It's Christmas Day, and I have a confession to make...I'll be eating turkey—and enjoying every last mouthful. I love my veggies, and for about 20 years of my career, I would not even entertain the idea of being in the same kitchen as anything that once walked. I was committed to my vegan lifestyle, which began with the image of a cow being slaughtered.

Growing up in the Irish countryside, the cows grazing in the fields became my friends, and it deeply saddened me to see them being piled into trucks and taken to be killed. I was a teenager when I first witnessed one being killed, and that was the moment I made my decision—I proudly let my family and classmates know that I had become a vegetarian. Of course, I was consuming more than my fair share of milk and butter and piled up on the nuts and whatever I considered to be an adequate substitute for animal flesh. It was when I discovered macrobiotics that I started to understand how I could get my protein from other sources, such as grains and beans.

When I was very young, I overheard my aunt telling my mother, "That Aine is very easily influenced." As a young child, I had absolutely no idea what she meant and wondered if this was a good or a bad thing. Words are very powerful and, especially as children, when we hear something we take it on board. Even though I had no idea what she meant at the time, I now totally understand what she was talking about. I've learned that this quality can be good or bad, depending on what the influences are. Fortunately, mine have been for the most part good and I've taken from my journey and experiences in my life that which serves to propel me forward in a positive way. I believe it's exactly this quality that allows me to be in people's lives in a way that's not intrusive but rather supports them in living healthier and more productive lives.

I don't believe in imposing my way on people and, in fact, my way changes daily depending on the "influences." I have some core beliefs that I stand by and a lifestyle that I'm personally committed to that works for me, but within that I allow myself a lot of flexibility and am constantly changing, growing, learning and allowing myself the luxury of changing my mind. A mind is a mercurial thing, and its nature is to change. Too often, we get stuck in our ways and can be overly judgmental of others who are not in alignment with our ideas or philosophies. One of the best compliments I've received from a client was not at all in relation to my food. She told me that after me being in her life for several months, she found herself being a lot less judgmental and realized that by being judgmental or stuck in her ways, she missed out on so much in life.

When it comes to my work with food, this quality of being "easily influenced" has been the very quality that allows me be in people's lives in the most supportive way. When I meet clients, rather than imposing my way or preaching to them in any way, I talk to them and get a sense of where they're at in their lives. This is what influences me and dictates the direction we need to move forward. If they're choosing vegan lifestyles, I support them in that by making sure they get a good balance of nutrients to keep them strong, active and healthy. If they're meat eaters, I create balance by tipping the scales in favor of vegetables and make sure that the meat I cook is from small-scale food producers who raise pasture-fed livestock in a sustainable and ethical manner whenever possible. Excess meat can result in an overly acidic condition, which creates an environment within the body conductive to disease, so I make sure I include lots of alkalizing elements in their diet, including fruits and vegetables, particularly green, leafy vegetables.

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