Sweetie has been a picky eater before she could say no. As a baby of three months, she would yank the bottle of expressed breast milk out of her mouth, throw it across the floor and bawl. She wanted the complete experience, or nothing.
At nine months old, her nanny bonded with her over treats of MacDonalds French fries with ketchup. Soon, adults around her realized that they could do wonders with her favorite foods. They could lull her to sleep in no time by offering her a cookie, get her to stop smack in the middle of a temper tantrum by offering a chicken nugget, encourage her to baby talk by dangling her favorite fruit just out of reach. “Ba-ba-na! Ba-ba-na!” she squealed.
She did not like vegetables, like most little kids.
Her mother tried to sneak them into foods she loves. Meatloaf with ground mushrooms and a teeny bit of tomato. Spaghetti bolognese thickened with a tiny bit of sweet potato. Mashed potatoes with a smidgen of rutabaga.
She would take one sniff and push the plate away with a scrunch of her nose. “Eeuw.”
Her mother tried all the tricks other parents passed down. Get her to help prepare meals. Plant a vegetable garden with her. Roast the carrots.
Sweetie became accomplished at peeling potatoes, spreading compost on vegetable beds and harvesting raspberries by the time she reached five. She wrote little essays on her adventures in the kitchen and the garden. But she would not touch any vegetable on her plate unless it was a potato.
Her mother got desperate. She plucked a warm, ripe cherry tomato from a backyard bush. “Try this tomato. It’s sweet!” Sweetie took a bite and spat it out. “Yuck!” She ran into the house to wash out her mouth. From that day, she would caution her brother against going with their mom’s agenda. “Mom told me tomatoes were sweet! Lesson: never believe what Mom says.”
Sweetie did not make a fuss about food. She just didn’t budge. She slipped away from the table quietly and sustained herself with bread, snacks and will power. “Don’t mind me,” she would assure everyone if they noticed. “Your loss is our gain,” became her Dad’s mantra of resignation.
She did not, as everyone predicted, grow out of it. She adored meat. She wrote dreamy, evocative recollections of eating pork prepared different ways on vacation in Asia. She vowed she would never marry a Jewish boy – how could anyone refuse pork? She told her relatives in Asia all about the pleasure of eating beef stew in the middle of winter. She exchanged notes with her Asian girlfriends on the best roast duck they had eaten. When she grows up, she wants to make enough money to buy herself a nice steak every now and then.
By the time she was nine, she was preparing the grocery list. She went shopping with her parents and made sure they filled the grocery cart with the right mix of ingredients. Broccoli made it to her preferred menu because it makes “a good sponge for the juices.”
In an ironic twist of fate, her mother had started to practice gemmotherapy, the art of using embryonic plant tinctures to help the body clean itself on the cellular level. Within a holistic framework, the body’s ability to clean itself goes hand in hand with eating clean, non-inflammatory foods. She started dog-fooding her family. A practitioner of any integrity must practice what she serves her own clients. They transitioned to a 60% plant based diet. Dad lost 12lbs without trying. Many stubborn health symptoms started to shift.
But how to feed Sweetie?
Her mother hemmed and hawed. She pored over evidence-based studies, debated with herself about how different diets and microbiomes were bound to culture and geography, played one stance against another and concluded that there is no diet to end all diets. She was suspended in that curious and most difficult philosophical stance that the Greeks had called “the suspension of disbelief,” pledging no allegiance to any position while acting out of necessity. You gotta put food on the table no matter what.
A change in the family’s financial circumstances moved the dial to an 80% plant-based diet. Hormone-free meats costs more. To tell the truth, the diet became 20% plant-based for Sweetie and 80% for the rest of the family. Sweetie’s brother suggested going vegetarian. “You feel better. And it can save us money.”
How to Convert a Meat Eater without Shaming or Tricking Her
Then, one weekend, Mom went to a gemmotherapy retreat that served dairy free, gluten free vegan meals. It felt right. It felt lighter. The heaviness that had lodged in the middle of her upper back for months lifted. Suddenly, everything clicked into place from the inside out. It was time to align beliefs with actions. She decided to feed her family vegetarian meals, without making exceptions for Sweetie.
When Mom went home, Dad made a Thai vegetable curry. Sweetie ate it all. She even liked it. The next day, she made another one with her mom and brother.
“WHAT???” her aunt whatsapped when I shared the news. “Serious?” “U dun mean potatoes right?”
“Was Steve’s curry very delicious? Maybe it tasted very good?” she suggested in awe.
The Secret: Aligning from the Inside Out
I let her in on THE SECRET. It is the power of intention to shift reality. The feminine spirit moves mountains when it rouses from slumber.
“Wow, that is a culinary seismic shift!” Sweetie’s aunt exclaimed.
Just as my wise teacher Lauren Hubele had told us that weekend, “Whoever sets the feminine energy in the home is the creative spirit.” This is the feminine power – the Shakti, the power of Yin, the Universal Goddess – that does not argue, does not fight, does not engage with intimidation and threats.
“The most submissive thing in the world can ride roughshod over the hardest thing in the world,” the ancient Chinese philosopher-sage Laozi taught us about the feminine principle. “In the world there is nothing more submissive and weak than water. Yet for attacking that which is hard and strong nothing can surpass it,” he goes on to explain in an analogy. How cool – a geological truth illuminating a spiritual principle!
Embracing the Body’s Wisdom
I experience it as the power of embracing fully the truth that is deeply felt within my body. There is no more profound truth than that which you experience – it is also the truth that sets me free. I remember the parting words of the spiritual teacher Steve Kramer who, along with Tim Darter, cooks and creates amazing programs at the Spirit Fire Retreat Center, “When you make a choice to stop eating dairy, gluten, sugar, you are taking care of yourself. You free yourself from resistance.”
I must learn to lay down my old habit of wielding many arguments against one another. It’s a waste of energy. One can only follow a path by putting one foot in front of the other, not by straddling different paths all at once.
Cleansing Diet for Creating Health
There is no best diet out there. A plant-based diet, combined with gemmotherapy, is best for the purposes of helping the body to clean itself more efficiently, so that it is not an inviting home for chronic diseases. Many of us need that right now.