What's your motivation?

>> Sunday, January 2, 2011

Once upon a time I ate anything I wanted and didn't think about ingredient lists.  Once upon a time I didn't care if the food I ate was heavily processed and shelf stable for years.  Once upon a time I would happily eat a Twinkie.

And then I had kids.

The way I think about food changed forever once that happened.  For one thing, both of my children had major food intolerances.  We happily removed all traces of dairy, eggs, and wheat (along with a few other things) from our diet when each child was an infant to keep them happy and healthy.  That experience proved to us how shockingly easy it is to radically change the way we eat for the better and still have plenty of good foods at our disposal. 

My kids have both outgrown all of their food intolerances, thankfully, and we can eat whatever we want.  I am trying to instill a love of fresh, minimally processed foods into them.  I'll admit - it's hard.  Processed foods surround my kids - in school, at friends' houses, at any out-of-home activities they attend.  Some are even in my pantry.  Processed foods are easy, full of weird ingredients, and are often packed with sugar, fats, and salt.  And kids love them.  They're like a bad Saturday morning cartoon for their taste buds.

Here's something I have personally noticed.  Once you make the switch away from heavily processed foods, your taste perception of processed foods changes.  For example, I've always had a bit of a love affair with Campbell's condensed soups.  It's rare that I cook with them now, but it does happen, and when I do, the food tastes...gloppy.  It has an unreal aftertaste to it.  Real food tastes better.

My kids are clearly my catalyst, but this blog is also my motivation.  Sharing our journey helps to keep us moving forward to a healthier diet and lifestyle, hopefully in a common sense sort of way.  I try not to be judgmental about how others are eating, but I also try to stay true to our own eating ideals. 

Lest you think we've got it all figured out, we're not perfect - far from it.  This blog is my soapbox, and I use it to talk about the positive changes and foods we are eating and to learn about the different things we eat.  You should know though that we still have a long way to go.  I have my vices (like artificial sweeteners), and I won't apologize for them.  I have an insane sweet tooth and eat way too much sugar.  I don't exercise enough.  You get the picture. 

In addition to all of those negatives, though, I have an intense desire to pass along a love and understanding of good foods to my children, and I fully believe in teaching by example. That's really what this blog is all about - learning about food and the sometimes fast, sometimes slow transition to eating better.

So, what's your motivation? 


Andra January 2, 2011 at 2:16 PM  

My health and the health of my husband is my greatest motivator to keep cooking real food, read labels and eat and juice lots of fresh veggies. I'm careful with my shortcuts and have lots of fun creating lots of flavor and satisfaction on our meals while using the healthiest, freshest ingredients that we can afford.

Lori January 2, 2011 at 2:20 PM  

My motivation is my weight and cultural awareness. I've battled weight for years. Honestly, I can't think of a time when I didn't read food labels since my interest in nutrition started in early high school.

What has changed is what I read on the labels. I used to read the nutrition label and ignore ingredient labels. Now I read ingredients and could care less about nutrient labels, that is, if the food I'm eating has a label at all. More and more of the foods I eat don't and I'm very happy about that.

Eating little to no processed foods helps me to enjoy the taste of food more. You are exactly right about tastes changing. I honestly can't think of anything I truly miss from my processed food days. If I do end up eating it now I usually can't stand the taste. I can also control my weight better with real food - full fat yogurt, meats, grains, cheeses. I think this is because I enjoy the food more as opposed to tasteless fake food.

Few people around the world eat like we do in the States and they are much better off for it. Okay, novel done. Cheers to a New Year filled with real food!

Kara January 2, 2011 at 2:37 PM  

I think I could just say "ditto" to your motivations and be done :-) When my oldest child started solids, my whole perception of food changed. I felt like I was personally responsible for building this little human, and by gosh, she was only gonna get the best!

My secondary motivation is my gradual evolution into a foodie. I buy better ingredients because then my food tastes better.

I could not agree more about how my tastes have changed - recently, I picked up one of those Hostess fruit pies. It was a bad day, and I had such fond memories of them from when I was a kid. It sounded so perfect. And then I had it.... oh man, it was such a crushing disappointment!!!

(well, I guess it's good that I won't be eating a truckload of "fruit pies" anytime soon - but it was like killing a childhood memory!)

Granola Girl January 2, 2011 at 2:44 PM  

I grew up with my grandmother who was Native and my grandfather who was a farmer. Everything in our household was unprocessed and homegrown/home cooked. When I eat over processed foods my blood sugar lets me know that it just won't work. I feel horrible. My son is also sugar sensitive.

My husband has converted from growing up 100 percent processed in the military to now less than 95 percent processed. We too have noticed that things just don't taste the way we remember. When my son was with his grandparents, we went to the store and purchased about 5 Totinos mini pizzas. Both my husband and I had fond college memories of all-nighters cramming these pizzas. We couldn't even eat one of them.

I still have a love affair with Lunchables. It is nostalgic by for some reason the plastic cheese inside still tastes good. Not like cheese, but good.

Anonymous January 2, 2011 at 3:17 PM  

What a fantastic New Year´s Keep-it-Real edition of your blog. It is so refreshing that this is your issue, your soap box, but you never pretend that you don´t have your vices. We all do.

My motivation for trying to eat reasonably well is weight and overall good health. That said, it sure is challenging not to bring home the Vanilla Swiss Almond from time to time. Oh, and maybe a few Almond Joys. (I know! Talk about J.U.N.K.!)

