The Kitchen Remix-Stephanie’s Story
Today one of my dearest friends asked me what I ate for the day. My list included a smoothie for breakfast, an avocado and banana for lunch (which, she informed me, is also what her 10 month old ate), followed by some red lentils, rice cakes for snacks, and for dinner, Tilapia, roasted cauliflower and a green salad. With a look of confusion, she honestly asked, “Why do you eat like that?” and then followed with the comment, “I would rather be fat than eat like that.” Her words made me wonder, “Do people get why I eat this way?
Undoubtedly, staying trim is a huge motivation to the way I eat. I have done it both ways: my ideal weight and carrying an extra 20-30 lbs. It didn’t take much to convince me that my body looks better and I feel better when I am at my ideal weight. But I feel that my weight/figure is simply an added bonus to eating healthy. Bottom line, the reason I eat healthy is to be healthy. I want to be healthy so I can enjoy a long full life.
I have seen firsthand the benefits of a healthy lifestyle and the horrible consequences of an unhealthy lifestyle. I grew up in a very strange food dynamic. My mom went against the grain of western Kansas diet trends in the 1980’s. I remember growing our own gardens, making homemade yogurt, and eating carob chips. My dad, on the other hand, ran a drive-in restaurant where I could indulge in fries, corndogs and cheeseburgers whenever I wanted. I remember making “suicide” drinks from the soda machine (you know, where you put a little of all the kinds of soda in one cup and see what you “create”), sitting on my dad’s lap for his coffee/cigarette break and actually working the deep fat fryer for a little lunch. In all fairness to my dad, he, along with most of the people in western Kansas (or the entire country at that time), just didn’t buy into the health ideas my mom had adopted. Honestly, I don’t feel like it is well accepted even today. I have overheard moms say, “You have to eat your hot dog before you get your cookie (I’ve even said that before).” or grandparents dote, “What good eaters you were; you ate all your pancakes and sausage.” I have also been questioned so many times, “Are you sure you give your kids enough milk?” or “If you don’t eat much meat, how do you get your protein?”
Back to my family… my dad survived a massive heart attack at the age of 39 and died from another heart attack at 58. Devastated and longing for some sort of control over the situation, I knew something needed to change in our family history. My dad’s dad died of a heart attack, and his side of the family battles heart disease, diabetes and obesity. Not any less scary is my mom’s family history of Alzheimers and Dementia. I was scared not only for me but for my kids, my brothers, my extended family and the future generations of our family. About this same time, I remember hearing a speaker remark in regards to one’s family history,“If you don’t like your genes, change your pants.” That saying really hit home with me, and I decided to fight heart disease and the other diseases that have invaded our family head on. At this point, I was already eating pretty healthy, so I just continued to learn, study and try different ways to instill healthy eating in my family and to make our healthy lifestyle fit in our family. This, by the way, is still a learning process for me to this day; thus, one main reason for this blog, as I study and learn new things and try new recipes or experiment with food, is so to share what I learn with all of you!
Around the time that my dad died, I was just coming off a 4-month stint of bed-rest and had brand new twin daughters and a 19-month old son. During my bed-rest, I longed to use my body physically and realized that I was given a glimpse into what life would be like without full use of it. I couldn’t even take my toddler to the park or go for a walk in the sunshine much less run a 5k or go for a hike in the beloved Rocky Mountains. I sat in my house and watched the world literally “move along” without me. My mom, dad and husband would take my son on tricycle rides or out to play in the park, and I couldn’t be a part of it. During that time I realized how important our physical bodies are to our well-being and quality of life. I vowed then to never take that for granted again.
What we, as a society, seem to forget is without our physical body, there is no life. It is the vehicle chosen for our souls on this earth, and I can’t figure out why we feel the need to treat it so poorly. Imagine for a moment that you are getting your family ready for a long road trip. Wouldn’t you take your car in to get it serviced – the oil changed and all your fluids topped? Before you left, you would make sure it had plenty of proper fuel, right? Now imagine for a second that your life is that long road trip, and your body is the vehicle you are taking for that trip. What kind of fuel are you giving your vehicle? Is it enough to keep it running at top performance? We have to stop thinking of food so emotionally and start thinking of it logically, as the fuel for our bodies. We need our vehicle to run well for the whole trip, not just half way through. Again, think of the car analogy; imagine what you would miss if your car broke down half way into the trip. Maybe you are lucky and it doesn’t completely break down; it just moves along slowly and sputters and jerks and lets off horrible fumes along the way. Is that an enjoyable trip? Is that the trip you intended? Will you get as much out of that trip?
I try to never view my “diet” as restrictive and that I’m missing out. Rather, I think of my choices as the best way to make sure my life is nonrestrictive. Actually, I think my diet is delicious and full of variety. I love food way too much to not enjoy it! Of course, I still indulge in some of my favorite “naughty foods”: chocolate, coffee, cheese, wine or a yummy pub burger now and again, but I just don’t do it all the time (okay, in complete honesty, maybe a teensy bit of chocolate finds its way into my belly every day). When people tell me I should just enjoy life and celebrate with food, I have to say that is why I choose not to eat the junk, so I can enjoy life and live the days I have to the fullest. Additionally, we can have amazing joy and celebrations without the junk food. For instance, this year my children’s school didn’t allow food for the holiday class parties, and the kids didn’t miss it a bit. They had an amazing time at every party. I was thrilled that on Halloween, my kids didn’t have any sweets until after we were done trick or treating. Ironically, that meant more joy for everyone involved. We were able to trick or treat longer because the kids weren’t having behavior issues or meltdowns that usually come along with the sugar highs and the sugar crash.
I do realize that only my maker knows my last day, and I can’t control when I will die or how. However, I also realize that it is my responsibility to take care of the body I have been given so that I can use that body for the full and abundant life that was intended for me. I know I can’t guarantee that I won’t ever have heart disease or Alzheimers, but I do feel that I can stack the deck in my favor by providing my body with the best defense – healthy life giving food, fresh air and exercise.
And now I challenge you in two ways:
- If you have a set of “genes” that you don’t want in your closet anymore, by all means toss them out. Make a list of tangible ways you can “change your pants”. For instance, if you do have a history of heart disease in your family, your list might include 30 minutes of daily exercise, cutting out caffeine, reducing your meat intake, etc.
- Find a physical activity that makes you “jump out of bed happy”, and stick with it. For me, that activity is running and The Dailey Method. For those who don’t know, The Dailey Method® is a unique combination of ballet barre work, core conditioning, muscle strengthening, yoga, and orthopedic exercises. That is the official description, but I would like to add that the Naperville studio is an amazing butt kicking workout with some of the most inspiring, hard-core instructors, including The Kitchen Remix’s very own Mary Ellen. Bottom line is find your physical muse, and do it everyday. Stop thinking of working out as something that has to be done. If you dread your workouts, you probably need to find a new workout.
Please, take these challenges to heart and implement them in your life. Share your stories on our blog. We love your comments!