A die-hard City Girl reconnects to the natural world… in the city.

Posts tagged “Nutrition

Benefits and Disappointments

Okay I think it’s time I finally let you all in on what I feel have been the benefits and disappointments of our new lifestyle choice. I wasn’t deliberately keeping you in the dark, I merely wanted to give it real time to set in so I had some hardcore data to give you and not just “Well, I THINK I feel better!”.

Immediately after watching Food, Inc. in November we made SOME changes to our diet but we didn’t go full-fledged until January 1. The first week of January I did a detoxification process to expel the old toxins and only ate fruits and veggies and drank water. (I didn’t complete the 7 day detox. I was detoxing from so many things that I felt awful so it only lasted 5 days. I plan on redoing it again.)

I will forewarn you, some of the things I’ll share with you are not normally mentioned in polite conversation but I have to share it with you because it’s just a fact of life and a big part of determining health and the changes to it. So here we go.

BENEFITS

Taste

I quit smoking June 14th, 2010 after smoking for 15 years. One thing all ex-smokers always told me was how much better food tastes once you quit. Well, I never experienced that. I’ve always been someone who was quite in touch with my senses, especially taste, and so I was a bit disappointed that great tasting food didn’t become blissfully sublime food. But that has all changed now. My meat is infinitely better tasting. In several blogs I used the word delicious and every time I do I cringe. Because delicious doesn’t begin to cover it. Now when we eat, there are pleased grunts and nods of approval. That pleases me, especially since I’m the cook.

I’ve hated chicken my whole life. We ate it a lot when I was growing up and I just have come to abhor it. I had to go and marry a man who loves eating chicken all the time. It made me crazy. Now, I can eat chicken everyday. Pastured chicken and Grocery Store chicken taste NOTHING alike. Grass-finished beef… well my mouth is watering just thinking about it.  I could go on and on but suffice it to say that everything tastes INFINITELY better.

Bloating and Fullness

I forgot what it felt like to be “full” or “stuffed” until yesterday when I broke and had a pizza from this specialty pizza place. I hadn’t had it in a while. It looked tasty. But it was disgusting and I felt like a total gargantuan after two slices. You see the whole taste thing was a huge factor. It LOOKED tasty but I made my own homemade all natural pizza at home last week and, well, this specialty pizza WISHED it was as good as my simple italian sausage pizza I made at home (I mean the italian sausage alone was divine!).

“Itis” is no longer something we experience. That “full” bloated feeling is no more. Couple that with the fact that we eat so much less (HELLO SAVINGS!) because the food we eat now is so much more nutrient-dense and we’re feeling really great after a meal. And no, it doesn’t mean we’re still starved. It’s a little difficult to describe so I’ll put it like this. You COULD eat more but your body and brain are wondering why you want to. You feel satisfied, even a little happy.

And the Queen of Potato Chips is snacking less. WAY LESS. I’ve worked on the same bag of chips for over a week. I used to do a bag a day. I just don’t find myself feeling hungry an hour or two later anymore. My breakfast ties me over until lunch, my lunch until dinner. It’s wonderful. (I still can’t give up my desserts though. Not happening.)

Digestion

Briefly, I’ll say this. When you go natural there is an exponential increase in your fiber intake. I’m terrible about drinking water but the dehydration headaches became too much to bear so it forced me to drink more water (we’ve stopped drinking juices. I don’t even buy them anymore though sometimes I steep mint leaves because I just hate plain water). Water and fiber are what the body uses to detoxify. Hello clear water in the toilet after #1 and amen to regularity I haven’t seen in over 20 years! I’ll leave it at that.

Energy and Mood

I’m going to lay it all out there for those who may not know. I am a vampire. I do not sleep at night. I AVERAGE 5 hours of sleep a night during the week. Two nights ago I got three hours. It’s just a fact of my life that I prefer to sleep during the day than at night. I have a hard time sleeping at night because my brain is not only active but CREATIVE and I love to write.

Despite that, my energy levels have evened out in a way that almost frightens me. Sure, I’m sleepy but I’m not FATIGUED anymore. I don’t feel fatigue. I haven’t in weeks. No more feeling run-down, no more praying for an afternoon nap. It’s been since… never that I’ve felt this even-keeled.

And my moods have also evened out tremendously. Ask anyone and they’ll tell you I have major yo-yo mood swings. Not anymore. And my depression is becoming less of something I overcome daily and more of an afterthought. And this is a MAJOR boon in my life and the lives of my husband and daughter. I am definitely happier. Genuinely happier.

Did I mention taste? Okay, just checking.

Spiritual Reconnection

Allow me a moment of esoteric rambling. Without turning this into some deep conversation about religion I will tell you I am not religious. I do not follow a religion. I am, however, deeply spiritual. I have admittedly been feeling a bit of a spiritual disconnect in the last few years though and it’s bothered me a tad. All of that has changed.

