Eating Clean and Living Green

Day 1: Thoughts on eating filthy, and why I started this blog
January 1, 2012, 9:20 pm
Filed under: background and research, clean eating, green living

Let me start off by saying that up until this past year, my family has been your typical American family when it comes to eating: kicking off our days with cereal and juice; eating sandwiches with chips for lunch; snacking on random salty treats; making the same 10 dinners over and over (dinners that were varying combinations of butter, “cream of ____” soups, Ritz crackers, butter, chicken/beef/pork, and if you can stand it, more butter) with rolls on the side; ordering pizzas with bread sticks and soda; and making break and bake cookies.

On any given week, my grocery cart was loaded with cans and boxes and bags of processed “food” filled with all kinds of stuff I can’t pronounce, but to be honest, I never really read the labels. I knew that if something didn’t go bad for three years, it probably had some wonky stuff in it, but I guess I preferred to live in ignorance.

To make myself feel better about the food choices I was making for my family, I’d throw a “green” side with dinner (peas or green beans—or if I was feeling adventurous, frozen mixed veggies) or put some banana on our breakfast cereal.

We do have a gym membership and use it regularly. I’ve run six half marathons in respectable times (all around the 2-hr mark with one under) and even ran a full one a few years back, so in the eyes of my friends, I am fit.

Honestly, I thought I was fit. But all of that training and running was for the purpose of maintaining unhealthy eating habits. I discovered that fact when my two young daughters caught colds, preventing me from dropping them off at the gym’s child care for 5 weeks as we passed said colds around and around. In that time, I gained 12 pounds. Twelve pounds in just over a month. I’m usually around 135, so 12 pounds makes a significant difference in my appearance, the fit of clothes, the ease of going up stairs, etc. The truth hit me like a ton of bricks.

I should also mention that under the umbrella of “unhealthy eating habits” for me, personally, falls bingeing. My emotions are intensely intertwined with food so that when I’m elated about something, I want to reward myself with food. When I’m depressed or angry or upset, I want to console myself with food. When I’m irritated that there’s nothing to do, I want to eat to pass the time. And I’m talking entire packages of cookie dough in one sitting (I’ve been known to polish off an entire package in the five minutes it takes to get from the store to home) or a whole large bag of cheese puffs, for example. It’s intense and disgusting.

And yes, I feel horrible after. I feel horrible during, honestly. But I just have never been able to rope in my self-control in that area. If I didn’t work out as crazily as I do, I’d likely be bordering on obese, but I’ve been able to keep that dirty little bingeing secret in the closet because of my workouts. To see me walking down the street, you’d never guess I eat like that—at least once or twice every week.

I had researched healthy eating before. Multiple times. Haven’t we all? I made and broke my new years resolutions consistently. I tried mid-year resolutions. Even mid-week ones. Kept failing.

I first started seeking a healthier lifestyle when my first daughter, Abigail was born because I didn’t want her to grow up with the same habits I’ve been fighting for years. I stopped eating anything with sugar for 5 months, then made up for lost time. I even tried a switch to vegetarianism for a few weeks after watching Food, Inc on NetFlix (yes, weeks—I hadn’t done the research necessary and was crazy hungry day after day, lacking protein) before finding out I was pregnant with Madilyn (now nearly one year old). The girls eat far healthier than me and my husband, so there’s that, but I want our family all on the same page—no more hiding from the kids to eat a cookie.

After the 12-pound weight gain, I started researching again, but with more urgency. I called my friend, Sarah, who I knew had shifted with her husband, Edwin, to a healthier and cleaner way of living and had been living that way for two years. She does yoga and spin classes for fun, not to maintain or lose weight. She loves cooking (but hasn’t always). She’s one of the most positive and vibrant people I know.

So, on the day after Christmas, Sarah and I met for coffee, and I threw every fear and hesitancy and question at her for more than two hours. Surprisingly, she was able to silence them all easily while I took notes. I eventually just let her talk while I silently sat, dumbfounded, trying to process her words.

S: “Vegetables are the shining stars at lunch, snack time, and dinner.”

Me: (I think about how on earth I can branch beyond peas and green beans and about how bland veggies are.)

S: “Some of my favorite seasonings: smoked paprika, sriracha, cumin, curry powder, and ginger.”

Me: (So that’s what makes veggies exciting. Hm. I use cinnamon, salt, and pepper—unless it’s pie time, then some pumpkin pie spice. I’ve got a lot to learn.)

S: “For lunch, I start with raw veggies, then leftovers from the night before, then some Greek yogurt and a piece of fruit. It takes me about 30 minutes to eat.”

Me: (I’m finished in 7 minutes, probably, and am over stuffed. How can it take so long to eat so little?)

S: “In the first year, Edwin lost 60 pounds.”

Me: (Wow.)

S: “Check out Food Matters by Mark Bittman. Get his Food Matters cookbook.”

Me: (Right away!)

That was a week ago, and since then, I got the Bittman books (check out his TED talk on YouTube to get a sense of what he’s all about; he’s a food writer and columnist for the NYTimes), planned a dramatically different meal plan for this first week in 2012, and went shopping at a new-to-me grocery store with Sarah leading the way (it was so nice to have a guide in a new store. I didn’t feel so lost!)

That brings me to today: January 1, 2012. A day of goals and resolutions. I have a different set of those this year:

I want to work out because I enjoy it, not because I have to. I want to eat food that makes me feel good physically and emotionally. I want my family to get totally away from processed foods. I want my family to eat in a way that’s kinder to the environment—and start to live our lives in a greener way too.

It all starts with what we choose to eat.

So, day 1.

Today, we all ate fruit, yogurt, and spinach smoothies for breakfast; raw veggies (red, orange, and yellow bell peppers, carrots, and sugar snap peas), greek yogurt with raisins, and pretzels for lunch—and yes, it took us all forever to eat; and Asian tofu chili for dinner. And you know what? It all tasted great. And all four of us finished every bite.

And get this: tonight was the first time ever my two-year-old said “Mommy, this is good!” without being prompted. She seriously said that with a mouth full of tofu and black beans. Yes!

So this blog will be a chronicle of our family’s journey to a cleaner way of eating and a greener way of living—one day at a time. It will also serve as a bit of accountability. We’re not quitting this time! I hope it will be an encouragement to you too.


3 Comments so far
Leave a comment

WOW! Good for you for making positive changes. You are doing a great thing for your family!

I’ve been there, the bingeing and eating plenty of crap. It’s a hard cycle to break, but it can be done (I still struggle, but I’m improving!)

Comment by Kacie

Wow! I’m so looking forward to this blog. I have tried eating clean a few times and just couldn’t stick with it. Also, it always seemed soooo expensive (having to buy a lot of specialty items at expensive stores)! So I may try this after this pregnancy. Good luck.

Comment by Heather

I hope we’ll be able to get together soon to meal plan and shop! You can absolutely do this—even during pregnancy!

Comment by Sally Ann

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