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Denise wrote me a lovely email regarding her recent thoughts on nutrition and health. I plan to reply to her email specifically, but it reminded me so much about where I was just a couple of short years ago. I wanted to share with her, and you, how I came to a place of eating and feeding my family nourishing, traditional foods.

I grew up eating your typical standard American diet (SAD). From an early age I remember consuming white flour and white sugar. A lot of sugar. Breakfast was usually a sugar cereal, white toast, or nothing at all. Lunch was either unhealthy cafeteria food or a packed white bread sandwich, little debbie snack, a bag of chips and a diet coke. Dinner involved some sort of factory farmed meat or poultry; white rice, potatoes, pasta or bread on the side; and sometimes a vegetable. The only vegetables I remember eating frequently were canned green beans, canned corn, iceberg lettuce salads, and cucumbers and tomatoes in the summer. I am so thankful, though, that we ate real butter, cheese and whole milk.

I got sick a lot. Every winter I remember coming down with severe colds, bronchitis and pneumonia. I never knew what it was like to feel well. I was overweight from the age of 6 or so. While I played sports and enjoyed being active, I was never at a healthy weight. My last year of high school I became so frustrated with my weight issues that I tried everything to shed pounds. Some of my efforts were good – like exercising more and just being aware of what I was putting into my mouth. Others were much more harmful – like drinking diet soda, taking "diet" pills and not eating at all. I never went as far as anorexia or bulemia, but my unhealthy relationship with food continued. I no longer ate for comfort, but now I was terrified to eat anything. Food was the enemy, so I thought, and eating as little as possible was the goal.

When I went away to college that thought process continued. I managed to lose more weight during my first semester by playing sports daily. I was finally down to a healthy weight for my height and build and it felt great. But my stomach didn’t. I started having digestion issues during my second semester. I blamed part of it on stress – a bad relationship and a difficult roommate.

By my second year of college my bad relationship continued and I started eating for comfort again. I started to put more weight back on, which caused more emotional eating. My stomach issues got worse, to the point that I thought something was seriously wrong with me. There were times that I didn’t want to leave the house because of the pain.

The summer before my junior year my relationship ended, I was in a good living situation and I found myself motivated to lose weight again. I started buying the "smart ones" and "lean cuisine" meals. I started reading about fiber and started eating whole grain bread, lean meats and a lot of fat free yogurt sweetened with aspartame. I had read enough from the "experts" to know that fat and calories were the enemy and if I just kept my calories under a certain number I would lose weight. And I did. By keeping my calories below 1500 and playing a lot of volleyball I was able to get down to a much healthier weight once again. Most of my stomach issues resolved themselves and I thought that for once I was healthy.

I was much healthier than I had been, but only visibly. Inside I still had health issues and emotional connections to food that needed to be dealt with.

I graduated from college, got married and moved all within one months time in the summer of 2005. It was wonderful, exciting and life altering all at the same time. I was only working part time while my husband worked all day. I spent many, many hours in the kitchen. We were eating whole grains, cutting out high fructose corn syrup, MSG and most packaged food. All dairy was non fat or low fat, I was careful not too eat too many eggs and our salad dressing contained little to no fat. We started eating more vegetables (a good thing), kept eating the cheapest meats we could find at the grocery store and continued eating white sugar. We were on the road to health, or so I thought.

I went through my first pregnancy eating that way. I thought I could eat whatever I wanted since I was pregnant. I ate way too much sugar and ice cream and gained 50 pounds. After our son was born I had no idea how to lose the weight. I had no time to cook so I ate a lot of crackers, breads and snack foods. I came across the book Nourishing Traditions on someone’s website and heard great things about it. I ordered the book and during the endless hours of breastfeeding my infant I devoured the entire book.

And I was overwhelmed.

I thought it was impossible to make these changes. Organic food was something we had already started doing when we could. I couldn’t believe that I should eat full fat dairy, that butter could be good for me, that as a nursing mother I should be eating lots of eggs. It went against every piece of dietary advice I had ever been given.

