Who here has counted a calorie today? If I was speaking in front of an audience, I’d guess that at least half, if not way more, raised their hands.
And then I would say:
I cannot remember the last time I counted a calorie.
‘Tis true. If you’ve been keeping up with the Eat/Live Like Your Life Depends On It series, then you already know that I base my eating choices on one main thing: INGREDIENTS.
If I’m fully aware of the ingredients, then why do I care what the calorie content is?
For instance. One 2oz Snicker’s bar contains 250 calories. I know there is some weird scientific formula for what a calorie is, but to me, it’s just this mystical number that means absolutely nothing. That’s right. Nothing. Because then you can hop onto a treadmill and it will tell you how many calories you’ve burned.
And I just don’t think we can possibly put an exact number on something like that. Especially with every single body being so different and all…. I doubt I’m burning the same amount of calories as the person next to me, even if we both run two miles. I just cant believe it.
These magic numbers we’ve decided to call calories mess people up. I truly believe that. I ONCE tried counting calories (years ago) and it drove me nuts. I don’t have extra time to spend on that. It made me obsessive. Counting a calorie could make a 250 CANDY bar look better for me than 1 tsp Olive Oil (40 cal), I egg (~100 cal), 1 c Black Beans (227 cal).
See what I mean? A healthy lunch of a cooked egg with black beans (which I would place over a bed of greens) amounts to 413 calories. A candy bar has less calories. Anyone can see which would be the healthier choice.
my favorite ingredients :)
One day this just lit up like a lightbulb in my head and I never, ever, even so much as glanced at a caloric value (or really, any of the nutrition facts) on the packaged food I bought ever again. I cannot stress this enough: all I do is look at ingredient lists.
1) If there is one single “chemical” sounding word, then I will not buy it. That’s my vote. That’s my choice as a consumer. All you have to do is take a look.
2) If there are more than 5 ingredients, I’m skeptical. I’ll take a close look at the list and see if there are lots of herbs listed, or maybe different grains.
3) If any type of sweetener (with raw honey being the one exception) is listed as one of the first 3 ingredients, you probably won’t see me buying it.
Based on these principles, I come home with whole foods, real foods, and I feel great because of it. You might find yourself buying LESS packaged/processed foods and more of your own ingredients. Counting calories doesn’t make sense for a home cooked meal made primarily with veggies.
Give it a try!!! Become an ingredient list reader rather than a calorie counter.
I’m writing about all of this because food, health, local and organic growing has become a passion of mine in the last few years. I care about what people eat, how it’s grown, how the animals we eat are raised and the impact that big agriculture has on our environment and health.
But I never, ever, want to sound preachy or know-it-ally. That’s my worst nightmare.
Which is why, I think, I have avoided writing the next post. Yes, avoided. Can you believe it? Each day I thought to myself, eh, I can write this tomorrow. Write WHAT tomorrow, though?
Maybe I’ll share what a typical week of eating looks like? Maybe I’ll write more about the books I read that led me to eating this way. Maybe I’ll mention again how I don’t have a TV and how much better I believe my life is for it.
Maybe I’ll write nothing?
Nothing wasn’t an option. Partly because I got an e-mail from my future novel. Partly because I’m home sick today and all I have is time, tissue, and hot beverages to distract me. I knew this day would come eventually, and then I got inspired by a friend (which always happens at the most poignant of times.) My friend Jenny over at JenEric Generation posted a blog about change and not being afraid to make your blog, or life, a little bit different than it used to be. I refuse to fall into the puddle of despair!
So maybe I’ll write about all of these things, and have fun while doing it. Here we go.
More than a few people asked me to write about what I eat. This was exciting for me because it’s not like I get a crazy amount of comments or concerns or questions revolving around Hey Lou… but the ones I do get mean so much to me that I could burst.
WHAT I EAT
Don’t be disappointed, okay? I have started cooking almost all of my food, but that doesn’t mean I’m some awesome cook. I’m often told I didn’t use enough salt. I’m often told to change it up a little bit. But here are some truths:
1) I am entirely content eating the exact same thing for up to three weeks (or more). If I find something I love, I’ll just get in a groove and make it every day. Some people need more variety. I am not one of those people.
2) I don’t need a crazy amount of salt or sweetener to enjoy something. I know a girl who literally brings a sweet potato, a tiny container of peanut butter, a slice of cabbage, and a hard boiled egg for lunch. She loves to taste each thing on its own. I think that’s lovely and amazing. I don’t do quite that, but I can also use the yolk of an egg to add flavor and texture, rather than make a dressing for a salad…
3) I love to do this. Some people don’t. However, I didn’t used to love it. I learned to love it.
