Category – Cook

One major area of my life I want to change is food and my attitude surrounding what I eat.

I know, I know, how original. But hear me out.

I have always struggled with highly processed “food” and the things I affectionately call ‘edible food-like substances’ have almost always treated me poorly. Most of them give me heartburn and make me break out in blemishes (this is something I desperately wish I knew back when I was in high school), and they are designed to be insanely easy to overeat, which makes me gain weight.

When I eat real foods that are not highly processed, portion control becomes easy because I don’t feel the need to overeat since the meal is nutritious and deliciously satiating. My skin clears up, inflammation falls to the wayside and my energy skyrockets.

My problem is two-fold: my desire to please others is debilitating and I live in a particular area where fresh and minimally-processed foods are difficult to access, especially during the winter months. How I’ve decided to tackle these problems is two-pronged: I need to believe that my health is more important than what other people think of me and what I do, and I need to become an active participant in growing and accessing fresh and minimally-processed foods. I need to think outside the box. Just because something has been done a certain way for a long time doesn’t mean that it’s the only way.

People are very defensive about food and their choices regarding what they choose to put in their mouths. In 2011, as an experiment, I decided to go grain-free to see what would happen. When I announced my intention there was a huge backlash from friends, family and co-workers. A mixture of horror, concern and derision filled almost every conversation I had. ‘Why would you do such a thing?!’ asked so many people. ‘How will you get your fiber?’ asked many others. ‘The government says you need grains, and you should support farmers.’ insisted many. Nevertheless I persisted and ended up losing 40 pounds and dropping 2 dress sizes. My skin cleared up, my energy sky-rocketed, I felt fantastic! But, alas, slowly and surely I let the people around me dictate what I should eat and my good habits dissolved in the face of the ‘everything in moderation’ approach.

I dislike the word ‘moderation’ so much. People don’t even know what they mean when they say that, beyond the intention that having a treat once in a while is a good thing. And in theory it could be true, IF WE WERE ROBOTS. I don’t know about you, but I am not a robot. I don’t have the time nor the inclination to measure and remember how often I treat myself to junk food. I just don’t. And I know there are apps out there that can do it for you but my whole point is I don’t want to live a life where I need to worry about how often I treat myself for being ‘good’. I would rather live a life where food is delicious fuel and junk food is a not a term in my vocabulary. The argument so many people tried to give me back in 2011 that ‘It is not healthy to deprive yourself’ didn’t make any sense to me. Deprive myself of what? Pimples? Cellulite? Massive weight gain? I don’t want those things and you think it’s not healthy that I don’t want that? Who’s the crazy fool now?

Ok, I’m getting angry. Take a breath, Caleigh.

Here’s my point: People are nuts. People have a strange way of creating justifications for just about anything. People in groups are both helpful and dangerous, depending on the situation. But I can’t worry about people I can only worry about myself (and my family but, c’mon, I have to take care of myself in order to be able to take care of others).  So here’s the gist: I am going to concentrate on eating fresh, local, hopefully spray-free food and I am going to be aware of how I react to other people’s responses, because as an emotional eater, I tend to fall face-first into a mug of brownie when I’m feeling, well, anything.

Let’s be clear here, I’m not a foodie, or a snob. If I enter someone else’s home and their chosen meal is hot dogs & kraft dinner, I’m not going to be all like, “Are the buns made from local wheat and ground at the neighbor’s mill? Is the cheese made from the local monastery? I can’t eat it if it’s not.” I am so not that person. I will always choose to sit down and eat a meal that someone else prepared. Maybe I’ll offer to bring something as a second option, but I will never deride someone else’s effort.

I will write about my adventures with food as a series under the category of ‘Cook’, please feel free to follow along!

Until Next Time,

Caleigh

Changes

Just after the holidays, in January 2017, I felt so excited for the new year ahead. I had lost some weight, had survived the holidays relatively unscathed, and had a career prospect as a librarian in the works that was in line with my lifestyle goals. Life was good!

All at once it seemed like everything came crashing down. I was offered an amazing career change and I chose to decline it for a variety of reasons, the main ones being that I would have had to cut my current salary in half and would have had no benefits. Besides that, my husband’s job security is uncertain, so it didn’t make sense for me to deliberately make our family’s financial existence more precarious just for my professional happiness. I was devastated when I made this choice because it felt unnatural and wrong and against every instinct in my being, but I made it to help my family move forward as we navigate an extremely uncertain future.

Beside my tumultuous career decisions, our son Cooper, who was born premature at 26 weeks gestation, turned 1 years old in January and although we celebrated this major milestone with happiness in our hearts, it brought back those awful, pent up feelings that I had worked so hard to smother. Images of him, no bigger than the span of my forearm, lying in an incubator fighting to survive, haunted my attempts to commemorate the occasion and made his birthday celebrations extremely emotional.

On top of all that, we have been trying to sell our house since this past September with no luck. We are bursting at the seams under this roof, our toddler is sleeping in the mudroom (door to the garage and laundry hookup is across from his captain’s bed) and our one year old is sleeping in a pack ‘n play in our ‘master’ bedroom, which give us a 12 inch gap to walk to our bed and 6 inches between the sleeping baby and our dresser drawers. When we bought this house in 2010 we were a young couple and it was perfect for us. Hell, it was big! It’s a fantastic house for a couple, and we did a lot of work to the basement to make it increasingly livable, but it’s just not a good home for a young family. My main requirement is 3 bedrooms on the same floor and a front door that DID NOT OPEN INTO THE LVING ROOM and I had no idea how difficult it would be to achieve that requirement. Especially living in a small village where our options are extremely limited.

For the past few months I have been feeling like I’m stuck in a mud pit. The life I want to lead is on top of a mountain far off in the distance but I am stuck to my knees in mud at the bottom of the earth. For weeks I turned my face to the wall and shut my eyes, trying to pretend that my ideals didn’t exist, that being stuck in mud was my new normal. I tried to keep my face toward the dark wall and pretend that the wall was my life, that the metaphorical roots and muck were my normal and nothing would change. This attitude lasted for a few months, and during those weeks I felt helpless, lethargic, and full of despair. My bad habits were on full display and each day I sunk deeper into the mud pit.

Near the end of my tumultuous weeks, my despair lessened and I was able to see more clearly again. I knew that I could no longer pretend that the mud pit was a safe place to live so I began to open eyes and turned away from the wall. I told myself to focus on the mountain far off in the distance, and began to plot a way to get out of the mud pit and eventually reach my destination. Before I started I had to gear myself up to believe that my ideals, the life I wanted to lead,  was not only possible but probable, and that the journey to achieve those ideals was worth it.

It’s not easy for a skeptic like me to psych myself up! I tend to just go with the flow beside whoever’s next to me and lay my wishes in the ground in order to focus on the person beside me. But there comes a time when enough is enough and folks, I’ve reached that time.