I couldn’t get enough information about healthy diet, nutrition and what eating sustainably meant. I read Michael Pollan, Barbara Kingsolver, Nina Planck, Sally Fallon. I watched videos about confinement feed lots. I read article after article about nourishing food from the weston a. price website. But I still hesitated to switch from my low fat vanilla yogurt to a whole milk cream top plain yogurt. Too many calories, I thought.

Then one day as my head spun with the confusion of low-fat, low calorie, traditional, high fat, etc. I asked myself one simple question: "Did God make a mistake when He created our food?"

The answer was obviously no. Of course butter is better than margerine. Of course produce should be organic. Of course cows should graze on grass, not grains. Of course chickens should roam free. Of course eggs are good for us. Of course whole raw milk is better than homogenized low fat milk. It’s not because Sally Fallon says so, but because God created these things to be perfect for us.

The next time I bought yogurt for our smoothies it was organic, whole, cream top, plain yogurt. That one item – yogurt – symbolized the start of a change in the way I thought about food.

I gradually moved into more organics, grass fed meats, soaking grains, raw milk and more fermented foods. I couldn’t believe how much more expensive it was going to be. But then I realized it was an investment in our health, in our future, in our children.

It took me small steps to get to where I am. I was scared of raw milk at first, until I knew the facts. I was puzzled about the difference between "natural" meat and grass fed, but I did my research and won’t buy "natural" any longer. I buy organic produce whenever I can. I want to eat more locally and grow our own food. I want to be mindful of where our food comes from and who benefits or suffers from our consumption of it. I want to ferment more vegetables, brew my own kombucha and find a healthy weight for my body. I am getting there, but slowly.

It didn’t happen overnight. It’s been two years since I started making these changes. The biggest change we can make is changing how we think about food. We have to remember to eat foods in their God-given forms.


21 Responses to My Journey To Nourishing Food

  1. Denise says:

    I’m going to email you in a bit later. Let me just say now though that I’m so touched. Thank you for taking the time to tell/write your story, I can relate on so many levels. I’ll share more in my email : )


  2. Cathy says:

    Thanks for sharing your story…mine is very similar. Sometimes I laugh to myself when I think how appalled I would have been a few years ago if I could have known the things we eat now. And shudder when I think about some of my previous eating habits.


  3. Nancy says:

    I appreciate your story. I think alot of us have a history when it comes to our connection with food. I grew up on a farm where we raised our own livestock (some of which found its way to our freezer), grew a garden, and had fruit trees in our orchard. Needless to say, we ate well. Then I moved out and tried things that I’d never had at home — yes, the junk food. Slowly but surely I found my way back to my roots and it feels good.


  4. Denise says:

    one more thing : )

    I’m going to check the library for the Nourishing Traditions book next week.


  5. Lauren says:

    “Did God make a mistake when He created our food?”

    I like this. A lot. :)

    I can relate to your story about getting sick because of a nutrient deficient diet, as well as having an unhealthy relationship with food. Thank you so much for sharing! Isn’t it great to have this stuff *sort of* figured out? People don’t know what they’re missing. ;)


  6. [...] Vote My Journey To Nourishing Food [...]

  7. Great post! I enjoyed reading about your evolution. :D


  8. Alyss says:

    Wonderful post. You are so well spoken :) My story is similar but my dad did cook with vegetables a fair amount. He’s quite a foody himself so though the dumplings in the stew were Bisquik, and breakfast was usually Frosted Flakes with extra sugar, we did also eat nasi goreng, chioppino and pan fried brussels sprouts at home :) I became a vegetarian after I moved out of my parents house at 18 and got more into whole foods, but with plenty of soy milk and tofu. I stumbled upon Nourishing Traditions at the health food store and bought it the next time I got a financial aid check :) It’s been a slow journey – I still don’t buy raw milk, and can rarely afford pastured meat – but I whole heartedly believe that food should be natural. The closer to dirt it is, the happier I am :) Nature/God made it right, our job is to not mess it up too much :)


  9. [...] you all for the kind comments on my recent posts regarding my journey to nourishing food and my reflections on the past year. Y’all are too [...]