I do want my son to continue to eat well and realize that what I put in his lunchbox and on his plate is the best way to ensure that. I must have done something right because he has nothing like my sweet-tooth.

cathy January 2, 2011 at 3:49 PM  

Andrea - My personal health is a big motivator for me, but I don't think that I really became aware of my mortality until I had kids. I think that I would have reached your point without kids eventually, but they were definitely my catalyst.

Lori - I read Twinkie, Deconstructed well before my food awareness really kicked in. At the time, I found it fascinating from an engineering point of view. I would definitely read it with a different perspective now! My saving grace was that I was raised to truly love fresh fruits and vegetables. I want my kids to have that love too.

Kara - I have morphed into a foodie too. At this point in my life, I really have a lot of different motivations - health, foodie-ism, frugality - but I think that having kids was the kick in the pants I needed to really get going. :-)

Granola Girl - Lucky girl to have had such an unprocessed childhood! And I had a similar experience with Totinos Pizza Rolls. Such good memories, such bad taste. :-)

Anonymous - Thank you! I completely understand what you mean about helping your son to realize that what goes on his plate directly relates to his health. My son will ask me at the grocery store whether a product has HFCS in it. I am proud and mortified at the same time. Proud because I want him to be aware of what he eats and choose smart, healthy foods. Mortified because I don't want him to be obsessed in an unhealthy way with what he eats. It's a fine balance, but I think that we're doing ok here.

Erin January 2, 2011 at 3:59 PM  

I would "ditto" your post, and "ditto" to Kara's comments. It was having kids that woke me up to what was actually going in to my (and then, their) body. I also started reading, being more aware of what was around me, and haven't looked back since.

I consider my improved health to be a welcome side-effect of eating better, and the added bonus of playing in the kitchen with new techniques and ingredients is wonderful too!

Cindy Rowland January 2, 2011 at 4:45 PM  

The movie Super Size Me was a huge a-ha moment for me. Then we watched King Korn a few months later and it was GAME ON!

Sagan January 3, 2011 at 1:20 PM  

Cathy, this is so beautiful.

I can't drink soft drinks anymore - they seem SO sweet to me. Once upon a time, I couldn't wait for weekends, when my parents would allow me to have 1 Coke on Friday and 1 on Saturdays. Amazing how our tastebuds change!

My motivation comes from my own personal values, my boyfriend, and my desire to be able to have the energy to do everything I want to accomplish in life.

Tina @ Faith Fitness Fun January 3, 2011 at 6:28 PM  

When I eat healthier and less processed I certainly notice a difference. Things do taste different with time. My biggest motivation is how I feel. I can certainly tell when I'm taking care of my health or not.

Gigi Centaro January 3, 2011 at 7:25 PM  

My husband is 25 years my senior. When we married 29 years ago, I taught myself how to cook real, not processed, fresh foods so I would put the odds of good health and long life in his favor. It has worked because at the age of 75he takes no medication, has no illnesses and he feels great. Real foods have real flavor and real nutrition.

Elise Lowerison January 7, 2011 at 2:13 PM  

I just came across your health and fitness blog. Your article about motivation to eat and live healthier was especially interesting. I especially liked your comments about sticking to a diet that suits your lifestyle and keeps those processed foods off your pantry shelves. I am adding you to my favorites. Since you and your readers are interested in a lifestyle enriched with nutrition, healthy eating, and a healthy way of life, we thought you would like to check out our ab workout machine called The AbStand. The AbStand is a full-body workout machine that provides an easy way for you to keep your New Year's resolution! Any feedback would be appreciated as well. Thanks!

Jenn January 9, 2011 at 9:22 AM  

I actually have a question for you. Given your restrictive diet (no HFCS), is it difficult to have social dinners at someone else's house? Do you insist on bringing your own food, or do you just ignore the nutritional content of their food, just for the evening? Say, for example, that your host has cooked a very healthful meal that happens to contain Progresso breadcrumbs, or "100% Pure Vanilla Extract" that actually contains corn syrup... What do you do? I'm curious because I, like you, would like to eliminate HFCS from my diet, but I have found it very difficult to stick to it when I travel & am a guest at someone else's house. I also feel it's rude to insist on asking about all the ingredients in their meal, and then refuse to eat something because of some trivial ingredient that happens to contain corn syrup. Thanks for your blog -- it's very interesting & helpful for those struggling to adjust our diets to contain more natural and healthful foods.

cathy January 10, 2011 at 6:12 AM  

Jenn - For the most part, I just don't think about it when dining at someone's house. I feel that it's important to NOT put down a host's food. If my food choices were based on food allergies or intolerances or even vegetarianism or staying kosher, I think that it would be acceptable to refuse food or make special food requests under certain circumstances. But they aren't. So, I suspend my food values when we eat at a friend's house. I might discretely pass on a dish, but only if I know that the host won't feel slighted if I do. I have an old post on this if you're interested - "Being a good guest while eating healthier." http://alifelesssweet.blogspot.com/2009/12/being-good-guest-while-eating-healthier.html

Jenn January 10, 2011 at 9:47 AM  

Thanks, Cathy! :)

rxmex November 10, 2011 at 7:56 AM  

I think he is right, it's all about new motivation. We can't ignore this feelings. If you are looking for something inside your soul, it'd be better that you can find your motivation first, 'cos it's the core point behind all this theme.

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