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Four Amazing Stories of Health Recovery as Shared by Holistic Holiday at Sea Attendees

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Recovery Panel at Holistic Holiday at Sea

From cancer recovery to animal rights activism, the reasons why people choose a plant-based and/or macrobiotic diet and lifestyle vary widely and, in many cases, overlap. Each year on the Holistic Holiday at Sea cruise, president Sandy Pukel arranges for a Recovery Panel on which a dozen courageous and grateful people share with the audience how their lives have changed thanks to a plant-based (and oftentimes macrobiotic) diet and lifestyle. “The heart and soul of the cruise is this Recovery Panel,” says Sandy. “People go there and listen to these stories. They come out crying, they come out inspired. It’s truly remarkable.”

Sandy, who discovered his life’s purpose after being introduced to macrobiotics in 1970, adds, “Over the years, I’ve seen remarkable recoveries. My answer always is: Macrobiotics works if you embrace it wholeheartedly. You’re going to see improvement. The whole philosophy and food thing is stronger than you are, if you’re willing to embrace it.”

One Family’s Story

Thomas Kahn

Thomas Kahn

Thomas Kahn attended the cruise in 2015 with his sister Susan Bondi. “I heard the cruise helps people who had the same problems I had,” says Thomas, who has type two diabetes. Three years prior to attending, Thomas had a heart scan that revealed the beginnings of blockage. At the time, at 5’7”, he weighed 240 pounds. Susan, a gourmet cook, followed a vegan, low-fat, oil-free diet, and influenced Thomas in making a shift. He lost most of his weight within a year. “I lost 80 lbs from diet alone,” he shares.

The cruise helped Thomas solidify his oil-free, plant-based diet and, over the years, he has been greatly influenced by cruise presenters Dr. Michael Gregor and Dr. Caldwell Esselstyn. Thomas’ father was a type one diabetic who had a heart attack at age 49 while on the low carb diet. Doctors encouraged him to use olive oil. Nine years later, he was in need of a quadruple bypass. “The olive oil messed him up,” says Thomas. “Then he went on a true low-fat diet and lived to be 80.”

Thomas’ is just one of the inspirational stories we hear from our guests each year. We got the chance to catch up with past panelists Christina Pirello and Janet Vitt Sommer, and 2017 panelist Judy MacKenney to hear where they are in their journeys.

A Life of Gratitude

Christina Pirello, Holistic Holiday at Sea Recovery PanelAuthor of six bestselling cookbooks, Christina Pirello is also the Emmy Award-winning host of the national public television series Christina Cooks. She will lead four cooking classes on the 2017 Holistic Holiday at Sea and is on the faculty of The Restaurant School at Walnut Hill College.

At age 26, Christina was diagnosed with terminal leukemia and her cancer had already advanced to the acute stage. She saw a hematologist/oncologist who gave her three months to live with no treatment, and six months to a year with treatment. Having seen her mother pass away at the young age of 49 from cancer, Christina saw that conventional treatments seemed to have worsened her mother’s condition. Christina’s coworker suggested that she meet Robert “Bob” Pirello, a whole foods advocate. The two went grocery shopping together and Bob replaced all of the food Christina had at home with healthy options. He also gave her a copy of Michio Kushi’s The Cancer Prevention Diet, Revised and Updated Edition: The Macrobiotic Approach to Preventing and Relieving Cancer.

Christina’s strict macrobiotic diet consisted primarily of brown rice and millet, cooked vegetables (particularly green leafies and beans), tofu, tempeh, and miso soup. She went through a toxic discharge period, and knew that, despite the discomfort, her health was improving. Within 14 months after beginning her new diet, Christina’s white cell count was within the normal range. Hers is also a love story, as she and Bob later married!

Christina’s philosophy is that living a whole and healthy life should make us passionate and full of gratitude. Her recovery has helped her put things in perspective and she doesn’t waste time on petty things or people she does not resonate with. She shares, “It makes me humble and grateful for each moment of each day. My life is blessed, but since I don’t know how much time I have, I waste nothing. Each minute is precious although I admit I don’t fear death. I just feel like I am not done yet. I have work to do and would like to do more.” For more on Christina, visit her presenter page.

