June 23, 2014
Two weeks ago, in the midst of the 30 day challenge, I officially celebrated my anniversary of rethinking the way my family and I eat. The day passed without much fanfare, and truth be told it wasn’t really even noticed, because this change has sort of just evolved into a natural way of doing things around these parts. I do still remember the last day I had Jack N the Box, however (Thursday June 6th, 2013 just for the record).
The past few weeks I’ve been going through a little bit of soul-searching in terms of finding my way in this world of healthy eating and cooking. For the first 2-3 months of changing the way we eat, it was all trial and error. One week I went gluten-free, for several weeks I cut out dairy. I worked our way through labels and the pantry in a haze, confused with trying to figure out what to eat outside of Gwyneth’s book. It was clear the book alone couldn’t sustain me and my family for eternity, and so I needed to figure things out on my own a bit so I could feel safe venturing outside the safety net of It’s All Good.
Enter the second stage of my healthy eating adventure; research the crap out of everything!! Read all the books, scour all the articles, troll the archives of the internet until I find the very end. It was exhausting and overwhelming and at the risk of sounding like a drama queen, left me somewhat crippled with fear at what to eat. I became paranoid, believed most everything I read that supported my sometimes irrational fears, got in online arguments over food policies with complete strangers, and made wildly exhaustive vows to never let certain foods touch my lips again. While I learned a lot of valuable and useful information during that time period, I also wasted a lot of time worrying about things I’ve now found may not be true, and gave too much head-space to things which truly didn’t matter.
This brought me to the third stage of the journey; the cynical stage. There is so much misinformation out there in the health food world, where making wild claims to induce fear is par for the course. Topics range from toxic baby carrots to toxic oils, and just about anything, if processed enough, can cause cancer. During this third stage, I started finding out that maybe all this fear mongering may not be completely true. So I started doing further investigations and found agendas on both sides. During this stage, my sense for detecting bullshit was heightened, and I started questioning some of the information I had learned during the second stage. While I learned a lot of valuable information during this stage too, it also left me feeling confused again, not sure who was right and what to believe.
Enter the fourth and final stage of this journey, in which I do what I want. Not really, but I really just use some common sense when eating, cooking and shopping. Here are some of the things I keep in mind when I decide what to feed myself and my family. This list is what works for me, and is in no way intended to be a how-to guide on feeding your own family.
1. Try to eat and cook with foods that don’t need a label, most of the time. No label, no need to stress.
2. When eating packaged foods, stick to those with a fairly simple list of ingredients which are easily recognizable.
3. Enjoy foods from all the food groups, including grains, legumes, and dairy.
4. Cook at home most of the time, dine out as a treat.
5. Take wild claims about health hazardous foods with a skeptics eye, and do my own research. So many foods are unfairly demonized in our culture, and so when I read that something can cure autism and something else causes cancer, I do some research to see if there is evidence to the contrary. Most of the time, a simple google search can sleuth out interesting reading information. If you’re concerned about certain foods and want to find out information from both sides, try using search terms that include words like myth or debunked. 9 times out of 10, you will find supporting arguments on both sides, as is the case with this beer article, which this writer debunked. This is just one example in particular. Who’s right? Who knows sometimes? But I just try to always do my own research and decide from there.
6. Don’t stress the small stuff. Cooking and eating at home with great ingredients eases my mind when we’re out and about, exposing ourselves to other possibly “toxic” ingredients.
It brings me genuine happiness that chronicling my own journey this past year has inspired so many others to look more closely at ingredient labels, to join a local CSA and support farmers in their community, to rethink their choices at the meat counter, and to feed their family more vegetables. It’s both awesome and humbling, and some days I feel this strange sense of responsibility in what I post and say. I feel myself pulling back as the readership has grown, especially on Instagram, afraid of posting the wrong thing or saying the wrong thing. I’ve been mulling over some things the past few weeks, trying to decide what this account is going to be, what it is going to represent. And last night I realized that it doesn’t have to be anything other than the unfiltered truth in my own personal way of eating and feeding my family. This past year I’ve gone through periods of rabid research, paranoia, confusion, calm & peace, lots of and anxiety. All over food. I’ve been humbled, encouraged and challenged by many of those following along. I think what many readers from the beginning have all appreciated is my honesty, and so I continue with a renewed sense of that honest truthfulness. I am not perfect, and at times I’ve been afraid of posting things that some may not deem healthy enough or clean enough. I enter year 2 of this journey with the notion that I will never please everyone, and the firm and steadfast belief that the vast majority of us don’t need more fear or confusion when it comes to feeding ourselves and our families well. What we need is common sense, some cajones in the kitchen, more veggies, and positive encouragement. In a word, we need eating and cooking healthy to be approachable, plain and simple. I will continue to hash out science and toxicity questions, concerns and claims with anyone interested, because I believe they’re important, but my personal hope for my IG feed and those reading it, is that you’ll be encouraged to do the research on your own, decide for yourselves, and go from there. Every single one of you is your own wellness warrior. At the end of the day, you’re the one doing the hard work and heavy lifting, and I’m just here to offer ideas and encouragement.
I look back on this past year, and we’ve come so, so far. While I may not be perfect, I recognize the huge improvements and changes we’ve made, and am very proud with what we’ve accomplished. I see my kids asking questions about the foods we eat, I see how much more open they are to eating the new foods I cook up, and how receptive they are to consciously turning some foods down. I hear the appreciation in my husband’s voice in his sincere thanks for a well cooked meal, and I experience the positive results of this hard work in my own body every single day. Cheers to that. And with that, I enter year 2 with positive gusto and happiness.