My Food Story
Have you ever thought about your food story? I mean really, like what’s been your journey with food? As simple as food can be, our relationship with it can be quite complicated. Are you an emotional eater? Has the type of foods you eat changed over the years? Are there memories with family or friends that stick out in your mind when you were together gathered around a table? Have you been dieting your whole life or trying different ways of eating and still not sure what to eat? Do you barely eat? There’s a lot there when we think about food and our own story connected to it.
As we grow and change and societies norms change so does the food we consume. Just think about how society and the media pressure us with food and diets . . . there are 100’s of ways people eat. We all need food to live and it’s a HUGE part of our lives and yet many times we mindlessly eat and often ignore food. Over the years, I have gained a deeper respect for the foods I eat and I want to share my food journey with you because it explains where I’ve come from when it relates to food. I am not a food expert and I wouldn’t say I am a great cook. In fact, I hated cooking for many, many years and wasn’t good at it at all! This is part of why I love sharing easy and healthy recipes I have tried with you online or in my newsletter, because if I can make it, then I think you have a good chance of doing so too. I rarely create my own recipes. I am not that creative in the kitchen, but I like trying out others recipes and if they are pretty easy to do and taste good then I pass them along to you – giving credit to where I found the recipe of course. I’m not perfect in the kitchen. In fact, I am far from it and actually a messy cook . . . but, it works for me. I think there is an illusion out there about health coaches. The illusion is that they have always been healthy eaters and they are great cooks, but that is not usually the case. Almost all of the health coaches I know, including myself, have their own food story and journey that doesn’t include eating healthy their whole life and often includes several struggles with food. I talk about food a lot in my everyday life and many call me a foodie, which I lovingly identify with that label. I also love trying new restaurants and different kinds of foods. I am a clean food and water online activist and I continue to always learn more about food and how it can help us feel better. By looking at our personal food stories we may learn something a little deeper about ourselves and gain clarity on how we want to move forward with our relationship with food.
My Food Journey
I only have a handful of memories that involve food from my childhood. I mean, I know I ate everyday, I just don’t remember food being anything significant. I do remember holiday dinner’s around my grandparents table, which I now have since they have passed. I remember having to sit at the kitchen table for what seemed like hours because I didn’t finish my meal – one specific time embedded in my memory included a hamburger with bread as the bun and the grease soaked through the bread, YUCK! I still get grossed out thinking about it – lol. I remember my dad frying up fish with homemade french fries, which he still does. I remember my mom making homemade apple dumplings. I remember having tea with my grandpa and him adding milk to it – I thought it was sooo good that way and still do! I remember the beef vegetable soup my grandma would make that I loved! I remember the wedding soup my other grandma made and was always excited when she would make it. I remember my grandpa making homemade ice cream in the summers. And a few meals that really stand out from childhood – pepper steak over rice and marzetti.
I was your typical kid from the 70’s and ate Twinkies and anything Hostess really. I ate Pop Tarts, cereal, ice cream and peanut butter and jelly. I don’t remember eating much fruit except maybe watermelon and strawberries in the summer. The vegetables I remember the most are potatoes or lima beans (which you can barely find anymore BTW). I didn’t help in the kitchen, I was always outside playing. Needless to say, I didn’t learn how to cook when I was growing up and never had the desire to take the time to learn – being outside was my jam. I had this idea in my head that I hated cooking, yet I hadn’t really ever given it a try. I probably really just hated cleaning the kitchen, which was one of my chores. And so I associated cooking with having to clean and I hated cleaning the kitchen so I must also hate cooking.
I also had digestive issues that started as a kid and continued into my 40’s. As a kid, I had to drink castor oil with orange juice to help with my constipation . . .was that TMI? If so, I’m sorry but, it’s part of my story and was a problem of mine for decades. More on this a little later.
Fried & Fast Food:
My first kitchen gadget when I was in college was a fry daddy. Do you remember those? They probably still have them on the market actually. Fried food was my go to. Give me fried mozzarella sticks anytime and I was a happy camper. I dabbled a little in the kitchen during college and my early twenties and relied on fast food more often than I care to admit. I had my fair share of McDonald’s french fries and fried chicken sandwiches. I even decided to stay in an area of town because BW3’s (the wing place) and my favorite pizza shop were close to where I lived at the time. Yes, that is true . . . embarrassing and true.
