In this post I’ll tackle the first five of the ten questions I posted as my biggest hitters when people ask me about food.
1. You’ve lost a lot of weight. How did you do it?
Richard and I made the decision to cut processed foods and chemical additives out of our lifestyle, and eat only whole, organic foods. This means organic produce, legumes and grains, as well as humanely raised and pastured meats and eggs, We drink plain water, and occasionally Richard has an herbal tea. We eat dairy, but much less than we used to. We try to keep dairy consumption to under 15% of our diet. We do have “junk food” occasionally, such as whole wheat bread and whole wheat cookies, but only if we make them. At this point, I’m usually getting an unbelieving, slightly horrified stare.
2. How did you get started on this kick?
After about six months of seeing the documentary Fat, Sick and Nearly Dead available on Netflix, I finally watched it. It was an eye-opener. It is about a guy from Australia who was feeling sick, and fat, and unhealthy, and decided to go on a juice fast for 60 days. It chronicles his journey through the 60 days from fat and sick to healthy and bright-eyed. The message made sense, deep inside me. It’s such a simple concept: What you eat MATTERS. I urged Richard to watch it. After he watched it, we decided to juice fast for a week. We made it four days, and in that time we had reevaluated our entire food lifestyle. We finally got clarity, and joined forces to steer our family toward decades of good health and mental vibrancy, and away from decades of steady, incremental decline in health.
3. Did you start doing this to lose weight?
We initially started our juice fast to kick-start our weight loss, but by the end of four days we had gained a vision of a food lifestyle that didn’t include counting calories or fat grams. It was so much simpler than that. Eat lots of plants. Eat local, humanely raised meat, where you know the conditions the animals live in. Eat dairy in the same manner. We are finding as we embrace plants more, we eat less meat, and less dairy, naturally.
4. Organic’s so expensive. Do you really think it’s worth it?
I think this question usually assumes an apples-to-apples comparison. It’s not quite that simple, at least it wasn’t for us.
Before we started on this new lifestyle I went out for lunch at work everyday; subs, chinese, pizza, local restaurants, etc. When we grocery shopped we’d always buy a couple of frozen pizzas for my mom to feed the kids when Richard and I went on our Friday date nights. Abby likes crackers so into the grocery cart they’d go, as well as tortilla chips, goldfish crackers, fruit snacks, and always some sort of candy. We’d also get some fresh produce (half of which usually went bad before we used it), 3 gallons of milk for the week, pre-shredded cheese (more expensive than a block of cheese), canned vegetables, and processed breakfast cereals. Tortillas made it easy to have a build-your-own-taco night. Richard and my Friday night date nights always included a dinner out.
So, now we compare that to our usual activities and purchases. I bring a lunch everyday at work, and it’s usually a green salad or leftovers from the dinner the night before. Today it was two organic small red potatoes to heat in the microwave at work, with a little pastured butter, organic sour cream, and finished with pink sea salt and pepper. I brought an organic orange, an organic apple, a small container of raw walnuts, and my two juice bottles for the day. So that’s the sort of thing I do for lunches now. It doesn’t cost me anything but leftovers or produce on hand.
When we go out on date nights, we eat at home first. We have our family meal of good whole foods, and leave afterwards to go do something fun like visit a book store, or see a movie, or scout out new organic grocery sources in the area that maybe we’ve heard about but never visited. We spend a lot less money and have just as great a connecting evening together as we ever did before, and our kids aren’t eating the frozen pizzas.
Crackers, bread, goldfish crackers, fruit snacks, tortillas, pre-shredded cheese etc. are all processed foods and don’t get into our cart anymore.
All of these changes together have made ample room (and room to spare) in our budget for organic produce, and to obtain meat and dairy from local and sustainability-minded land stewards. This year we joined our first CSA (Community Supported Agriculture) farm and are looking forward to forging more relationships in the concious-eating community.
As for the organic products themselves, and what benefits they offer: I think it’s worth it if for no other reason than to detox your body in the intial stages of this change. I felt like I had been deluging my body with chemicals, unhealthily-raised meat, processed foods, and so many other terrible foods, that I needed to detox all the pesticides and junk that had built up over the decades. We still juice veggies and fruit for two of our meals, which we consider a medicine. The nutrition we get from the juices helps our cells work optimally to process the food we consume. I also think that organic is especially important for kids, because the ratio of what they eat compared to their body size is much different than that of an adult. They also can’t process toxins as efficiently as an adult because they’re physically smaller and less developed. I realize that being certified USDA Organic does not erase the problems created by that very certification, but even factory farms that are certified organic are more sustainable than non-organic.
5. So, what IS ok to eat?
I love this question, because then I get to talk about all the wonderful things we are eating now. Changing to this food lifestyle is a bounty; it in no way feels like any deprivation such as you might experience on a typical restriction diet. I feel like we have the best food we’ve ever eaten, every single day. These days, going out to eat is the almost unavoidable result of obligation (usually work or family related), resulting in a struggle to find something to eat, and it’s frustrating and irritating to be spending more money on less nutritional quality. Dissatisfying in every way, except the time spent with good company. Given the choice between big-farm organic or small-farm local non-certified organic, but who take their role as stewards of land, animal integrity, and sustainable agriculture seriously, I’d take the non-organic local product any day of the week.
I know this post is a little rambly, but I’m still figuring out what makes sense for me and my family, and putting it into publishable-quality form isn’t my goal. It’s to try to convey our sense of purpose, and our struggles, in a way that might resonate with you.
Let me know what you think; leave me a comment. If you’re on this food train, why and how? If you’re not, what do you think about that? Where are you on the spectrum of interest in this lifestyle? Or are you just overwhelmed and enjoy reading about it but know you’d never find the iron will it would take to change all of these things at once? Just curious. Let’s have a dialogue.
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