It was only about ten years ago, when I was pregnant and then nursing my daughter, that I woke up to the power our food choices have in our lives.
Well, that is not entirely true.
Go back twenty years, and I was experimenting with vegetarianism (lacto-ovo) and for a very short time, veganism.
I thought of food as an ethical and environmental choice and a political statement.
I still think this is true, though, eventually I did the very thing my young, idealistic self claimed I'd never do: ease my guidelines on the sources of my protein.
... It started when I moved to Alaska and I lived in a Norwegian fishing village. I wanted to take part of the bountiful salmon and halibut found at every potlach.
I don't regret this choice and I feel incredibly lucky to still live in a place where the wild salmon run and many people I know living here fish and eat salmon. I think my choice had more to do with culture than health; to experience life fitting in with my neighbors.
Over the years, concerns over how I looked and how I felt overshadowed my political stance, and other animal proteins slipped into my diet. Consuming ample protein is crucial, and, though I LOVE beans and brown rice (a good complementary protein meal) and its vegetarian variations, it is not something I personally can eat every day.
And, so, perhaps, like you, my eating patterns and convictions have changed over the years.
But, when I found out I was pregnant, my awareness switched to health.
My actual health, supporting baby's actual health.
Pre-natal vitamins = essential. Full sleep, avoiding stress, and walking for exercise all crucial.
Suddenly there were all these restrictions. NO alcohol. What? No deli meat? Watch the mercury laden fish? No sushi? Is caffeine ok? Or not? (I went with decaf, but slipped up a couple times over my pregnancy).
My body told me no chicken or eggs in my second trimester; the smell of these foods gave me the worse nausea I experienced during the 8 months of carrying baby.
A nurse talked to our pre-natal class about cravings. I found myself craving root beer and fruit smoothies. Looking back, I hope I didn't go overboard with these sugary treats. At least I gained a healthy amount of weight for the pregnancy and tests were mostly very good, though my daughter was born 5 weeks early. In hindsight, if I were to do it again, I would do it without junk like root beer.
All I am illustrating here, which you may be able to relate to is that the stakes were so high. I wanted a healthy baby and healthy mama. NOTHING was more important than that.
So I started to realize my food choices were so potent.
Your food choices are so potent. Whether you are eating for one or more, what you choose to eat has an incredible impact on your skin. On your hormones. On your energy level. On your vitality.
It was about this time I found out about the book SuperFoods Rx: Fourteen Foods That Will Change Your Life, by Steven Pratt, MD and Kathy Matthews.
In this little paperback book I held in my hands, so much research, evidence, is brought together to point to the powerful components found in certain foods.
Blueberries (explain research and toxin...)
As somebody who grew up on McDonalds and Kentucky Fried Chicken, to weaning herself off fast-food to enjoy cooking from vegetarian cookbook as a young adult, to a mom-to-be, my food choices have evolved. At 35 years old I started to understand my daily choices in eating would make a difference in the quality of my life and that of my daughter.
The Moral of the Story
Ten years after my discovery of superfoods, I have incorporated some fine choices in my menus. I have played with new healthful recipes. I have continuously looked for ways to add nutrition and subtract unhealthy foods from my daughter's diet.
My weight, fitness, and energy has fluctuated.
Specifically, it happens over the winters when it is darker and colder and depression sets in. I make up for it in the summers when I get enough exercise and eat a little less of the comfort foods.
Today I am at a point where there is no more room for the junk. No more room to go up and down on the scale and in how I feel.
This is why I don't buy it when people say they eat healthy so they are okay with having the junky stuff sometimes.
Though I do buy the rationale to exercise so that I can eat whatever I want to eat!
What I realize is nutrition is a journey.
I am better tracking my macro-nutrients, and I am better about having consistent protein, especially as I am building muscle and burning fat.
I know eating clean has improved my energy. That healthy choices are the right thing to do at the very least 80% of the time.
I am still on my journey and so glad to be meeting you on yours. It is a fun place to be.