Exploring New Food Cultures:
It wasn’t until I met people from other parts of the world, with different backgrounds from my own, that I started to experiment and try new foods. I lived in South Florida for a few years in my twenties and if you have ever been to South Florida you know there is a Cuban influence and let me just say Cuban food is pretty tasty! While I lived in Florida, my friends and I loved trying new types of food. We talked about food, we went to cultural festivals and tried different types of food and we really enjoyed ourselves while exploring food. Traveling is one of my favorite things to do. To this day, whenever I travel I try to enjoy a local dish. You can be in one state and different parts of that state have different specialty dishes.
The Saba Influence:
Once I married into my husbands family, the Saba’s, I gained an even bigger appreciation for food. It came from my father in law sharing his Mediterranean dishes and my mother in law sharing her Swiss food . . . special dishes from their home countries. They had a way with cooking and gathering around a table that I was not accustomed too. Looking at it now, I see it almost like a ceremony, feeling gratitude for each meal. I will never forget being at our home with my in-laws and a few other Saba family members and having a meal they helped prepare . . . or they probably prepared it actually. Once we were done eating, I began gathering plates. I remember seeing a few around the table glance at each other in a way that caught my attention. Having a bit of an intuitive spirit, I knew what the look meant. I started clearing the plates too soon, in their opinion. We weren’t fully completed at the table and I started cleaning. You see they enjoy time sitting and conversing during and after a meal. It is often more mindful and slow, not rush, eat and then clean immediately. Gathering around a table for a meal is a time to connect, share and enjoy the food that was prepared. It took me awhile to relax into this new way of being with food and connecting around a meal. It wasn’t something I was use to. Even though when I was a kid, we often had dinner at 6pm as a family, I don’t remember there being a focus around the food. For some reason, I remember it being a time I had to talk about my grades, which weren’t always the greatest.
I feel pretty lucky because my husband truly enjoys cooking and can cook just about anything really well. One of my favorite things we do together is open the kitchen windows on a nice day, put on some music and cook together. Over the years, our two daughters would join in and it would be a family thing. Now, both my girls are excellent cooks creating their own dishes and sharing with us or with friends.
Adding Organic to the Mix:
I began incorporating organic food into my life after my first daughter was born in 1999. It started because my mother in law shared with us the benefits of eating organic food. My husband and I, with the help of my mother in law, decided we would at least add organic eggs and milk. Then, we added organic meat. As the years have continued, we are probably at 80% – 90% organic now with the foods we eat. It was a slow process for us. Thankfully, the cost of organic food has gone down tremendously since 1999 and often you can find some things less than the price of its conventional counterpart.
Health Coaching & Getting in the Kitchen:
Getting more involved in the kitchen and cooking started when I had kids. I couldn’t rely on my husband to do all the cooking. During this time, I really decided I hated cooking. It was so incredibly stressful. Looking back, of course it was stressful, I was trying to do something I didn’t know how to do very well all the while I had two little kids running around and often needing my attention. It wasn’t until after I hired my own health coach in 2007 did I start to connect food with my body and how I felt. It was then that I also learned that I could make meals that were healthier and pretty easy. This is also when I decided to go back to school and get my health coaching certification at The Institute for Integrative Nutrition (IIN).
During that time, I learned an incredible amount of information about food, our bodies and 100’s of different types of diets. Often, each way of eating contradicting the other. I eventually adapted the belief of bio-individuality that I learned while at IIN. Meaning everyone has a way of eating that feels good to them – none are right or wrong. It depends on the individual.
Going Gluten Free:
In 2010 or maybe it was 2011, I realized my body didn’t enjoy wheat. I had this intuitive hit to stop eating gluten. I didn’t stop immediately, but what I did do was pay attention to how I felt after eating it and I didn’t feel good. Going gluten free includes not eating wheat, barley or rye. Since I didn’t eat much barley or rye and wheat was what I wanted to stay away from going gluten free seemed to be the easiest route. I figured it would be easy to do since it was more common than saying I am wheat free. I went cold turkey and I didn’t feel deprived because I found alternatives. It’s funny though, when I stopped eating gluten so many people became interested in the food on my plate or rather the food not on my plate. I got hassled from family members a lot. Why? Mostly because I decided to stop eating gluten on my own and not because a doctor told me I had an issue with it and I was eating in a different way. For whatever reason deciding on my own to stop eating a food because I felt better not eating it triggered people. I find it interesting the hassle I received from people all because I didn’t like the way a food made me feel . . . why is that so hard for others to accept? I do not know.