  10. erin Davy says:

    This is great! Thank you for your story! Ditto to most comments above…;)
    I’m about 2 years behind you in my journey, but being an ‘all or nuthin’ kinda gal, I’m sure I’ll learn fast!
    Thanks to you for sharing your knowledge with all of us!


  11. FoodRenegade says:

    What a heartfelt and fantastic story. Thanks for sharing. I especially liked your AHA moment. Mine was pretty similar! Happy New Year.


  12. [...] My Journey To Nourishing Food – from Nourishing Days [...]

  13. Kris says:

    I love reading this post, I’ve read it a few times now and have it bookmarked. Tomorrow is my grocery day and I want to start a move towards more whole/nourishing foods in our family. I ordered the book Nourishing Traditions and can’t wait till it arrives!

    I tried raw milk in the summer but I thought it had a really strong… cow… taste. It was like I was licking a cow, seriously. Did I just get a bad batch or does it actually taste like that, and if so do you ever get used to the cow taste? I’d like to go back to raw milk but *shudder*


  14. Anali says:

    I know that this is an old post of yours, but I just wanted to say, that this post was the reason I originally looked up the nourishing traditions cook book, and have started eating the way that I do.

    So I would like to thank you so very much for a wonderful and inspiring post.

    Your blog is an amazing resource.


  15. Nicole says:

    Thank you for sharing your journey with food. I too have been on a healthy journey for a while and am SLOWLY getting closer and closer to how God intended us to eat. Well let’s be honest, I may never get there completely, but I’m trying! Thank you for sharing your journey, it was very encouraging! :)


  16. I really enjoyed this post! I am learning so much from blogs such as yours, and trying to make the transition. I love the way you make it so practical and doable. This post is a great starting point.


  17. vitamin high says:

    this is a story that a lot of us can relate too. similiar to mines actually. i grew up on the same american diet and i was overweight by the age of 10. low self esteem.. diet pills were being experimented behind my mother’s back. i’m glad i found a healthy eating habit now


  18. Amanda says:

    Hi Shannon,

    I love your blog so much I am reading all your archives, I hope that doesn’t sound too weird, but I feel like my husband and I are pretty close to you and yours on our goals of being self sustaining and we have actually discussed celebrating the Biblical feasts, but I think my family would die if we stopped celebrating Christmas. My family already thought I was crazy when I decided to breastfeed and use cloth diapers. Now that I’ve had my food conversion they think I’m crazy for drinking raw milk and making as much of my own food as possible. We haven’t decided to give up celebrating Christmas, but we will be doing things different this year. I hate the commercialization of Christmas and the whole “Believe” campaign that they have with Santa Claus really irks me. Anyway, I finally decided to comment on this post to tell you that I am totally using the “Did God make a mistake when He created our food?” one on my mother-in-law. I tried to convince her to drink our milk when she was down visiting, and she totally refused saying that she couldn’t possibly drink all that fat, and then she went to the store and bought her own skim milk to drink. Yuck! I am so thankful that I found Nourishing Traditions and it has been a whirlwind change in the last four months, we are now almost totally converted and I have finally gotten the last of the bad stuff out of my kitchen. My next task to tackle is the toxic chemicals that have stacked up in our garage and my cleaning and personal care supplies. I’m hoping to read more helpful tips as I continue reading along. Sorry for the long comment, but I felt a connection, and I wanted to share. Blessings, Amanda


  19. Ashley says:

    This is super inspiring! I JUST started trying to eat more whole, less processed foods, THIS week. I’ve been having lots of digestive issues, and found out I’m high risk for colon cancer (even though no one in my family has had it) and I’m only in my 20′s. There’s so much information out there, it’s sort of overwhelming. There’s only a few parts that are going to be difficult for me, which are going out with friends/family, the cost, and switching milk. I’ve drank skim milk all my life, and I don’t see switching anytime soon. That’ll probably be one of my last changes. :) Thanks for your blog! I’m making the chicken stock recipe tonight, which is how I found you. I look forward to reading more entries.


  20. Shannon says:

    Kris – Yep. Raw milk will taste like whatever the cow is eating. If it gets into garlic scapes it will taste like garlic!


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