Recently, I’ve been able to get tons of potatoes. I get my produce primarily from my harvest box from Skarsgard, where I’m doing a farming internship, and there have been tons of potatoes for pick up, and you can even double up on that option in most cases. (Bonus to anyone who understands that lingo. Double Up Option, anyone?) ANYWAY. I have tons of potatoes. What do I do with them?
Here’s what I’ve had for breakfast and lunch for about three weeks now:
(this is a recipe that I split up for both meals, so cut in half if you want this for ONE meal)
4-5 potatoes, diced
1 onion, diced
3-4 chard, kale, or collard leaves (or throw in any green you want!) sliced or chopped
2 tomatoes, chopped
1 zucchini, sliced (or bell peppers, carrots, or anything else I happen to have at the moment)
Extra Virgin Olive Oil
Heat up a pan with the EVOO and first add the “hardest” ingredients. I always add the onion first in any recipe. Then the potatoes. Then the carrots or bell peppers or zucchini, whichever I am adding.
***Here’s a very simple trick: You’re cooking this stuff in oil, right? A great way to “steam” these items and quicken up the softening process is to have your LID ready, pour in a small amount of water, and cover with the lid quickly. It will spurt all over your kitchen and you if you don’t cover. But with the cover on, the elements in your pan will kind of go nuts, and in the process, everything will get steamed in a way that turns out awesome. Just wait a minute until everything settles down. This doesn’t take too much water.
I let these cook for a while. I like the potatoes to be black on some spots, I love for some onion to be slightly burned. I’ll use a fork to test the potatoes and carrots. Once everything is the way YOU want it, add your tomatoes and greens. These will cook and soften right away.
Lastly, add your egg. I like to make a hole in the middle of the pan, add more EVOO, and throw the egg in and scramble it in the center, then eventually mix it all together.
Occasionally, I’ll add a pinch of salt or soy sauce or curry. Occasionally.
Seriously, that’s it. Want another one? Okay. I’ll give you another one.
arugula, a giant handful
lemon juice, half a lemon
peas, frozen or fresh
Lay down your arugula. heat up the peas, pour over greens. Squeeze on the lemon juice. Cook your egg over easy and add to the salad.
It’s that easy! Folks, I ate this arugula breakfast for, NO JOKE, three months. I felt more energized than ever before. I noticed my thighs feeling a little bit… tighter. You know what I mean. To this day, I cannot eat oatmeal or cereal or a muffin for breakfast. I eat vegetables, and always with some sort of leafy green. And almost always with an egg (or two.)
Instead of just laying down a solid week of eating, I’ll give you a few recipes in each post (or every few posts, whichever happens naturally!) Sound good? Good!
On to other topics. Did anyone notice how I named this blog LIVE Like Your Life Depends On It, rather than Eat? That was due to good ol’ Jenny’s blog, and I decided to change it … just because it felt right. Eating is, in my opinion, one of the best ways to have a great life, but it’s the way we live out our days that matter most.
Kate Burn Photography
If you start off your day with vegetables (preferably organic, because who wants to start off their day with chemicals?), a walk, or some sort of movement, how could you have a bad day? That rude customer won’t seem to vile. That guy who cut you off on the highway must be having a bad day, but you sure aren’t. See what I mean? These changes happened for me little by little until one day, I was just an all around positive person. I have my “bad” days but they are rare. For the most part I’d rather laugh at a stupid joke while eating a great home-cooked meal, while pondering my next writing adventure…
WHICH LEADS ME TO THE E-MAIL I RECEIVED FROM MY FUTURE NOVEL.
It might be because the online writing group I’m a part of sends out e-mails of this kind to inspire, but I prefer to think that How We Lost Our Minds actually sent me a message from the future. From: YOUR NOVEL. Message: PLEASE WRITE ME THIS NOVEMBER.
I’m almost done with How We Lost Our Minds, so maybe this is from the next project. I still haven’t decided. It could be from the much better, clearly organized and edited, version of the current one. I guess we’ll just have to wait and see. After all, November isn’t that far away.
Even more than I cannot live without organic food and partaking in growing that food, I cannot live without writing. It’s why I have this blog. It’s why I’m trying to get published… and why I’ll never give up.
I want to live in this way because it’s the only way I know to be healthy and content.
