“Cooking (from scratch) is the single most important thing we could do as a family to improve our health and general well being.” Michael Pollan
Many people celebrated two special holidays this week: Passover and Easter. Though most of us probably did not celebrate the way we normally would with family and friends, many of us still gathered those in our household to eat a traditional meal.
The food I’ve eaten and my relationship with food has changed over the years. I grew up in the ’70s and ’80s, and just over the course of those two decades, so much changed with the way food was processed and the family dynamic around food. Growing up we regularly ate cereal for breakfast and bologna sandwiches or PB & J sandwiches for lunch. I was not a picky eater and would eat everything my mom put in front of me, including the liver that my dad and brothers wouldn’t touch, or the peas in the tuna noodle casserole! Mom cooked dinner six out of seven nights. Friday nights were date nights for my mom and dad. They got dressed up and went out to dinner and the theater. On those nights it was usually pizza or McDonald’s for me and my brothers.
My mom taught me to cook at a very early age. By the time I was ten years old, I would walk home from school and start dinner before my mom got home. Often this entailed peeling potatoes and carrots and putting on a roast, or coating pork chops with “Shake n Bake” and baking them. I developed a love for cooking that I carry with me to this day.
By the time the ’80s rolled around and I was in high school, we still ate home-cooked dinners most nights, but processed foods and take out dinners crept into our diets with more regularity. This is a trend that I continued into young adulthood. My own diet yo-yo’d depending on my weight. I would gain five to ten pounds and decide that I needed to go on a diet to lose weight. As I matured, something intuitively told me that dieting was not the answer. It would be another decade before I would study nutrition and change my relationship with food.
"Fill your body with the colors of the rainbow. What pleases the eye, pleases the body."
Nutrition is one of The Four Seeds of Self-Care for a very important reason, and that is because the food that we eat has a huge impact on our health. Not only can nutrition prevent a majority of diseases that many Americans suffer from today; it can also play a vital role in improving our quality of life!
So, what can we do right now? In the midst of a global pandemic, is now really the time to go changing what and how you eat? Well, I’m not necessarily going to suggest that, however, what I am going to suggest is that you be open to noticing some things about food and your relationship with food. I am suggesting that you ask yourself if this is an area where you are ready to make a change. Maybe this is the perfect time to close your eyes and envision what you wish were true about what and how you eat. Maybe you wish that you could incorporate more fruit into your breakfast, but you're usually pressed for time in the morning trying to get the kids to school and getting yourself to work. Maybe you have been wanting to eliminate dairy or grains from your diet because you suspected that was the reason you were feeling bloated, but didn't have the time to research alternatives. So with all this newfound free time, maybe this is the perfect opportunity to take some small steps towards better health.
You don’t have to spend hours every day cooking and preparing meals, but it DOES take time. And maybe right now, you’ve got more time. This may be the perfect opportunity for you to experiment with new recipes, or ways of meal prepping so that you have healthy options on hand for those busier moments.
Changing what and how you eat requires changing your thinking. If you can start with the mindset that this is an experiment and sometimes experiments work and sometimes they don’t then you can steer away from the guilt and shame that often accompanies dieting. If you can throw in a dose of self-compassion and humor, all the better! What holds us back so often is that we judge ourselves as having “failed” and we lose hope that we can really make changes that will have a lasting positive impact on our health.
Another habit that holds us back is stress-eating. I am just as prone to doing this as anyone else. Like Rachel and I say all the time, I know because I know, not because I know better! We have all tried to numb our feelings with food. Many are doing that right now during this crazy and scary time! What is your go-to when you are stressed out? I am a chocoholic, so my go-to is dark chocolate. Or anything else with sugar. So, just notice what you reach for when you’re stressed out and “catch” yourself. Not to shame yourself, but to become aware and to ask yourself what you really need at that moment.
My own change has been a process that has taken decades. As I began to learn about the power of a whole-food-plant-based diet I joined a food co-op that delivered a weekly assortment of fruits and vegetables that I then experimented with and incorporated into my diet. Over the years I have eaten vegan, vegetarian, and a diet that included both meat and plants. I have experimented with eliminating dairy, sugar, grains, and alcohol. (Yes, I can hear you now- gasp- not alcohol!) I have landed on eating a diet that consists of lots of fruits, vegetables and whole grains, some chicken, turkey and fish, and very little beef and processed meat.
We would love to support you in your nutrition goals. Maybe now is the perfect time to take that step!
Kinda and Rachel