Being The Change

Hey! There's food in this food.

Hey! There’s food in this food.

“Be the change that you wish to see in the world.” ~Mahatma Gandhi

There’s something about turning 45 that has made me take a good, hard look at my life. Maybe it’s because I did the math and realized, if I’m lucky, I literally am at midlife. Maybe it’s because I’m starting to notice changes to my body that a few trips to the gym will no longer be able to cure like sagging flesh and wrinkles in places there were none before. Maybe it’s because I’m beginning to hear that I creak and crack more than a rusty-hinged shutter in a dust storm. In any case, over the past year, I’ve put greater focus on my food choices. Fueled by the notion that I might perhaps be gluten intolerant, I began changing my eating habits. My plan was to mostly eliminate wheat (I still need a decent piece of NY style pizza on occasion), cut way back on sugar, and completely ban artificial sweeteners. Along the way, I’ve begun paying better attention to where my food comes from and what is in it. I’ve pushed the food with no food in it to the back of the pantry and filled the crisper drawers with organics. And true to everything I’ve read, I have found that I feel better. I sleep better. I don’t have midday energy crashes. The amount of Tums I consume is at an all-time low. I’m happier and have fewer mood swings. I’m feeling better now and am healthier than I was 20 years ago.

Up until this point, I’ve made these changes mostly for myself while simply trying to do right by my children. This can be difficult, however, when the little buggers are on the very bottom end of the growth chart and are exceedingly fussy. We have struggled just to get our kids to eat anything. Our youngest child is the worst. The. Worst. Luke has a horrible gag reflex (mostly psychological) and the kid can look at a food he finds unappealing and throw up. It’s unbelievable. Nothing like having to put up a cardboard barrier around your son so the sight of your quinoa with kale doesn’t make him puke on the dinner table. So, I’ve been sneaking in their dietary changes bit by bit. I’ve been slowly reducing the amount of non-food food I buy and increasing the healthier items. I realized that cleaning out the pantry one day of all the foods I have for years allowed and replacing candy, cookies, and goldfish crackers with yogurt from happy cows, Lara bars, and organic cheddar bunnies would be too much of a shock. I understand I cannot build Rome in a day, so I decided to view this change for our family as a food journey. We’re in the slow lane on the road to healthier habits. We’ll get there…eventually.

A while back I watched the documentary Food, Inc. It scared me more than The Shining and, for a while, the memory of it kept me in line at the grocery store. It kept me from being cheap and easy with my food choices. Over time, though, the memory faded and I got lazy. Then I decided to read Fast Food Nation, which reiterated exactly how important my food choices are, and I started to pay better attention. Well, last night I rented Food, Inc. again for a refresher course in where our food comes from. As I sat in my room watching it carefully, the boys were wandering in and out. The more they watched, the more wide eyed they became. Today in the car on the way to school it was still on their minds.

“I’m sorry, but fish should not be eating corn,” Joe said out of the blue. “That’s just wrong.”

“I agree, Joe. Cows shouldn’t be eating it either.”

“Meat scares me too,” he continued. “I think I want to be a vegetarian.”

“You can do that if you want, but you don’t need to be a vegetarian. We can make better choices. It will cost more money and we’ll have to eat less meat, but you don’t have to totally give up eating your dad’s famous homemade chicken nuggets. We just need to tweak the ingredients a bit.”

“Well, I don’t like thinking that our food is all chemicals. It’s creepy,” he said.

“It is creepy. It’s not just the pesticides on the fresh food we need to think about, though. It’s the additives, flavors, and food dyes too. We need to pay better attention to what is going into our food because what is going into our food is going into our bodies and these are the only bodies we get.”

Then, out of nowhere, the world’s pickiest eater piped up.

“I want to eat healthier,” Luke chimed in.

“You’ll have to start trying more fruits and vegetables. And we’ll have to change the brands of foods you’ve been eating to healthier alternatives,” I reminded him.

“I’ll try,” he said. “It seems like a good idea.”

Indeed it is. I am happy to see that as we travel down this slow road to healthier food they’ve finally closed the car doors and are prepared for the journey. Luke doesn’t realize it yet, but he’s already been eating healthier. That new homemade apple-cinnamon bread I’ve been making and he’s been devouring is made without sugar, oil, or wheat flour. Everything in it is organic, real food with actual nutritional value. I just neglected to tell him that. I figure what he doesn’t know will definitely help him.

