The Truth Behind Our Food: Eating + Living Wholly
Let’s just start out with some honesty: this is around my fifth time writing this essay, and I am still struggling. I think I’m having a hard time conveying all of the bits of information, opinions, facts, and thoughts on this topic without
- Overloading you with information
- Shoving said information down your throat and making you swallow, unwillingly
- Making myself sound like a pusher (I’m a pusher, Cady. I push people.)
- Not getting my point across
So I want to just put my point out on the table for you to see clearly, and get it over with: I now believe, after taking the time to learn about the food I was previously putting in my body even though I thought that food was good for it, is in fact not-as-good, and I really want to start eating non-processed, organic, whole food. See? That wasn’t so hard, Kayla, stop berating yourself. Now is the time to explain why, and here it is, in five easy paragraphs. Just kidding. I don’t know how long this will be until it’s over. And you all are always so supportive of my thoughts. I love getting comments from you that say: “I read the whole thing because I couldn’t stop!” I mean, what more could a girl ask for, right?
The food I was eating was not whole, and I already knew that, but chose to ignore it. Here’s a little story about my past relationship(s) with food. I say it plurally because I’ve had several. They’re always changing, I give up on them, they give up on me, they leave me hanging high and dry wondering what the hell happened. I have the same experience with men, but food is something that I just cannot give up on. I can’t! I need it to survive. We all do, and anybody who’s telling you something different is lying to you.
At the start of this week I shared with you how I believe that my relationship with growing and raising my own food has linked to forming new, genuine human relationships. But let’s talk about that non-human-human relationship you have with your food, real quick. It was around when I was eleven-years-old that my relationship with food changed. My friends had decided that I was the “fat-friend” of us all. We were all developing at different rates and had different body types, and I was for sure developing faster than most of them. I had that classic young kid chub and developing breasts and lots of water weight. It was also around that time that I decided I didn’t want to be the fat-friend. I wanted to be the normal friend, so I stopped eating. I would not say that I developed an eating disorder, maybe I did, but if there was ever a hint of that, then I was on the lower end of spectrum. As a young girl, I just wanted to find acceptance, and at that time, I truly believed it started with my body. I joined dance and cheerleading, I ate less, and I did lose that child chub. I was really thin in middle school. I thought that I was doing something awesome. I was eating less, taking laxatives here and there, and basically thriving off of drinking coffee, energy drinks, and a handful of french fries.
My freshman year of high school, I bloated up again, and I had no idea why. I was working out everyday, really hard. I ran daily, I lifted weights, and I was on the cheerleading squad constantly sweating my ass off. I am a sweaty human. But I wasn’t paying attention to what was getting put in. My muscles were beginning to bulk up, when I wanted them to stay lean. I was pounding in the protein and the shakes and caffeine. I figured that I was working out so hard that it really didn’t matter what I ate; I would just burn it off eventually. I tried doing a fat-free diet. My dad had done that when he was a body builder and said it was the best diet of his life. I basically only ate spinach, tuna, and red onion salads for three months. It was awful.
Near my senior year of high school, I had quit working out long ago. I had changed paths, I no longer was on a sports team, and I ran every now and then just to clear my head. And I bloated up again. I figured it was because of me working out less, but I wanted to find an easier solution. So I decided that being a vegan might be fun; it would cut out a lot of what was wrong with my diet. I stopped eating meat, dairy, and other animal products. I ate a lot of those frozen veggie burgers, pasta, and bread. I drank soda. I was a bloated mess. My vegan adventure lasted for a year until I started passing out frequently and having anxiety attacks - I was severely anemic and still am. I started popping iron pills to fix that mess.
When my pregnancy came around, I knew it was time to get real. Let’s just eat good food. You can eat what you want, as long as it’s good for you, in moderation, and helpful for the baby. My pregnancy was actually really amazing. I did yoga, walked daily, even ran and lifted weights during my first and second trimester. I gained 50 extra pounds, almost 20 of those being baby and amniotic fluid. I was eating lots of fruit and vegetables, cooking myself almost every single meal, and never eating fast food. I continued like that up until about a two weeks ago. Tad was eating similarly. Well, he was actually eating better than me. He really doesn’t like meat, dairy, or bread. My kid loves fruit, like has this strangely close relationship with it. He likes most vegetables and the only bread he enjoys is my homemade bread fresh out of the oven. Sometimes I would force him to eat chicken nuggets or macaroni and cheese because I just wanted something to fill his belly, but it was always with a tantrum or meltdown beforehand. And even then he never finished it. I want to talk more about Tad’s daily foods at another time!