You guys, if you don’t have a passion, that is probably what you need to change before you even think about what you’re cooking for your next meal. Without something to stay alert and active and healthy for, then a meal is just a meal. It isn’t charging you up for the life you want, is it? This is me trying to hard not to be preachy, but to be inspirational. I’ve shared with you all how unhappy I was before I changed the way I eat, but I realized that at almost the exact same time I changed my eating lifestyle, I also began to WRITE.
They went hand in hand. They are both such a large part of my life, that I’d be lost without the other.
I can’t explain why loving my characters and what they go through connects so strongly with what I put into my body, but it does.
What do YOU have that is worth staying healthy for? What changes have you made? Who do you want to inspire?
Eat Like Your Life Depends On It Blog Series… here we go for round Three.
If you’ve read about how I used to eat, how much I weighed and how I felt about it, then you know that I wanted a change.
If you’ve read about how I started to change the way I eat and the “rules” I began to follow, then you know that I wanted that change to be drastic, yet totally realistic.
Here are my goals for this post:
NOT to sound like a crazy conspiracy theorist… and yeah. That’s pretty much the only goal.
OH! And also, to inspire and possibly lead to some new pondering thoughts for anyone who reads it.
So far I’ve talked about :
the weight I gained, the acne I painfully and embarrassingly made it through, and the bad mood I was perpetually in … all due to what I ate. There are always other factors, sure, but don’t all of those also directly relate to what we eat? Life is always stressful in some ways. I wanted to never let stress cause me to have a bad relationship with food ever again.
the book I read, The Omnivore’s Dilemma by Michael Pollan.
the changes I began to make, following some simple food rules and maintaining a positive and hopeful attitude.
Now is when I want to get real. I want to tell you guys just how overwhelmed I was at the start of it all. It’s all fine and dandy to have a good attitude and a smile. But someone close to me (again, POOR Greg!) was lucky enough to see the freak out moments… the moments where I panicked.
These were not the types of panics you might be imagining.
The adrenaline rushes and the overwhelming feeling that everything was going to hell in the food world caught me unaware. All of a sudden I was reading about the treatment of factory “farm” animals, the engineering and modification of our precious food, and the way it was affecting people and the environment.
Now. I’ve always considered myself to be level headed. In many ways, you could call me conservative, though I usually want to leave politics OFF of Hey Lou and stay on more uplifting topics. (Let me also note here that I think words like “conservative” and “conventional” are drastically different these days than the ideals they are really meant to represent. Isn’t living sort of a hippy lifestyle and growing your own food “conservative?” Anyway.)
On the same note, now I guess I have lots of ways of living that could cause someone to point at me and call me liberal. Or libertarian. Or a damn hippy. Or whatever the heck you want to call it.
I’d call myself completely un-trusting of any of those titles… and I’m just me.
Though the more I read into food and big agriculture and big animal operations, the more political it got. The more depressing it got.
TRUTH? I couldn’t even finish The Omnivore’s Dilemma the first time I read it. Because it overwhelmed me. I could no longer trust certain aspects of life that I thought I could. I looked at the glossy apple at the regular grocery store differently. I looked at the Manager Special half-off steak differently.
If you want to know the truth about why, just pick up a book about the food system. But I can almost promise you that it won’t be anything you haven’t heard of before. What I want to know is this:
Even though most people are aware of the fact that animals are stuffed and overpopulated and kept in completely unsanitary conditions throughout their lives, for the sake of OUR dinners, WHY is anyone okay with it?
Someone told me recently, a reminder perhaps, that I can’t put human emotions on to an animal. They don’t have the same thought process as us.
What I will do, then, is look at the facts.
Animals have instinct, yeah? They do. Probably a better survival instinct than most humans. Even if a chicken cannot think, “Oh my, what’s happened here? I must be in an awful situation and therefore I’m sad,” I believe that the same chicken can do this: Sense that something is wrong.
The same goes for any animal, especially ones we eat. Nothing healthy happens when humans are stressed out. Toxins are released in our bodies and all kinds of bad things happen. Why should an animal be any different? If an animal has lived a stressful life, completely out of its natural environment (like… in a building…) how can you tell me that this animal isn’t at least a little bit stressed out? (If not SAD about it, too?)
Cows were meant to graze freely on grass. Chickens were meant to peck around at insects and fresh greens and have plenty of space to do it. Pigs are actually very clean animals with a keener sense of smell than dogs. Now picture these animals in feed lots, surrounded by their own waste. Picture them surrounded by loud animals of the same kind, with barely any room to move. Imagine a chicken who has been pumped with hormones and can literally never walk around… the thing I KNOW chickens love to do?
