Category Archives: In Your Words

Here is where you get to have YOUR SAY! post pics, stories and even topic ideas so that we can get to know one another better as we take this journey.

Advice for young vegetarians/vegans

Jessica Danser Schwarz is a friend and colleague of mine and I think this essay she wrote is very timely and informative. I know that there are people who choose vegetarianism various reasons, some social, political, some for health and some with the idea that it might change their bodies both inside and out. All of those reasons are fine but just jumping into it without a clear idea and knowledge of how to replace what you are removing from your diet is not a good idea, so if you ever thought about becoming a veg-head, or you are a veg-head I suggest that you check this out!!! Have a carrot and enjoy!

Jessica Danser Schwarz, a native New Yorker, is a choreographer, dance teacher, and dancer, on the faculty of the Ailey School as well as multiple other dance institutions. She is the Artistic Director of Jessica Danser/dansfolk,Mrs. Danser Schwarz is deeply interested in food justice, social justice, sustainability, socialism, atheism, veganism, nutrition, and radical politics, whether through research, writing, volunteer work, home experiments, or relentless facebook ranting.

by Jessica Danser-Schwarz

I have decided to write this essay as a response to bountiful questions I have received from my dance students regarding nutrition in the past few years, questions which ran the gamut from “I want to be a vegetarian but don’t know how to convince my parents it’s healthy” to “I don’t like eating animal products but all I can figure out to eat for protein is tofu” to “If you’re a vegetarian, what do you eat?” Often I direct these students to consult the classic vegetarian bible “Diet for a Small Planet,” but that book, while deeply informative, focuses predominantly on the socio-political/ecological reasons to become vegetarian, and due to its sheer length might be overwhelming for a beginner. Thus, this essay is meant to be a condensed version of information I have gleaned over years of personal research, with citations where possible, from sources such as the aforementioned as well as nutritional pioneer Adele Davis, food writer Michael Pollan, and numerous documentaries and internet sources. While I do not purport to be a nutritional expert I am hoping that the following information will be useful in guiding young people towards making their own sound nutritional choices with the assistance of their parents, whether vegetarians or not.

What To Eat

Two predominant problems I see befall young vegetarians are either an excessive reliance on one or two particular foods or an excessive consumption of processed foods. One of the wonderful aspects of a vegetarian diet is in fact its potential for variety: “There are basically 5 different kinds of meat and poultry, but 40 to 50 kinds of commonly eaten vegetables, 24 kinds of peas, beans, and lentils, 20 fruits, 12 nuts, and 9 grains… Though your average American restaurant would give you no clue to this fact.” (Lappe) The more variety in ones diet, the more nutrients one is consuming, and ideally one should be consuming only fresh, unprocessed foods. If you are going to eat a prepackaged food, and I don’t deny this is sometimes a necessity (few people have time to bake their own bread or crackers, for example) read the labels and try to avoid chemicals (long names you can’t pronounce or mysterious abbreviations like BHT or MSG), high fructose corn syrup, or refined grains: look for 100% whole wheat and understand that the word “wheat” without the word “whole” means “white.” “Enriched” is another misleading term meaning that the natural nutrients have been removed from the grain and a less complete number of synthetic nutrients have been put back in.

The grain thing is really tricky and really important because so many grains are refined in commercial American foods and the nutritional value lost when a grain is refined is huge. “Now that our breadstuffs are refined, no food rich in the B vitamins is ordinarily eaten daily. In fact, there are only four good sources of these vitamins: liver, brewer’s yeast, wheat germ [what is removed from the wheat to make white bread including breads like French and Semolina], and rice polish [what is removed from brown rice to make white rice]… The B vitamins appear to be equally needed by every cell in the body.” (Davis) Thus, a grain-rich vegetarian diet can be quite healthful if the grains consumed are whole and thus contain valuable vitamins and nutrients, additionally the high fiber content in these whole grains aid digestion and in my opinion, dispel the myth that one must “reduce carbs” to be at an optimum weight– if the statement were “reduce REFINED carbs including sugar” it would be more accurate. If you eat sweets aside from fruits, at least go for sweets which do not have tons of chemicals and additives and keep them to a minimum. One of the good things for me about becoming a vegan was that it reduced how often I was able to say, “oh I’ll just grab this sugary danish for breakfast.” Since most pastries contain eggs and butter, I found myself making healthier choices.