The Power of Food

janet-vitt-sommer-holistic-holiday-at-seaAlthough she will not be attending the 2017 cruise, Janet Vitt Sommer was on the Recovery Panel for more than ten years. In 1995, she was diagnosed with stage IV small cell lung cancer, with three tumors in her left lung, seven tumors in her right lung, three tumors in her liver, one on her pancreas, and another in her abdomen. A registered nurse since 1971, Janet saw her mother die from lung cancer at age 42 and knew the seriousness of this illness. “As a nurse, it’s difficult to believe I didn’t understand the power of food,” says Janet. “I thought of food as just nourishment, not a healing modality.”

Her oncologist said she had three to six months left to live. A dose of chemotherapy left Janet severely nauseous and underweight. Her internist Dr. Grossman, of Cleveland, Ohio, suggested that she try a macrobiotic diet. Janet enlisted the help of a macrobiotic counselor who told her she could be healed. After ten months on this healing regimen, her tumors disappeared.

Janet is now a nutritional counselor who leads cooking classes and prepares macrobiotic “meals to go.” The cruise has become an important part of her life—and romance! She and now husband Gary were married in Fort Lauderdale before the ship left the dock. “After all, where else could I go for my honeymoon and not have to prepare my own meals? Gary and I always get an efficiency suite when we travel. The cruise was perfect. Plus we were surrounded by many caring friends.”

Healing from the Inside Out

Judy MacKenney, Holistic Holiday at Sea Recovery PanelJudy MacKenney was introduced to macrobiotics in 1992 after receiving a diagnosis of stage IV non-Hodgkin’s Lymphoma. She completed seven months of chemotherapy and suffered from a multitude of side effects. Like Christina, she pored over Kushi’s The Cancer Prevention Diet after she was given a short time to live. “My new health regimen was to change my diet and lifestyle by eating organic whole foods, miso soup, grains, proteins, root, round & leafy vegetables, and pickles for enzymes, plus natural remedy drinks to cleanse and strengthen my body,” says Judy. “I also chewed my food seriously until it became liquid, walked, did breath work, body-scrubbed, developed a positive mindset to heal, and showed gratitude for everything in my life on a daily basis!”

This year, Judy celebrates 25 years of being cancer free. She shares, “I still rely on a plant-based, macrobiotic diet and lifestyle to keep me healthy. With so many delicious, nutritious recipes to choose from nowadays, I find it just keeps getting easier!” A Kushi-certified macrobiotic counselor, educator, and cooking instructor, Judy will share her story on this year’s Recovery Panel and facilitate a follow-up discussion group. Read more about Judy on her presenter page.

On Your Own Path to Wellness?

We’d love to help you wherever you are on your journey to feeling your best. Our 14th Holistic Holiday at Sea cruise is set for March 11–18, 2017. Book your spot today!

Vegan Cuisine at Its Finest

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Vegan Pad Thai on Holistic Holiday at Sea cruiseNow in its 14th year, Holistic Holiday at Sea’s seven-day cruise experience, March 11–18, 2017, includes presentations by leading authorities in holistic and alternative health, offboard excursions at four exotic ports of call, workshops, and restorative activities such as yoga, Pilates, and meditation. From cooking classes to poolside socials, vegan cuisine is at the heart of the cruise, bringing people together to share delicious, healthy food with loved ones and new friends made aboard.

Guests enjoy meals in a continental atmosphere. Elegant dining rooms are staffed with attentive servers and food is expertly prepared under the supervision of Mark Hanna, an internationally known natural food chef who has cooked at yoga retreats, meditation centers, and macrobiotic and vegan conferences around the world. Head chef since Holistic Holiday at Sea’s debut in 2004, Hanna has designed the menu to feature dishes that are nutritious, delicious, and 100% vegan.

