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The Grey Matters

Eat Like Your Life Depends On It (How I Began To Eat)

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Eat Like Your Life Depends On It Part Two

Welcome back guys! I hope my last post, What I Used To Eat, was enough to get you interested in the changes I made to my diet and lifestyle. What I described as far as diet choices and workout choices (P90X!) may have sounded perfectly normal and healthy to you. You might be the rare type of person who was shocked by how unhealthy it actually sounded.

Either way, I’m glad you’re back. This is going to be a “blog series” journey that will take you through the journey that was the last 5 years of my life. The road has been challenging, but it’s mostly been:

FUN…EXCITING…INSPIRATIONAL…EDUCATIONAL and… LIFE-CHANGING

Five years changed me into someone who:

Doesn’t own a microwave

Buys minimal processed food (usually only for special occasions when I “don’t have time” to cook, which is rare)

Tries to know her grower/farmer

Reads almost as many non-fiction food books as fiction (!!!)

Interns on a farm

Owns chickens

Has a garden that feeds me at least once a day

chickens,garden, eating organic, eating, health

Don’t worry. I don’t want to overwhelm you yet. I also don’t expect everyone to go out and buy baby chicks, start a garden, or throw their microwave in their trash can. The microwave can wait a few more blogs… then I expect it to go. (Just kidding… kind of.)

I guess I’m just sort of fascinated by my own story, because so many people have reminded me that, “The Melinda you used to be would not believe the Melinda you have turned into. It’s crazy.”

I prefer the crazy Melinda, I s’pose.

Back when I was 20 pounds heavier, took three medications for acne and felt angry/frustrated/confused every single day, I decided to make some decisions. And those decisions, folks, were made quickly. One cannot put off change. I hate to say it, but it’s completely true. Stop putting it off. 

“To change one’s life:

Start immediately.

Do it flamboyantly.

No exceptions.”

-William James

I did exactly this when I made a decision to at least try to follow some of Michael Pollan’s food suggestions. Along with The Omnivore’s Dilemma, I also read Food Rules, a very short and sweet book that lays out simple rules for eating.

A few rules that really shouted out to me:

Don’t eat anything your great-grandmother wouldn’t recognize as food. I might even change this to great-great grandmother for some, depending on which generation you’re from. Think she would have recognized “yogurt” in a tube? Think she would know what to do with a box of mac and cheese (“What’s this package of orange powder?” She would say.)

Avoid food products that contain high-fructose corn syrup. Sure, it’s “just another sugar,” but it’s everywhere, and that makes it something to avoid. Really, just avoid food with loads of added sugar. (Another Food Rule is to avoid foods with some form of sugar listed as one of the three first ingredients!)

Avoid foods with more than 5 ingredients. The exception to this rule would be something with a long list of herbs or spices. I would go grab a cardboard package of food from my kitchen to tell you the ingredients list, but I cannot. I currently don’t have anything processed in my home.* (YAY!) The list should be short and sweet. It should contains words that sound like REAL food. A small child should be able to pronounce and recognize these sort of words. It shouldn’t look like a science experiment gone wrong.

Avoid food products with the wordoid “lite” or the terms “low-fat” or “nonfat” in their names. These are gimmicks. Hoaxes. What happened when the low-fat ads began popping up in the 1970’s? Oh yeah, people began eating way more sugar to make up for this loss of fat. Just take in your good fats. (Olive oil, coconut oil, grass fed butter, avocado… don’t act like you haven’t heard this before!)

If it came from a plant, eat it; if it was made in a plant, don’t. I am a very visual person. I stopped drinking pop (soda?) when I was a senior in high school because one day I had this vision of sugary liquid in my brain, causing a headache, and I couldn’t get past it. I often feel dehydrated, even with all the water I drink. If I were to drink a sugary pop, I’d freak out. So….. this rule was very visual for me. Metal, steel, robots, machinery, surgical caps, lab coats, food running down belts and being splurted into jars… those are not good visuals. Think about what you eat, what sort of plant it was made in, and just how foreign and new it is, when compared to the generations before us who ate nothing that came from a plant. They ate plants.

Don’t eat breakfast cereals that change the color of the milk. Or, in my case, just don’t eat cereal for breakfast. But if you do, choose a healthy one. And unless it contains beets, it shouldn’t be affecting the color of your milk. (Red 40 is definitely something your great-great grandmother would not recognize as something to EAT!)