Good choices include whole wheat, brown or wild rice, bulgur wheat, bran, barley, buckwheat, quinoa, spelt, oats, whole wheat pasta, rye, and foods such as bread, cereal and crackers made up of these grains, along with a variety of fresh fruits and vegetables, legumes such as beans, peas, peanuts, and lentils, nuts and seeds, and healthy fats such as olive oil, walnut oil, coconut oil. Which brings us to topic number two…

Complete Proteins

What makes a food a protein is the amino acids it contains. There are 8 essential amino acids which must be present in a food we eat for protein for it to be considered “complete,” because those particular amino acids are ones our bodies cannot make themselves. Most plant foods do not contain all 8 amino acids, but they contain some, and the trick for vegetarians and especially for vegans is to combine foods which balance out each other’s protein deficiencies, aka “complementary proteins.” Without going into deep scientific detail (which “Diet for a Small Planet” does if the reader wants a deeper look), here is a simple and easy-to-remember chart:

Whole grain + legume= complete protein (i.e. rice and beans or a peanut butter sandwich)

Legume + seeds= complete protein (i.e. hummus if you make it yourself using chickpeas and tahini which is from sesame seeds, commercial hummus has so little tahini its protein content is nil, or a trail mix with peanuts and sunflower seeds, or a salad with beans and sunflower or pumpkin seeds)

Whole grain+ milk product= complete protein (milk and cheese actually are not complete proteins on their own)

Egg= complete protein on its own

So, even if you are a strict vegan it is possible to eat a variety of protein-rich meals provided you remember the grain-legume and legume-seed paradigm and try to include it in each meal and snack.

There are a few sources of single vegetable proteins containing all 8 essential amino acids, but their chemical balance of these amino acids is slightly different in proportions to animal proteins, nevertheless they should be considered. They are: soy (more on soy in a moment), quinoa, buckwheat (kasha), amaranth, and hemp (that I know of– might be a few more out there.) Quinoa, buckwheat, and amaranth can all be used in place of rice for an extra boost of protein, and I use hemp milk as a milk substitute.

Regarding soy, while it is indeed high in protein and has been found to have many other positive effects on health, I feel I have to put a disclaimer on soy A. because it is often eaten in excess, especially by vegetarians/vegans, and B. because there is a lot of controversy around whether or not excessive soy consumption can be harmful. So about soy, I will say this: I think a good rule of thumb if you want to eat soy is to use it as your protein source no more than a few times a week (to ensure your diet has variety), and to stick to basic soy foods such as tofu and tempeh and avoid the wide variety of highly processed soy “meat substitutes” which are out there, except as an occasional treat. These processed soy foods are often also extremely high in sodium.

A quick note about nuts: the peanut is a legume, not a nut, and so falls fits into the legume+grain or seed paradigm. Other nuts are fine to eat and do contain some protein, but not an adequate amount to be focused on as a primary protein source (same deal with almond or cashew butter, almond milk, etc.) I did however find that when I went from vegetarian to vegan I lost a lot of weight due to eliminating milkfat, and eating nuts, which are rich in healthy fats, was helpful in maintaining my weight and energy level. It is important to have adequate fat in one’s diet for proper absorption of fat-soluble vitamins and minerals.

Supplements and Brands to Consider

Vitamin B-12 is difficult to obtain whether you are a vegetarian or not, unless you happen to frequently eat liver, so a good supplement to increase your B-12 is either nutritional yeast (a powdered supplement which I put in smoothies and soups and don’t mind the taste of—kind of nutty) or brewer’s yeast (which I think tastes terrible but I know people who like it.) An iron deficiency is another potential concern for vegans, and iron can be easy increased by using blackstrap molasses as a sweetener (I put a bit on my breakfast cereal and use it in baking) and by eating dried fruits, particularly dates and dried apricots. If you are eating dairy then your calcium intake is probably fine, but if you aren’t I have found that most milk substitutes such as soy milk, almond milk, rice milk, or hemp milk have been enriched with both calcium and Vitamin D so that their quantities match that of milk (don’t forget that almond and rice milk are NOT protein sources, but can be drunk anyway as a source of vitamins.)

I recommend the Ezekiel brand bread and cereal, as these products contain combinations of grains and legumes rather than just grains, making them complete proteins, and have no additives. For vegans looking for a butter substitute the Earth Balance brand does NOT contain hydrogenated oils (which are TERRIBLE FOR YOU—don’t eat margarine!!) and is all natural, you can even sometimes get a soy-free variety. For cooking I generally just use olive oil in place of animal fats. If you want to try hemp milk Pacific Natural Foods brand has the highest protein content. All these things can be obtained in a lot of health food stores and probably Whole Foods, and often a small health food store will be willing to special-order something if you ask them.

