Tuesday, April 27, 2010

Life: getting TRULY healthy

it's been way too long since i've updated here. 

Why? Because I was holding off until I made my big announcement: I'm pregnant!  

i won't be going too in depth with that right now at the moment, I'll save that for the blog I'm writing about my pregnancy over at: a yellow giraffe but I will say that it was too much of a huge secret for me to keep AND update this blog at once so in a way, that explains my relative silence over here. 

Enough of that, though. 

What I really want to talk about here today is my new obsession: eating healthy.

My relationship with eating healthy has been an up-and-down journey over the years.  Back in the day, when I was young and in my early 20's i never thought about what I was eating.  I was raised in a very lenient household, my mother (who is a wonderful woman) was the kind of mom who would never force us to eat things we didn't like and who more often than not would end up making three or four dinners a night. Consequentially I never really learned to eat outside of my own box, I never even really thought about eating. Food wasn't something that was there for nourishment, it was based on taste and preference and that was it to me.  

Then when I was about 22 years old I decided that I wasn't at a weight that I liked. I made the decision that I wanted to make a change and that I wanted to "get healthy". This was in 2004. I did some research, talked with some friends and settled upon a solution: I joined Weight Watchers. I was determined to this the "healthy" way. 

I say healthy in quotation marks up there because as anyone who has done Weight Watchers knows, "health" isn't really the biggest priority (nor should it be, that's not what they advertise and it's often not what their participants are looking for).  Their priority is weight loss and that is the first and foremost matter of importance with them, and why shouldn't it be? That is what they're selling.  Of course, I didn't realize this at the time, I assumed that learning to eat "better" or to pay attention to my calories meant that I was being healthy.  But unfortunately, there are lots of ways to lose weight without being healthy about it at all. 

Weight Watchers isn't all bad, though I will say that. They do offer food guides, they give you lists of "filling foods" and two plans to choose from: one that is made up of healthy foods that you can eat as much as you want of (but you do have to greatly limit your intake of processed foods if you choose that plan) and another that is made up of "anything you want" but you modify food, eat less of it and count all of the food you eat. 

I am overly-simplifying all of this and it honestly doesn't even matter because 1. Weight Watchers might be different by now and 2. this isn't a post about WW at all.  This is a post about being healthy. 

So on my journey to "getting healthy" I joined Weight Watchers. I opted, of course, for the "Eat what you want" plan and that's how I learned about substitution and low fat and low calorie and artificial sweeteners and all of the things that a seasoned WW veteran is knowledgeable about.  

See, instead of learning about what foods are GOOD for your body, the foods that you need to function, thrive on and to fuel yourself with, I learned how to beat the system.  I basically learned how to keep up all of my unhealthy habits but to just modify them so that they were "okay".  I learned to drink diet soda instead of regular. I learned to eat light bread instead of regular bread. I learned about spray butter, spray salad dressings, fat free cool whip, diet-soda-cake (where you take a box of cake mix, mix it with one can of diet soda and bake - rendering you a cake with significantly less calories than if you add the eggs and oil....). I learned a whole variety of things and know what? It worked.  I dropped almost 15 pounds in two months.  I looked fantastic and I thought wow being healthy isn't really all that hard after all! (and i guess some of it was healthier: I had switched to egg whites and was eating salads instead of fries when I went out to dinner). 

Again, I'm not bashing Weight Watchers here, they're a good company and if LOSING WEIGHT is your only goal, they are the place to go because their plan really works. 

Unfortunately, that's not my only goal anymore.  (well, right now it seems that gaining weight is my goal....even though that's been a tough pill to swallow lol).  

After Weight Watchers I began to question some of my activities...was pouring splenda into my coffee really a good idea? What's IN that stuff anyway?  And what about the fact that the no fat yogurt was FULL of high fructose corn syrup? Does that matter?  I started to think about these things more and more and slowly I became preoccupied with them. And then I became fixated on something else: meat. 

I've never really been too into meat. I haven't had pork ever (i don't think) and the last time i had beef was when i was 10 years old on New Years Eve (don't know why I remember that but i do).  In fact, the only meat i ate with consistency was chicken but there was something nagging me about that too.   Weren't most of the truly healthy people vegetarians?  Wasn't there a lot of information out there about how bad meat is for you? Aren't they injecting the meat with hormones and antibiotics and keeping the animals in horrible living conditions? I did some research and was very affected by the things i learned.

