*See disclaimer on right hand side.
One of the questions I am asked most often is, "Where do I start?" This, unfortunately, is not a one size fits all answer but I will try my best to bring it to a 'lowest common denominator' and work up. It will take a few posts to accomplish. I am far from an expert and need to take my own advice lots of the time. Here are a few goals to keep in mind: Be willing to change a little, be honest with yourself, try something new, and pray for help. I am a 'foodie.' I live to eat. I love food, so food is naturally my first area of focus. Whenever I need to do some diet tweaking, I've had the best success when I begin my plan with a fast. I love to fast. I love the sense of empowerment I get from telling my body who's boss.
I had a friend who came to visit and suggested we eat out - for every meal. Then it occured to me that she was afraid of my food. I wasn't even suggesting things that were weird. She was convinced that she wouldn't enjoy french toast made from whole wheat bread and homemade syrup or banana muffins made with whole wheat flour. She would make comments like, "My kids won't eat that," or, "I don't want you to go to any trouble," knowing full well that I love to cook for a crowd. So in compromise, since my kids and I were all was sick after eating twice in a row at a restaurant, I bought a loaf of white bread to make french toast with for her kids. Lo and behold, guess which pile they ate from?!? The whole wheat one. So I said to my friend, "Your kids seem to like it. No offense, but I think the problem lies with you." She agreed. (By the way, her kids also devoured the banana muffins and my friend took the recipe home with her.) This was very enlightening for her and she went home and began to make many changes in her family's diet. The next time they came for a stay, she was very willing to let me cook for her.
This is what I mean about being honest. I think it's vital for parents not to push their food preferences off on their children. Your kids may love something that you hate. For instance, I don't care for raw tomatoes. My husband and kids love them so there are usually tomatoes in the house. I have been trying to like them too. (Implying that I eat them when I can diguise them.)
Start where you are. Meaning - if you eat all processed food (i.e. mac and cheese, frozen corn dogs, boxed sugary cereal, frozen lasagna and McDonald's), change one thing there. Maybe focus on breakfast. Begin by eating whole grain cereal like oatmeal or a multi-grain (like Bob's Red Mill 7 Grain)even if you have to load on the sugar to get your family to eat it. It is still a better choice (for now) because it's not as processed, has few to no additives/chemicals, and has a lot of fiber. I alternate hot cereal and eggs for breakfast. We enjoy pancakes or french toast occasionally as well, which leads me to my next point
If you are junk food addicts, start to make your own junk. This will eliminate some of the chemicals found in the the storebought stuff. Plus, it just tastes better! Check out an ingredients list on the premade breads or cookies at your local grocer's bakery. It's ridiculous! So make your own cookies, cakes, muffins, and breads. This will ensure that you are eating foods you can pronounce. For grins, throw in some healthy foods, like banana, strawberries, nuts or shredded zucchini. Use a little whole wheat flour instead of all white. Make your own syrup from maple flavoring or fruit with a little sugar added. Aim to make your junk less junky. I invested in a bread machine and this helped immensely. You can find them for less than $10 at your local thrift store, usually in near new condtion. If you are in need of recipes, please contact me at firstname.lastname@example.org, or google it.
If you eat out a lot, begin to make informed choices. I have looked up the nutritional information on different fast food websites to see how nutritious (or not) our favorite meals are. I found that most of the items I would have considered more healthy were actually the least healthy. like the chicken menu items, for instance. They usually had the most calories and highest fat content. Beginning to eat more consciously is going to be a requirement if you want to nourish your body more often than you feed it. Everything you put in your mouth has an effect. EVERYTHING. It will either increase or decrease your health to some degree. Don't let yourself be fooled into thinking, a little won't hurt. That, for me, has always led to more bad food choices and the damage becomes accumulative. Just be honest about it. Consciously recognize that you are harming yourself. In the beginning you will probably choose to eat you favorite junk anyway, but this won't last forever. This is part of living a holistic life.
Let's forget for a moment about weight and focus on health. If your diet consists of mostly low/no fat, low calorie, diet foods I encourage you to take a good honest look at the ingredients list. You are very likey not eating real food. I have had an ongoing argument with a family member who thinks that she's choosing the lesser of two evils by eating diet food even though she realizes how many chemicals there are in it and how little nourishment it contains. She fully believes that her wieght is more damaging to her health than the food is. I will respectfully disagree. And let me point out, I personally don't know anyone who is thin who eats pre-made 'diet food.' In order to make those foods taste good, a lot of chemicals are added. Some of these chemicals are addictive. (Google Monosudium Glutumate, for instance, just for kicks.) That's the real problem with food, right? We have to eat. But we are easily addicted to what we eat. Alcoholics can safely avoid alcohol for the rest of their lives and be better off for it. A food addict? You'd last about three weeks without eating. So therein lies the rub. When my diet is mainly comprised of whole (nature made, W Of W sanctioned) foods, the feeling of being compelled or addicted largely goes away. Sugar cravings for me are the worst but only last about 4-5 days if I don't give in. Fruit can make a nice substitute. I fully realize and agree that the nice full feeling after eating a couple pieces of cake (you know, before the guilt sets in) can't be beat by eating a large salad. But when health is my focus, I am compelled to make good choices for my body and those whom I have the responsibility to feed. These suggestions are what I have found works best for me. It has been a very slow and gradual process, but completely amazing to look back and see the progress my family has made and the impact on our health. Interestingly, weight is only a real issue for me when I'm eating too much fake food.
I have also had my best sucess when I plan out my menus in advance (like a week or two) and rotate them so I always know what we are going to have. It makes it so easy to budget and shop for food when you know exactly what you'll need. This keeps me from making a fast food run because I don't know what to make. I like to include at least two vegetables at dinner. I make smaller main dishes and include more sides, like salad, beans, or fresh whole wheat rolls. Most of us enjoy feeling full, so if we are full of nutritious, naturally low calorie foods and topped off by the less nutritous food we trick ourselves into better health and changed habits.
So here's a place for some of you to begin. In the comments, I'd love it if you'd share your goals. I will start. I will also post a couple of recipes about which I've had very good feedback.
And don't forget - every effort you make is blessed!
Doctrine & Covenants 89: 18-19
"And all saints who remember to keep and do these sayings, walking in obedience to the commandments, shall receive health in their navel and marrow to their bones; And shall find wisdom and great treasures of knowledge, even hidden treasures."