I hope this information can be helpful to vegetarians, vegans, and omnivores alike, and will inspire YOU to do more research on your food choices. A simple Wikipedia search can be extremely informative, and I have cited my two sources for this paper below. Both authors have written numerous books which are easy, enjoyable reads, and which I highly recommend to anyone interested in food and nutrition.

Let’s Eat Right to Keep Fit by Adele Davis (Published 1954)

Diet for a Small Planet by Frances Moore Lappe (Published 1971)

In Defense of Food by Michael Pollan (Published 2007) is another book which may be of interest although it is less specific about food choices and less geared towards vegetarians

Levis’ Cuve ID- Are the Bold’s bold enough and is the Supreme- Supreme

This was a long time in coming but well worth the wait. My Body My Image’s investigative Reporter Taylor Owen Ramsey (Finally) gets the Skinny on Levi’s Curve ID

Making Jeans that both fit the body and the gender binary.

Levi’s, the eponymous jeans maker, has created a line of women’s jeans called “Curve ID” that are meant to fit different types of women’s bodies based on the level of curve they have in their bottom half. I, a quite happy curvy woman, was intrigued by this idea for two reasons. First, being a woman with a very curvy body makes finding jeans that fit well undeniably difficult and Levi’s new line proposes to fit my body perfectly. Second, I was interested in these jeans as a one of many cultural mediums through which to explore the commodification of women’s bodies. These two reasons for my interest In Levi’s Curve ID campaign are inextricably linked. Let me explain why, starting with the experience of exploring these jeans myself at Levi’s biggest NYC location.

When you go into the big Levi’s store in Times Square, you’re immediately bombarded by the Curve ID campaign. Does the waist gap in the back of your jeans? You’re a Bold Curve. Is the waist too tight? Slight Curve. If the signs get confusing, not to worry because a sales rep will rush up to you offering to measure you for your own Curve ID. The measuring tape will be pulled out right in the middle of the store and based on several measurements of your waist-hip-booty ratio (on display for all), you will be categorized as either Slight, Demi, Bold or Supreme Curve. Throughout the women’s section of the store, jeans are divided by style and then organized within that style section based on the different Curve IDs. The boot-cut section, for example, has a boot-cut style in every Curve ID.
On the surface and at first glance, this seems like a delightfully refreshing campaign to make a better fitting jean for women’s bodies. And for the most part, this line of jeans does just that; it copes with some variation in women’s bodies, even if only in a very minimal way. However, there are several reasons to be critical. Firstly, the reason women’s jeans don’t fit in the first place is because, unlike men’s jeans, they have been designed to fit mostly as close to the body as possible. They are generally low on the hips, hug the thighs and cling to every curve of the butt. They are meant to put women’s bodies on display. It is simple logic that the tighter an item gets, the less likely it can deal with the variation in human bodies. Women’s jeans are not only designed to fit close to the body but they are cut in the shape that society deems the ideal female shape. If you don’t fit it, there’s something wrong; you’re too far from the acceptable norm. Thus women are in a constant battle to find jeans that they can get on, let alone that fit their shape or they risk feeling bodily deviant. As a result, many women’s magazines devote pages to women’s battle with jeans in the dressing room.

Men’s jeans, however, and despite the recent popularity of the hipster skinny jean, are meant to be worn comparatively loose, accommodating any variety of male body shapes. There tends to be a myth that women’s bodies, as opposed to men’s, are endlessly variable and need “accommodation” and “accentuation” of the finer points and de-emphasis of flaws, whereas men’s bodies are neutral. Of course this isn’t true. Men’s bodies must vary just as much as women’s; genetics doesn’t understand gender constructs. The logic of the endless variety of female bodies and the neutrality of the male follows what feminist theorists sometimes call the male gaze. Women are often treated as commodities meant to be displayed to male watchers/gazers/consumers. Thus, every curve must be accentuated and every flaw hidden so as to attract the greatest number of viewers. The characteristics of the male gazer body are generally unimportant, at least compared to the woman’s body being gazed at.

