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Ashley Solomon, Psy.D is a psychologist who specializes in the treatment of eating disorders, body image, trauma, and serious mental illness.

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Tag: vegetarianism

19 Jul

Honoring the Land, Nourishing the Body {Guest Post}

Guest Post 17 Comments by Ashley @ Nourishing the Soul

Shortly after my post outlining my effort to honor the earth by going vegetarian for a month, I received an email from reader and fellow blogger, Robyn Goddard. As a South Dakota rancher who details her adventures (and yummy recipes!) on her site, The Ranch Wife Chronicles, Robyn commended me for doing some research before eliminating meat and pointed me to some wonderful resources on the misconceptions about her field. Recognizing the importance of seeing both sides of this issue, I invited Robyn to share some of her thoughts on beef’s benefits with Nourishing the Soul readers. I so appreciated her taking time to give beef another voice!

Beef Cattle

Robyn GoddardAfter Ashley’s “Honoring the earth” post, I wrote to her about the misconceptions placed on agriculture and meat consumption. Today, I am going to share a few truths about the beef you eat.

As a cattle producer, beef runs deep in my blood. My husband and I are the fourth generation on his family’s South Dakota ranch. I grew up raising cattle in south central Nebraska.

Our family business is raising wholesome, safe, and healthy beef to feed America and the world. Equally or more important to raising cattle is environmental stewardship. Ranchers and farmers are dedicated to protecting natural resources and passing our legacy on to future generations. If we do not take care of the land, we can not produce high quality meat for your family or our own.

Ranchers work hard everyday to ensure that the land and animals in their control are treated with the utmost respect and care. A few examples we carry out on our ranch include conservation and anti-erosion practices, grass utilization and water quality maintenance. Without compassion for the environment, my husband and I would not be able to carry on our family business. A rancher’s primary goal is to improve the environment. If we take care of the land and improve our natural recourses, they will take care of us and the next generation.

Not only that, but calorie for calorie, beef provides some of the highest quality nutrients the body can get. Beef adds “ZIP” (zinc, iron and protein) to your diet, so you can fuel up with a complete, high-quality protein that provides all the essential amino-acids the body needs.

Zinc, Iron and B vitamins are important in cognitive development and functioning. They play a vital role in brain function, including memory health and the ability to learn and reason. I don’t know about you, but I need all the help I can get in the memory department!

Beef helps the body remain healthy as zinc aids is maintaining a properly functioning immune system and assists in healing the body. B6 assists the body in defense against infections.

My own body needs high-quality protein when I work out. Iron aids red blood cells to carry oxygen from the lungs to vital organs and muscles. Proteins are essential for normal growth and development, in addition to building muscle mass. Protein is an essential energy source and assists in regulating metabolism and maintaining a healthy weight.

Beef’s fatty acid profile is commonly misunderstood. About half of the fatty acids found in beef are monounsaturated — the same heart-healthy fats found in olive oil! Only about 40% of fat in beef is saturated. The body needs some saturated fat to function properly. Saturated fat helps to increase the feeling of satisfaction after a meal and transports fat-soluble vitamins.

Beef has 29 cuts of meat that meet the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s requirements for “lean meat.” I recommend you grill a steak or hamburger and enjoy the great taste of American raised beef. Take advantage of all the nutritional benefits of this red meat powerhouse.

When you buy American raised beef, you are not only purchasing nourishment, but also sustaining a treasured way of life. You are supporting the American rancher and the traditions we work so hard to preserve.


What do you think about the impact of animal agriculture? Do you share Robyn’s passion for beef? Did anything she said surprise you?


06 Jun

Honoring the earth: A month of vegetarianism

Ideas to Consider 11 Comments by Ashley @ Nourishing the Soul


When I decided that we were going vegetarian for a month – and I say “we” because despite our attempt to break down gendered roles in our home, I am the primary cook – my husband was expectantly dubious.

“Like, no meat?” he asked back in February, when this idea began percolating in my omnivorous mind.

