Just so you all realize, I never used to eat this way. I was the poster child for the Standard American Diet. Processed foods were a part of my life as long as I can remember! My parents had 4+ kids at any given time (they did foster care as well) and although we had our own garden and my mom canned what we grew, our cupboards were always full of boxes. Tis the American way.
In high school I went through a rough period and basically stopped eating so as to have some control over something. My basic daily nourishment (like you can call it nourishment!) consisted of at least one, most of the time two, 20 oz Diet Cokes. Candy was also a large part of my food pyramid. I worked at a coffeehouse so I also consumed bagels and coffee as much as I desired. If I was actually in a healthy mood, I’d spring for a salad. Most of the time though, when I did eat, my meals revolved around sugar. And I may have been thin, but I was not healthy. I actually went a couple years without any ovulation during this time. I was experiencing numbness in my hands and toes, which luckily I found out was due to the Diet Cokes. I stopped drinking them as soon as I found out, but kept right on with the rest of my highschool diet (unfortunately replaced them with a couple double mochas everyday). I got migraines all the time and my immune system was so bad I got every cold that came around.
When I got married, my husband and I were on a tight budget. Tight. We were both working full time, but had the normal American lifestyle as well, full of loans. (Luckily we very quickly got off that boat!) Myself being in charge of the grocery shopping and cooking, I did all I knew how to save money and keep us fed. And of course, I didn’t really “cook”, I just poured out the boxes! Everything I bought (except for fresh fruit and veggies – and meat) was pre-made, pre-seasoned, and prepacked.
Our meals regularly consisted of Hamburger Helpers, packaged taco meals, spaghetti, hamburgers and store bought fries, frozen pizzas, takeout at least once a week, and maybe some type of grilled meats every once in awhile. Our lunches consisted of frozen meals (you know the cheap $1.00 ones?) packaged yogurts, store bought cereal bars, and sandwiches (deli turkey for me, salami and bologna for him – all on white bread of course) We were both unhealthy. I dealt with weight gain (mostly because I was actually eating compared to when I was in highschool!) migraines and lots of sickness.
A couple of years went by and we were both tired of the excess weight and proceeded to stick with a very conventional diet plan. We consumed lots of low fat products, severely cut our calories, and ate out less. I started to actually buy carrots. And lettuce. And for once it didn’t go bad in the fridge before we got around to eating it. We did lose weight but it did nothing for our overall health. I still couldn’t ovulate, still had migraines, and was still sick with a cold every few weeks.
As soon as we were ready to start trying for baby number one, I made myself eat even better. I ate more fruits and veggies, more low fat yogurt, all the stuff “they” tell you is healthy. But I still went months between cycles, PCOS was making it quite difficult. I was ready to head to the doctors to get my prescription filled! I thought Clomid was going to be the only way I could conceive. Luckily by the grace of God we did become pregnant. And it was through this pregnancy, and then as I started feeding our son “real foods”, that I really started to research nutrition and how it effects my body.
Over the past 2 years we have made a drastic change in the way we eat. We eat healthier, real foods, but have also been able to keep our grocery budget the same. I do make a lot more from scratch than I ever thought I would. I mean, I previously thought a homemade dinner meant opening a box of pasta, boiling it, and adding in a jar of sauce! Now, although I do still buy that box of pasta, it’s now whole wheat or brown rice pasta with a homemade sauce. Sure it takes longer to get dinner on the table, but the health benefits are so worth it! When I really sit back and think about it, changing my diet has been one of the best things I could do for my family! Not only will it help me stay healthy for them, I’m giving them the best I can so they stay healthy and active.
It is possible to change even when raised on the Standard American Diet. It’s not easy, and it doesn’t happen overnight, but it can be done. I’m still changing. I’m still trying new things. There will always be someone out there who eats healthier than I do, but I do what I can, when I can.