On Food, Guilt, and Judgement

It seems to me that in the past year, food has been the subject of more conversations I've had, heard, or read than possibly any other subject. I guess that's natural, since we consume it several times a day every day of our lives and it has such a profound effect on our health and well-being. It also has tremendous financial and political implications that many people don't think about or understand, but those issues are being pushed into the mainstream more and more. I've been fighting the pressure around me to change the way I think and eat for years, but suddenly that pressure feels overwhelming and I am filled with guilt.

All my life it was simply about not eating food that would make me fat. Discussion of weight was prevelent in my family growing up. We were restricted from soda and a lot of sugary sweets, and my mom didn't use a ton of fat in her cooking, but we were encouraged to have dessert...often ice cream...every night. My dad especially was kind of known for his sweet tooth. He was not really heavy but probably not active enough, and he had a fatal heart attack at 49.

I have done my share of yo-yo eating and dieting, but I excercise a fair amount and have been pretty healthy for quite awhile. My kids are both healthy weeds and appear to have no developmental issues. But we are all addicted to suger and carbs. I have written here before about how terribly my kids eat. Alex will not touch a fruit or vegetable, so lately I have all but given up trying. My pantry is filled with processed food. My freezer is filled with convenience food. I hate to cook, and I'm really bad at meal planning. Time is precious to me and I'd rather not spend it cooking a big meal that will cause tantrums and chaos and nobody will eat, only to be left with a big pile of dishes.

But I've been reading about the damage that the blood sugar roller coaster may be doing to my body and my kids' bodies, even if I can't see it right now. And since my husband was previously diagnosed as insulin resistant, I am especially worried about him. I don't care if he and I are a little overweight, but I want us to live long, healthy lives. And I don't want to set my kids up now for health struggles much later in life. I'm still not convinced that its necessary to buy 100% organic, but I agree with the premise of eating more natural, whole foods. I envy my sister and friends who grow incredible veggie gardens or raise chickens for an endless supply of incredible fresh eggs, but those options just don't seem practical to us. I haven't yet found the kind of awesome local farm fresh produce we had in Pennsylvania.

So I feel pretty frustrated by all the moms around me screaming about organic, non-processed eating. I know they are just trying to do what they believe is best for their families, but I'm feeling like it's becoming another one of those "mommy judgement" issues. And Jamie Oliver's Food Revolution show, with all of its good intentions, didn't help. Seeing him scream and curse about the kids brown bag lunches...exactly the things I feed my kids daily...really upset me.

But I see I need to try harder.  I see that I need to work on breaking our sugar addictions.  It's just very hard, when there seems to be something wrong with every food you can possibly think of.  Fruit still affects your blood sugar.  Beef and eggs still have a lot of cholesterol...besides the issue of how most of it is produced.  Most fish is farm raised and possibly full of mercury.  We just can't live on grilled fish and green beans every day.  But I know I need to try harder. 

Some related posts from my friends Kelly, JoLynne and Cecily. 

Revolution? Or Passing Trend?

Jamie's Not So Awesome Food Revolution

Eat Organic On a Budget: 10 Steps to a Food Revolution In Your Kitchen


Susie said...

It's very tough. You asked for practical suggestions. Anything I say will be a big, fat pot calling a kettle black, because I'm just getting started down this road myself. I'm on a strict anti-inflammatory diet now, which allows NO processed foods, and preferably organic everything. I'm very overweight, but was unwilling to "go on a diet" to fit into a size or an expectation. When I learned that the way I eat may be inhibiting my immune system (as it may for most of us Americans), that changed things. I'm willing to change my diet to help finally overcome my illness (lyme disease). But I have to say, the more I research an anti-inflammatory diet, the more it looks like the way we all "ought" to be eating. Inflammation is a factor in so many disease processes-- diabetes, cancer, Parkinson's, MS -- almost every ailment you can think of.
Cutting out white sugar and white flour products probably is the quickest, most cut-and-dried way to make an immediate impact on health. I love sweets, and miss sugar terribly. On the other hand, there's not much that tastes sweeter than this smoothie I have right here, that I just tweeted about. Good luck. Baby steps. btw, don't know if you follow either of them, but both Torrie and Sheryl are inspirational to me, in trying to eat healthier.

Pammer said...

Your centsible friend has a great start. When we first started down this path we chose to eat everything in the pantry and slowly (as we had to buy new things) bought organic where needed. We are not militant, but we are aware and cautious. All proteins and all kids' lunch foods are organic - including bread - always. We finally switched pastas and all our fruit is now, too. Also our milk/yogurt/cheese. But? I love Dr Pepper. It's staying. Also trips to the pizza joint down the street and the cheeseburger I love.

Since you're in the Houston area, know that HEB carries a TON of good options now. I split my time between there and Whole Foods pretty evenly.

Whole Foods can be overwhelming - I spent 2 hours there the first time just looking and reading and learning. Now it's better.