“Mm-hmm, only bean spouts and organic kale,” I teased, pretending to be more certain of my ability to construct balanced vegetarian meals that could fuel my marathoner hubby and myself than I actually felt.

So over the next three months or so, I casually researched really juicy stuff, like non-animal sources of protein, quick vegetarian dinners, and even how to host a party with plenty of veg-friendly dishes. By the time that May rolled around, I felt prepared to embark on our journey, only slightly anxious about the chicken breasts I was leaving behind.

You may be wondering why we decided to do a month sans meat. Well, back in January I had chosen the word honor as my word of the year. I had decided that 2011 was to be a year in which I focused myself on honoring my truest desires, my body, my relationships, and the earth. Specifically, I said that I wanted to live with more awareness and respect, and I decided that shifting from a meat-centric lifestyle to one that was more earth-friendly was one way to do so.

When I learned about the how entire ecosystems are being destroyed across the globe in order to create room for livestock and crops to feed them, I was intrigued. When I learned that producing two pounds of beef creates more greenhouse-gas emissions than driving a car for three hours, I was stunned. And when I learned that the United Nations considers a plant-based diet the most important step to be taken in reducing global warming, I was blown away.

If you’re interested in going meat-free for a month or another set period of time, I encourage you to consider the following:


Do it for the right reasons

As I’ve talked about before, making a change in the way that you eat should not come from a place of fear or desperation. Those who have struggled with disordered eating can be particularly vulnerable when it comes to eliminating a major food group from one’s diet. In fact, research shows that vegetarians are more likely to have had eating disorder thinking or behavior, and young vegetarians tend to more susceptible to binge eating. Thus, it’s important to honestly assess your reasons for forgoing meat or animal products. Consider things like:

  • What need might I be trying to meet by engaging in this practice?
  • What emotions are behind my decision? Am I experiencing fear, frustration, anger? [If so, eliminating foods might not be the best choice right now.]
  • How will I know if my thinking about this is becoming rigid or distorted?


Enlist support

As with any challenge, the buddy system is best. Not only can you support one another when the going gets tough (though if it gets too “tough”, I recommend returning to your normal eating patterns), but it can enhance the enjoyment of this experience. It was fun for my husband and I to search out vegetarian options at new places we visited, and I loved getting to taste test my lentils recipe on him (so, I might have some work to do on that one, given his less-than-thrilled expression). Not only that, but a friend can help you assess whether a meat-free lifestyle is a healthy option for you.


Prepare yourself

As I mentioned, I spent several months researching vegetarianism before delving into this lifestyle. I wanted to be sure that I had a cadre of go-to recipes on hand that would offer me all of the essential nutrients I needed. I visited some veg-friendly blogs, like Daily Garnish and Savvy Vegetarian. I also made sure to not let this month of no meat go by without truly appreciating the choices I was making. For me, this meant reading up on the environmental and economic impact of meat production and doing a lot of self-reflection about my own values and beliefs. I also happened to catch the new documentary, Forks Over Knives, which primarily details the incredible health benefits of a plant-based lifestyle.


Think about what you’re adding, not what you’re taking away

I also wanted to look at this experience not as something to restrict my eating, but something to enhance it. Unsure as to whether this would become a longer-term venture, I decided that I at least wanted to expand my repertoire of vegetarian meals. One can both improve health and reduce their carbon footprint by even incorporating a couple of meat-free meals per week, so I took this month as an opportunity to create more options for myself. What I found is that there is a whole world outside of chicken breasts and bacon! Not that I don’t love those foods, but this month forced me to broaden my horizons and try new vegetables and legumes that I definitely would have overlooked.


Stop if it’s not working for you

If you’re feeling weak, fatigued, restrictive, or just like you’re really missing your barbacoa burrito, for goodness sake, stop! There are endless ways to honor the earth, and yours doesn’t need to be by eliminating a food group. Just as important as the preparation is the self-awareness it takes to know when something is not the best idea for you. Remember, you are part of the earth as well, and honoring our planet starts with taking care of your own body and mind. So do what works for you!


