why dieting is bad / aromatic french lentil soup with curly kale

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When the calendar year comes to an end, it’s time to let go of what you did or didn’t do and start anew with a clean blackboard and fresh set of chalk. Translation: it’s almost New Year’s and you’ve been naughty. But despite our best efforts, many of us will end up writing our lofty (or not so lofty) goals for the new year until our theoretical board is more scribbled upon than a kid’s homework doodles. But hey, it’s always a good idea to be better today than you were yesterday. And many of us tend to slack off in the same category. Translation: your body is increasingly fluffy and your gym membership is comparable to paying taxes i.e. you’re essentially giving your money away so that other people can bounce around on an elliptical machine. Solution? Think smaller…not just in the literal I-wish-my-waist-was-as-small-as-either-of-the-Beckam’s way, but in the sense that you need to hone in on the specific food or foods that are forcing you to pretend to love the new one-piece bathing suit trend. Maybe that inner tube around your waist isn’t to protect you from sinking to the bottom of a pond after all, but a manifestation of a gluten intolerance or an overconsumption of sugary foods?

Diets that target the elimination of a specific food or food group are increasingly popular in a culture of perpetual busy-ness. I don’t believe in diets because they are targeted for quick weight loss and aren’t usually suited for long term weight solutions. If you’re overweight and sick all of the time, it’s due to an unhealthy lifestyle, and chances are it won’t be fixed by a short term diet. So to prove that dieting is crazy, I’ve comprised a list of popular diets and broken down the scientific jargon into layperson’s terms. Translation: I make fun of them and then tell you to stop dieting and go vegan. Yay!

Atkin’s: Pound down on bacon, cheese and cream and lose weight. That’s right! It’s called water weight aka the result of glycogen depletion, not some metabolic miracle. You’ll lose weight, but you’ll probably end up with a stone over your head from congestive heart failure. Ask Dr. Atkins about it…oh, wait, he died from a heart attack.

Paleo: Pretend that you’re Fred Flintstone and eat what the cavemen used to eat: lard, tallow, duck fat, foraged berries and nuts. Yummy! Or go hipster and join a farm where you can slaughter your own animal to get “in touch” with your carnal, inner warrior self. Side effects include loss of touch with reality, high cholesterol, and angry neighbors after you shoot their guinea hens with a homemade tomahawk.

Macrobiotics: You want to look like Gwenyth Paltrow, not her fat suit from Shallow Hal. This diet makes a lot of sense, but you’ve got to like seaweed and brown rice…a lot. Like a lot, a lot. And steamed food. And you have to chew your food at least 30 times before swallowing it. So unless you have a 3 hour lunch break or no life at all, this diet ain’t gonna cut it.

South Beach: Carbs are evil. Eat sand and fish. Side effects include wobbly walk and disorientation of the Hunter S. Thompson variety. Okay, not exactly but its got the word “beach” in the title so I couldn’t resist.

Weight Watcher’s: Confusing point system that creates a community of strange people who only talk about food in terms of their number value as determined by Jessica Simpson, who still thinks tuna is chicken.

Jenny Craig: Give Jenny all of your money and she’ll send you crappy food with no taste, but you’ll lose a million pounds just like Jennifer Hudson and become rich and famous!

Solution? Make your new year’s resolution less about dieting and more about a lifestyle change…and cut out one thing. Okay, three things: dairy, sugar and animals. It might be a challenge at first, but you’ll ultimately become as hot as Olivia Wilde, develop abs like Usher, a voice like Carrie Underwood, strength like Mike Tyson, Jared Leto’s eyes, and the comedic genius of Ellen (yup, they’re all vegan!) Now that you’re considering vegan stardom, why not try out this amazing aromatic lentil soup? Lentils are packed with protein, iron, trace minerals and fiber so you’ll be satiated long after you’ve finished your meal (and as a bonus you will see at least one unicorn by the end of the day.)

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Aromatic French Lentil Soup with Curly Kale (adapted from The Artful Vegan)

1 T extra virgin olive oil

1 yellow onion, diced

6-8 cloves garlic, smashed through a garlic press or minced

2 inch knob of ginger, peeled and serrated

2 tsp cumin seeds, toasted dry in a pan over low flame until fragrant, then ground with a mortar and pestle

1 tsp caraway seeds, prepared the same as above

1 tsp dill weed

1 tsp thyme, rubbed between your palms

1/2 tsp allspice, or combine equal amounts of nutmeg, cloves, black pepper & cinnamon

4 bay leaves

1/4 cup sherry

2 tsp date sugar or coconut nectar

2 tsp balsamic vinegar

1 15 oz. can of organic chopped tomatoes

1 1/2 cups french lentils, cooked*

6 cups homemade stock or 4 cups No-Chicken Stock + 2 cups water

1 bunch curly kale, stems removed and chopped

1/4 cup white miso (I recommend South River Miso)

Sea salt & freshly ground pepper

In a soup pot, heat olive oil over a medium flame. Add onions, garlic and ginger and saute until onion begins to brown, about 5-8 minutes. Add the cumin, caraway, dill, thyme, allspice, and bay leaves. Stir and saute for another couple of minutes, then deglaze with sherry, using a wooden spoon to scrap off any pieces of the mixture that have become stuck to the bottom of the pan. Add tomatoes, sweetener, lentils, vinegar, and stock. Bring to a boil, then lower flame and simmer for 20-30 minutes. Add the kale and simmer for 5 minutes, then turn off the flame and whisk in the miso. Season with salt and pepper and discard the bay leaves. Serves 6 dieting unicorns suffering from malnourishment and hallucinations.

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*To cook lentils: In a medium sized pot, add 2 cups of lentils and 4 cups of water or stock. Bring to a boil, then simmer for 25 minutes or until lentils are tender but not mushy.