Why is FOOD so doggone personal? Why does the hair on the back of our necks raise when we are confronted with something different than our own diets or preferences?
I keep wandering down memory lane to just over 3 years ago when Janine issued a Nutritional Challenge—a “Clean Eating” Challenge for her studio. I keep trying to remind myself why I was SO ticked at her and at the suggestion that my food might be “dirty” in some way? I NEVER want to forget where I was…
Three years ago I worked out so that I could eat whatever I wanted. I ate when I was hungry or when something looked or smelled good. I ate for the joy of eating. I ate when I was bored, lonely, angry, tired or depressed. Food was a social common denominator: every event whether it be a party or a play date, food found it’s way in to the equation. Food was comfort. Food was a friend. Food was entertainment. Food was not in any way “fuel”. That was a foreign concept.
I took the challenge because I was preparing to join P.O.W.E.R.’s staff and eventually own my own studio. It would seem highly inappropriate for her first employee to throw a tantrum about the “RIDICULOUS” challenge she had put forth. I spent the first week whining to the other pod girls about the fact that I could ONLY eat lettuce, and lettuce with NO dressing at that. I complained, went to stores, read ingredients, got annoyed and went home empty handed. I didn’t have TIME for this. I didn’t have the stomach for it…literally.
Our family was not “so far” off the beaten path when it came to food…was it? Sure we ate out SOME but not every night. We ate vegetables…or at least brocolli and carrots…and I loved salads. We didn’t deep fry everything that was placed in front of us and we didn’t eat a ton of red meat. We drank sodas, but we were not addicted. I loved cran-apple juice and probably drank 2 gallons a week. We liked dessert and had sweets available but it was not an every day occasion. Our kids didn’t eat white bread…but what was wrong with “fruit chews” that come in Disney Princess and Cars shapes? What was high fructose corn syrup and why was it so “evil”?
Apparently everything on our grocery list was “dirty” except for the broccoli and carrots and even our whole wheat bread had problems. I was finding every excuse in the book to dump the challenge. I didn’t have time to find new recipes; I was studying like crazy for my personal training license. We didn’t have the money to buy less processed foods, never mind organic while my hubby made just over $40k a year?!? Besides, I had three small children 3, 2, and 8 months…there was NO WAY I could get them to do this. Did I mention my husband was a “meat-aterian” and balked at most new vegetables that I brought to the table? This wasn’t going to work!
The first week I rolled my eyes, complained and simply refused to be apart of the madness. The studio was buzzing though. Women were complaining but also attempting this insane challenge. I looked at their lives and went back to my excuses: “yes, but she is single and doesn’t have to make 2 meals or find a ton of new recipes!” “Yes, but her hubby brings in more cash each month!” “She is a stay at home mom and totally has time for this!” And yet, their enthusiasm was wearing me down. That weekend I went back to the store and started again. I came home with a bunch of “tasteless” things and a higher grocery bill! The 2nd week I probably ate clean 3 of the 7 days. They were not fun and I remember feeling like I was eating like a gerbil. I was eating more often and that was a pain because I didn’t have time to stop (yet again) to eat something! I did not feel a difference in my energy level and was in general agitated by the process.
The 3rd week I think I added another day to a grand total of 4 out of the 7 days “clean”. I did this partly due to peer pressure and the desire to potentially win a prize! The conversations at the studio helped and I realized that I was going to have to resign to the process if I was going to get through the next 6 weeks. I put together a facebook group…a “support group” of sorts, where P.O.W.E.R. girls could come together, complain, share recipes, and finish out the challenge before the holidays hit! Somewhere between week 3 and week 9 my attitude slowly shifted. I found a few recipes that I liked and I found that I was actually not preparing as many “meals” as I was eating healthy, “substantial snacks” throughout the day.
Somewhere between week 4 and week 9 my clothes became a little looser which was nice. (It was jeans season and I HATED the out of the dryer, suck in and pray they button dance I used to have to do!) Amazingly, I think I might have even dropped a jeans size by the end of the challenge. THIS, (if I am honest) and this alone was motivation to continue considering what it would be like to shift to a “cleaner” diet. So I began to educate myself more on WHY people should eat less preservatives and more whole foods. I began to find out what was IN my sodas and juices. I began to read, research and became absolutely convinced that this was a better way.
Interestingly, and I SWEAR this is not just what healthy people who eat plants say, my food preferences CHANGED.
I did not CRAVE sugar, sweets, salty, and fatty foods. As a matter of fact, I distinctly remember eating a piece of processed candy and felt slightly disgusted by the “fakeness” of the flavor. (I—gasp—spit out the Reeses cup that my child brought home for Halloween!) This was such a shock to my system as I was sure that this was just what people “said” happened but deep down I knew it would never be true for me! I began craving water, fruit, and vegetables,.
My body was leaner, it moved more quickly, I had more energy and it even was more “flushed”…things moved through more naturally. (Sorry if this is TMI!) Over the past 3 years our family has slowly continued to change and transform our nutrition to what it is today…SUPER CLEAN! My hubby eats and tries all vegetables that I serve. He actually orders vegetables on his own merit—and lots of them! It took a good amount of education to get him there, but he is there. My kids eat lots of fruits and veggies and the processed snacks are to a minimum. If their snacks aren’t homemade, I can pronounce and tell you what is in their food, where as before most of their snacks were chemically engineered! This actually does help me to sleep better at night.
The month of October (and now April) is exciting in the POWER studio as women are going to be given a similar challenge to the one that was put forth 3 years ago. I want to remember. I never want to forgot how angry I was. I never want to forget how HARD it was. I never want to forget all the reasons (most valid!) for a need to keep things the way they were and avoid change. I also never want to forget where that challenge brought me! If I haven’t thanked her—I should—Janine, THANK YOU for making me start the journey. I am a MUCH healthier version of myself. My kids will hardly have memories of processed food in our home and my husband, too, is a grateful man for this lifestyle change.
Much more to come on this subject! But as you consider the challenge placed before you, be ENCOURAGED, take HEART it IS a journey WORTH taking!