Are you vegetarian or would you consider going vegetarian for a period of time? Why or why not?


09 Mar

Finding a Plan that Works: How to Listen to Your Body {Guest Post}

Guest Post 6 Comments by Ashley @ Nourishing the Soul

maria rainer As one of my best friends is fond of saying, “Food is medicine.” Conversely, the wrong foods can be poisonous. While that may sound over-exaggerated, it’s been an accurate description of my struggles with food.

I’ve been accused of having all kinds of eating disorders, and the accusers include my family members, friends, and even doctors. It’s been painful to hear that I need to change the way I think and function when I haven’t done anything against my body. But they’ve been proven wrong. The issues that affect me aren’t eating disorders – they’re hyperthyroidism and acute sensitivity to specific foods, artificial colors, and preservatives.

Obviously, that’s not going to be true for the majority of people who struggle with food. But I’ve found that taking my medication and eliminating the offending foods from my diet hasn’t “healed” me completely. The turning point where my overall health began to improve noticeably was when I found the right way of eating for me.

In my case, the right diet means one that helps me gain weight to achieve my goal of surpassing the “normal” BMI for my height. Diets don’t have to be about counting calories and losing weight. They’re meant to help you get healthy, no matter what that means for you.

I’ve tried a number of eating plans recommended to me by doctors and friends, including Paleolithic, gluten-free, dairy-free, vegetarian, and vegan, but there was always something about each one that didn’t agree with my body. Fortunately, I came to the conclusion that my body is unique and deserves to be treated as such. How many people can really say that a generic diet is the best possible one to follow for their specific bodies? I know I can’t say that personally, so here’s how I figured out what to eat according to my body’s responses to food.

Unless you try new ways of eating, you’ll have a hard time identifying foods that are healthy and unhealthy for your own body. I tried one way after another, as recommended by doctors, and when I still didn’t feel healthy, I started to alter those diets based on others I had read about or heard about from friends. For example, I was told by one doctor to go gluten-free and, about a year later, a second doctor added dairy-free to the mix. With both gluten and dairy eliminated, I began to feel better, but I knew there were more adjustments to be made to feel my best.

I always felt sick after eating red meat, so I stopped eating it and made sure I got enough iron from my multivitamin to compensate for that change. I took it even farther by trying veganism, which definitely didn’t give my body everything it needed. I backed off to vegetarianism, but still struggled to get enough protein. I discovered that I needed meat to comfortably get enough protein each day. Now, I mostly rely on eggs and seafood for my protein, but I also eat chicken occasionally. I’ve never felt better, but I don’t know of any generic diet out there that includes every aspect of my own eating pattern.

My doctors and unique diet have helped me get healthier, but I’m not going to stop listening to my body. I know that everything can change and that I need to be prepared to respond when my body reacts to something in my diet. That’s been the biggest lesson I’ve learned in my three-year journey toward eating well: my body is the expert and I can’t afford to ignore it. Paying attention to your body isn’t a waste of time; it’s a wise investment in your future health.

If you’re interested in developing your own unique diet, I would recommend seeing a dietician or other nutrition specialist. This type of professional can help you find a good starting point and make sure that dieting is helping you rather than hurting you. Once you start learning more about what your body does and doesn’t want or need, you can build a healthy diet accordingly and start enjoying the benefits of eating well. No matter how long it takes, it’s well worth the time investment and inconvenience. Your body will thank you.

Maria Rainier is a freelance writer and blog junkie. She is currently a resident blogger at First in Education. In her spare time, she enjoys square-foot gardening, swimming, and avoiding her laptop.


{Image Credit :: Flickr}



25 Oct

Bad reasons for going meat-free

Ideas to Consider 21 Comments by Ashley @ Nourishing the Soul

In the wake of Eating Animals and Skinny Bitch-es, an increasing number of individuals are opting for an animal-free diet. While still incredibly meat-centric, our society appears to be becoming more supportive of vegetarian and vegan lifestyles, as demonstrated by the growing number of meat-free and dairy-free restaurants, specialty stores, and even blogs. But are we all on the same page?