Recently, my mom introduced me to really amazing documentary called Sustainable (it's on Netflix. You should watch it.). It follows a farmer and his family as he works a small, sustainable farm. He sells his produce to chefs and bakers around Chicago who are looking for fresh, organic produce. This farmer even grows strange and special produce and grains just for his chefs. It was remarkable! It made me question why it wasn’t always like that. It made me question a lot about my food. Where was it coming from? Who grew it? What was happening to it when it was transported from the farm, to the grocery store, to my plate?
I started digging. I wanted answers. I watched countless documentaries and read a book or two, read some articles. What I found was the answer for all of my questions in one simple answer, grow your own food. It was that simple.
Here’s the information that I want you take seriously, but lightly, because it’s almost unavoidable. Pretty much everything you buy at the grocery store is processed, and it’s not killing you, but it’s not helping you either. It was something that I didn’t really understand. You know, the industry and media are always trying to throw some new diet fad at you or telling you that avocados are a good fat, but next week soy is terrible for you! Well, what is it? Isn’t food just food? Can I eat anything? I started learning what genetically modified seeds were and how most farmers don’t enjoy growing soybeans and corn - they feel like they can’t get out of it. We asked a friend of ours, who is an industrial farmer, what she thought about how the food industry operates, and she became sort of quiet. Eventually she said only one thing: it’s probably better to grow your own. Grow most everything that you possibly can.
Wow! We were kind of shocked. This garden came full circle for me. It was changing our lives, not only in mind but now in body. Because guess what? I started eating as much local and non-processed food that I could find and taking out whatever was processed. My skin and body completely turned a 180! I’m not even trying to make you believe something that’s overexhaggerated. My skin, which has been tormented by acne for years now, has completely cleared up. My water weight and bloat have decreased enormously. I feel like my mom belly has shrunken, all from doing a little work in the garden and eating food that has been grown and raised right down the street.
So what happened? It wasn’t very long ago that everyone lived like this. In small communities, you could drive over to a local farmer’s property and purchase a gallon of fresh milk or a whole hog butchered and ready to go. It was different. That milk was special and the hog was used all year round, you didn’t just buy it when you needed it. Our lives have become much easier and faster to handle, but I don’t think that makes it better. If anything, we’re forgetting how that food was grown, our kids don’t know anything about where it comes from. I really want to write more about what’s really happening with our meat and dairy and produce, but there’s just too many thoughts to contain in one post. For now, I want to leave you with a list of things you can do to change your lifestyle. If you think that eating whole, organic, non-processed food is too expensive, I am here to tell you that we are a middle class family and making it work. It’s actually been about the same price, maybe even a little less, than when we were buying industrial food. We aren’t purchasing anything boxed or in bottles, just produce and cheese. We’ll be getting meat from a local farm and our dairy comes from the local creamery. I’ll be making whatever else is boxed or in a bottle.
You can make a difference by following these simple steps:
- Buy Organic. Most grocery stores around the USA sell organic produce along with their other vegetables and fruits. It's a little more expensive, but remember, you won't be purchasing any other extras! Why would you buy bad food that's cheaper and then pay more money for diet pills or a gym membership? If you eat well, then you're only paying a fee for that good for you food.
- Buy Local. If you can, buy your produce local. Find a local farm who sells eggs or vegetables, visit a U-Pick, or go to the Farmer's Market. Our farmer's market doesn't start until May, so we will have to buy organic or use our garden stores throughout the winter months. We also have the really amazing option of utilizing the Amish stores in our area where they often sell local produce.
- Find Out Where Your Meat and Dairy Are Coming From. This one is so important to me! To me, meat and dairy are special. It's expensive to buy local meat and dairy. Our local creamery sells butter for $6 a pack (that's four sticks of butter). Yikes! We're still trying to figure this one out since we use so much butter. Because we'll be cutting back, we are trying to purchase these items with the intention of it being a specialty, and only buying it every once in a while and only if it's been raised well and locally.
- Make Your Own Extras. Bread, ketchup, and mayo? You can make those yourself!! Seriously, just try it. We have several bread recipes on the blog that are perfect for beginners, and I am working on my own condiment recipes to share with you. I am hoping to provide you with all of the necessary tools to have a make-it-yourself kitchen.
- Grow Your Own. This is the most important lesson of today. Anyone can grow a garden. Even if you live in a city. Do you know how many vertical gardens and indoor plants there are? People grow celery and potatoes in their homes! You can do it. It's a great thing to learn and especially to teach your child. If you have a plot of land, then grow something on it! That dirt out there holds so much potential for you and your family.
What do you think? Are you ready to start planting? It's not too late to start!