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When my copy of Nourishing Traditions first arrived I was so excited. I couldn’t wait to delve into the world of traditional foods; to learn about the benefits of grass fed butter, raw milk (which sadly we can’t get here), fermented foods and delicious home cooked meals. And while this book has changed the way I think about food (if you don’t have a copy I highly recommend you get one), it definitely got me thinking about how we (as a society) view food.
The Emotional Roller Coaster
You get your copy of the book and you’re so excited! You crack open the pages and you begin to read. Then the first emotion hits you like a ton of bricks. Anger. As you read about how convenience foods, processed foods and even produce get to your table you start to get mad. You wonder how the food industry could get away with poisoning us! I read the process of how regular old table salt was made and instantly threw out all the table salt I had in my house. Then you start to get mad at the consumers, because let’s be honest folks, we let them do this to us. We allowed our foods to become so convenient and mass produced that it is literally rotting us from the inside out!
Then the guilt sets in. As a mother I live with my fair share of “mama guilt” on a daily basis but this was a whole new level of guilt. My kid eats cereal and granola and both of those things are bad and indigestible apparently! And I’ve never soaked my rice before cooking it! I didn’t know I was supposed to do that. I started looking back at all the snacks, meals and decisions I have made over the last three years of my son’s life (and the many years preceding that) and started to nit pick at every detail in my mind. “Maybe I shouldn’t have done that. Why did I ever let food _____ into the house?” I could go on and on.
Then for me a unique emotion hit due to a personal experience I was having while reading the book; fear. Someone I knew had just passed away from cancer (right around the same time a handful of celebrities all passed away from cancer). I was terrified that I was too late. That all the decisions I had made in the past had paved the way to an inevitable and early end.
Now I should state that I tend to be a feel first and think later kinda gal. I wear my heart on my sleeve and I am governed by my emotions. While the roller coaster was not what I expected, I did come out the other side (after some thoughtful reflection and supportive words from friends) with a clearer view and with less guilt, anger and fear.
Food Trends and Fads
While I have not walked this Earth for many many years, but I’ve been around the block long enough to witness many food trends and fads. Be it the butter vs. margarine debate of the 80’s, or the blood type diet that apparently told you what foods to eat or avoid based on your blood type. Then came the Atkins Diet which helped people justify eating greasy bacon and eggs for breakfast every single day because it was carbohydrate free! While I worked at an organic grocery store everyone was all about goji and acai berries for about six months and then they sat rotting on the shelves. And now we have the Paleo diet, or the Whole30 or whatever the goodness it’s called (not to mock, I just simply can’t keep up!)
These diets, trends and fads all have one things in common – they come AND they go. Just with all fads, what’s “cool” now might not be in five years. And I kind of lied as they actually have two things in common. The last one you ask? Money. Each one of these food trends exists in the hopes of making someone, somewhere stinking rich. Through book sales, food sales, YouTube channels, fancy shakes and drinks or workout videos; someone is making money off of the human desire to lose weight quickly, feel better tomorrow or beat the ticking clock of time. Everyone wants a magic pill and many hope it’s in the next book, trend or fad.
Many years ago my teacher said something in class that has always stuck with me. We were talking about the many trends and books available telling people how they should eat. He discussed how we’ve begun to intellectualize our diets and very much to our detriment. We read something in a book, it sounds good to our brain and we do it. Not to say information in books is bad, but the key to knowing what works best for you is listening to your body, not your brain. A hundred books may tell you that not eating carbohydrates will make you thin and healthy, but if your experience is different then you NEED to listen to your body. As you read through your books remember to always read with a skeptical mind. Remember that these authors are writing about their own experiences and what worked for them. And don’t forget they are trying to make money too.
Grains, Bread, Pasta… Oh My
The idea that “carbs” are bad for you just blows my mind. Did you know that our brain’s preferred source of fuel is carbohydrates? And that if we starve ourselves of carbohydrates that it forces to the body to convert proteins into carbohydrates putting extra strain on the liver and kidneys due to the byproducts of the process (known as gluconeogensis)? Now that being said, there is a big difference between a healthy and nutritious carbohydrate (like a quinoa salad where the grains were soaked first) and an unhealthy one (like a basket of french fries deep fried in scary corn oil). To paint carbohydrates with the “they are all bad” brush simply isn’t fair. Not all carbohydrates are created equal. Many of the trendy and fad diets out there tell us to cut these foods from our lives completely. As an alternative health care practitioner I must warn against extreme diets of any kind. Moderation is the key here folks. Don’t overeat and when you do eat, make sure they are clean, healthy and nutritious sources (i.e. brown rice vs. rice krispies).
And I should note that there are many people with gluten and grain intolerances. Do not ignore your body’s cries and force yourself to eat gluten containing grains! Instead embrace the body’s need for carbohydrates (in moderation) and find sources that work in harmony with your body and not against it.
Do the Best with What You Know and Have
My friend reminded me of a wonderful saying.
“Do the best you can until you know better. Then, when you know better, do better.” – Maya Angelou
Kicking myself for decisions I made in the past was not a wise course of action. Although I will say I was ruled by emotions and not logic in that moment! Our body has an amazing capacity for self healing when given the right tools. Bad decisions in the past will not pave the way of your future (unless you continue to make them of course).
So now that I know better, thanks to learning about the amazing health benefits of traditional, wholesome and nutritious foods, I will endeavour to “do better”. I’ve already changed all the sugar sources in the house (the staples are honey, maple syrup and coconut palm sugar). As many of you know we’ve started consuming ethically and organically sourced chicken again. I’m trying really really hard to find grass fed butter (not an easy task during the winter months of rural Ontario I tells ya!) and will not stop until my freezer is full of it. I’ve made my own bone broth and used in soups more than once. I’m consuming fermented foods (kombucha, kefir and sauerkraut on a daily basis). I’m researching local CSA farms for meat and cheese shares. Changes are a brewing!! Will we slip up? Yup. Will I eat chips and chocolate again? You betcha. But I will try do so rarely and in moderation. Will my kid eat cereal and granola again? Probably, but not often and organic brands when possible.
All you can do is your best. You need to work within your means (time and budget), within your knowledge level, within your comfort level and with your family’s desires in mind.
For us right now, in this moment… I feel good. My kid feels good. My husband feels good. And that’s what matters.