So in 2007 I became a vegetarian.  I started focusing a lot more on the REAL definition of healthy: organic foods, eating lots of vegetables, only eating whole grains, things of that nature. 

Unfortunately for me, I was also broke. I lived with my fiance (who is now my husband) and while giving up meat was easier for both of us than I expected it to be (he went veggie with me), the cost of making better eating decisions was a little more than we were used to spending.  Not only that but switching over all of our diet completely wasn't something that I think either of us were prepared for on either an educational level or an emotional one. 

There's an interesting correlation in our culture which I suppose is a luxury afforded to us by living in such an affluent society; that correlation is between emotions and food.  We all seem to have these attachments between what we eat and how we feel. Eating brings about feelings and in many cases, feelings bring about eating as well. And that's where the problems begin I believe. I found that it was HARD for me to give up Pizza Friday or to get up early and go for a road trip and NOT stop at McDonalds for breakfast like we used to do when I was little.  It was strange to me to substitute a salad for the creamy, saucy side of rice that I was accustomed to.  And so while I remained a vegetarian, I slowly began slipping back into unhealthy habits and soon I was a pretty unhealthy vegetarian. I didn't eat meat but i did eat pizza.  I skipped fish but i partook in frozen tv dinners (and those are AWFUL for you).  I had french fries and doritos and desserts because I was "allowed" to.  It was almost as if I used my CHOICE not to eat meat as a way to justify eating whatever else I wanted to. 

And so after more than two years as a vegetarian I became accountable to myself and realized that I wasn't doing it for the right reasons anymore and that worst of all, I wasn't being healthy about it either.  I stopped being a vegetarian and started integrating (free-range, organic) chicken and fish back into my diet (I hadn't been getting anywhere near enough protein as a vegetarian - something that was my own fault - there are absolutely vegetarians out there who do it the healthy way and they are an inspiration to me). 

And so here we are today.  I haven't been a vegetarian for almost a year now and while I don't regret that decision, I do wonder what exactly I am doing.  My husband and I discuss food quite often and analyze the influence it has on our lives.  We have mutually come to the conclusion (and actually, my husband got there first and has really been the catalyst for this process for me this time around) that we are really just interested in having a truly HEALTHY life, whatever that may mean. 

Somehow something has clicked within us recently that has just changed the way we're looking at what we're eating.  

Because the truth is that the food out there is full of chemicals and toxins!  There are preservatives and literal poisons in the food that we buy on the shelves of the stores.  The thought of these truths is just mind-boggling and terrifying to both my husband and myself and we honestly don't want any part of it any more.  

I don't want to feed my unborn baby some chemical derivative whose only purpose is to turn the fake berries in my pop tart blue.  I don't want to eat things loaded with fake sweeteners and fake fats and polluted with dyes and chemicals and colorings and poisons. 

I'm not trying to get too extreme here but this is a real issue. There are things that are simply unsafe in the food that's available today. How is it possible that they make bread that doesn't go bad for weeks? Doesn't that tell you something? Doesn't that just seem wrong? Do you want those preservatives in your body?  What do you think they are doing to your organs in there?

I think it's no wonder that cancer is such an epidemic. It's no wonder that children are being born with autism at astonishing rates.  It's no wonder that this country is now facing a new generation of children who are predicted to have a SHORTER LIFE SPAN than their parents' generation for the first time in recorded history. 

Don't these things speak to you? Don't they say "oh my god, this is an epidemic, this is a serious problem, something has to stop!!"  They do to me.

We are allowing corporations to put toxic foods on our shelves and we are buying those foods and we are eating them and we don't understand why we wake up absolutely exhausted, why we have chronic aches, pains and depression and why we are all basically just waiting for the time in our lives WHEN (not if) we get our cancer diagnosis. 

This is a travesty and the worst part is that it is totally avoidable. 

So I'm on a new mission here, a mission to discover what Healthy Eating really and truly means and to start to implement that healthy eating into my life, whatever it takes.  I think that having a healthy lifestyle is one of the utmost priorities in life - it is the thing that we should be focusing on the most. What else is there that matters more? If you aren't healthy, you cannot live and you cannot achieve the things that you want to so there is no point. 