It's great you're ready to make a few changes, and I think you'll see the benefits in a bit. "The Revolution" doesn't have to be a tidal wave in your house - you're still steering the ship. :) And you're a heck of a captain.

Robyn said...

I'm struggling with this myself. My father was a diabetic and died from kidney failure. It was a horrific death, so painful in the end.

I too want to guide my family far away from the possibility of such diseases as diabetes.

I am more concerned with what goes into our produced meats and vegetables after watching the movie Food, Inc. than ever. I recently read the book, The Inflammation War by Dr. Chilton and was again blown away. Especially since we raise our own chickens and thought their eggs were the healthiest thing possible. Not according to this book.

I wish I knew the answers. I wish I knew who had them.

And I know what you mean about the judgments.

Ed T. said...

Sarah, I *am* diabetic - have been a type 2 since the mid-90s, and probably moving toward a Type 1 (considered by some MDs to be a "Type 1 1/2".) I have learned over the years that it is much easier to control BG levels if I watch - carefully - the amount of HFCS I consume, but seriously you have to find what works for you and your family. What I would watch out for is the "religious" trap, where you have pushed into buying organic/gluten-free/local grown/whatever because it is the "moral" thing to do. I still eat a lot of processed stuff (I also don't like to cook that much anymore), but I have learned to read labels.

As far as the kids go, I don't have a perfect answer: one of my siblings was a picky eater, until he discovered that the "macaroni" he liked so much was actually calamari. My son still loves starchy food (and he is now an adult), and with my history I am certainly concerned for him (but so far he checks out OK.)

The important thing, I guess, is to eat reasonable portions, get a reasonable amount of activity, and remember that, when all is said and done, we all die eventually. So all we can do is the best we can, and just let go of the guilt.


Leska McCall said...

I'm so glad this is all coming to the forefront. I've always been a freak about what I feed my family but NOT because I am so forward thinking and wise. It's rather due to the fact that I learned when I was in college that I'm allergic to tartrazine (yellow 5) after living with dibilitating migraines for virtually my whole life. When I cut out the yellow, magically they went away. So. That got me thinking when I started feeding my own baby about the profound affects what we put in *them* can have. Over the last 8 years I've read pretty much every book out there on the subject, and I consider Michael Pollan my food guide. I try to follow his advice: eat (actual real) FOOD, not too much, mostly leaves.

We aren't perfect: my kids still eat goldfish at church, neon yogurt at the hotels when we travel, and ice cream. But what is at our house is generally whole, unprocessed, mostly organic. If it has more than 5 ingredients, or partially-hydrogenated anything, or anything ending in -ose I generally don't buy it. And if I don't buy it, my family doesn't eat it.

Granted I love to cook, and I even love to go grocery shopping, so there's that. There are some good quality premade organic 'convenience' meals available BUT that comes with a pricetag. It's all a balance.

It is true that we vote with our shopping carts: just look at all the gluten-free stuff of late. Even the 'mainstream' brands are getting in on the action because there's money to be made. If people want good quality, whole foods it's there to be found and the industry will answer back with more available. Desite the fact that there is a documented lack of fresh food availability in urban areas, let's not kid ourselves about the poverty thing: affluent kids are eating the same crap, and some of it is 'organic'...it's still loaded with fat and sugar.

Money, sadly is the root of it all. The school lunch program started as a way to help farmers make more money, and the fact that it fed some hungry kids was just a bonus in those legislators' eyes. The food industry wants to make money, and if you end up consuming something that's not so great for you they view it as your problem because it's your choice to do so.

I think the key is to learn what you can and make some small changes that YOU feel good about and can live with emotionally/financially.

running42k said...

I will be the first to admit it is hard with kids. I have one that eats great and the other is fussy.

We eat very little processed foods. Then again cooking is my hobby and my wife doesn't mind either.

We both adhere to the shopping strategy that is put forth by many nutritionists that you shop predominately on the outside of the grocery store, thereby getting the fresh, non processed stuff.

A suggestion as well, start a garden and get the kids involved. The pride in growing their own veggies (including the selection) may turn their opinion.

Musings of a Housewife said...

It IS tough. Baby steps, is the best advice I know to give. And also? Fat and cholesterol may not be the devils they've been made out to be.

I bet there are local resources around you, have you gone to EatWild.com and looked around?

I do NOT think anyone should feel guilty. I think we should just try to inform ourselves and make small changes and see how it goes.

As far as the kids not eating much, they WILL adjust. I promise. :-)

Kristi said...

Thanks for blogging about this! Almost all my conversations over the last 2 weeks with mommies have been about food and being healthier...mayube it is on my radar because of my daughters "allergies/sensitivities"to food and (asyouknow)even to breast milk... I don't have many answers but I am on board with helping my family (and sharing what I find with your family!) take some baby steps to being healthier this year which will hopefully add up to a BIG LEAP! :)

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