I like to drink kombucha. That's right. Fermented tea. It's alive. It's got a mother. As a former TCAD (Two Cones A Day...ice cream cones...Yeah. I know.) I can hardly believe it's true, but it is. This is a cautionary tale of how a normal (still up for debate) person like me became a certifiable health nut weirdo.
It all started when I began decluttering the kitchen.....
(cue time-lapse harp music)
Using the KonMari Method I had already simplified many categories of household objects at this point. My gut decision-making abilities for what "Sparked Joy" (what to keep and what to let go) was getting pretty strong. I had already gone through the cabinets the day before and now had clear, appliance-free counters (except my stand mixer). I was thrilled about all the prep space I had gained for cooking in my small kitchen.
It was time to go through our refrigerator and pantry next. Now that my gut was making the calls, I guess it decided that it was time for some self-cleaning. That's the day my family started on a path to decluttering our guts.
Other than having a horrible sweet tooth (a cute term used for sugar addiction), I never considered myself to be a horrible eater. I was a consistent meal planner and cooked from scratch. We didn't eat that many processed foods. We rarely ate out...a product of finances and having small children. Our decent metabolisms had me fooled into thinking we were a healthy family.
However, when I evaluated the various snack foods, candies, condiments, and canned goods (most of which I have learned had BPA linings) spread out over the table and newly cleared counters, I was confronted with a two very simple questions: Why do we have so many opened bags of stale marshmallows and could we be eating better?
For instance, for my kids' snacks I preferred fresh produce to Annie's cheddar bunny crackers. When given the choice, the crackers always won. Nutrition-wise, cheddar crackers, even organic ones, do not beat organic produce and it was time to live that way. Not just the kids, but their mom and pop too!
Which brings me back to my TCAD sugar addiction. Almost 8 years ago, as a new stay-at-home mom, I would reward myself (for surviving I guess?) at nap-time and bedtime with a heaping ice cream cone. That's right, cones, not a bowl like a normal person. It was my vice (that and online shopping, but that's a post for another day). I'm not a smoker, drinker (other than an occasional glass of wine), or even a coffee drinker. I had always had a decent metabolism and no problems with cavities, so no big deal, right? It's not like I was eating bonbons and watching soaps! I was eating ice cream and watching The Chew. It's a big difference...don't judge!
Studies have shown that sugar is eight times more addictive than cocaine. I'm not kidding when I refer to it as an addiction. Just like its boardwalk buddy pizza (a single slice has more sugar than a few Oreos), ice cream is one of the most addictive foods. Thank goodness my sister called me out on what I was doing. She said, "You know ice cream is pretty much the most unhealthy thing you can eat, right?" Turns out she's right and switching to all natural versions was not good enough. So ended my brief period as a TCAD as I cut back to a bedtime cone. An OCAD. Baby steps. Now I am more than happy with the ice cream alternatives that I enjoy in moderation. Crazy, I know!
Since learning a bit more about nutrition and gut (intestinal) health, I feel sorry for what I was doing to my poor body! Luckily, the human body is pretty resilient and heals itself when given the chance. I just needed to give it that chance. I have heard the eye rolling term "health journey" used before. As corny as it sounds, it is an accurate description. It doesn't happen overnight and involves many small steps. We didn't start out drinking kombucha and green smoothies...or we would have never continued. Your taste buds don't change overnight!
Besides my sister's wise words, there was something else in the back of my mind that surfaced the day I decluttered the pantry. Almost five years ago, my dad passed away from pancreatic cancer. He was diagnosed in April, two days before I gave birth to our second daughter. He died less than two months later in June.
Since I knew someone who had cured her second bout of cancer through diet, my thought was, "If I can be proactive and make healthy choices now, what am I waiting for?" I want to know I am doing all I can to live a longer life for my husband and children. It took seeing all the food in front of me to push me into action. In my gut I knew we could do better.
Next I needed to motivate my family to avoid being the dictator chef. A few Netflix documentaries, blogs, books and discussions later, and my husband and I were on the same page. One of the books I read, The Beauty Detox Solution, came highly recommended. It should be called Healing Your Gut for Dummies. Strangely, I can accept the idea of being dumb more readily than being vain. Plus this really wasn't about beauty for me. Needless to say, the information I shared from this book with "beauty" in the title fell under a bit of scrutiny from my husband. I don't blame him. Stupid title! Luckily a friend of ours loaned him the book Eat & Run, which confirmed many of the ideas I had been sharing from the "girl" book. The moral is, there is a book about how your gut works for everyone.
One thing my girly book recommended was eating fermented foods. My husband read the book Fermentation for Beginners and now he is happily fermenting sauerkraut (good for the gut when raw, not canned or heated) each week. Strangely, making sauerkraut has always been on his bucket life of bizarre things to do. It was destiny. We also enjoy a Glowing Green Smoothie, also from my girly book, every morning. We honestly both look forward to it. We crave nutrients now. Did I really just type that? Eating better is a new shared passion for us. It's fun!
As a runner, the benefits of our healthier eating has been noticed by my husband, not only in his looser pants, but his faster times. He is set to run his fastest marathon yet in a few weeks, right after turning 40. This makes me very proud!
When people notice I've dropped a few pounds, I am quick to tell them my motivation. Healthier eating for appearance sake never really seems to make a lasting change. We have all heard the term yo-yo dieting. It's got to be something deeper, like a love of your family, to make that change happen. No doubt there are wonderful side effects such as more energy, feeling great, and looking better (clearer skin starts in the gut), but none of those things had ever motivated me. You don't need to be morbidly obese to find motivation to change. Many diseases don't care whether you are overweight.
My dad loved science and was always learning. Educating myself about nutrition not only makes science applicable and interesting, it makes me feel a bit closer to him. I think he would be proud of the changes we've made and the ripple effect on our friends and family.
In conclusion, if you are thinking about decluttering your kitchen, be careful. It's a slippery slope into health nut weirdsville. The good news is it's a pretty awesome place and you'll never want to go back!
Next week I will address how we eat organic on a teacher's salary and eating healthier with kids who have tasted junk food and liked it.