Hey Lou Writes

The Grey Matters


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

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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Eat Like Your Life Depends On It (Which It Does)

This made me cry. Twice. First, because of the truth this video represents and how sad, in my soul, these facts make me.

Then I had a real tear of joy… because there are people who are fighting the current food system… and they give me so much hope, I can hardly stop smiling.

This new blog series, Eat Like Your Life Depends On It, is something I’ve been contemplating for a long time. The last thing I want to do is push people away from healthy food choices. I know from experience that having a “hippy agenda” or a “radical point of view” can be a big turn off. I try to remain positive in my outlook and the way I share my passion for real food.

I, too, was once skeptical. I have said OUT LOUD (wish it wasn’t true…), “Who cares if it’s organic? It tastes the same.”

But now, I’d like to seriously take back those words.

Because:

A. Real food and “conventional” food do NOT taste the same

B. I care very greatly if it’s organic, but more than that… I care if it’s local, because sometimes small operations can’t afford the fancy organic labeling

C. That comment was made by a version of myself who had a lot to learn. And so I did learn. And I’m still learning every single day.

If you care about your health and the long term health of those you love, keep reading my blog series.

Find out why I believe in organic farming and local eating so so so so much. Find out why I could easily cry, for many reasons, at the thought of the video Chipotle has just released.

Find out why I care. 

Someday, you might just leave your microwave, food-like-substances, and “cheap food coupons” in the dust like I did.

You might also save money, both now, and later in life when you aren’t taking medication for any number of ailments.

I can promise you’ll smile with me, laugh with me, cringe a little with me, and continue to learn, the way I will never stop learning.

The best is yet to come!

real food, organic, gmos, gardening, chipotle ad

Kate Burn Photography

 

Love, Lou


5 Comments

Move Over Homeowners Association!

Day 22, Wednesday: Rant about something. Get up on your soapbox and tell us how you really feel. (a pet peeve, a current event, a controversial topic, something your husband or roommate or neighbor or boss does that really ticks you off)

Get ready, readers.

writing, gardening, outside, backyard flowers

sweat and time, but worth it

I have a beef. There’s no homeowners association in my neighborhood, so I’m not really against them. I’m sure they do great things, but I’ve never been to such an exclusive meeting.

I am, however, in quite a tiff with front lawns. Yes.

Front lawns. 

Before you think I’m crazy, just stay with me and hear me out.

After reading these books:

Ominvore’s Dilemma by Michael Pollan

The Food Revolution by John Robbins

Main Street Vegan by Victoria Moran

Food Rules by Michael Pollan

The Botany of Desire by Michael Pollan

The One Straw Revolution by Masanobu Fukuoka

The Small-Scale Poultry Flock by Harvey Ussery

…to name a few…

And watching these documentaries:

Dirt

The Vanishing of the Bees

Food Inc.

Hungry For Change

 

…let’s just say, I am now a changed person.

I am no expert. I still have a lot more reading to do, a lot more steps to take, in order to live the lifestyle I want to achieve, but I’m getting there. I may not be the most well-read person on the subject of organic food/gardening/local/gmo’s/the impact it all has on our environment, but I know a thing or two.

Plus, I’m passionate about it. That counts for something as well.

The reason I am upset with front lawns is because it has recently dawned on me just how utterly silly they truly are.

What does a front lawn do?

-It looks nice

-It uses tons of water (especially in dry climates)

-It gets looked at

-It keeps homeowners associations and the mean old lady down the street happy

-Uses up oil, for those who mow the lawn (unless you’re using one of those old twisty non-electric things)

When, I wonder, did the front lawn become a staple among American homes? I’m sure there’s some historian who can tell me exactly where the idea stemmed from (probably a European country), what ads in the early 1900’s began to tell folks they needed such a space for grass, and how the idea spread like wildfire, resulting in cookie cutter lawns. I haven’t met him or her yet. If you are one, please, let me know. I am baffled.

But why do I have a problem with something we all grew up with?

Because if everyone used their front lawns for edible gardens, so many of the world’s problems would be solved. 

You read that correctly.

Have you ever thought about it? Using that space, or even half of it, to supply your own family with food? People are so creative. I’ve seen many a Pinterest picture showing a person how to garden using little space. The information is out there, we just need to start paying attention. For those who have both a front and back yard, why not turn that entire backyard into something functional?

Something that will:

-Feed you

-Save you money in the long run

-Put all that water to a good cause (I repeat: saving you $$$)

-Improve your health

-Ensure that the produce you eat is, in fact, organic

-Bring you closer to nature as you raise something up from seed

-Enhance your eating experience

-Help the bee population (I LOVE bees. In fact, I just planted a bunch of flowers and herbs all together from a “Save the Bees” seed mix. They need chemical free resources and we need them.)

