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Friday, January 27, 2012

Progress in our food challenge

It was about two or three years ago that I read Barbara Kingsolver's Animal, Vegetable, Miracle.  It inspired me to grow my own food, more than just for eating fresh.  I was planning on gardening when we bought our home just over 2 years ago, but I didn't really have a plan for growing the bulk of our food and preserving it for future use. 

About a year ago now, Jaimie and I started to make plans for changing our eating habits.  We did the same things as most people do, like grab a quick bite at the local fast food joint and regret the feeling in your stomach later, or buying crap food because it was quick to make and relatively cheap.

We wanted to incorporate our changes slowly so that they would "take."  We started our wellness plan by drinking more water. As part of our water challenge, we would each drink 64 ounces (8 glasses of 8 ounces).  If we had caffeine or alcohol, we had to match that amount in increased water intake.  Jaimie admits he did not do terribly well, but the point wasn't to meet the goal so much as it was to bring awareness to what we're drinking and to increase our hydration - simple things to make us become healthier.

We added other little steps in the plan, like increasing vegetable varieties, not allowing any boxed mixes in the home (like boxed cakes or brownies), working toward more whole wheat rather than just white flour, those kind of things.  We were also going to have more fresh food by growing our own.  

I was very excited to plant when we bought our home.  We moved in in late September so we had to wait until the following spring.  Jaimie built two raised beds and we filled them with compost.  We realized exactly how much can come out of raised beds (much more than just in the ground), and we built 4 more.  We knew we could fill our freezer and canning room with home grown foods and last the winter.  We found local sources for humanely raised meats, and a local place for beautiful eggs.

Though we were limiting what we were eating (no high fructose corn syrup, no extra additives that aren't pronounceable), we ended up having MORE variety.  I think people who eat crap food get stuck in a rut and end up with the same menu of burgers, pizza, "chicken" in nugget form, boxed macaroni and powdered "cheese" etc.  We kind of did the same thing.  Now, I see the grocery ad for shelf stable cheese and I know that there is no way that can be healthy.  How many additives are in it to make a product that naturally goes bad and needs refrigeration into something that can be on the shelf?

My sister posted an article that addressed the habits of poor people.  The first habit listed is that poor people develop a habit for eating crappy food.  Both Jaimie and I were relatively poor growing up, and though my family wasn't ever on food stamps, I can see how the article defined our family's eating habits perfectly.  But, eating healthy doesn't have to be expensive.

I agree, the $1.37 I spent on one orange was a bit startling when I bought it, but there are options for eating healthy.  Canned beans are cheap (only 55 cents at Aldi, but sometimes more than $1 elsewhere), but buying a bag of dried black beans for $2 has the same amount of beans as 6 or 8 cans.  It does take some forethought to plan ahead for dinners, but the cost difference is evident.  I am noticing now that we can buy healthy food for less than what we were spending on terrible food before.  The two pizzas we made last week - $5 for both!  That fed our family for two meals.  Even though there are many cheap healthy options (quinoa, oatmeal, yogurt), we will pay a premium for things that are worth the extra cost, like sustainably raised meats or vegetables, or for picking our own berries at a place that doesn't spray.  

I don't want to get off on a tangent ranting about how others can change eating habits, but wanted to note how we changed ours and what our changes have been.

Besides knowing that we are eating food that is better for us, we have noticed other changes as well.  Jaimie went to the doctor for some back issues and went again a month later, each time being weighed.  He noticed that he was losing about a pound a week, without exercising or moving any more than he normally does.  (Actually, I moved much less during that month because of the back injury. -J)  I have noticed my own weight loss but was uncertain whether it was just from breastfeeding my daughter and losing the after-pregnancy weight.  We're eating just as much as we want and continue to snack, but we always know what is in our food.

We have also noticed that other foods don't taste as good.  The meals at most restaurants don't compare to the full flavor of foods we get at home.  It tastes like we're eating gourmet every night.

Another change I've noticed is that my allergies have decreased.  I still have them, but not as severe.  I used to be very allergic to cats, needing to have an Epi-pen.  Now, we've got two cats and I can tolerate them.  Even though I can sometimes itch, my throat doesn't swell up.  That is a drastic difference.

We notice how our bodies feel so much more than we ever had.  We're changing and loving it.

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