Photo Credit :: Muffet

Evidence is stacking up in favor of a vegetarian lifestyle and challenging us carnivores to consider the safety, health, and ethics of our food choices. Health benefits that many vegetarians and vegans cite for forgoing animal products include a desire for lower cholesterol, lower rates of heart disease, and more energy. Other reasons often mentioned are an intolerance for unsafe and inhumane treatment of animals, religious or cultural beliefs, and even economic advantages. And perhaps meat-eaters should take note, as some researchers are claiming that vegetarians are more intelligent.

While the arguments for a meat-free diet are mounting, many who adopt this lifestyle are unfortunately not doing it for the right reasons and do not have a healthy mindset when embarking on what is often a major nutritional shift. When individuals make dramatic changes to their diets without fully educating themselves on how to do so in a healthy and balanced way (e.g. supplementing nutrients), serious health consequences can result.

Here are some of the common but misguided reasons for going meat-free:


  • All your friends are doing it: We may hear about one of our closest friends adopting a vegan diet and look longingly at the improvements in her health. Or we may peruse food blogs and find that the quinoa and asparagus dish that Suzie posted elicits guilt about the filet we devoured last night. But the fact of the matter is that we are all different and need to make nutrition decisions based on our individual health statuses and beliefs. If your mother never asked you the proverbial, “If all your friends were jumping off a bridge…?” question, I’ll ask it to you to consider it now. Despite considering ourselves mature and independent adults (for the most part…), the drive to follow in the footsteps of those we admire can lead us far from honoring our own bodies and minds.
  • To manage binge eating: The American Dietetics Association recently reported that adolescent and young adult vegetarians experience more binge eating with loss of control than meat-eaters. One explanation is that a lack of certain nutrients in the vegetarians’ diets cause cravings that lead to overeating (due to not properly supplementing their nutrition). However, it seems likely that many individuals may use a vegetarian diet in an effort to minimize the effects of their tendencies to engage in binge eating. We know, however, that both binging on baby carrots and binging on hamburgers reflect an unhealthy relationship with food and can lead to significant health problems.
  • To mask an eating disorder: While a meat-free diet can absolutely be sustainably healthy and does not in and of itself signal an eating disorder, research is demonstrating that vegetarians are in fact more likely to have or have had eating disordered thinking and behaviors. While a vegetarian diet may at times be adopted specifically to cover up disordered eating (e.g. using a no animal products stance to avoid eating anything at the cook-out), more often individuals seem to fall unwittingly into vegetarianism as a result of progressive food restriction. A person struggling with disordered eating may first eliminate all red-meat as a means of weight-control and later find themselves unwilling to eat any animal product. It’s important to note that the person may not be lying when they claim they forgo meat because of their connection with animals, but there may be other, less healthy issues driving their choices as well.
  • To get back at your parents: Many vegetarians and vegans began ditching animal products as teenagers, a time when the desire to establish one’s separate identity and independence is roaring like a hungry lion. For an undefined number of these individuals, refusing to eat meat may have served as an assertion of autonomy. This may have been particularly true in households rife with conflict and high levels of authoritarianism. Unfortunately, using food as a means of family communication or self-expression is ineffective and even dangerous at times. If you can trace your own vegetarianism to a time of strife in your family, it may be time to re-examine your choices in the light of adulthood.

It’s important to note that all food choices are complex and multi-faceted. While an individual’s choice to adopt a meat-free (or gluten-free or dairy-fee) lifestyle may involve elements of the “wrong” reasons, it does not necessarily make the choice itself wrong. What’s important is to consider your own experiences and beliefs, attempting to unhinge them from those of others in your life, and to honor your body by making choices that are right for you. It also never hurts to consult a physician, mental health professional, or nutritionist if you’re unsure.

What are your thoughts on the vegetarian or vegan lifestyle?



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