Food and Healing

Ten years ago I became interested in Annemarie Colbin's book, Food and Healing and studied it with my friend, Eliza. We even traveled to New York to study with her at her school, Natural Gourmet Cooking Institute

A hefty, information-packed read, Annemarie became our third wheel, and we loved giving each other her take on what food and nutrition meant in our late twenty-something lives: "Did you try a lick of Umeboshi plum for that headache?" and, "What does it mean to feel expansive?"

Eliza and I lived in Cambridge, Massachusetts, in small, adorable apartments with new husbands. Our local food shops were a co-op, a small Bread and Circus on Prospect, and a large Bread and Circus on Alewife. We ran four or five times a week, for 4-6 miles each time. I never felt so healthy, even though I could still recite a long list of things that needed to change in my life . . .

When I became pregnant, which was right at the tail end of the Annemarie craze, I felt so lean and intimately connected with my body that I swore I could "feel" the fertilization of my egg in the moment it was happening. (Apparently, many people report this.)

Gradually, but I cannot put my finger on when, I moved away from Annemarie's teachings and let go of a lot of what I had learned about me and food. And when I moved away from Eliza, down to D.C., for whatever reason, my eating habits became retro and I found myself craving things like Twinkies and meatballs, and coke.

The result? Extra weight. Ten or so pounds of stubborn, heavy molecules that I have to carry around, dress, and tolerate or get rid of. I don't like those characters, but they are part of me. They take up a lot of room in my life, triggering lots of self-condemnation, feelings of powerlessness, and premature aging . . .

There has been much discussion about how obesity is social and is "passed" from friend to friend. I think healthy lifestyles are too. Without a good friend, what fun is it to learn about something so specific as Macrobiotics? Without a good friend, what fun is it to train for a long run? And without a good friend, what fun is it to eat?

I miss Eliza. I don't know if she's reading, but if she is, hey girl, thanks for making that such a rich few years. Let us know where you are with your Food and Healing journey. . .

I pulled my tattered copy down yesterday. The memories came with one glance at the Star of Seasonal Eating, the report on the standard American diet, the lists of foods and their traits from expansive to contractive. I think the book will be at my bedside table for months now.

I just wish my friend were around the corner again, too.

If you want to explore one of the best references on food and health that I've ever looked at, check out Food and Healing . The paperback version is under $15.


  1. I am here and reading, Miss Coco.

    That "new" husband is now an ex-husband. I can still run four miles, but am a bit slower. Bread and Circus is now Whole Foods and sells refined sugar. Advil has replaced those umeboshi plums. My fondness and respect for Annemarie Colbin has endured. I eat nuts and, when I can, miso soup for breakfast. I make her blueberry crumble weekly.

    I, too, just picked up Food and Healing again and have been re-reading some favorite passages each night.

    I would love to return to that level of health and intense focus on what I put in my body. The results and peace that came with it were amazing.

    We may not be able to wake each other at 6am to run, but you are always close, my friend.


  2. Just a footnote to the Annemarie Colbin book .....

    A very nice compliment to Food and Healing is Awakening Beauty by Susan West Kurz. Seemingly, just a "skin care" book for women, Awakening Beauty is much, much more. It, too, addresses the idea of balance in life -- in what we eat, in how we work, in how we rest. I love it and refer to it often.

    In health and balance,