Eliminating gluten also included not drinking beer or alcohol made from wheat. My entire life up to this point, whenever I would have an alcoholic beverage I would get hives on my neck and eventually my face depending on how much I would drink. It was a known thing amongst friends, “Carrie gets red hives when she drinks”, and I literally would laugh it off. I thought it was just the way I was and didn’t think it was that odd . . . for probably 26 years of my life. BTW – this is not a normal thing that should happen to people. It is a clear sign of an allergic reaction. When someone gets a bee sting and they are allergic they swell and get hives . . . why I never put it together in that way until removing gluten and then testing it with taking a sip or two of beer is beyond me.
Taking gluten out of my diet helped with that digestion issue I shared earlier. It wasn’t completely normal, but it definitely helped. I continued on the gluten free way of eating, adding in more organic choices over the years. In 2016, I did take a blood test to test food allergies and intolerances and it did confirm I am allergic to wheat, something I knew already, but nice to get confirmation to share when I get hassled from family members.
Red Meat, In or Out:
I have played around with eating red meat and not eating red meat. It has fluctuated off and on over the years. This is funny too because for some reason this is also a trigger for other people. It is like they don’t know how to act if I am not having a hamburger and instead having a veggie burger.
Over the years, there have been times red meat worked for my body and it felt good after eating it and then other times it didn’t feel good. I try to listen to how my body feels and let that be my guide. Currently, it’s out. But, tomorrow it might be back in, although it would have to be organic and grass fed preferably. It is a bit of a flow in and out and I am okay not having it be set in stone whether it is in or out.
Mindless Eating & Binging Out:
I realized I had a habit of mindlessly eating and binging out on food when my kids were in elementary school. I recognized it happening almost everyday right before they would get home from school and it would continue once they were home for several minutes. Don’t let the minutes fool you – you can eat a lot in a few minutes when it is mindless eating. It had been going on for YEARS before I actually realized it. I started taking a few deep breaths before I would start the snacking craze. Then, I started observing myself. What I learned was – it my way to transition from work mode to mom mode. Now, my girls are older and it’s a non-issue. Occasionally, I will catch myself mindlessly snacking and when I connect with my truth as to what’s going on, it’s usually because I don’t really want to do whatever it is I feel I am “suppose” to be doing. It is a form of procrastinating for me. Awareness is the first step in stopping. I am hopeful it will be a non-thing for me someday, no matter what though it has taught me a lesson. The lesson being that whatever I am feeling I am “suppose” to be doing might need to come off my to do list or perhaps I do it at another time when I feel more inclined to want to do it.
Health Issues and Healing:
In 2017, I came to a place where my body was not well. I discovered I had some thyroid issues. I was exhausted all the time and the epstein barr virus was causing havoc. I started doing quite a bit of research because living my life this tired day in and day out was not something I wanted to accept. I also got support through my acupuncturist and my integrative doctor. Throughout my food journey, I had grown to believe that some foods can heal our bodies and some foods can destroy our bodies.
I made some changes in 2017 that are now just how I eat. They are my norm. Many of my changes were because I became even more aware of how certain foods were affecting my body and more importantly which foods were feeding the epstein barr virus. I decided I no longer was going to include dairy in my diet and also took out eggs. I don’t eat red meat (for now at least) and I added a lot more vegetables and fruits – A lot More. I thought I had been eating pretty good, but in actuality I could do way better. I became more conscious about the foods I was eating and how they help or hurt my body. One thing I noticed as I made these changes is the reflux I would have from time to time was gone. It just wasn’t there anymore. I often got it when I had dairy at night and it would wake me up abruptly after being a sleep a short while. Also, my digestive issues were gone! I mean gone! I started going to the bathroom daily and often more than once a day which was unheard of for me . . . my ENTIRE LIFE up until this point. While I am still on my healing journey, I know that the foods I choose to put in my body make a difference. I can choose to eat foods that heal and make me feel good or I can choose foods that destroy and make me feel like crap. It is a daily choice and one I take pretty serious.
My food story isn’t complete, it’s an ongoing thing, always evolving and growing. But, reflecting on my personal journey in this way has been a lot of fun. There are things I remembered that I hadn’t thought about in years. I have come a long way with food and I bet many of you have as well. What is your food story? You don’t have to write it all out like I did, but perhaps just think about it and maybe you will have some moments of reflection that are heartwarming or inspire you do try something different.