Pay more, eat less. (the next rule: …Eat Less) Did you know that in France, people use up to 16 or 18 percent of their income on food? Here, the average American spends less than 10 percent of their income on food. We are always looking for the cheapest, fastest, and most convenient way to eat. Guess what? It should come as no shock that none of those factors equals healthy. I truly believe that it is affordable to eat in the healthiest ways possible. Not only does some produce for a quick stir fry cost only a few dollars, but there are other factors I’d consider important… and hopefully these will change your point of view. If anyone tells me that the food at the farmer’s market, Coop, or Whole Foods is too expensive to buy, or that organic or “specialty health items” in their regular grocery store are simply tooooo much, here is what I will ask them (I’m asking YOU right now. You can answer in the comments box, if you’d like):

How much do you pay for your TV? Cable? Dish? Ten zillion channels?

How much do you pay for your cell phone? Is it a smart phone?

How much do you want to pay for high blood pressure medicine when you are older? Or for that physical trainer to give you a meal plan once you realize that you are in too deep to get yourself out of this mess?

I have one word for you: PRIORITIES

You guys, I am rarely this straightforward or opinionated. Honestly. I’m just me, I’m positive and laid back, but this is my passion. I care SO MUCH about the health of others, that yes, I would ask this to your face. How much do all of those things cost? Add it up. And don’t forget to add up all of the other potential medical expenses that could occur, too.

If I had these things to pay for, guess what? I would not be able to afford the food I eat. I’m not rich, when it comes to money. (though I am totally one of those overly sentimental people who would tell you just how rich in love I am!)

Greg and I don’t have a television. 

We have the most cave-mannish cell phones that most children of today wouldn’t quite recognize as a phone at all (aka, not smart phones).

And I weaned myself off the acne medication because I didn’t want to use it OR pay for it.

We made sacrifices, which turned out to only be positive, and not really sacrifices at all, in order to eat the way we do. I understand what it took to get that cucumber onto my dinner plate. I will pay the price. Over and over and over again.

Will you?

Cook. It’s the last rule I’ll list here, but one that is possibly more important than all others. The question I would ask you for this round would be:

How much time do you spend cooking each day? And then… how much time do you spend watching TV? I’m not trying to demonize TV, but I don’t understand how people have time to watch it. So many people use “busy” as their excuse for so many things, especially what they eat or how much they work out. I’m saying that those are the least legitimate excuses in the book. IF you are doing something like watching TV. (As in… I am NOT talking about single parents who work three jobs and then come home to three kids. I am talking about an average situation. There are always exceptions.)

You guys, I spend a lot of my time cooking. I cook something for every meal. I wake up earlier than the old Melinda because I usually wash/chop/satuee/bake/cook something every single morning. During that time, I also make whatever I’ll pack for my lunch. Then, when I get home, I do the same thing all over again for dinner. We don’t need a microwave because we cook each meal, and usually in small amounts so there are rarely leftovers. If there are, guess where I heat them up? On the stove or in the oven. There are no “quick meals” here.

The “slow” meals taste too good to leave behind.

And they’re really not slow at all. I don’t wake up an hour earlier… just 15-20 minutes. That’s all I need for the prep time, cook time, and cleanup time. I’d add on maybe five or ten minutes if I were feeding children, too.

When I made these changes… I swear… the weight melted off. Melted. It just disappeared, and then another 5 pounds, because I was no longer a super muscular cheerleader like I had been in high school. In reality, I was close to 25 pounds overweight without even knowing it. I’m not stick thin now, either. I am comfortable and healthy. I feel good about my body because I feel good about what goes into it. I started taking less and less of my acne medication, and during that time, started to make more and more of these food changes. Suddenly, about a year and a half later, I threw the last of my tretinoin acne pills in the trash. I ate another salad. I no longer had to worry about breakouts. (I also cut out gluten. You can read more about my experiences with acne and finally getting clear skin here.) Notice how nothing changed overnight? The weight came off within the year. My skin changed, but there were days when I felt like nothing was happening. Our bodies are jam packed with junk. It DOES take time to get rid of it all and replace it with what it actually wants.

Our bodies want to be as healthy as they can be.

So many people (mostly woman) have talked to me about their body issues lately. They usually say something like, “I can’t control what I eat,” or “I have issues with my body and I feel so depressed because of it,” or “I wish I could eat healthy, but I always give in. It makes me feel bad. I wish I could change it.”

One of the things that helped me MOST in changing my eating lifestyle was having a positive attitude.

I formulated many mantras, all of which I still use to this day.

I CAN DO THIS.

THIS IS EASY!!!

THIS IS FUN!

MY FOOD TASTES GOOD!

Food doesn’t need to be purely fuel. Thinking that way might even backfire. (One of Michael Pollan’s rules is also: Break the rules every once in a while.) It is an experience. We should be salivating when we think about our next meal. We should be excited to cook and eat. Food should be something joyous, not something depressing or scary.

We have to eat to survive. But I’d say that even more than that, we have to be happy in order to survive.

