A Year on Real Food

Losing weight was my initial goal when this journey began. However, as my focus shifted towards better health, my weight became less important.  I had a feeling that if I made healthier choices, the weight would take care of itself. Once we became more conscious about the quality and kind of food we were eating, the weight slowly, steadily melted away on it’s own, just as I suspected it would. Before I knew it, it was August and I felt like a different person. I’d lost 30 pounds eating the best food I’d ever eaten in my life. We vacationed that month, and it was the first time in over a decade that I’d worn a swimsuit without covering up and feeling ashamed… and it was a bikini to boot.

The girls continue to surprise me. Just last night, I made chili, something Haleigh has adamantly refused to eat. I used to let the kids off the hook if it was something they really hated. Gradually though, I’ve been discouraging it. This was the first time I told Haleigh that she’d have to eat it. She didn’t argue, and afterward she told me that she “didn’t love it”, but that she also “didn’t hate it”. London (almost three years old) only played with the chili, but she did eat the jalapeno cornbread. It was a bit spicy so I told her she didn’t have to eat it, but she wanted to anyway. A few days ago we had a slightly spicier, but delicious jalapeno bread. She desperately wanted to eat it, but just couldn’t handle the heat. She tearfully gave up. So last night they both made progress. If you have a picky eater at home, don’t lose hope! I read somewhere that kids have to be exposed to a food something like 15 times before they can learn to eat it. Wonder if that theory holds true for adults – like maybe with… liver?

Liver and Onions

Getting the family on board was not easy. It was a very rocky start, and even now we encounter an occasional bump in the road. Especially since many of the changes are unconventional and so different from the standard American diet, which we had been eating up until then. But I was persistent and in the end, it boiled down to this: the menu was my decision since I shop for and prepare the meals. Then, finally, a turning point. A couple of months in, Brian and I began dropping weight steadily. Compliments and questions about how we were doing it came from everyone, everywhere. The proof was in the pudding. All of my hard work and persistence paid off. Brian was finally on board.

So what exactly did we do? First we cut out the junk food and stopped eating out, then gradually, nearly all processed food – from snacks and boxed sides dishes and meals to frozen entrees. I was counting calories and paying attention to portions sizes (eye opener). We started eating more vegetables and fruits and less meat and carbs. We were eating and drinking more nutritionally packed foods like fennel, greens, more seafood, green tea, plus some we’d never heard of before, like quinoa, acai berry juice, imo (Japanese sweet potatoes). It was a lot of fun experimenting and trying these new foods. We avoided high fructose corn syrup and other refined carbs like the plague, which was easily done just by staying away from processed food.

As we took each step, we went all in at first. Then gradually, as we gained control, we’d start making some allowances. I don’t count calories anymore, but I do avoid over eating high calorie foods. I no longer attempt to cram as many nutritionally packed foods as I can into each meal, but we do eat them daily. We don’t eat processed foods often, but we don’t avoid them like the plague either. We save them for special occasions, usually when we’re away from home. We still rarely eat fast food, but we do occasionally eat at restaurants with healthy options.

Here are a few key things I’ve learned.

  • Get the kids involved. Sharing the responsibility and the experience has benefited the entire family. It’s a great way to spend time together, and letting them help prepare food is probably the best tool in getting them to eat and appreciate food.
  • Buying organic produce, free range chicken and eggs and pastured meat really is important and not just a popular food fad for yuppies and foodies.
  • Buying local food that’s in season is better if it’s available. It’s more sustainable to support local, smaller farms, and in case you need a “what’s in it for me” –  your food will taste better, have more nutrients and stay fresher longer. Farmers markets are a great resource, not just for buying food but also for learning about food.
  • Mother Nature/God really knows what she’s doing. When humans go tinkering around with her work, it usually backfires. Real food is unadulterated.

Throughout the year there have been many bonuses that I didn’t expect. I’ve discovered that I love gardening. Keeping a garden is an economical way to get fresh, organically grown produce. It’s rewarding to nurture something that will eventually nourish you and it fosters an appreciation toward food and nature. I think it’s also a pretty cool way get in a little exercise outdoors.

Child Shelling Beans

I definitely didn’t expect this to be a spiritual experience. But it has been. Growing our own food, visiting farms and farmers market, eating seasonally and locally, preparing and cooking meals from scratch, exploring new foods and methods and eating well – and doing it together as a family – all feels ethereal to me.  Becoming reacquainted with these traditional food practices and passing them down to my children (instead of the standard American Diet) just does something for the soul. There is harmony in nature. There is nothing harmonious about a box of dry, crunchy, reconfigured corn, no matter how many ways they shape, color or flavor it.


About Michele
Wife and Mom of three girls doing her best to lead the family into a healthier lifestyle and evolve gracefully.

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