In the ever-evolving question of, "What will my blog look like?" I've decided to add a new feature for Wednesdays, it may not be every Wednesday, but it will be on Wednesdays.
Welcome to Woman Crush Wednesday (WCW).
Admittedly, my journey in health may not strike a chord with many of you. I've never had a lot of weight to lose (except baby weight), and I'm a stay-at-home mom in California--I may not be motivating for you at all. However, you may see something in another woman’s story to give you the kick in the pants you need to make changes. Wednesdays I will be telling the stories of other women in their journey of health.
Beginning this feature made me realize I’ve never told you much about my seven year journey to eating better, so I’m going to go first…and it’s my blog, so I’m the most accessible person to interview.
I’ve always loved food (see this post about hiding food in my pockets when I was a kid). When my family has a gathering, there are always more tasty looking dishes than there are people. If there are 50 people at Thanksgiving, you’re going to need at least 75 dishes. It’s how we do it, and it’s GLORIOUS.
Yes I loved food, but I had the palette of a six year-old. Beef stew from a can was about as adventurous as I was going to get. If I had one more person tell me to “just try” a new food, my head would have exploded.
Huge confession I can’t even believe I’m sharing--my husband and I ate so much processed foods, we could go to the grocery store once a month. Okay, fine, it was once every other month. No joke.
I knew very little about nutrition, or how to even eat a balanced diet. When I looked at the dietary guidelines, they were so overwhelming. Getting in five servings of fruits and vegetables seemed so far-fetched I didn’t believe anyone actually was able to eat that many fruit and vegetables a day. At one point, I would drink five glasses of juice a day to get in my servings, which was a bad idea.
Fast forward a few years into our marriage and my husband was getting sick constantly, even passing out once. He had tests ran, he saw doctors, he tried medicines. The best answer we could get is he’s sensitive to a preservative, but we don’t know which one. Not one doctor ever suggested he change his diet.
We needed to cut preservatives out of our diet, but I didn’t know which foods contained preservatives, or how to find preservatives on the crazy list of long name ingredients. I was clueless, but we had to change how we were eating.
A scant addition of fruits and vegetables to our diet was the first step, along with cutting out red meat. My taste buds started to slowly change; I was enjoying foods I never had before.
Back then, two women at work asked me to help them become healthier eaters to lose weight. “Why are you asking me?” was the only thought that came to my mind. You see, I was a thin gal, but I was an unhealthy eater. My body gave me plenty of signals that I ignored—I was tired all the time, I had no energy, and I slept horribly.
The next big change was me becoming a vegetarian. Before making this decision, I was the judgmental person believing vegetarians were unhealthy weirdos. (I apologize to all of you profusely for my bad judgment.) There was no way I was going to successfully make the transition to being a vegetarian without learning some new ways of eating. Until this point in my life, tofu was something to make fun of, not eat. Simultaneously, we were trying to be “greener” in our home; I was going all crunchy all at once.
Because of the preconceived notions I had about vegetarians, to this day, I don’t offer it up to many people that I am a vegetarian for fear of a negative reaction. (Although, I guess it’s out in the world now…) Don't worry, I will not be trying to turn you vegetarian on this blog. I promise to offer meat options, but if you want to talk about vegetarianism, reducing your meat intake, or a plant-based diet, send me a message.
It was at this point I started to realize how much I didn’t know. I turned to books and documentaries to try to learn about eating a healthy diet. I’ve said it multiple times, but Food Rules by Michael Pollan was the book that changed the way I eat permanently.
The church we started attending would do a fast regularly at the beginning of each new year. Giving up certain foods was so hard for me, because I loved food so much. I look back at those fasts now and I see those were the times when I grew the most in my healthy eating journey. I learned new recipes, new foods, and my taste buds continued to change.
Finally, it was occurring to me the food I put into my body was literally my fuel. If I didn’t put in good fuel, I wouldn’t get good results. You wouldn’t put Mountain Dew in your gas tank and expect your car to run like a Ferrari.
Slowly, I was educating myself more and changing the way we ate. (Side note, the change in diet completely cleared my husband’s recurring sickness. Woo hoo for good food!) Most of the time it was two steps forward, and one step backwards, but we kept at it and continually encouraged each other.
I got pregnant with our first son and I was very fortunate enough to work at a place that offered a healthy, nutritious breakfast and lunch daily. The baby and I were fed WELL, and I only craved healthy foods. At the time, my I’m-not-a-mommy-yet-but-I-know-everything-about-being-a-mommy mind told me that eating healthy while pregnant was really easy, because my body only wanted healthy foods. Yay for me!
After our boy was born, I worked to learn how to cook baby foods and then toddler foods. Not because I felt like I had to cook for him, but I enjoyed cooking and I could change the recipes based on what he liked and what he didn’t.
I become pregnant with our second son, and I assumed I would crave only healthy, nutritious food again. Wrong! I survived solely on Trader Joe’s frozen macaroni and cheese for the first 12 weeks, while my husband and son were left to fend for themselves.
The whole pregnancy I craved sugar like I never had in my entire life. Every night I wanted ice cream, chocolate chips dipped in peanut butter, cookies, cake, whatever I could find! I had watched the movie “Fed Up” about getting rid of a sugar addiction, but I had no desire to make a change at that point.
Our second son was born, but my sweet tooth didn’t go away and my baby weight loss started to plateau. I did begin to work out and in turn I wanted to eat healthier foods again. Still, I wasn't feeling great about my food decisions and I didn't know what would force me to change.
My baby had a constantly upset stomach and it seemed like I was taking him to the doctor regularly to figure out why he didn't feel well. He was tested for a milk protein allergy, and it came back negative. I would turn to Dr. Google to find answers, and consistently saw other women who breastfed give up dairy with positive results for little ones. On more than one occasion I told friends/family, "I don't even know what I would do if I had to give up dairy. I couldn't do it. My baby's cute and I all, but I love cheese."
God apparently found me be quite funny on those occasions, because I later learned the dairy I was eating was upsetting my baby and I had to give it up. Not only dairy, but eggs too.
Seriously, I went through a brief period of mourning for my cheese and eggs. This meant I was a vegan, and I didn't know how to be a vegan, or be a healthy vegan. For two weeks in mid-December I just ate junk to make myself feel better. Did you know there are packaged cinnamon rolls and cookies with no dairy or eggs?
Earlier this month, I saw a dietitian to review my foods and she finally got me out of my funk. Once again I was motivated to start eating better. This radical shift in diet has made me eat the best I ever have, and I finally kicked my sugar habit again.
For now I'm a vegan and I'm eating well (you can check out my Instagram to see some of my tasty meals). One of my favorite things to do is read cookbooks and share recipes with friends. Through my journey to eat better, I've become passionate (as in, giddy excited) about encouraging others to eat better too, because it's not as complicated as it seems.
My healthy journey continues.
Would you like to be part of my WCW? I'd love to hear your story and share it with others. Send me a message.