As a kid in Chicago during the '60s, when my parents went out with friends, we ate TV dinners. Those were pre-fab meals we popped in the oven (eons before microwaves) under brand names like Banquet. Nothing was worse than those frozen insipid vegetables like slimy string beans or waxy lima beans.
At family meals, we weren’t allowed to leave the table until we had finished everything on our plates. That led me to be resourceful and creative since there was no way I was going to eat those gross green things.
On the other hand, when guests came to our house, my mom would whip up an array of delectable dessert items. My favorites were her Kahlua cheesecakes and heavenly peanut butter-swirled chocolate brownies.
But those sweet recipes were just for entertaining. My mom was an early adopter of healthy food trends. As a diabetic hypertensive, for the family, she prepared sugar-free, low-sodium, high-fiber “treats.” Her bran-loaded homemade cookies were far from Chips Ahoy, but I gobbled them up.
Her typical lunch plate was cottage cheese, with a few slices of apple or pear. For dinner, we always enjoyed a big loaded salad. We didn’t buy Skippy or Jif peanut butter. Ours was freshly ground at the local health food store.
In 1974, I flew, solo, to a small town in Mexico as an exchange student. Our hosts were excited about a tour of one of the main employers in town: the slaughterhouse. One of my closest friends worked there. He was missing part of a finger, and I doubt he got workman’s compensation.
That visit was a highlight of my trip because it opened my eyes. It was a turning point. Once we left that town, I skipped all meat, chicken, and fish. On one bus ride, as my friends lunched on cold-cut sandwiches, I opted for bread with lettuce. Other times, I ate nothing. There were few options back then.
Essentially, I became vegetarian before hearing the word or knowing any other plant-based people.
When I returned home, I told my family I wouldn’t eat meat. My mother called it a “phase.” That “phase” endured 50 years. But now, I follow a vegan, gluten-free, low-glycemic diet.
Beyond my non-traditional diet, I had other traits that made me stand out like a spotted zebra. I didn’t allow smoking in my home. I was a teetotaler, and I buckled up in the car. That may seem de rigueur, but this was South America in the 1980s.
In 1998, I moved to Texas. One of the selling points was to be closer to Mexico, and surrounded by Mexican food. Wrong. Having lived in Mexico City, San Antonio, was a culinary culture shock. The only item I’d eat from a Mexican restaurant was guacamole. (Chips and beans are often fried in lard in the States.)
Fortunately, today, San Antonio is home to a wonderful assortment of plant-based restaurants like Green, Earth Burger, Plantology, and Vegeria. But when I moved there, the only food I felt comfortable eating was from the Whole Foods deli or salad bar.
For two decades, I traveled the world for work. I managed hundreds of news conferences, editorial board meetings, press briefings, and one-on-one interviews. Knowing my eating options would be poor at hotels and convention centers, my suitcase was light on wardrobe, toiletries, and make-up, but heavy on seeds, nuts, power bars, and protein powders.
Year after year, I was the outlier at the workplace Thanksgiving potluck. Others feasted. To me, there were 75 unedible dishes loaded with lard, butter, Velveeta, or sugar.
Used to balancing a fine line, I finally said no more representing products and services that I’d never buy. I opened a consultancy dedicated to positive transformation, attended yoga teacher training, and Ayurvedic studies, and learned many other holistic modalities. After another three years of study, I earned my yoga therapist certification.
In a nutshell, I crisscrossed the world uncovering effective practices from gurus of all religions and ethnicities. I felt compelled to share the learnings.
My award-winning self-help book, “From the Boxing Ring to the Ashram,” reveals my secret weapons to ease the most prevalent conditions plaguing our modern society. Each chapter focuses on one topic, presented through the life stories, teachings, and anecdotes of one of my diverse gurus, plus my experiences with the enjoyable and accessible tools.
Each tip is practical, affordable, and takes no more than ten minutes a day. There’s no need for fancy gear or branded attire.
I loved my journey. But, I compiled “From the Boxing Ring to the Ashram” to save people time and money.
Learn more about my book, veganism, yoga therapy, and Ayurveda on my YouTube channel or deborahcharnes.com