Food History

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We all have beliefs about food and we all have our individual "food history", a collection of things we were taught about specific foods. 

I was raised in an atmosphere where diet was our religion.  As a child my mom only allowed organic, vegetarian whole foods. There were a lot of spoken and unspoken food rules. She is an organic gardener with emphatic beliefs about “healthy eating”. I don’t remember packaged food ever being in the house, except for frozen orange juice. Our guidebooks were, Diet for a Small Planet, The Tasahara Bread Book, Laurel's kitchen and then later The Moosewood Cookbook.   We had a flour grinder in our kitchen; it took about 10 minutes of  grinding to get enough flour for pancakes. She transported bulk bags of millet, rice and mung beans as well as huge keg of miso as we moved back and forth from Massachusetts to Nova Scotia. 

On the upside I was exposed to a large variety of foods,was provided with a great example of taking your health into your own hands and was immersed in a culture of nutritional self study.  On the down side, there was no choice, no room for experimenting and forming my own conclusions. When I did go to school (age 9) I was quite the weirdo with my miso soup and rice balls in my Holly Hobby lunchbox. 

The first time I had meat I was about 8 and my subsequent belly ache, I was told, was proof of how unhealthy it was. I was told that the fear an animal feels when it is about to be killed is stored in its cells and that you eat that fear. I was told that meat stayed in your belly like concrete, unable to be digested. I believed beans and grains were the ultimate in complete protein, corn oil was great, etc etc.  I had porridge almost every day for breakfast (and I was starving before my first class all through high school).

There were phases. Sometimes we were diary free. Sometimes our meals were macrobiotic. For a while we couldn’t have popcorn without brewer’s yeast on it, sometimes nutritional yeast was in the orange juice, then there was a while where we took algae supplements, then we all were on a strict anti-candida diet, for a while we had tofu all the time, then in my teens more fish and then poultry was introduced. Through the years I had many moments of rebellion, but the most memorable was when I was 12. My friend (another hippie kid) and I snuck into a grocery store, bought a box of food filled with stuff like canned ravioli and Jell-O pudding, hid it under the porch and cooked it up when our parents went out.  

My first  job was working as a cashier and at a health food store when I was 14. I went on to have three more positions in health food stores, up until my late 20s (in Miami, Victoria and Halifax). This enforced my childhood perceptions and deepened my knowledge base of alternative health, nutrition and supplements.  You don’t just work in a health food store, you live it, you learn, formally and informally and you advise. In my late teens I developed debilitating food and chemical sensitives this led to years of different elimination diets and various food regimes. By my mid thirties I had been a patient of dozens of naturopaths, acupuncturists, and homeopaths. I

By the time I was forty I thought I knew a lot about food, nutrition and natural health. But, I was unable to lose weight, and my health problems were mounting. At one point my doctor said “I would refer you to a nutritionist but you probably know more than them.”  But ask any overweight woman anything about food and dieting. They are experts about all of it, with the exceptions of getting and keeping the fat off. I increasingly came to believe I had a compulsive eating disorder. I studied Geneen Roth’s books, and took her online workshop, Women, Food and God. It was extremely helpful in that it taught me to be kind to myself and about the harmful effects of dieting and controlling food, but it supported the theory that I overate because of psychological pain. Then I did the exercises in Marianne Williamson’s book, A Course in Weight Loss. It was extremely helpful as well, in that it helped me identify what I wanted and how much of a psychological impact being overweight had on me. I prayed for a new relationship with food, but I still wasn’t losing weight. 

When I began my  research for weight loss in earnest I thought the low carb~high protein world was ridiculous and radical. I put it away for almost a year. In December 2009 I came back to it and began researching low carb and Paleo lifestyles for about two hours a day. Then in April 2011 I tried the Protein Power Lifeplan. Eating meat was hard at first, as I rarely ate it prior. I had to get my husband to cook the meat due to my lack of experience with it. I lost weight and felt better within weeks.  Additionally, after a few months we noted that we had never had such good and enjoyable food. The better I felt and the more I researched.

The new knowledge and lifestyle questioned everything I knew for sure about healthy food and nutrition (and also falls outside of mainstream "knowledge"). I understand my friends horror when she heard  my response to why I won't have margarine, I used to be there too. But as you can see from what I eat and believe now, even the most ingrained beliefs can be flipped over in the face of new experiences.

"...our relationship to food is an exact microcosm of our relationship to life itself." 
Geneen Roth

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