Of course women play a gigantic role in this schema through the constant monitoring of both their own and each other’s bodies and their active engagement in the constant adorning and decoration meant to emphasize the “sale” of their attractiveness to the viewer. Even at the Levi’s stores, all the female employees were assigned an extraordinarily large pin to wear on their shirt identifying their Curve ID for all to see. I asked one female employee if she had to wear it and she unhappily replied “yes.” While the Curve IDs provide women with some limited variation in their jeans options, the pins remind us we must still categorize our asses into a category or risk deviation once more. The stream of consciousness flowing through the store was palpable. “Is her ass like mine?” “Will my ass even fit an ID?” “What if I am measured and I am too big?” “Is Slight or Bold curve better?” That employee’s ass is perkier and she’s a Supreme Curve. I am a slight curve. I wish I were curvier.”

So after all of this, what has Levi’s done here? They’ve made some nicely fitting jeans, albeit jeans that still fit squarely into a body-oppressive paradigm. Moreover, it should be added the jeans only go to a size 33 in the store. The average woman in the U.S. is a size 14-16 and larger than Levi’s biggest size. For a jean meant to cater to curvy women, it seems silly to make jeans in this size range given that really curvy women are probably bigger than a 33. Finally, the models for these ads until recently have been generally white women that don’t appear to be curvy in the way say Jennifer Lopez, Beyonce or even plus-size model Crystal Renn is/was.

Thus, there is some expected racial norming built into the campaign. So what’s a woman like me to do? I’ll admit I bought two pairs. They just fit so damn well.

****side notes
If you’re curious, I was measured and was told exactly what I expected, that I was a Supreme Curve. And I’ll admit, I bought two pairs of jeans. I bought one pair of “skinny” jeans in Supreme Curve. In fact, the blue ones I bought and am wearing in the photo

are the exact size and style the Supreme Curve model is wearing in one of the Levi’s ads below.

I also tried on the Bold Curve in the black straight style and they fit just as well.

I have my shirt lifted in the pictures so you can see that the jeans do what they are supposed to do: they don’t gap and aren’t too low in the back for women with J-Lo bottoms.


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Debbie M’s Journal

Food journal…. Such a bad name.

Week 1


B- Cliff bar & banana
L- Salad, an apple, & small yogurt
D- Chinese take out- Brown rice, tofu, broccoli, black bean sauce


B- Fruit smoothie w/ banana, strawberries, blueberries, greek yogurt, soy milk
L- Whole wheat pasta w/ parmesan cheese, cut up veggie burger, broccoli
D- Eggplant w/ tomato sauce & ricotta cheese. Side salad & roasted artichoke.
→ some of the chocolate brownie desert


B- Oatmeal w/ soymilk & honey
L- Salad w/ mixed veg, 1 apple, 1 LUNAbar
D- Brown rice w/ mixed veg & veg. burger
→ 2 choc chip cookies & 1 glass milk
note to self- stop eating crap, could not fall asleep, stomach bloated


B- none
L- Sandwich w/ tofu, lettuce, tomato. 1 apple. Mixed nuts(almonds/cashews)
D- Brown rice w/ corn, edamame, black beans.
1 glass green tea


B- 2 rice cakes w/ peanut butter, honey, sliced green apples
L- Salad w/ mixed veg, baked tofu, black beans. 1 orange. 1 small banana. 1 Larabar.
D- brown rice w/ black beans and mushroom. Small greek yogurt w/ walnuts.
→ today I denied the offer of pumpkin pie and didn’t really crave any sweets. A light yogurt high in protein is a good substitute for dessert.

B- Fruit smoothie w/ banana, berries, soy milk, greek yogurt
L- Sandwich w/ hummus, cheese, lettuce, tomato. 1 apple. Grapes. Mixed nuts(almonds and cashews)
D- brown rice w/ broccoli, zucchini & teriyaki sauce
S- 1 nature valley granola bar
→fruit smoothies are a very energizing breakfast, I felt really good throughout the day.

B- Oatmeal w/ milk & blueberries. Small glass of diluted fruit juice.
S- Yogurt w/ walnuts. 1 apple
S- larabar
D-Salad w/ mixed veggies & whole wheat roll. 1 glass soy milk.

B- Fruit smoothie
L- Sandwich w/ hummus, lettuce, tomato, tofu. 2 small apples. Grapes. Mixed nuts
D- Salad w/ mixed veg. 1 fruit&nut bar. 2 rice cakes w/ peanut butter.

