Since this is the first Real Food Wednesday I’ve participated in, I thought I’d share my journey to real food.
I’ve been a ridiculously picky eater as far back as I can remember. I didn’t like vegetables, sauces, meat that had even the slightest piece of fat on it, food that was mixed with other food, and a whole slew of other things. However, when there was something I liked I ate it…and ate it, and ate it, and ate it. I could put away quite a bit for my small frame. I LOVED McDonald’s. Since both of my parents were teachers with busy schedules, I was always begging to stop there. Not that my mom wasn’t a great cook, because she definitely is, but like I said–I was super picky.
I’ve always been blessed with a fast metabolism (thanks Grandma), which I’m definitely grateful for. The downside is that I could eat things like, oh, an entire Little Caesar’s pizza or a double Big Mac with Super Sized fries, and not notice any difference. I hated water and drank lots of soda and chocolate milk. I wasn’t a complete pig, but I definitely didn’t hold back when there was something that I liked.
When I went to college I took full advantage of the options that the cafeteria offered. Every day after my lunch, I had dessert: waffles with ice cream and strawberry syrup. I still cringe thinking about how I ate like that almost every day for a year, but at the time it just seemed like a special treat. Only, every day. Looking back at my student ID, my face was definitely a little fuller when I started sophomore year, but again, I had no real weight gain and no urge to change my eating habits.
On spring break my sophomore year, I read Fast Food Nation. Wow. It pretty much rocked my world. I had never really thought much about food, I just knew what I liked and what I didn’t like and figured as long as I didn’t eat candy all the time, I’d be A-OK. The realization of just how unhealthy and fake many of the things I ate were hit me like a brick. I swore off McDonald’s completely–I’ve only eaten there twice since (out of necessity). Not that Wendy’s or Burger King are any better (I try to avoid them too), but for me McDonald’s symbolizes everything wrong about the way I had been consuming food.
I moved out of the dorms that year and started cooking more of my own food. I still used a lot of box mixes and frozen meals, but I avoided fast/junk food and started drinking water. Caleb and I cooked a lot of our meals together and I started experimenting more and more with what we made.
When I moved to Florida, I became friends with some fabulous vegetarians and gave vegetables a run for their money. Thanks to Community Dinner, a weekly potluck started by my friends Chris and Erin, I had the opportunity to try a crazy variety of food. After Caleb and I got married, we went “flexitarian” for a while (mainly to save money): we still ate meat, we just never bought it at the store or cooked it at home. We ate that way for over a year, and I expanded my cooking even more by finding some great vegetarian food blogs.
Last summer, I started reading some new food and homemaking blogs that talked a lot about Westin A. Price and Nourishing Traditions. As I began to read about eating traditional foods and learned how processed many of even the “healthy” supermarket foods are, I felt like I had a second food “reawakening.” Realizing that many of the diseases that plague us today are fairly new (and multiplying so quickly), coupled with some family members dealing with heart disease caused me to dig even deeper into food research.
What I discovered is just how political the food industry truly is. The FDA board is a merry-go-round of agro-business executives, funding the very studies they’re supposed to critique. Corn and high fructose corn syrup, along with MSG and a variety of other chemicals are in 80% of supermarket foods, something we’re only beginning to see the effects of. Add to that the fat myth and the cursing of traditional fats and oils and it was easy to see just how twisted the food industry has become.
Now that I truly understand that what I put in my body has a profound affect on my health, I’ve made increasingly bigger changes in what I buy and what we eat. This year we started drinking raw milk, eating eggs from a friend’s chickens, and buying most of our vegetables from local farmers. There are so many things I’d still like to do (make kefir, make more homemade stock, ferment vegetables) and I’m continuing to raise the bar for what we eat.
I do this not to be “elitist” or because I worship nature, but because I want to take care of the body the God has blessed me with. I want to help my family to be healthy and to nourish our bodies with the foods God created for us. And I’m by no means perfect! We definitely live by the “80/20 rule”: eat the best we can 80% of the time and go with the flow for the other 20%. I will always be grateful for any food shared with me by others, no matter where it came from. Because even though food is important, people matter more.
I plan on doing more posts focusing on different aspects of eating real food, but if you’re interested, here are a few of my favorite resources:
Fast Food Nation
In Defense of Food by Michael Pollan
Nourishing Traditions by Sally Fallon and Mary G. Enig
Fast Food Nation by Eric Schlosser
Animal, Vegetable, Miracle by Barbara Kingsolver
Jamie’s Food Revolution by Jamie Oliver