Thursday, January 22, 2009

Slow Changes in Eating Habits

When I told one friend that my eating habits have evolved slowly she was shocked. Another friend wanted to know where she should start, if she wanted to eat better. Since I had the "eating healthy" conversation more than once with my Southern friends over the holidays, I thought I would elaborate here. Some of my Phoenician friends have been my teachers!

This post is going to focus on books that have shaped my ideas about food. A later post will elaborate on food choices that have changed over the years.

Until my 30th birthday, I could eat what I wanted, when I wanted it with a lot of sugar sprinkled on top. That is not to say my mom didn't care what I ate.

Mom is The Fruit & Veggie Queen. She eats more produce than anyone else I know - and is an advocate for others eating them, too. It's with vivid memories that I remember her teaching about portions and food groups as well as refusing to buy Hamburger Helper, white bread or other convenience foods.

As newlyweds, if Hubby and I were to give each other nicknames, he was Jack Sprat for he would eat no fat. On the otherhand, I was Mrs. Full-o-Fat-&-Sugar. See any conflict here?

After a few years of marital bliss, I found myself working in FamilyLife's Publishing department (about 6 years ago.) One of the most popular resources from the radio program was: What the Bible Says About Healthy Living: Three Biblical Principles that Will Change Your Diet and Improve Your Health. To be honest, I read the book, not because I was interested in the subject matter but because I wanted to know why it was so wildly popular.

There were many things I learned from that book, but some of the nuggets of truth that stuck with me were:

- drinking a "regular" Coke with all it's sugar is better for my body that ingesting "diet" with the artificial sweeteners.

- eating food in the way God intended is best (from the cow, from a tree, from the garden - not processed)

Another influential book I read about that time and was a bit similar was The Maker's Diet.

Shortly after reading the above books I was diagnosed with gestational diabetes and had an appointment with a nutritionist. That meeting was informative and caused me to realize I ate way too many carbohydrates and not enough protein. I worked to change my eating habits to reflect my new knowledge.

Next I read The South Beach Diet. Again, this wasn't a book that I was really reading for me, mostly because I thought I was eating healthy. I was reading it to understand why all the hype. However, it had a common thread of "eat more protein."

It also planted seeds for what I would read a year later in the book Schwarzbein Principle.

My very health concsious neighbor, Gina, introduced me to Schwarzbein. (I also recommend the yummy and simple cooking cookbook.) Gina is a physical trainer and was reqired to read the book for employment at a private gym. Schwarzbein's principles seemed to echo much of what I'd read in the previous 3 years:

- eat more protein
- eat more non-starchy carbs like broccoli and cauliflower
- eat natural fats like eggs, avocado, olive oil
- banish processed foods
- eat what you can "pick, gather, milk." Just say no to processed food.

One element that Schwarzbein added was the idea of a "food cube." She shot all kinds of holes through the FDA's recommended Food Pyramid. The cube recommended by Schwarzbein was eating from four quadrants: protein, non-starchy carbs, starchy carbs and fat. It made sense to me on the heels of reading books like The South Beach Diet and coping with diabetes.

Most recently, the book that I've been noodling on is Nourishing Traditions and talked about it here and here.

Probably more than all the above books, Nourishing Traditions has profoundly affected our eating habits.

If I had to explain why this book was so influential, I think it's because I've had 6 years to take baby steps towards eating right. But I also think it is because I read all the other books first. Each book convinced me of one change (sometimes more than one.) Over years our family has made many gradual changes.

If I had to recommend only one book from the above list, I couldn't do it. Here are my top three:
1. What the Bible Says About Healthy Living
2. Nourishing Traditions
3. The Schwarzbein Principle

As for Jack Sprat and Mrs. Full-of-Fat-&-Sugar, she read to him bits of what she was learning in the books. He loves to read but as far as she knows, he hasn't read any of these books. He was, however, relatively interested in living healthy. Gradually they made changes. He started drinking whole milk and stopped drinking Diet Coke. Not all in the same day, mind you.

In coming days, I will share specificallly how our eating choices have slowly changed in the last 6 years.

Part II - Examples of how our food consumption has changed
Part III - Change in budget and time in the kitchen


Donielle said...

It is a slow, slow journey sometimes. And I've also loved all the books you linked to! Especially Nourishing Traditions. Which by the way, I have a few to give away next week! :-)

Koko's mama said...

It's interesting because I'm reading Nourishing Traditions right now.

I am just wondering how scientific their research is. I know that book has loads of footnotes, but so many other nutritionists disagree and level of physical depletion can't be compared to that of native people. Still, I am trying a few nourishing recipes and still pondering...

Julie said...

Koko - I don't know about how scientific their research is but I have noticed that the journals referenced in the footnotes are from all over the world - which leads me to believe a lot of scientists are finding the same thing.

Other than science, the info I'm learning in Nourishing Traditions just seems to make sense to me.

MajorScoop said...

Just got my Nourishing Traditions in the mail last night. Excited.


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