Someone emailed me some questions today and I told her I’d post the answers here.
What got you started on your food journey?
So many things. I have always cooked mostly from scratch because I am a cheapskate, food-loving tree-hugger at heart. I don’t like the cost or the packaging or taste that comes with most convenience foods so I’ve never made pancakes or cornbread from a mix. But I never gave much thought to the additives or chemicals that were in the foods I bought or my diet overall. Over the years, things happen and caused me to examine what we were doing. My oldest son has some medical problems (one of which is ADHD) that I learned might be helped with a more natural diet. My mother (who has struggled with her weight for almost forty years) was diagnosed with type II diabetes about ten years ago. Then I started having problems with my lady business. And after having a couple of kids, I was fifty pounds heavier than before I had them. Wasn’t a happy place to be.
My son went on medication which has helped him immensely but his therapist also recommended some dietary changes that he thought would help, like eliminating dyes and additives. First to go was high fructose corn syrup. It was near-mutiny when he realized that would spell the end of Hershey’s Syrup and Pop-Tarts. But he lived. Then I cut the white flour, sugar, rice, and potatoes. And because I knew I was at risk for diabetes, I started going to the gym at lunch. My oldest went from being a discipline problem to an honor roll student, I lost twenty pounds, my lady business was back on schedule, and we all felt much better.
Alongside these health concerns is a concern for the environment and what we can do as a family to do our part. We swapped out our light bulbs, started recycling, bought used cars instead of new ones, and we started shopping locally for food. I started hearing book buzz at work and online about The Omnivore’s Dilemma by Michael Pollan. People were talking about it and when I read it, it crystallized the concepts I’d been working towards perfectly. I stopped buying nearly all processed foods and most importantly, I stopped buying industrially produced meats. His next book, In Defense of Food, further clarified what I thought we should be doing and I tried hard to stick to a plant-based real food diet.
But I still had to face the fact that my husband wasn’t about to give up his crackers, bread, chips, and big portions. It’s hard to row the boat straight when not everyone is rowing in the same direction. So very hard. I was going to the gym and eating better but I was stuck at the same weight. My blood pressure and blood sugar were great and I was ok with where I was. Not overjoyed but not unhappy. Then my husband’s squadron told them they’d have to start wearing blues on Mondays – a very different kind of uniform than the baggy (and roomy) flightsuit he was used to wearing every day. He hadn’t tried to wear his blues in months. He put the pants on and they nearly cut him in two. That’s when he came to me and said, “Honey, what do I do? I’m ready.” Hoo, boy! The last, and hardest step, was to change our diet to one that focused on plants. We found that the Volumetrics plan fit our lifestyle and philosophy the best. We had already been eating far less meat than we used to but this plan works on lowering the energy density of your meals. Practically speaking, you replace a lot of the bread, meat, and fat with low-density vegetables and fruits. In just under a month, my husband has lost sixteen pounds and I’ve lost nine. In another three months or so, I should be back where I was before I had kids, something I never thought I’d see again.
What started out as a concern about our son has morphed into a fundamental change in how we shop and eat. I like where we are and where we’re headed. We’re getting even more local this year with our expanded garden and when we finally settle down and stop moving so much, we want to make raised garden beds an integral part of the backyard landscaping. We’re not done yet; this adventure is still being written.
Do you have any other children other than your fruit eating son?
I have two boys, ages four and twelve. Getting the oldest to eat well is easy. Getting the youngest to do so has proved to be a Herculean task. If it’s bread, he’ll eat it. Other than that, it’s a crapshoot. Even as a baby, he never liked vegetables. There was nothing green he’d eat. Ever. My oldest devoured squash, peas, green beans, and when he started eating table food, he embraced things I never thought kids would eat: Brussels sprouts, asparagus, snow peas, pretty much everything we gave him he tried and liked. In fact, I can hear him in the kitchen now, peeling a carrot for a snack. We thought the youngest one would be the same. No. Not at all the same.
We make a plate of dinner for the youngest and try to include at least one thing we know he’ll eat, even if it’s just blueberries or cherries. If he is still hungry, we are ok with him eating a PB&J. We just keep trying. Sooner or later he’ll come around. That’s the hope, anyways.
What do you feed them for breakfast?
My kids usually eat breakfast at school but when they are home, they eat things like pancakes, waffles, eggs, and fruit salad. I make quadruple batches of pancakes or waffles then freeze the extras between squares of waxed paper. That way, we always have an option for a quick healthy breakfast: pop waffles in the toaster, scoop a cup of berry mix or peel a banana, pour a glass of milk and you’re done. To get around all the sugar in syrup, I top their pancakes and waffles with a squirt of whipped cream and some fruit. There is far less sugar in the whip and they think they are getting away with something. Win-win!
Can you recommend some good books to read?
The two most influential books for me have been The Omnivore’s Dilemma and In Defense of Food, both by Michael Pollan. But they didn’t change my mind about anything, he merely clarified the way I’ve come to feel about industrial food. I already knew most of the facts he wrote about in his books but it was so gratifying to read it all together in what has become our manifesto on eating. The other book I recommend is The Volumetrics Eating Plan which inadvertently converts Michael Pollan’s concept of “eat food, not too much, mostly plants” into a concrete eating plan that is easy to follow and never leaves you hungry. It dovetails so completely with the rest of the changes we’ve made that it’s a little scary. For long term weight loss, it actually ranks higher than Weight Watchers. Come back in five years and I’ll tell you if that’s true or not. *grin*
What other blogs do you read?
I don’t read many blogs about food but I do like Homegrown Evolution and Tastespotting. We also visit Square Foot Gardening for tips on our new garden. And I found almost every place I source local clean meat from the listings at Eat Wild. They break it down for you by state and the map function shows you just how far a given farm is from your home.