August 14, 2010

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No, that’s not simply a reference to my co-presenter this afternoon and her favorite bon mot. It’s also how this day has felt! I am so, so, so sleepy right now. But it’s a good kind of tired.

Last we spoke, I was telling you about a slight breakfast fail, as well as the Summit’s keynote presentation. Directly after, I had the pleasure of watching Evan and Lin talk about ethical eating. This was an interesting discussion because it was approached from two angles. Evan, the Healthy Living Summit’s man of the hour, offered a perspective on what I’d call “compassionate omnivorism” – that is, making more compassionate and eco-friendly choices within an omnivorous diet. He discussed the importance of buying local, seasonal food, and of knowing one’s sources/farmers. Lin talked about eating affordably and happily in a vegan lifestyle. They both made some great points, and Caitlin followed up with some terrific questions (including “how do you feel about Skinny Bitch,” to which I offered a vociferous and critical reply).

Moments later, I watched my pal Sabrina as she gave a killer presentation on stress-free, elegant entertaining.

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I was so, so, so impressed with her delivery. Entertaining is an art that, quite frankly, scares the pants off me – especially given the limitations of my tiny living space – but Sabrina made it seem so incredibly feasible and fun. Her tips included picking out simple menus, making detailed lists before shopping, laying out servingware with a note about the dish it’s intended for beforehand, and using food as table centerpieces (she showed a photo of a lovely artichoke+eggplant centerpiece). Along with all of this, she reminded us how to do a proper place setting:

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…and gave out fun little prizes. She’s a great, engaging speaker.

After this, my “roomstar” (hey Mel!) and I went for a very quick stroll, and stumbled upon this adorable, palm sized friend:

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Not long after we got back, it was lunchtime. If breakfast was less than ideal, lunch made up for it in spades. There was a wide array of vegan-friendly dishes; in fact, it seemed as though everyone in the room was far less interested in the lunch meats than they were in the plant-based options! I was thrilled to see hordes of bloggers around the marinated tofu and grilled veggies.

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Along with a fresh raw veggie salad, tofu, and a giant grilled veggie platter, there was a chickpea salad:

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(Alas, spiked with onions)

And an incredible quinoa salad with edamame and a gingery, orangey vinaigrette:

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I took a ton of raw greens, a scoop of quinoa, and topped it off with a mountain of roasted veggies. The roomstar and I were chuckling at our intense salad beasts:

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Think I enjoyed it?

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Seconds had to happen:

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The salad dominatrixes:

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After lunch came a panel that I was particularly excited about: Anne, Julie, Heather, Sana and Andrea spoke about the “pros and cons of pressing publish.” The focus of their panel was not unlike mine and Caitlin’s in that it addressed both the benefits and the dangers of blogging. They discussed such issues as the pressure to adhere to a 3x daily posting schedule, the anxieties that come when one feels “excluded” from “popular” blog cliques, and general pitfalls of being a blogger.

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The material was challenging, but the upshot decidedly positive. When they asked us to name a few of our favorite positive consequences of blogging, the obvious ones came to my mind: friendships, culinary inspiration. But I also said aloud that blogging helps me demystify and explain to people a lifestyle (semi-raw veganism) that can see strange and exotic at first. I love that my blog is a testament to the realities of the way I live and eat: it allows me to show new friends and acquaintances (even, sometimes, family members) how my lifestyle works, and it saves me the breath and energy of explaining the nuts and bolts.

A little while later, the Roomstar and I hit the streets of the Windy City for a little sun, air, and local flava:

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This is me being a goof:

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And Gina getting tempted by really cute, cheap workout attire:

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After our jaunt, it was go time for me and Caitlin.

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As I’ve mentioned before, our topic was the problem of self-comparison and peer pressure within the blogging community. Caitlin spoke about “superwoman” fitness routines, and the difficulty that can come when one feels ashamed to take a rest day, or simply to make the choice NOT to run a race. I spoke about food fads – detox diets, fitness fuel diets like Body for Life, low carb, allergen free diets (note that I was addressing the choice to go allergen-free when a legit allergy is NOT involved), and yes, raw foods. Dearly though I cherish my lifestyle, I’m well aware that, for many who dabble in raw foodism, it is but one in a long chain of specialty diets that have been tried for weight loss or out of a sense of obligation to be “hardcore.” This is one of the reasons I feel so strongly about a) showing people that raw foods don’t have to be all or nothing, and that in fact the lifestyle may prove more sustainable and meaningful if it’s experienced moderately, and b) ways in which raw foods can be balanced overall to ensure caloric density and nutrient adequacy.