The more you read about our food supply, the scarier it gets. But changing our food system seems an insurmountable task. I mean, which one of us is prepared to take on Monsanto, Coca-Cola, Kraft, or Tyson? Now I’m never going to be one of those folks who is 100% healthy about my food choices because, well, sometimes I just need to eat some dang Skittles. (What doesn’t kill you makes you stronger, right?) But I understand that the only way to change the food industry is through one consumer at a time. I cannot expect the food industry to produce healthier, cleaner, less toxic meat, produce, dairy, and boxed foods unless I tell them with my choices that better food matters to me, at least most of the time. I want my kids to eat better, so I have to eat better to set the right example. For changes to occur, it has to start with the little guy. If a bunch of us little guys start making bigger demands, things might change. Lest they forget, the food industry works for us. As Gandhi suggested, we need to be the change we wish to see in the world. No matter what we hope to change, our food, our health, our career, our attitude, we have to start somewhere or we’ll get nowhere.

20 comments

  1. Bravo Girlfriend!!! Look up anything on you tube about GMO’s – that makes the whole thing even scarier- as they are everywhere- i just learned yesterday they are in our vitamins. ANd the more organic you go, any health issues you guys have – you will notice a difference. I stopped eating meat ( for the most part, I still can’t always pass up a taquito) last June, and then milk , and I have never felt this good in my entire life.
    You can reach people with your blog- Im so glad you wrote about this!!!! ( plus I miss reading it!
    maggie

    1. Thanks, Maggie. I’ve only been at it a couple months and I see a difference. I know the GMOs are everywhere and I doubt I’ll be able to rid myself of them all, but at least if I eliminate some or most I’m that much better off.

  2. Yay! Great post! My family started eating primarily organic a little over a year ago after watching Food Inc. A lot of our family thinks we’re nuts, but we’re a lot healthier than they are! My husband lost over 50 lbs, just by changing his diet and we’ve noticed the same changes you mentioned like better mood and overall increase in energy. A great company I’ve found (since making this change) is Door to Door Organics. It’s like a CSA, but with more flexibility to swap things out or cancel your order for a week if need be. And my favorite part is that they deliver right to your door! I’m in MI and I know that they also deliver in a few other states. Anyway, thanks again for your post! 🙂
    ~Jen

    1. Jen…we love Door-to-Door Organics. Found them a couple years ago because of a Groupon. Because of them we’ve started trying veggies we’d never had before like kale, chard, and different squashes. That’s great about your family’s changes and your hubby’s weight loss. I think that as more people start making changes, we’ll bring others along and bit by bit we’ll change this country. Fingers crossed, anyway. Thanks for your comment!

      1. How cool is that? I love that D2DO has recipes on their site too. That way if I want to try some weird vegetable I’ve never heard of before, at least there’s some ideas as to how to eat them! 😉

  3. As long as you are making conscious decisions about your food choices, I think that is the best you can do for your body.

    I read a report the other day about caffeine levels in fresh water being higher because of locations to coffee bean farms. I am not ready to give up coffee, but I was not happy to find out the environmental impact of drinking coffee : (

    1. Everything really is tied together in one way or another. I hadn’t heard that about the water, but it does make you think how much one thing can impact something else. Thanks for the reminder!

  4. Another good food documentary is Hungry for Change. We watched it on Netflix and enjoyed it. Not quite as scary as Food Inc.

  5. Girl, you and I are one in the same. The scale hit 309lbs and a girl my age (33) had a stroke in her classroom. The cause: an increase in fast food consumption after having her first baby. If it happened to her, it could happen to me. I decided to change. I joined Crossfit. There is major Zen in Crossfit. I ate Paleo (hunter-gatherer type lifestyle). The elimination of gluten has changed my life. My daughter and I eat as organically as possible. I am a single momma and I cut corners some places. I join you in being the change I want to see in the world. ~ Kristi

    1. Awesome, Kristi! My zen is yoga and any outdoor exercise I can get (skiing, snowshoeing, hiking, etc). It’s amazing how much happier and more “even keel” you become by eliminating food-like representations and eating real food instead. Congrats to you for taking charge of your life. I love knowing I am not alone!

  6. Love, love, love! We have been trying to eat healthier since I became pregnant and we are never going back! We love our local farmer’s market and food co-op. I am so pleased to hear your picky one is getting on board. It so reminded me of a famous family story of my hubby throwing up squash as a child – still makes him gag. Good luck with the journey!

  7. It never ceases to amuse me, to hear people talk about how expensive it is to buy better, fresher, even organic foods.
    Have you priced a case of liver cancer or a heart bypass recently?

    Be at peace,

    Paz

  8. I was going to say, “Oh, no, don’t let them read this or they’ll find out!” until you mentioned that they decided to eat healthier by themselves. I’ve been trying to eat healthier, too, step by step. You are right, though. It costs to eat healthier, so i just try to find a way around it.

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