My husband joked the other day that the novelty will soon wear off and I won’t be cooking everyday. I don’t know if that’s true. Not only is cooking the food providing my family and myself with delicious sustenance but I have found a new spiritual connection not only with my food (and inevitably the earth and thus the universe and thus the Creator of the universe) but also with my family- the two people I love more than anything. Because I’m putting love in each meal I prepare. I’ve lovingly and carefully picked out each ingredient, lovingly and carefully prepared it and all with a deep sense of concern for their health, happiness and well-being. Each slice of a carrot and stir of a pot has me thinking about them and their health and whether they’ll be happy with what they eat.

I’m a firm believer in energy and that each of us transfers energy with everything we do. Be it positive or negative, we give and take energy. I don’t doubt that the energy I’m using in preparing their meals is transferring to them and thus to the people they touch. Couple that with the growing feeling of wanting to be the one that got my hands in the dirt and nursed the carrot from seed to dinner plate, of wanting to be the giver as well as the taker. I want to input positive energy so I can withdraw positive energy. Some of the farmers call themselves “Stewards of Nature”. This is profound to me and it’s one of my favorite parts of this entire transformation. Expect future blogs about my experiences on the farm. That is definitely happening.

DISAPPOINTMENTS

Total Detach

Completely unplugging from “The Meatrix” is profoundly difficult. It’s amazing the lengths Big Food has gone to ensure their total dominance of Global Food. I bought a package of “organic” dry sauce mix. Well, it had the fake ingredients. Now don’t get me wrong, maltodextrin is made from corn. But you know what, I don’t need it in my food. I don’t WANT it in my food. This is why I’m learning how to make my own condiments. Because when it comes to salad dressings, sauces, ketchup and the like, it’s virtually IMPOSSIBLE to go fully natural. I’m so glad I’m viewing this as a challenge. But I’m impatient. I want to unplug now. But as a city girl, it’s not going to happen unless I’m growing the food myself.

Paranoia and Cynicism

I’m a paranoid person by nature but learning about all of this has made it a little worse, I’ll admit. I think it was sort of a nail in the coffin for me to realize that greed truly knows no bounds, that people will literally do ANYTHING for money, even kill the people they’re trying to milk the money from. It’s frustrating and frightening and sad. I won’t eat anything now without looking at the ingredients. Perhaps it’s still the newness of it all. I’m hoping one day I’ll hit that point where I just KNOW what I’m going to buy when I walk into the market. But until then, I’m incredibly paranoid about everything I’m putting in my body.

And I’ve grown more cynical about people in general. I’m a firm believer that the majority of us humans are decent and kind people. It’s unfortunate they’re not the ones in charge. I’m growing more and more distrustful of those that are in charge. I want to have faith and belief but… it’s very difficult.

Working Harder

I don’t know if this is a disappointment persay but I put it here because most people will probably view it as such. If we’re having a busy evening with meetings and things, I can no longer just swing by McDonald’s and eat. I have to ensure we have time to cook and eat before we go. Or that we have money for something like already prepped sushi packs or something. I do buy the all natural beef hotdogs for just such an occasion. But it does make things more difficult.  Especially since my husband doesn’t cook.

I also now have more elements involved with getting my food. No more quick jaunts two blocks down the hill to the QFC. Now I have to travel farther and plan ahead and ensure I have the time to go and read labels. I’m sure this will change once I’m comfortable with my food choices but until then it is a bit more work.

And I’m cooking everyday and preparing more of my own condiments and desserts and it takes a bit more time and energy. This is not a disappointment to me at all but it could very much be one to the movers and shakers of the world. I do my best to ensure there are always leftovers handy for a quick warm up, just in case I’m not able to cook that day. We won’t even be TEMPTED to do the fast food thing. No thank you.

People’s Attitudes

You would not BELIEVE how many excuses come out of people’s mouths when you discuss natural eating. Mind you, people are asking ME about it only to then tell me how wrong I am or refute what I’ve researched without themselves doing any research (I don’t at all mind being told I’m wrong by people who have done their OWN research!). I always assumed healthy eating was expensive too. Until I did my research. I once didn’t want to learn or accept where my food REALLY came from. That was a MASSIVE mistake. I do believe I can affect change, even though I’m only one individual. It really is not that difficult to find natural food, no matter where you live, if you’re willing to look. And no, wanting to be healthy is not just for wealthy hippies. We should all want that for ourselves and ESPECIALLY for our children.

If I didn’t have The Diva, I’m sure I wouldn’ t be as steadfast about the lifestyle changes. But I do and it is my duty to ensure that I instill the right attitudes and values in her while I still have the chance. It is also my duty as her mother to ensure I’m doing everything I can to ensure her health and well-being. I don’t think feeding her shit- literally!- accomplishes that.

And no, I’m not getting all “uppity” now. I’m growing more conscious and aware of one of the most intimate things I do- and I do it at least three times daily mind you. When it comes to your own well-being, you should care. End of story. I’m done leaving my health in the hands of others.

So there you have it. These are the benefits and disappointments I’ve experienced so far. As you can see, the benefits far outweigh the disappointments. And maybe you’ve noticed that COST is curiously absent from this list. Wink.