-Make you less dependent on big companies and/or government for food (this is so important)

Sounds good, right?

Oh! And you don’t have to mow it. Therefore, you will be using less oil. That’s always a plus, right? (Again, I’m no expert, but I’m pretty sure it will run out someday. Why not start a generation of kids who know how to feed themselves?)

You might even get some chickens for such a backyard…as they:

-Help add nutrients into the soil

-Keep pests at a minimum

-Eat weeds and your table scraps (instant compost!)

-They are so cute!

In areas within a city where having chickens might not be allowed, you can try to get the law changed. It’s happened all over the place.

[Click here for my own baby chick adventure.]

chickens, organic, gardening

Meet Linus

Anyway.

The current food system is in desperate need of repair. If you haven’t noticed, people are gaining weight left and right, healthcare systems are in shock, and more and more people are dependent on some form of medication to live their normal lives.

Why? Because we are eating Food-Like Substances, a term coined by Michael Pollan.

“Populations that eat a so-called Western diet- generally defined as a diet consisting of lots of processed foods and meat, lots of added fat and sugar, lots of refined grains, lots of everything except vegetables, fruits and whole grains- invariably suffer from high rates of the so-called Western diseases: obesity, type 2 diabetes, cardiovascular disease, and cancer.” -Michael Pollan, Food Rules

Any processed food you buy at the store most likely comes from a giant crop that is depleting the ground of nitrogen, harming water sources, and there’s a good chance it’s a GMO. (Genetically Modified Organism)

We’re not Generation Y, folks.

We are The Guinea Pig Generation. There are all kinds of scientific things happening to our food, often involving chemicals, that we are mostly unaware of and most definitely exposed to on a daily basis. And there has been little or no testing done to determine what long term effects these changes and chemicals will have on our long term health. (Or short term. Read about my struggle with acne and how I ended it once and for all here.)

Some people swear that the key to losing weight is counting calories. I’d like to suggest something else.

Never look at another calorie count/nutrition label again.

Look only to the ingredient list. For this holds the key to what you are eating.

“It’s gotten to the point where we don’t see foods anymore but instead look right through them to the nutrients (good and bad) they contain, and of course to the calories- all these invisible qualities in our food that, properly understood, supposedly hold the secret to eating well.

…I learned that in fact science knows a lot less about nutrition that you would expect- that in fact nutrition science is, to put it charitably, a very young science.” -Michael Pollan, Food Rules

Who cares if what you’re eating has more grams of fat? It could be from a great source, like coconut oil or nuts. You will only know if you look at the ingredients list. And even better, make sure that list is filled with food you recognize. Ethoxylated diglycerides? Calcium propionate? Ammonium Sulfate? DUDE. Why are these things everywhere the eye can see? Are you okay with that, when you really think about it?

This is just me, but here are my general rules while shopping:

-Look at the ingredients and try to choose an item with as few as possible (I try not to pass 5 ingredients)

-Make sure they’re all pronounceable (unless you’re with a rocket scientist)

-Shop only on the outside of the store (Ever noticed how processed foods tend to be in the aisles? Produce, bulk items, and foods in their natural state are often found on the periphery of the store)

-I look for Non-GMO Project items

-I get produce that is in season

-I buy at least 95% organic, if not 100% (NOTE: if an item is local, that beats out organic….because many local sources cannot afford the organic certification)

And before you go telling me that this is too expensive, let me ask you yet another question:

How much do you spend on your TV access, your smartphone, or your monthly medication for high blood pressure? Priorities. I cannot say we are rich. But I can say that our top priority when spending comes down to what ends up on our dinner plates. Investing in your health is a real thing. 

At the end of the day, why not do your shopping in your yard? 

It could change the world we live in for the better.

I promise!

{I’d like to share some exciting finds. I only drink soy, almond, or oat milk. The only problem I had with these was … you guessed it… their ingredient lists. They are so often filled with “filler” items like carrageenan or tricalcium posphate. We make our own oat milk sometimes, but on days when we run out and I just want to buy something, we resort to whatever we can get at the store. Today Greg came home with an awesome item!!!!!! WESTSOY Organic Unsweetned Soymilk! Ingredients: filtered water, whole organic soybeans. HALLELUJAH}

{Another fun note: we have lettuce, spinach and Lambsquarters [a wild green, often thrown away as a “weed”] growing out back and I haven’t had to buy my greens at the store. It’s so exciting. I cannot even convey how happy this makes me! Inside and out!!}

So much love,

I just want YOU to be healthy,

and glowing,

and happy,

<3 LOU

writer, new writer, fiction

um… I hope my rant wasn’t too ranty