B- Eggwhite omelette w/ sautéed mushroom, tomato, shredded cheese on 2 small slices whole grain toast.
L- Yogurt, banana, 2 small apples. Mixed nuts.
S- whole grain tortilla chips.
D- Salad w/ mixed veggies & cliff bar

B- Yogurt w/ berries
L- Sandwich w/ hummus, tomato, avocado, lettuce, shredded cheese. 1 apple
D- Quinoa w/ veg and tofu

B- 2 rice cakes w/ peanut butter and honey
L- Brown rice w/ tofu and asparagus. Blackberries &blueberries.
S- apple
D- Pasta w/ shredded cheese. Rice cake w/ hummus and tomato. 1 glass milk.

B- Oatmeal w/ blueberries, soy milk.
S- larabar
L- Sandwich w/ tofu, hummus, lettuce, tomato. Baby carrots. 1 glass milk
D- Yogurt w/ walnuts. 2 rice cakes w/ peanut butter.

B- Oatmeal w/ peanut butter, cinnamon, honey.
L- Salad w/ mixed veg, 1 apple. 1 lunabar
S- almonds
D- small pinkberry. Leftover brown rice w/ broccoli & tofu. 1 glass milk.

Muscles: Our Best Frenemies

Jenny Stahl senior editor for Pointe and new contributing writer for My Body My Image shares an ironically truthful story about a woman and her love/hate relationship with her muscles!

Of all the conflicting messages women get about their bodies, none may be more complicated than how we’re are supposed to feel about our muscles. The party line seems to be that toned is beautiful—unless it’s bulky.

Just before Christmas, my roommate Amy, who’s a freelance dancer and personal trainer, dislocated her left ankle and was stuck in a cast for about a month. She recently graduated to a removable brace, and the other night we were checking out the difference between her two legs—it was crazy how drastically her muscles had atrophied in just a few weeks! Her right leg was still the powerful limb of a dancer with a bulging calf and athletic thigh muscles. The other had shrunk remarkably (except for the swelling around her ankle). In the nature vs. nurture debate of how much our actions can override our genes, nurture was kicking nature’s ass, showing us just how much exercise (or a lack thereof) could transform her body.

What was disturbing, though, was our reaction. First, we both laughed about how sad and wimpy her left leg looked. But then I complimented how thin her calf was and she admitted that she kinda preferred it, too. For a moment, we were both inspired to lie completely still for the next month or so to de-bulk our bodies.

Obviously, that’s a sick and twisted thought. But it got me thinking about the love/hate relationship we ladies have with our muscles. We go to the gym, take yoga classes and do our crunches trying to get a toned physique. Working out burns calories and helps melt off our love handles. But, like most women I know, I’d be terrified of sporting rippling Madonna arms—or worse, getting “bulky.” In all honesty, I really only love the look arms—or worse, getting “bulky.” In all honesty, I really only love the look of my muscles for how it can highlight a lack of fat. Fit is great, but thin is better.

Too many of us associate muscular with masculine. Yet male or female, muscles are what give us our strength. I have to remind myself to embrace my muscles for how they make me feel and the power they give me. Without my quads, I wouldn’t be able to run. And although I’ll always wish my arms were sleeker, I love being able to knock out 10 push ups. If I were to stop moving, sure, my body might get smaller and lighter. But would I really want to be a flimsy weakling? Not so much.
As for Amy, she’s been the most inspiring gimp I’ve ever seen. She’s determined to stay in shape and to keep her body as strong as possible. In addition to taking hip hop classes from a chair(!), she’s been performing one-legged workouts at the gym.
Check out Amy’s blog here
Amy in Action!

Photo by-Alice Olivia Photography

Real Women Don’t Have Perfect Bodies

I loved what Dr. Wurtman had to say mainly because it’s true especially about the health magazines using perfectly toned models to show you how to do exercises. When you are far from being in shape and trying to stay motivated and engaged, it can be just as depressing as reading a fashion magazine to see a perfect image that you don’t relate to used as an example. Hey Real Women work out too!!!

by Judith J. Wurtman, PhD Co-author, “The Serotonin Power Diet, Eat Carbs, Nature’s Own Appetite Suppressant, to Stop Emotional Overeating”

Excerpt- The models had arms so thin they could fit through a doughnut hole and it was obvious that they were as curveless as a Q-tip. “Why,” I asked myself, “do magazines still feel it necessary to display clothes, shoes, and even jewelry on bodies that are so unrepresentative of the typical woman?”

read full article here