Monthly Archives: May 2012

A Place for Compassion in Healthcare

I’ve been obsessed with the HBO documentary series The Weight of the Nation, an intricate and engaging examination of the obesity crisis in the America that came out this month.  It analyizes the perfect storm of  environmental, economic, and political trends that have created this epidemic.  Media coverage of the issue has been done and done again. Very often it is superficial and offensive, focusing simply on the increasingly sedentary American lifestyle.  That more and more Americans, in fact the majority are overweight or obese, because they are lazy.It’s a convenient, uncomplicated approach to explain the crisis.  It’s why the reality series The Biggest Loser is such a hit. It’s why Michelle Obama named her childhood obesity initiative Let’s Move. It’s how the food industry shirks responsibility for dominating the market with processed, chemicalized junk passed off as food and targets our country’s most vulnerable populations in predatory marketing practices.  It’s how the federal government forges ahead with dangerous food policies and subsidies for the very foods that are making the nation sick.  Most importanly it’s how most of the American public can absolve itself of the need to be compassionate for those who are suffering when they need it most.What I appreciated the most about the documentary was its humanizing profiles and interviews of those struggling with unhealthy weight.  These were not the anonymous overweight people walking through the streets whose backsides are taped for cliched media coverage of the issue.  By really looking in their eyes as they descibe their sickness, it’s not so easy to turn our backs  and dismiss them as lazy and deserving of their fates.

I know from my own family history with obesity, I had grown up largely unsympathetic, thinking of the disease as a character flaw for those with whom I had difficult relationships.  With maturity I’ve come to accept that weight discrimination truly is the last acceptable prejudice in our society.  And perhaps it only really happened when I’ve allowed myself to be compassionate for my own shortcomings in taking care of myself.  This past month especially I have often buckled under the stress of moving and keeping up the entrepeneurial hustle, overindulging in espresso and sweets, and skimping on sleep and self-care.  At any given time, we all try to do the best with what we’re working with, and often we’re flawed.  These struggles create the foundation for our capacity for empathize with others in their times of need.

This is where professionals in integrative health seek to fill that gap for compassion in modern healthcare, by treating the whole person, not just a collection of symptoms.  The team of practitioners that I have joined at Pekoe Wellness and Acupuncture, a holistic health clinic in downtown DC, is inspiring not only becacuse we each share a mission that attends to the physical, emotional, and spiritual wellness of our clients, but above all, because we offer respect, compassion, and support.  Please check out all of our offerings at Pekoe, including nutrition & wellness services from your truly.

Please enjoy the contents of this month’s newsletter, including the spicy, rich Penang curry recipe I brought back from Thailand and summer musings of turning body image on its head.

Be well and lots of love.
-dahlia

A New Mirror Ritual

This month’s self-care tip is a response to the body image issues that tend to nag at many of us, especially young women, and especially during the summer months of sundresses and bikinis.   When I wrote this last year, I was in the thick of wedding planning and dress fittings. I struggled to appreciate my body, and how its unruly curves looked in THE dress amidst pressure from the wedding industrial complex to be as perfect and as thin as possible.  I knew however how pointless it was to let these demons ruin this special time in my life.   I drew from the yoga therapy tradition to transform time in front of the mirror.  I hope this ritual will prove transformative and allow you to honor and connect with your body.  To a beautiful, inspired, indulgent summer!

 

Yoga therapy, an emerging profession in holistic health, is based in the concept of samskara, or conditioning that we hold in our bodies.  In his book Yoga for Wellness, Gary Kraftsow, Founder of the American Viniyoga Institute, describes samskara as conditioning that begins in early childhood as a “result of our relationships with our interpersonal and social environments.” The idea is that as we move through our lives, our body literally records our experiences in its very fibers and plays them back like a repeat track.  Muscle memory.

For instance when we encounters moments of stress, fear, or anxiety in our lives, the body has a very real reaction in which it collapses into itself – Shoulders close around the heart space, core loses its stability.  With frequency, these reactions condition awareness at a subconscious level, convincing mind and body that it is in a state of chronic stress.

Next time you stand in the mirror examine your own conditioning and dismantle the manifestations of stress in your body.  For this exercise, I recommend standing in a full length mirror in your skivies or completely nude, and look at yourself fully.  Notice the patterns of  stress that you may carry with you.  Now practice standing tall- with purpose and stability.  Look at your body, and notice how you can unravel stress conditioning and build patterns  self-acceptance simply with the intention to do so.  Notice how when you stand tall and proudly,  you begin to honor your body as the vehicle through which you live a rich, meaningful life. Eventually, the more you stand in the world with this awareness, commerically-driven images of physical perfection begin to lose importance.  Instead, you will have shifted your awareness to reflect that contentment.

Thai Penang Curry with Chicken

Thai Penang Curry with Chicken

This recipe has been a long time coming, I know :-) Only two weeks after the move did I begin to settle into my new kitchen, and needed the time and space to do this dish justice.  Always stubborn to follow recipes, I have guess-tasted my way to imitating this dish over the past couple of years.  When I was in Thailand a couple months ago for my honeymoon, my husband and I made finally made this dish among others with professionals in a half day course at the Thai Kitchen Cookery Centre of Chiang Mai, perhaps of the most memorable experiences from our trip.  I have done my best to conjure this experience in my offering below, using as many authentic processes and ingredients as possible. However I want this recipe to be  as accessible as possible to the American home cook.  No galangal? Ginger will do.  No kaffir limes? Grab your your regular grocery store variety. So on and so forth.  One thing I did try to keep as authentic as possible is the process of the curry paste.  When our teacher fielded a question on whether the all the upper body workout of the mortar and pestal was really necessary (couldn’t we just use a food processor?!) she very politely explained that if we wanted the genuine percolation of flavors, we’d better roll up our sleeves and get to pounding. Please enjoy this interpretation of the classical Thai dish.  I recommend serving with red Himalayan rice. To your health!

Ingredients

Makings of a delightful curry!

 

  Curry Paste

The fruits of your labor!

10-15 small dried red Japanese chilis (to taste and spice threshold of course!)
15 whole white peppercorns
5 cloves of garlic, minced
3 tbsp of peanuts, crushed
2 tbsp shallot, minced (about 1/2 shallot)
2 tbsp fresh ginger, minced
1 tbsp lime zest (zest of one small lime)
1 tbsp brown sugar
2 tsp kosher salt
2 tsp ground coriander

1) In a stone mortar & pestal, grind dried chilis for 2 minutes.
2) Add salt, garlic, shallots, and ginger and continue to grind.
3) Gradually add remaining ingredients and pound to an even paste.

Curry

1 pound of organic, free-range chicken cut into small tenders
1.5 cups of broccoli florets

1 can of organic coconut milk
4 tbsp curry paste
1 tbsp coconut oil
5-10 small dried red Japanese chilis (to taste and spice threshold of course!)
2 tbsp fish sauce
Basil leaves, julienned

1) Heat wok over medium flame. Add coconut oil and heat for about 30 seconds. Then add paste and continue to stir and heat through until the chilis are fragrant, about 2 minutes.
2) Add chicken and sautee until its edges begin to cook.
3) Gradually add half of coconut milk, beginning with the thick layer of cream. Bring to a boil and gradully add remaining milk to cultivate desired thickness.
4) Stir in chilis, broccoli and fish sauce.
5) Turn off heat and add basil leaves.