Are you tempted to go natural? Have you already started? I’d love for you to comment your testimony.


Clarifications and Elaborations

I see you’ve come back to see what else I have to say which both pleases me (thank you!) and proves that you want to do better for yourself. Like me, you were appalled to learn just how much Big Food is destroying our health so they can increase revenue streams. If you’ve delved as far as I have at this stage then you’re horrified about not only what they’re doing to our food but also to the farmers, the environment and  their contribution to the immigration debate.

Now let’s inject a moment of honesty here. We knew. Certainly we didn’t know everything but we knew to some degree or other that the food we were eating was not altogether the best for us. We knew that the animals that provide our meat, eggs and dairy weren’t raised humanely (there is no way you can supply the American culture with that much food and not know this). We were aware they were putting hormones and antibiotics in the animals. Perhaps we weren’t sure why or what kind but we knew. And we were happy to remain blissfully ignorant to it. Because we are, after all, busy movers and shakers with things to do, places to go and people to see.

And who wants to truly look behind the smoke screen and see what’s really going on? I knew about Food, Inc. the moment it came out in 2008 but I wasn’t ready. I knew that I would learn something that would cause me to completely change my current way of life. But I couldn’t afford it. I walked into Whole Foods once and saw a $25 loaf of bread (not kidding!) and turned around and walked back out. Only rich people can afford to eat healthy, after all, and I am NO WHERE NEAR rich. Not only that but I would have to start making all my food from scratch, maybe even GROW it and who has time for that? And I’d also have to be a vegetarian and NO WAY is that ever happening. So thank you but no thank you, I justified to myself, I’m not ready for the awakening.

Last June I was diagnosed with high cholesterol and elevated blood sugar (and I’ve been concerned about my weight since I’m heavier than I’ve ever been in my life at 165 pounds). There have been a few anomalies in my family history but I was blindsided by the cholesterol thing. Not so much the sugar thing because I’m a sugar junkie but the cholesterol took me by surprise. So I decided it was time to make a few adjustments to my diet.

I learned that you can really bring down your bad cholesterol levels by adding more fiber to your diet so I started eating more bread and oats. It’s funny to me now considering what I’ve learned about bread and oatmeal (the Quaker variety specifically). In August I cut out all added sugars from my diet, vowing to only eat naturally occuring sugars like in fruits and vegetables. After a week of a killer detox headache, I couldn’t believe how much better I began to feel. I’ve maintained a low sugar diet ever since. But feeling better, healthier with more even moods and energy levels led me to think harder about what I was eating- and what I was doing to my daughter through her diet.

By November I was ready. I was ready for the kick in the behind that I knew sitting and watching Food, Inc. would give me. I had spoken to several people who’d watched the movie and their reactions told me I would not come away unscathed. And I didn’t. After watching that movie I wanted to go through my fridge and pantry and purge everything in them.

I began reading. Incessantly. I went to Big Food websites and read them but what I was reading more of than I ever had in my life was ingredients lists on the food products. Because I have now learned that the gigantic nutrition label listing all your fat and sodium content is meant to distract you from the really important information- the ingredients.

Let’s use an example.

If I wanted to make 100% whole wheat honey bread at home, I would need the following ingredients: whole wheat flour, honey, butter, salt and yeast. That’s it. Nothing else. Now, I urge you to go and look at your loaf of bread and read the ingredients. I’ll wait patiently while you do………. done? Is your stomach hurting yet?  Did you even know what half that stuff was? My family were big Sara Lee fans. The Nutrition Label made me feel like I was making a good choice- so low in fat and bad stuff! The ingredients, however, prove that the choice was all wrong. All the added sugars alone were enough to scare me. Let’s not even start on all the fake ingredients. 

And yet they make tons of health and nutrition claims on their products. But if the nutrition label says it’s so good for you, why bother reading those teeny tiny ingredients that you can’t pronounce? Well, the real issue is why do we not think it’s a problem that we can’t pronounce them? Our grandparents (or in the case of many of you, great-great grandparents) never cooked with anything they couldn’t pronounce. My grandmother used to make biscuits from scratch every morning. I bet if I called her right now and asked her for the recipe, dextrose would not be one of the ingredients.

And it’s not just them. It’s virtually everything you find in the grocery store. Very few items outside of the produce section have any nutritional value to you. And if you watched Part Two of The Meatrix above you’ve found even the milk and dairy aren’t good for you. What’s the City Folk to do if they want to unplug?

First, pick up a book. In the Highly Recommended Media section of this blog you will find many of the books I’ve read on my journey to enlightenment and the first one I read was The Omnivore’s Dilemma by Michael Pollan. In this book, he explains different food systems and creates a meal based off each. This is a good place to start but it won’t help you with the HOW (I will in the next post). What it will do, however, is further educate you on the food systems and what each entails. 

But by all means begin educating yourself. Don’t just take my word for it. I am no nutritionist or expert. I am, however, a very concerned consumer and I think- sometimes- we’re the best educators of all.