packed in various sized tupperware, I usually have a combination of whole grains (brown rice, quinoa, millet, etc), a soup with various veggies and legumes (half pureed), sometimes accompanied by steamed yams, sauteed mushrooms, or pickled veggies, and sometimes accompanied by a raw fruit and nut smoothie to save for later.

Today, I new she was going to be particularly down, so I made a special treat for her- some krispy steamed wontons to go with the soup, this time filled with seasoned tofu and scallions. It wasn't entirely on the "macro" anti-cancer menu, but it was something I knew would cheer her up.

And that it did! As soon as she started eating, she felt much better and was in a much better mood. She even asked for more- which she rarely does, because of her lack of appetite. Ah, the power of food. Wontons are definitely a childhood comfort food for me, and ditto for Mom. Luckily, she wasn't raised on donuts and hamburgers LOL!

This got me to thinking about the healing power of food. I have read about the wonders of a healthy whole food diet, and how you will live a much longer and more disease-free life if you stay on it.

But I have also witnessed the power that stress and negativity has on the body, and how much energy we often put into hurting ourselves- most often unconciously through worrying, doubting, hating, etc. Mom was so weak physically, yet she had enough strength to hurt herself even more... as we all do. Imagine how much we could help ourselves, by doing the exact opposite, and doing that conciously!

It would seem such an easy fix- just stop stressing! But everyone knows that is much easier said than done. We are emotional animals- programmed for eons to be cynical, negative creatures- if not outwardly, then inwardly. We are also programmed to ignore ourselves and not to live conciously.

As vegans, we have all taken a step forward by looking more closely at our diets... and being honest with ourselves. But we can also very easily turn our diets (as in anything) into something negative and stressful. Yes, I choose not to eat animals. But do I need to angrily hate on everyone around me who doesn't choose the same, or would it be more effective and healthier to lead through example and inform without judgement?

And what about nutrition? Is it better to rigidly stick to a whole foods diet, constantly worrying about processed foods, added sugar, fat, preservatives, coloring, etc., or allow oneself a little slack, and enjoy a cupcake once in a while? What is the trade-off, if any here? Which one will shorten my life more- the fat and sugar, or the stress of not having any? And, if they are equally damaging, wouldn't you pick the occasional cupcake? Just a thought. I guess the ultimate answer is to not have the fat and sugar AND not to stress on it- haha!! So simple, yet so hard.

Well, the trade-off for Mom was a good one, I think. The little bit of processed flour in the wontons counteracted the psychological pain and bodily stress, which would surely kill her first.
Could she have done this without the wontons? Of course- but I think it would've taken a lot longer.


  1. Such a thoughtful post.

    You sound like you are putting a lot of love in your food. Awesome. And again, thanks for all the blog support. You are awesome! Grumpy ppl who spread negativity are so annoying...aka, the 'Marks' of the world.


  2. You rock. I'm so glad you got your mom to eat some comfort food. Crispy wontons look fantastic!

  3. an amazing post! you're a great daughter!

  4. That was such an insightful post, I loved it. Not to mention, those wontons look amaazing!

  5. Your mom is lucky to have such a caring daughter!
    I completely agree that the benefit of nutritionally superior foods has to be weighed against the comfort foods with an emotional connection can give. Sure you can train yourself to be comforted by only the best foods but it's not going to happen overnight. Generally absolutes only work on paper.

  6. oh boy howdy, i believe food heals. and how sad it is that most people don't understand the spiritual and physical connection to the food they eat. how lucky you are to have each other. i will be keeping your mom in my nightly prayers. i know it is controversial to openly mention prayer b/c of eveangelical condescending implications, but i mean prayer in the simple spiritual form of hope and healing. because we all need a heaping dish of hope and healing (with wontons of course).

    i love your blog.

  7. As they always say, it's a matter of balance. Food has such a huge impact on both general health and mood, you've got to cater to both physical and emotional needs. A bit of indulgence is not only okay, but necessary, if you ask me!

  8. Hi there...I stumbled upon your blog today and was touched by how you lovingly put so much thought into what you made for your mom. My uncle is very ill at the moment too and I've tried to think of healthy and tasty food for him. Thank you so much for sharing.

  9. Hey, everyone! Thanks for all the kind words. I've been very tired lately, and reading your comments and other blogs give me more energy somehow. Will be posting more recipes soon :)

  10. Your mum really is lucky to have someone like you helping her through this challenging time... and you're right, we can never underestimate the positive power of a little culinary pick-me-up.

  11. Karma, what a lovely and thoughtful daughter you are. Food made with so much love has to be healing and recuperative. My best wishes for your mom's health.

  12. This is such an inspiring post. You are so right...our moods are so pivotal in influencing our health and well being...we can benefit from the healing power of food, which is good for both body and soul! All the best for your mom!

  13. I'm really glad I read this today. I've been thinking about the things that made me happy as a teenager (I'm 30 now) and trying to get back there a bit. It is so important to remember that a sweet treat or a soda or whatever does wonders every once in a while, when what I am mostly used to is scrutinizing labels and worrying about stuff. Thanks for the post!