Wednesday, October 20, 2010

food glorious food!

I embarked on this food journey after being diagnosed with fibromyalgia and having a dear friend tell me that my eating habits weren’t helping.

Chapter One of my adult life: I was one of the masses – and proud of it. Quietly looking down my nose at those of you who “thought you were too good” to eat fast food or frozen dinners. I cited my busy schedule as a mother of two small children and fitness instructor when a friend encouraged me to *eye roll* make my own baby food from scratch. I clung to the idea that we were “easy” eaters – not picky or snotty and indulgent like those frivolous people who had money to throw away on organic ingredients and time to waste in the kitchen. A piece of meat on the grill, a box of parmesan noodles and a can of green beans – or better yet – a box of hamburger helper – was plenty good enough for our family. I didn’t need all those fancy ingredients. I was doing more important things with my time and money. I wasn’t like them – and I was proud of it.

Enter Chapter Two: The Catalyst. After several years of feeling sick I was diagnosed with fibromyalgia. I threw myself into research – trying desperately to find a magic answer – “do these three things and you will feel all better!” No such answer existed – but what I did discover was information challenging my ideas about “healthy eating.” As a fitness instructor I had dabbled with nutrition/dieting – but only of the counting calories/choke down protein bars to stay skinny/self-flagellation variety. I began experimenting – cutting out different foods from my diet and paying close attention to how I felt with or without them. I went two months without my favorite treat in the whole world – a large coke and two apple pies from McDonald’s. I marveled at how much better I felt the morning after I chose to forgo the extra large bowl of ice cream with caramel and chocolate on top. I ate simply, trying to cut out what I determined were my “problem” foods - all preservatives, wheat, caffeine and refined sugars. I ate lots of fruits and veggies, rice, potatoes, and chicken with no seasoning. I had more energy, but everything was so bland. Outside of a handful of recipes, I had no idea how to put together natural flavors and spices. I lasted for about 6 weeks before I was over it. I missed yummy food!

Chapter Three - Victim Mode. I lamented our financial situation, stating that if only we had more money – I could eat differently. I cried for my pre-fibro self – the girl who had lots of energy, was pain free and could eat whatever she wanted. I read blog after blog about organic, gluten-free cooking; finding myself overwhelmed by the fact that most of the ingredients I had never even heard of, much less had stocked in my kitchen. A personal chef was my ultimate dream – the answer to all my woes. I sullenly choked down my plain baked sweet potato while watching my family feast on my mom’s chicken tetrazini; feeling increasingly more sorry for myself while insisting through my martyr complex that I was fine.

Finally, Chapter Four. I decided to DO something! I am a smart girl. I can figure this out. I can learn how to cook yummy, truly healthy food for myself and my family. After struggling through cutting a single raw sweet potato – I realized my first step – I needed the right tools. Not only had my knives been in my kitchen for at least ten years, they had never even been sharpened. After all, why spend time sharpening knives when you might only have the opportunity to dice an onion once a year? (Doesn’t everyone use that bottle of dehydrated chopped onions?) Obviously the second step is buying the right ingredients. Learning how to prioritize, what are the most important foods to buy organic, and what are the things I can save money on. The third step is not shooting for the stars, get some simple recipes that I can put together in a short amount of time. My new favorite is Jennie’s Gluten Free Corn Muffins. Good ingredients, simple recipe and they take almost no time to make! Best of all, they are delicious! I think I might be able to handle this cooking thing after all!

Saturday, February 20, 2010

feed it or fill it?

No sugar, low-fat, low sugar, fat-free, low cal, low carb. Does that make you hungry? Not me. What about apple pie, Coca-Cola, filet mignon, bacon and eggs, homemade spaghetti with garlic bread. Mmmmmm! Now are you hungry? I know I am. We settle for mere crumbs; artificial sweeteners and “butter” made in a science lab; rather than feasting on what is real, authentic, what makes us shout “YUM!”
So the question becomes: Do you feed it or do you fill it? Sometimes when I am dieting, I fill my stomach with diet soda. Zero calories, zero nutritional value, but it makes me feel full, it eases the discomfort of an empty stomach. When I feel far from God, do I feed that hunger for Him or do I choose to fill it with other things, other relationships with zero calories, zero nutritional value for my eternal soul? When I am dieting, I can survive on diet soda. I can fill up, I can ignore the fact that it doesn’t taste real, but every once in awhile something will remind me of the real thing. When I drive past a McDonald’s, I can almost taste the joy of drinking a real Coca-Cola, ice cold and bubbly with none of that sharp edge that comes along with the artificial sweetener in diet cola. That edge that says…this is not real. This can’t truly nourish you. This will fill you up, but it can never feed you. You know that sharp edge that you taste when you try to fill that hunger for God with work, or with sex, or with TV, or even with serving others – but for the wrong reasons, or keeping all the rules, or being good enough? There is that sharp edge in your gut that tells you this is not authentic. You may be full – but you are not fed. You may be able to survive that way for awhile, but you’ll become malnourished. Your HUNGER for God will drive you crazy, that deep innate desire, that longing for the euphoria of feeding on what is true, real and authentic; gulping in the sweet, ice cold, bubbly love of Christ, savoring its flavor and enjoying being truly fed by Him….THAT is what it is all about.
We choose to fill ourselves rather than feed ourselves. In our zeal to be “beautiful” we settle for substitutes. In our quest for “success” we compromise. In the midst of the discomfort that comes with the hunger, we reach for whatever is closest to fill us up. The world tells us that the path to success is to mask the hunger, to fill up on diet soda, but that sharp edge is always there to remind us…we were made for so much more. God wants to feed us, not just fill us up on counterfeits and forgeries. He wants to nourish us, to give us abundant life. The longing inside you for food, God put that there. We need food to sustain our physical body. The ache inside you for something more, God put that there too. We need Him to sustain our soul.