Jim here... Here's an interesting way to finish out the week: Today just happens to be my one-year "rawniversary." That's right, for the past full year, I've existed as a 100% raw food vegan.

Sure, I'd been "high-raw" for a couple of years prior to September 18, 2008 -- and it was during those high-raw years when the bulk of my weight came off and when I kissed prescription meds goodbye (I'd been on powerful beta-blockers for my heart and blood pressure).

A few years ago, my dear friend Melissa and I decided to split the cost and order a raw food home study course (then known as The Dr. Ann Wigmore Program).Let me tell you, this was not a cheap program that we purchased, but at that time there wasn't as much free information available on the Internet like we now have.

Was it worth the cost? Well, kind of. Since we had both been reading and learning so much about raw foods (she had actually been raw for a long time many years before), much of the information wasn't new to us. However, if someone was newly learning about raw foods, the program would probably have been fantastic. The quality of the materials we received wasn't great (photocopies of photocopies that were sometimes difficult to read, and some videos that were blurry or difficult to hear), but at least we had a lot of information at our fingertips.

Today is my birthday!!! I have always loved birthdays---my own, as well as those of my friends and family members. Some people don't make a big deal out of birthdays, but I think they are super special! For me, celebrating a birthday isn't about the cake and presents; it's about the focused attention that is given from one person to another.

Continuing with our week of ways to keep a sharp mind, let's focus on the one widely accepted indicator for dementia or alzheimer's: heart disease. If one wants to dramatically reduce the chances of brain degredation, the first step to take is keeping the heart healthy.

The key advice most health specialists agree on when it comes to a healthy heart is the reduction (ideally eliminatain) of unhealthy fats in the diet. The unhealthy fats are usually seen as solid fats, like butter, margerine, and shortening. However, it's important to not overlook the fats that are also found in meats. By substituting unhealthy fats with something healthier for your heart (like extra virgin, cold-pressed olive oil), as well as transitioning to leaner meats if you are a meat eater, you will be taking some important steps in keeping your heart healthy, as well as your mind.

An online friend of mine, Kevin Gianni (see previous blog entry introducing him), has been producing a terrific series of videos and blog posts. At the end of each post, he asks questions of his readers. In his recent post, he asked his readers:

What struggles have you been through

Last night I dreamed of meandering through an unfamiliar cityscape, following some lonely sidewalk next to a river at night, feeling particularly sad and miserable beneath dim yellow street lights. I wore a black suit, carried a highball glass, and was absolutely drunk!

Having crossed the river, I soon realized (even in my dream-drunken state) that I'd been wandering aimlessly. Feeling rather pathetic, I decided to walk back across the river and sober up in a casino that I knew was there. Drunk and depressed, I figured I'd just sit in front of a slot machine for a few hours.

"... a warrior's life is not about imagined perfection or victory; it is about love. Love is a warrior's sword; wherever it cuts, it gives life, not death."
~ Dan Millman, The Way of the Peaceful Warrior

During some "highway philosophization" (my term for pondering everything and anything while driving) this afternoon, I eventually began to think rather deeply about human aggression, and specifically about how people hurt other people. Mainly, I was thinking about individual aggreession, although, as a group, humans are unfortunately rather prone to it.Wikipedia maintains a list of ongoing conflicts (i.e., wars), in fact. According to that page, there are seven major wars happenning right now and 15 additional significant ones. Of course, there are scores of unlisted ones ongoing as well, most of which the average person has never heard about.

Wow, is it really Episode 3 already? How time flies! Remember way back when we started this informative, informational, nutrition-oriented "Know Your Food" series? Seems like ages ago, doesn't it? (Oh, wait... It WAS ages ago. It's just taken us a while to get up to speed with this video stuff!) Anyway, here's the video, followed by some camera/video editing news -- oh, and of course some highly urgent celery information. (Okay, it isn't really urgent at all; we just needed to add a dash of drama.) So, see what you think. You might even learn a thing or two about our stalky green friend.

Not TOO bad, right? We're getting to our goal of roughly 3-minute episodes. Of course, this is still one of our first attempts, shot last Sunday. We thought it was decent enough to not entitle it "salvaged" as we did the previous installment.

Jim here... Recently, a commenter on this blog, Lannette, mentioned being a cardiac rehab nurse. For some reason, reading this set my wheels spinning in various directions, among them onto the topic of meat consumption in the world. To begin, I'd like to recap something I'd said in response to her:

... it *astounds* me how people joke about heart health where I work. People around here routinely return from medical exams and actually adopt rather mischievous grins when they reveal how high their bad cholesterol levels are. It's like they're saying, "I know meat and dairy are bad for me, but I'm going to keep on eating it anyway. Isn't that funny ??!!!" Ummm, no. It's sad. They laugh it off as though there could be no possible future reckoning for them. It's reminiscent, IMHO, of Dr. Viktor Frankl's book "Man's Search for Meaning," in which he describes a psychological phenomenon he termed the "delusion of reprieve." For anyone unfamiliar w/ that, the term describes the phenomenon via which those faced with certain death (or near certain death) mentally construct some way out of it. They are deluded into believing that they'll have a reprieve from the inevitable. So, it's exactly the same to me -- these people see the heart attacks coming. They simply refuse to do anything about it, refuse to change their habits, deny what their blood work says to them. Why? Because they think "I'll be okay. Sure, this leads to heart disease in most people, but not in *me* because I'm a strong guy, I'm macho, I'm not as fat as some other person here, etc." Mostly, it's the meat, I think. It's got a powerful hold on our society...

So, today I wanted to write a little bit on the topic of meat consumption. This is an enormous issue, in my opinion. If you're reading this, it likely means you're already at least a vegetarian, so I do not need to quote you any saddening statistics on the horrors of the meat industry. In fact, before writing this, I decided to visit the PETA web site quickly in order to glean a few slaughterhouse facts. But, in no time, I became markedly depressed, so I'll largely avoid focusing on specific negative imagery here.

Jim here...As vegans and vegetarians, we're familiar with what we believe is quite a lot of misinformation regarding our lifestyle. However, we've done the research and, for example, know how we get our protein (always a concern received from others), know the stats on B12 deficiency (another concern often cited by mainstreamers), and know our answers to other issues such as where we get our minerals from and whether we consume processed foods and sugars. Bucking the mainstream conventional wisdom emergent from within a world dominated by the Standard American Diet, we live defiantly as healthy examples of our chosen path. But, is there any wiggle room as far as what is and isn't healthy (for us, and for everyone)? What about some of the things that everyone "knows" is bad for you? With questions like those in mind, here's something unusual -- a full post developed from a simple Facebook update. (You are friends with Wendi and me on Facebook, right ) Yesterday, I posted the following:

Think of something that you think is bad for you, and then go to Google & type in "benefits of [that thing]" and see if there is a web site that is promoting that thing. I just did this for "caffeine" and read some thought-provoking ideas (that might all be utter BS, but are interesting nonetheless).

In this special five-part series, Joanna Steven uncovers where some top vegetarian athletes get their protein. Here's part four, focusing on Brendan Brazier's take on this issue.

GREEN LEAFIES

Brendan Brazier is one of only a few professional athletes in the world whose diet is 100% plant-based. He s a professional Ironman triathlete, bestselling author on performance nutrition, and the creator of an award-winning line of whole food nutritional products called Vega. He is also a two-time Canadian 50km Ultra Marathon Champion.