Here’s my challenge for you:

Consider taking baby steps and adding a new “Food Rule” to your shopping list each week. These will accumulate, not change out. ;)

Wake up and force yourself to smile. This smile will eventually become a real one.

Wake up fifteen minutes early and have your meals planned.

Sit at a table for each meal and savor the flavors. These will eventually be flavors YOU decided should be there, and not some company trying to hook you into buying their product again.

Tell me how you’re doing.

This was a long blog, but I just couldn’t stop at one thing.

AND there’s more to come!!! (My detailed week of eating, prices, facts about subsidies and why the “rebel” in me cares so much about organic and local food, and moooooooore)

To say the least, I’m excited.

melinda short hair

So much love, 

Lou

* I lied!!!! I actually have a box of Larabars that were on sale at Whole Foods. I chose the Peanut Butter & Jelly flavor. Ingredients list: dates, peanuts, unsweetened cherries, sea salt. No added sugar, check. Under five ingredients, check. Real food items, check!!

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Author: Melinda Haas

I write, I read, I love to laugh. God, my husband, and my step children make up my world. I am working on publishing many novels, three of which are completed manuscripts.

12 thoughts on “Eat Like Your Life Depends On It (How I Began To Eat)

  1. I really enjoyed reading this post! I lived without a microwave or TV for two years when I moved to New York and barely missed either (and I was panicked at the thought of not having a microwave at first). I also had a hard time navigating how to eat when I first moved out on my own. It’s such a learning process. It’s great to hear someone advocating so passionately for healthy, real food!

  2. Mel, have you watched Forks over Knives or Hungry for Change? They are two spectacular documentaries. If you don’t have netflix just let me know you can watch it on ours ;) if you have time. They talk a lot about how the “sugar” that is in our food acts like a drug and we become addicted to it which is why we have such a hard time saying no to it. There’s a lot more to it, but that’s one of the parts that really stuck in my mind. :) Loving the blog!

    • Hey Becca!!!! We watched Hungry for Change, but not Forks over Knives…. it was crazy how they connected “white powders”… sugar, cocaine, and white flour. I’d say, with the way the world is today, cocaine might be the least harmful thing on that list. (I’m kind of kidding) Love you!!!

  3. Can we please get together and talk about this for hooooours? :) Seriously. I can relate to these last two posts SO much. In college, I just became bloated my freshman year, and got acne for the first time in my life. Like you, I was never huge, I just didn’t know why I felt so unhealthy. I grew up in a healthy home (without a microwave for the majority of my childhood!), but when I ventured off on my own, I thought, what’s the big deal about cafeteria food?? Well, I soon found out what MSG was, to say the least. I made changes pretty quickly, and while I am not a perfect eater, I strive to eat the best that I possibly can (taste-wise and health-wise!). I have started to really focus on how food makes me feel. And I hate it when I eat something that doesn’t make me feel energized or satisfied. I don’t eat healthy because I THINK it is better, I eat what is good for me because I have become addicted to feeling good! I LOVE having that kind of control over my health (I know I can’t control it completely!), and I LOVE that I rarely have cravings. The power of food is an amazing thing. And eating it the way God made intended it to be eaten is amazing. He made all things good! Okay, I might just send you a novel-length email instead of overtaking your comment section…….

    • I LOVE this overtaking of my comment section :) I would also love an email! We are so similar- that never fails to amaze me! Just like your mom is glad there are “youngins” raising chickens, I’m so glad there are other youngins who care about this stuff. It’s easy to feel alone, but I am uplifted when I meet people like you and we share similar ideals about food! Food, after all, is in everyone’s lives. It’s SO important … and you are right, eating like God made us to eat and eating WHAT he MADE for us to eat are huge factors there. Did you ever read that Candace Cameron book on her weight loss?

  4. We would miss our microwave if we got rid of it. But I can’t remember the last food item I cooked in the microwave. We use it for heating up leftovers and steaming veggies. There are really only a few meals we eat that are straight up processed. Mac and cheese is one of them. But there’s so many ways I know we could do better. Still, I can tell a difference. We’re so used to eating non processed food that on the very rare occasion we eat fast food, we feel nauseous within a half hour. I don’t know how people eat it all the time. Gross.

  5. Pingback: Eat Like Your Life Depends On It (How I Got Overwhelmed) | Hey Lou Writes

  6. This is fabulous. When I moved to Spain, I had a very small kitchen and no microwave and really didn’t miss it. There was a market on my street and I went there EVERY day to get ingredients and cook, and I felt like I always had energy and was eating healthy. Of course, I did cheat and drink lots of beer and sangria, ’cause it’s Spain! You gotta : )

  7. Pingback: LIVE Like Your Life Depends On It (How I Want To LIVE) | Hey Lou Writes

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