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The Daily Beet: Tips, Advice and Stories

What Are You Thankful For?


Recently I was talking to  a friend of mine who lived in Uganda until a few years ago. She went through the most horrific experience of anyone that I have ever met.  She’s always smiling. ALWAYS. I never really understood this about her. She would tell me she smiles because she’s alive, and to look at how her life is turning out. She doesn’t focus on the horrible things in her past, she focuses on the now, and all she has.

She has taught me a lot about eating and about how I look at food. She told me about how her village ate. “Mostly yams” that was her answer. They were able to grow this potato/yam and they ate it almost all the time. Sometimes they would have a certain kind of bean, some vegetables that would grow, but “mostly yams”.

When I told her about the food I eat, she said “YOU are BLESSED!” I laughed. So many people wouldn’t think of how I eat as “blessed”. She was amazed, and told me that I can just go to a store, I can buy every grain I love, every vegetable, every fruit, every bean. “It’s all right there for you! How fortunate for you! ”

One of the biggest complaints we get is that there are a lack of options when it comes to grocery shopping and eating out. But who has determined what lack of options look like? Every single one of us can walk into any grocery store and buy every single thing we need. Sure, some of us might not be able to get a certain grain or a certain bean or a certain spice. But I’ve yet to meet ONE person in the 1000′s of people who write to us that have ZERO options.

We’re all pretty fortunate if you ask me.

I think being in the US (or just any modern country) we have lost sight of a lot of things. We feel like there are no options, yet there are an abundance of options. We (collectively) complain about things like no good fast food options or no decent breads, or not enough cereal options. When millions of people are living off the land, what they can grow, some “mostly yams”.

What if we were to take a new approach to eating? If we approached our options and thought how fortunate to live in a time in which we can simply walk into a store, pick up a bag of potatoes, or vegetables, or fruit, or grains or beans and not have to worry about harvesting or worry about if the crop will grow or not.

We’ve become accustomed to so much abundance, that there is this sense of entitlement. We don’t need more options at fast food restaurants, or more options for bread, or more options for frozen meals. I think we need a change of perspective. A perspective in which we are grateful for what we do have. Let’s celebrate our MANY options. Celebrate that we are all in positions to purchase healthy food, and that there is not a lack of food.

When I talked to my friend she was asked what people struggle with the most when it comes to going plant-strong. I told her that a lot of people struggle with social pressures, eating out, temptation. She said “You should have one of your immersions in my village in Uganda, we would show them how to eat, mostly yams!” She laughed, and told me that she is so grateful to be in America now, she told me how amazed she still is that she can go over to the sink and turn on the water and just drink water, and how she can go to the store, pick up a sack of potatoes and bring it home and cook them very easily in her oven. She reminded me of how incredibly fortunate we all are.

She ended our call and said “also, I still mostly eat yams”

As we go into Holiday season, I want to encourage you to think of how fortunate we are and to focus on an attitude of thankfulness. I know, personally, I lose sight of it at times. I get wrapped up in my busy life, and I don’t stop to appreciate what I do have.

What are you thankful for?

About the author

Natala is the director of communications for Engine 2 Diet, she is also one of our coaches on our support site, Engine 2 Extra. A few years ago, Natala was at the end of her rope. She was on almost 15 medications daily, had out of control Type 2 Diabetes, high cholesterol, high blood pressure, issues with nerve damage, and was morbidly obese. She was just over 30 years old. She decided to take her life back by becoming plant-strong. She has lost over 200 pounds, got off of all of her medications and now has great health numbers. Natala plays the violin and studied music therapy. She became passionate about plant-strong nutrition, received her Certificate in Plant-Based Nutrition through Cornell University, a certificate in Health Promotion and Disease Prevention and is currently pursuing a degree in nutritional sciences. Natala is also a featured speaker at our Engine 2 Retreats she talks about the reality of our nations obesity epidemic as well as providing practical steps to becoming a healthier person.

5 Responses to “What Are You Thankful For?”

  1. Leah says:

    Beautiful post Natala.
    Thanks for sharing this important insight along with your friend’s story. It is so true! Even after living in Germany for a while, I realized that in America we’re so fortunate to be able to buy nearly any fruit or vegetable out of season (for a price, but you can nearly always find what you want somewhere in US stores).
    Your insights from your friend about what it is like to live in a much poorer nation are very important. We really are blessed at the amazing abundance that we can find in our stores, markets, and restaurants.
    A friend of mine did the Peace Corps for 2 years in a West African nation. She spent 2 years living as the locals do in her small village, eating nearly only yams and peanuts, and being thrilled at the occasional times when she could buy the only fresh vegetable she saw her whole time in that village: TOMATOES!
    There are so many amazing options available for us to choose to eat. We just need our eyes open and the right perspective to see them. :)

  2. Rachel Kirby says:

    What a beautiful story. Thank you so much for sharing. We are definitely incredibly lucky on so many levels. Thank you for the reminder. Hope that you have a great weekend!

  3. Paula says:

    Thank you so much, Natala, for your story. I really needed to hear that.

    After 30 years as a vegetarian, I opted for plant-strong-gluten-free 4 months ago, and have had to learn to cook all over again. I bought and borrowed lots and lots of books, and have been struggling to get together all the recommended ingredients for what are mostly US-based recipes.

    We live in Singapore now, which it truly a fabulous country, and yes, everything you hear about it really is true. On top of it being one of the safest, cleanest, most beautiful cities in the world, we have an abundant supply of reasonably priced tropical produce and, for a price, many air-freighted foreign foods. So starting today, I’m going to focus on how fortunate I am to be living here, and celebrate our local produce.


  4. Brenda Rowe says:

    I am so thankful I was able to turn on NetFlix and choose to watch Forks over Knives! Am also thankful that I can buy What I need. I can’t buy much that is organic but I can buy the fruits and vegetables I need. I am thankful for Natala and the help and encouragement she has given me in the past. I am thankful that I have lost 75 pounds so far gone off some of my Medications and feel so much better!!

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