Of course, we also talked about the upside of food blog reading! How many of us would never have tried chia seeds, or green smoothies, or banana soft serve, or even oats (!) if we’d never read a food blog? Blogs give us so much inspiration, and ultimately this is how we should contain their influence. They should be inspiration, not pressure; motivation, not a source of imitation. Reading someone else’s blog really shouldn’t make you stare at food choices that work for you (ideologically and health-wise) and think, “hmmm. Maybe I shouldn’t eat this after all?” If they change the way you think about food, they should do it gradually. Most of all, we can never, ever compare our plates of food and our food choices directly to what other people eat. Human bodies are simply too variable: we all have different metabolic rates, caloric needs, digestive sensitivities, macronutrient needs, and so on. Other peoples’ blogs can give us ideas, but they shouldn’t supply us with ready ideologies about food or lifestyle; that has to come from personal need and experience.

I should mention that the lovely Katie opened for us, sharing her blog success story, which was a poignant chronicle of how food blogs helped her ditch calorie restriction and fad diets and enjoy real, whole foods. She was amazing.

The talk will be available to watch in a couple of days, after the summit madness has subsided; I’ll let you know when I have download or link details!

After that, we bloggers bid each other some teary farewells. I dashed back to my hotel for a workout (which ended up being sort of epic – I love well equipped hotel gyms!) and some tech maintenance on my netbook. Then, it was a Whole Foods dinner with three of my favorite people:


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And Melissa, who was next to me, so I didn’t get a chance to snap a photo of her! Observe food bloggers geeking out:

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Oh yeah.

My dinner was a giant bed of kale and greens, red quinoa, assorted veg, and some tofu which sounded good at the time, but was inedibly salty:

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All dressed up with olive oil, lemon, and agave. My staple dressing! Tofu aside, it hit the spot.

The end of the night had me reflecting on the tremendous social gains that blogging has afforded me. I don’t just mean these beautiful women:

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I also mean the incredible women I met for the first time this weekend, the women I’ve been lucky enough to meet in the last few weeks, the bloggers who were with us in spirit, and, of course, the NYC bloggies who are so near and so dear to my heart. I adore you guys, and if blogging has given me nothing else, I’m so happy it’s given me you!

And now, as the rest of the blogosphere frolicks in Chicago, I’m back at my hotel, posting and heading to bed early like an old fart lady. Though I may wax poetic about the joys of socializing, intensely social days like today also tend to make me crave the “me” time that’s so vital to my happiness. And so, my day ends with an important tradition: B&B.

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That’s short for books & boxers. I’m packing it in, friends: goodnight!


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  1. omg aside from your thanksgiving post, i think this was perhaps your longest post ever and it was awesome! wow!

    i dont know how you found the time to BLOG this in-depth given the taxing rigors of the day! wow!

    I would have LOVED to be at your presentation or any of them…can’t wait for the Cliffs Notes version to come out later on 🙂

  2. Such a great topic, I can’t wait for the videos to be up. I read Katie’s speech on her blog and it was truly amazing. She echoed so many things that I’ve been through in my life and the positives that blogging has brought me.

    This DOES look like a truly epic day! I am planning on being at next year’s summit. I can’t imagine missing meeting all of you amazing bloggies and hearing all of the educational and inspiring speeches. Hopefully I am going to the Foodbuzz Festie this year, too. 🙂 I would love to meet you, Gena! Perhaps when I’m in NYC? Bonobos? Candle 79? I’m in. 🙂

  3. I would love to hear about blogging and the pitfalls and I also would love to hear so many of your presentations. Will there be a link to access many of the presentations from this weekend? Do you have to already have a blog to attend the Healthy Living Summit or can you attend as a “thinking about blogging” person? I get so much inspiration from all of you ladies and I know that it has changed my outlook on living a healthy life. Where and when are 2011 details available?

    • Sandy,

      As I said in the post, there will be a link or download at some point in the next week — I just don’t have the info yet. I’ll update you guys with it when I have it!

      And I’m guessing 2011 deets won’t be out for a good long time, but I’m sure that I’ll mention it here when they are.