PROOF! Ray Bradbury… running through the yard.
It breaks my heart, guys. It really does. It doesn’t take something drastic to have a say … to have a vote… for what will go on with livestock in the future. Choosing meat that came from an honest farmer, spending more on that meat while eating less of it (maybe twice a week? maybe once a week? maybe a small portion of your meal, rather than the main event?), and being a good example for others is all it takes. If each person in our generation said NO to large factory farms and made conscious decisions about what went into their mouths, we could start a revolution.
You wouldn’t even have to make a sign and attend a protest. All you have to do is cook an awesome meal each day!! HOOOORAY! That’s good news, no?
It’s not just the treatment of animals that gets me in a tizzy, either. It’s the land used all over the world in order to grow enough corn to feed these animals, who, by the way, shouldn’t even eat corn. It’s the nitrogen and waste infiltrating our water supply (wonder why your tomato has a problem? probably because the water used to grow it had cow you-know-what in it), it’s the excuse of “solving world hunger” that GMOs use, when really, the majority of them go to feed livestock. It’s the fact that if you take a seed that has been engineered in a laboratory, you can’t regrow that plant freely. (More on Genetically Modified [Engineered] Organisms in a post to come…)
All of that can be changed. I’ll never stop believing in that.
a happy family of cows :)
Changing the DNA of our seeds, essentially torturing the animals that grace this Earth for us to shepherd and take care of, well, it overwhelms me. It makes me wonder WHO can sleep at night, if this is something they are actually a part of. It makes me wonder just how much money is involved (LOTS…) and it makes me want to make a stand.
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:
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:
Do it flamboyantly.
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!)
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.
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.
So much love,
* 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!!
“So that’s us: processed corn, walking.” Michael Pollan, The Omnivore’s Dilemma
Alright, guys. I’m about to tell you a bit of my past. It might sound normal to you, but to me, it’s like a far-off-distant-past-that-seems-so-fake-I-can’t-believe-it.
So here goes nothin’.
I’d say that the Melinda I’m about to describe existed from about the ages of 17-22. Five years of my life that went totally out of whack. My parents fed us home cooked meals. I could count on all my digits how many times I’d had fast food growing up. Sweets like pop-tarts were a Sunday-morning-only treat. I grew up in a very healthy household.
It was only once I began to drive and buy my own food that I started to have issues.
These issues included:
-Upset stomach (allllll the time. it was shocking)
-Feelings of self-consciousness
My problems began with my skin. I don’t have pictures from the worst of my acne, but I have plenty of pictures of the “treatment” I had. I was on three types of medication to control it. I remember finally showing my family my face without any makeup on, and they were all surprised how bad it had gotten. My mom took me to the dermatologist, who gave me 3 chemical peels and prescriptions galore. My skin was always red like this:
If you look closely, you can see the red around my mouth and cheeks. I had lots of makeup on to cover it up. It hurt, badly. I didn’t want to wash my face because of how red it would become. I didn’t let Greg touch my face. At all. Talk about sad.
Oh, and my skin problems started the year I began driving to McDonald’s every once in a while. And when I started buying microwave meals (think Lean Cuisine and the “cheaper versions”) once I moved out of my parents’ house.
Then, one day, I stepped on the scale. I’d been a solid 150 lbs since I was 15 years old. I was the same… same… same. I thought I was invincible when it came to weight. I felt good. But then one day, my sophomore year of college (age 19) I stepped on the scale and I weighed 169.
Okay. I hate this part of what I’m writing. Mostly because I am totally aware that for some, 169 does not mean heavy. For some, it is their goal weight. But I guess all I can say is that this is my story, and 19 pounds heavier was 19 pounds too much. I could feel it.
although I did once eat hot dogs, this picture is featuring a carrot for the horse ;)
In all of these pictures, I weighed my heaviest. Again, I know that some people might look at these and think nothing of it. But I had extra weight around my neck and arms, etc, that weighed me down in every sense of the word. I just knew I wasn’t healthy. I was angry a lot. Poor Greg.
Yet, I had no idea how I could change.
A typical day of eating might have looked like this for me:
Breakfast: 2 bowls of a whole wheat cereal, like Wheaties or Cracklin’ Oat Bran. Whole milk. Coffee.
