First published in The Franklin Journal
There are so many diet options! Paleo. Atkins. Weight Watchers. Gluten-free. The list goes on without an end in sight. Each one has a marketing campaign to attract a particular consumer who will try it in an attempt to find the magic fix. I was one of those consumers.
After I had my third child, at first, the leftover weight didn’t bother me. I was a busy mom, so I would grab a bite here and there. My choices were pretty good, but my schedule was not consistent and so they were based more on what was available at the moment. Eventually, however, I remembered the days when I had felt energized all of the time. I remembered feeling excited about eating and it wasn’t just to get me through the day without passing out. With these memories, I became frustrated and angry about not being able to lose weight. After all, I was constantly active and ate very little. The extra weight became iconic for being unhealthy. My frustration spilled over to my family and with whom I now wish I had had better conversations, so that they understood that while I was dissatisfied with the way I looked, it wasn’t so much about looks, as it was with the way I felt physically. I literally felt toxic.
Enter the Atkins diet. I modified it to stay away from aspartame. Researching before trying Atkins, led me to not only reducing carbohydrates, but specifically, eliminating white, processed carbohydrates and refined sugar. More research lead me to discovering the real story about fats; corporate influence; digestive bacteria, and how much better I feel the more I eat “closer to the earth”. Eating close to the earth is choosing food that is raw and as unprocessed, as possible and encapsulates Brazil’s definition of a healthy diet as one derived from “socially and environmentally sustainable food systems”. I like this simple definition and incorporate it into specific guidelines for my family and myself. I still have more to learn, but it helps that I enjoy comparing information and listening to people’s perspectives on what they think is healthy; how different foods make them feel; and the difficulties in getting access to food.
People from around the world have asked about and commented on my healthy food choices. Many of my choices are developed from the basics I learned when I was growing up and food was grown in the backyard. They include eating non-GMO; organic; sustainable; food as close to the earth as possible; and moderation. Within those parameters, I choose food I can be passionate about and my family enjoys. I recognize sometimes food isn’t about healthy choices for our physical bodies. Sometimes it’s about something else and you just want that red hot dog; bag of Cheetos; or ice cream shake. Personally, I find red hot dogs disgusting, but on occasion, offer me a bag of Cheetos and not expect me to share!
Some key guidelines:
- Eat what makes us feel good physically and emotionally. Good food choices don’t have to be unpleasant.
- Drink water before you’re thirsty.
- Food tastes better when prepared, then shared. Premade, ultra-processed foods tend to be from cheap, industrial made ingredients which are laden with synthetic chemicals. They’re bad for health, culture and the environment. Let’s all get back to the kitchen and share the human spirit. Eating well is the responsibility of us all.
- Read labels. Frankly, the closer we eat to the earth, the fewer labels there are to read.
- Think of food as Mother Nature’s color palette. Choose colors to create a masterpiece of health!
- Take time for food. We’re becoming a world of eating on the run, with little notice to taste or appreciation.
- When we make changes, listen to our bodies and not corporate hype. Eat naturally or intuitively, rather than what is dictated we should eat.
- Do away with judgement or guilt.
- Be kind. Enjoy the sensation of eating!
It has taken decades to get to where I am today with my relationship to food and to feel healthy and empowered. It’s been years of researching; policy work to ensure we all have access to the foods we wish; working on adequate food access for everyone; and the bonus of a health crisis. I now get adequate rest; use life tools to keep stress in check; and make even better food choices.
What I eat and drink may not work for you, but I hope my journey inspires you.