  4. Gena, I’m just curious what you don’t like about the book “Skinny Bitch.” When I went vegan 3 years ago I found it really helpful. But maybe I’m just not recalling some aspects of it. Perhaps the message of associating veganism with being thin or using it as a fad-diet to lose weight? Just curious!

    • Hey Amanda!

      I should begin by saying that I’m very, very glad that SKINNY BITCH exists, if for no other reason than that it has “converted” so many people into the vegan lifestyle! It reached an audience who probably had never considered veganism before, and it touched a lot of readers — perhaps more effectively than any book before it. So, hats off to it.

      That said, I have serious problems with the use of the word “skinny” in the title. SERIOUS PROBLEMS. I also think that the book’s fundamental appeal is to womens’ vanity and desire to be “skinny girls,” and to me, that ain’t what it’s all about. I resent that kind of language deeply, I resent the sales hook, and I resent the easy conflation of veganism with weight loss or maintenance.

      Beyond this, I think the book’s facile promotion of such things as cleanses and three day fasts very risky.

      But I should make clear that I do have respect for all men and women who promote veganism in print, so in that regard the authors get my salute 🙂


  5. Great pics and it looks like an amazing time. I’m so jealous you got to meet so many fantastic bloggers. Entertaining is a nerve-racking experience for me too, never been a huge party thrower. I love the variations in cameras carried by bloggers, one day I will have a DSLR too! 🙂

  6. Who knew there were negatives to blogging? Sounds like you all covered some amazing topics and had truly epic meetings! And decompressing with a good book sounds like the perfect way to end a day. 🙂

  7. YAY for you! Looks like you are having a blast! Wish I could have been there, it sounds so fantastic, and what fun to meet other bloggies!

    I’m like you, though, after a long and active social day I need some quiet alone time or else I burn out. Enjoy yourself!

  8. i love that you guys approached the topic of comparing yourself to other food bloggers. i have to admit, when everyone and their mom is running a race, it’s hard not to feel left out. but i love my life and i love who i am and i love that i don’t have to train for races since that would be my personal hell 🙂

    • Heather,

      One of the points I made was actually that blogging can make one feel weird for not wanting to run a race. I don’t, I never have, and though perhaps one day I will, I see no reason on earth why I should. It’s important to be cool with that!

  9. Hey, I read that book a few years ago, how are you enjoying it? It wasn’t my favourite book, actually I was a bit disappointed with it, but I liked some parts of it!

    • I’ll let you know when I’m more than a few chapters along. I’m generally a great fan of Ishiguro’s work, but I can see already that this is a fairly elaborate conceit.

  10. I like how you have been able to work in seeing Chicago while attending the summit. Sometimes you have to get away from information overload to process it well. Your salad looks great…I was hoping you would find some your “nutrient dense” salads 🙂

  11. B&B- I love that! I do believe you may have coined a new term. Thanks for the recap Gena. I have to say that I’ve loved reading bloggers accounts of the summit; I don’t feel like I’m missing out being all the way in the UK 🙂


  12. This post has left me teary eyed, but in a good way. This past week the food blog community helped me through one of the hardest things I’ve ever had to deal with in my life. When I wasn’t on the phone with my family or getting visits from our friends, the blog world was there to swoop me up, make me smile and give me hope….Trying to breathe as I’ve just been overtaken with emotion. Whoa. Thank you Gena. <3 That was much needed.

  13. Hey lady!

    It was nice to see you again and thanks for watching my presentation! I was afraid people were going to fall asleep during my part :-P. Anyways, I just wanted to let you know that I loved your presentation! Your blog has inspired me to try so many different new foods and new food recipes, so thanks for being you!

  14. Love your thoughts on this post. I try not to compare but sometimes it creeps up on me. As women, we want to pretend that our bodies are uniform, with uniform needs and wants and looks. But being uniform is boring, and it isn’t how we’re built. So we need to do what works for us. Thanks for that!

    Also, this post reminded me how much I love quinoa! I need to replenish my stores ASAP!

  15. Hi Gena!!! b&b time is essential for me as well 😛 You make excelent points in this post, I specially love what you say the blogs should be for motivation, not pressure or imitation.
    By the way, remember I wrote you about my hair falling out, like 3 days ago? Unfortunately, I got some blood work and went to see my endocrinologist and my hyperthyroidism has relpase 🙁 not the best news but Im getting by.
    Have a lovely time in Chicago 🙂

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