Snack: Fruit Roll Up
Lunch: Lean Cuisine (or 2) or if I had done any kind of workout, I’d probably cook a ton of whole wheat pasta and dump tomato sauce on top. Milk.
Snack: Chips and salsa, sometimes with cheese
Dinner: Pasta or Rice with a Hamburger Helper meal, buttery shrimp, or simply a baguette with cheese and fruit. More milk. Maybe more coffee.
That sounds good, right? I mean, I wasn’t eating candy. I was eating whole grains. I was eating some fruit, some veggies, and drinking tons of milk. Why was I gaining weight?
Oh, and at my heaviest, I was also doing P90X… and if any of you have done that, you know how tough it is.
NONE OF IT MADE SENSE TO ME. Why was my skin dependent on medication, and even when “clear,” painfully healing? Why did I feel like a puffier version of myself? Why did I take all of my insecurities out on my own boyfriend, who then became my husband?
Because I was eating processed food.
It all comes down to that, though it took me years to learn it.
Step One came when Greg got a job at Whole Foods. I know everyone and their mom loves to dump on Whole Foods right now, but I don’t really get it. Sure, the company isn’t perfect. But they do offer a lot of good options that other, “regular” grocery stores don’t. If my city didn’t have a WF, you can bet my next stop would be the local Coop. Or any Farmer’s Market I could drive to within an hour.
Greg came home his first week of work with something new to tell me each day. “Wow, did you know that there’s this company called Monsanto who is trying to control seeds? Have you ever heard of High Fructose Corn Syrup? Did you know Whole Foods doesn’t allow HFCS in their stores?”
Those questions of his got my attention. I wondered…. what was this all about? Does this stuff matter? How radical would it be to cut out HFCS? To make all of my own food from scratch?
It seemed too daunting to consider. And then I read the book that changed my life. Have you ever had one of those Earth shattering moments when time stops, planets align, and you become so overwhelmed that you can hardly breathe? That happened to me when I read The Omnivore’s Dilemma by Michael Pollan. Hey, I’m an omnivore. I feel a dilemma when it comes to what I eat. Maybe this book would tell me something.
And boy, did it.
“Very simply, we subsidize high-fructose corn syrup in this country, but not carrots. While the surgeon general is raising alarms over the epidemic of obesity, the president is signing farm bills designed to keep the river of cheap corn flowing, guaranteeing that the cheapest calories in the supermarket will continue to be the unhealthiest.” Michael Pollan, The Omnivore’s Dilemma
(And then the President signed a Monsanto Protection Act, and on that day, I bawled my eyes out. More on that later)
I’ll start with corn. Corn, by itself, is fine. It’s just food. And High Fructose Corn Syrup, it can be argued, is just another sugar. What makes this a problem? The problem starts when corn infiltrates all processed food. Have you checked out your can of soup lately? Your box of crackers? Your fruit snack? Your favorite cereal? Chances are at least one of these two things are happening inside:
1) Some sort of corn product is there
2) At least one scientific word, if not twenty of them, are listed in the ingredients
Did you go run to your pantry yet? Did you read the labels? Are you seeing this? (Here is a great link that lists all the hidden names corn can be labeled under.)
I did. I read that book, and practically fainted when I looked at what my own kitchen held. The ingredient lists smirked at me with their secret scientific words… they became a mystery to me. A scary mystery. Even my makeup had Zia Mais (Maize, Mays) listed as an ingredient. I felt trapped by corn. I felt like there was no way out of the corn maze that has become this country’s food system. (not to mention how detrimental the over-planting of corn has become to the environment. nitrogen in the Mississippi River, folks. corn fattening up cows, who are NOT happy. this is not pretty.)
When corn is converted into so many different types of foods, many of which are “sugars,” then guess what? That “healthy” item you picked up for dinner might as well have sugar dumped all over it. Those sugars add up. Just look around… just think about the obesity epidemic. When did it start? Just about the same time as big agriculture got a handle on controlling the food system.
“But that’s the challenge — to change the system more than it changes you.” Michael Pollan, The Omnivore’s Dilemma
So I didn’t let it change me. Instead, I chose to get POSITIVE, get PROACTIVE, get COOKING… and start making everything from scratch. (later, things will get more in depth. this will include organic food, where to buy this food, why it matters, etc. for now…. we’re just talkin’ REAL)
Next blog will be my adventure (with failures, triumphs, and smiles) with our Williams’ household pledge to cut out processed food and start eating real, whole food.