Options for Everyone

Chef Mark Hanna

Chef Mark Hanna

Cruise goers love that there are so many option to fit their dietary needs. “Over the years we’ve found that to happily include everybody, there needs to be options,” says Hanna. “We offer gluten-free and oil-free options in every case when the dish includes oil or gluten.” Please inform us of your dietary needs and we’ll do our best to accommodate you. The ship’s menu is also available on request.

For lunch and dinner, four-course meals (plus dessert) await you. Menus are often themed and work with innovative twists on traditional styles of cooking, such as Italian and Caribbean. Hanna shares, “My favorite menu over the last few years is the Thai-themed meal including Pad Thai—a tempeh dish, peanut sauce, etc. It’s a little bit spicy.” If you’re looking for a more informal, faster meal, buffet options are available for breakfast and lunch.

Desserts are sugar and dairy free and prepared by pastry chefs. The key lime pie and chocolate cake are among guests’ favorites. The menu changes each year, says Hanna, as people’s tastes change and there are always new trends to keep up with. Themes may be mixed and matched so that whole grains, vegan proteins, cooked and raw greens, and vegetables can be evenly incorporated over the course of the week.

Macrobiotic foods (such as seaweed, umeboshi, tamari, and miso) are also used in several dishes, and many macrobiotic principles are applied in the preparation, says Hanna.

Collaborations in the Kitchen

Chef Mark Reinfeld (Photo by Megan Sorel)

Chef Mark Reinfeld (Photo by Megan Sorel)

This year, Mark Reinfeld joins the team as a menu and recipe consultant. “I am excited to be sharing some of my Vegan Fusion recipes with the guests of the Holistic Holiday at Sea,” he says. Reinfeld is an award-winning chef and the author of seven books, including the best-selling 30 Minute Vegan series and his latest, Healing the Vegan Way. He has more than 20 years of experience preparing creative vegan and raw food cuisine.

One of the hopes of Holistic Holiday at Sea is that guests can learn new techniques to promote a healthier lifestyle. Reinfeld will be teaching a discussion and Q&A session titled “Food Activism: Bridging the Gap Between Nutritional Knowledge and Life-Changing Action.”

In his session, Reinfeld says he will “discuss the importance of creating plant-based food that tastes amazing, with tips and tricks on how to create world-class cuisine to share with others.”  

He will also present a template-recipe format that “allows you to break out of the recipe trap to create hundreds of variations of recipes.”

Why Wait? Our Recipe for Kale Salad

Vegan Kale Salad on Holistic Holiday at Sea cruise

Want to try one one of Mark Hanna’s dishes for yourself at home? Check out these steps to prepare a crowd pleasing Kale Salad as featured in Greens and Grains on the Deep Blue Sea Cookbook by Sandy Pukel and Mark Hanna.

The cabbage in this light, bright-colored, fiber-rich salad is pressed in the traditional Japanese manner. It is a perfect accompaniment to any meal.

Yields 6 to 8 servings

2 cups shredded red cabbage

2 teaspoons umeboshi paste

1 teaspoon apple cider vinegar

1 ½ cups corn kernels

Pinch sea salt

5 cups finely chopped kale

1 cup julienne-cut carrots

1 cup red radishes, cut into thin half moons

1 cup julienne-cut daikon

3 tablespoons olive oil

3 tablespoons lemon juice

Vegetable salt to taste

Freshly ground black pepper to taste

To prepare:

  1. Press the cabbage with the umeboshi paste and vinegar for 1 hour.
  2. While the cabbage is pressing, fill a 4-quart pot halfway with water and bring to a boil. Add the corn and quickly blanch for a minute or two. Remove the corn with a slotted spoon and place in a large salad bowl.
  3. Add a pinch of salt to the same water, then add the kale and blanch for 2 to 3 minutes. Remove with a slotted spoon and spread on a tray to cool.
  4. Add the cooked kale to the corn, along with the carrots, radishes, daikon, pressed cabbage, olive oil, and lemon juice. Toss the ingredients, add salt and pepper, and toss again before serving.

Variations:

-Add 1 teaspoon minced garlic or 1 tablespoon Dijon mustard

-Add ¼ cup toasted pumpkin or sunflower seeds.

-Add sauerkraut or slivers of dill pickle.

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