And so I have made it my goal this year to become as healthy as possible and to learn as much as I can as about what that means.  That's the funny thing, I don't even really know what it MEANS to be healthy! I know to eat whole grains, I know to eat vegetables with my meals, I know to buy organic but I don't know what choices to make in the store.  What kind of dairy products are safe? How should I prepare my foods? What kinds of breakfast foods are okay and what aren't? What is an actually Healthy lunch? I'm going to question and reevaluate all of my choices and preconceived notions, I'm going to throw out everything I thought I knew and go forward and learn new things because I believe in the importance of this issue so much that I am willing to fully reeducate myself on this topic. 

And YES that will require much more effort on my part but I am up for the challenge and I embrace the opportunity with open arms because these are the things that are important, these are the things that matter. If I can bring better health and a higher quality of life to my child, my husband and myself than I have made a huge difference and that is all that matters. 

And I encourage you to do the same. 

And if you need more encouragement, watch this video, it will absolutely change your world:

thank you for reading if you have and please feel free to join me as I make these changes and continue forward with this movement.  Comments are always appreciated <3


  1. Love this, lady! I have been going through the same thought patterns recently. I've been working hard to clear processed foods out of my life, replacing them with whole foods, and choosing free-range meats and eggs, and antibiotic-free meat and dairy products. I now treat anything that didn't come directly from a farm as an occasional "treat" rather than a daily staple. I also try to pick organics for many items of produce, like carrots, tomatoes, and berries (some of the foods that absorb pesticides most). Yes, it costs more, but I find the food is more flavorful and I need to eat less of it to feel satisfied. And ultimately, by eating it rather than cheap crap I am investing in my long-term health, so it's worth it to me to find other areas of my budget to trim rather than my food budget.

    Ultimately, Americans have come to rely on processed foods because they are cheap and convenient. They are filled with fat, sugar, and salt, which are all highly addictive and make us want more unhealthy food, so it becomes a vicious cycle. People need to be committed to finding natural, sustainable sources of real food, and they also need to be willing to invest a little bit of time into preparing these foods. We have sacrificed our health for the sake of convenience and a fatter wallet, and that is no longer okay with me.

    I would recommend that you read "Food Matters" by Mark Bittman. He discusses food politics, how to make environmentally friendly food choices, and how to eat a non-processed diet, and includes recipes. He switched to a non-processed, plant-heavy diet and lost like 20 pounds without any other major changes. He does include meat recipes, but his philosophy (and now mine) is to use meat almost as a side or "condiment" to the main dish of plant foods. "What to Eat" by Marion Nestle is another great (and eye-opening) book about food politics. (For instance: from her book, I learned that most yogurt, other than plain, unsweetened yogurt, is NOT a healthy food because it's loaded with sugar and artificial flavors. But the dairy industry touted yogurt as a "healthy" food when really most yogurt is just dessert. Ditto on drinking milk past the age of around 5. It's more effective to get calcium from other food sources, because adult bodies are NOT designed to digest lactose! People do not need milk, but the dairy industry would have us believe otherwise. It's all about money.)

    Also, any cookbook by Mollie Katzen is a sure winner. And the book I recommended on Facebook today, "A New Way to Cook," follows the same whole foods philosophy. Sorry to write so much but this is a subject I have become really passionate about--I have started writing about these sorts of things on my food blog. Good luck! Can't wait to read more about your food journey.

  2. I'm right there with you! My sister is totally obsessed with WW, has been on it for over 4 years now. It upsets me how insane she is about her Splenda and the other chemical-induced products they prescribe. For example, we were recently at the grocery store with my dad who has been told to limit his sodium intake. We were helping him with his food choices (he's doing really well, btw) and he picked up a bottle of apple juice. My sister starts going on and on about this other apple juice that's made by the same company, and that they advertise 50% less sugar. I pick up the two bottles to compare and the original one my dad wanted (the one with more sugar), was 100% juice with no added sugar. I explain to them that the one claiming 50% less sugar is actually modified juice, and the one with "more" sugar is 100% juice with no added sugar. It is in fact more "real" with only the natural sugars of the fruit. It was so annoying how we were disagreeing, but eventually my dad went with the 100% juice.

    This whole argument basically sums up how we differ in our food choices. She would much rather go for something that's been modified because it's "diet" and I'd rather go for wholesome, healthy, "real" food.

    I'm not above eating processed food every now and then, though. As a vegetarian, I do consume some meat subsitutes that are processed, but that is rare. Mostly I try to eat grains and veggies.

    Anyway, I'm happy that you and Ryan are going towards a more healthful diet, and in the long-run that will be good for Baby as well. :-)