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6.21.2011

eat real food.




i've been thinking a lot about food lately.

i know, i know. surprise, surprise.

but come along with me on the rambling journey that will be this post, won't you?

i was at work yesterday when one of the girls came up and started gabbing about an impending vacation  and needing to lose weight because she'd have to wear a bathing suit and on and on. and everyone started throwing out ideas. what worked for them (and there is value in that) and hadn't she had success in the past with cutting carbs?

two quick thoughts: (1) i want to live each day as though i could slip on a bathing suit at any moment. that's what i want to feel like in my clothes. and yes there's some vanity to that. but it is also the knowledge that my bathing-suit-ready-body is a healthy body--and a healthy mind, to boot--a mind that knows i look good in a bathing suit and that how i look has very little to do with how i actually look, but how i feel. am i making sense? and (2) if cutting carbs worked for this person in the past then why are we back here? having this conversation all over again? doesn't that get tedious at some point? all the losing and gaining, losing and gaining? i tell ya, it sure isn't good for the heart.

i kept both these thoughts to myself. and i walked away. now i know, just walk away. time is too short and i don't know these people well enough to dump all of my (ostensibly condescending and judgemental) ideas on them.

{don't you just love the word ostensible?}

but here's the thing, as i walked away, it hit me! here it is, here's what to do...want to look good in a bathing suit? want to lose weight? want to live in your best body? here's the crux of it:

eat. real. food.

eat real food!

that's it! that's all there is to it.

eat real fruit. eat real vegetables. cut out all that stuff that comes hermetically sealed in plastic wrap. or that might just survive the end of the world. (because take note, hermetically sealed foods and bed bugs will be all that survive).

wine and cheese grow better with age, yes, but most other foods do not. and all that stuff put in there to keep the foods kickin' (for years and years) will age you, exhaust you, deplete your system, and trick your brain into thinking it's delicious. ah, it's all one great monetary conspiracy by a food industry that has no concern for our health! it boils my blood, i tell you. but i'm gonna let that one go. (for today).

i've finished babysitting now. for the most part. that was the job i let go of. for a whole host of reasons. in large part because there was an increasing sense that i was living someone else's happy life. i want to raise children. but my own. and i have some serious work to do (and some serious money to make) before that will be possible. i don't regret any of the time i spent babysitting since college. some of the most vital and important experiences of the last three years were at the hands of two-year-olds. i learned innumerable things (that's a whole post unto itself).

but for now, i will say this: i noticed that some of my worst eating happened while babysitting. one could look at this statement and ruminate on exhaustion and lack of power and where i am in life and many of those thoughts would be true and right, but really it comes down this: processed foods.

it wasn't that the food i was eating was bad or calorie dense, it was that it was in someway unreal. alphabet cookies, big-bird cheese crackers, elmo mac-and-cheese. all good, all tasty, all non-existant in nature. and all this got me thinking. why? why is processed food like this so prevalent and so overwhelming in the youth market? isn't this a dangerous precedent to set? why can we all agree that children need a good and strong education but we can't all agree to feed them the best possible foods? (hey school districts the country over, i'm talking to you).

thank God for people like jaime oliver, no?

of course i could go on and on about eating real foods. how it's also about eating simple foods. about how this way of life demands a little more work and a little more time, a little more effort (and dare i say, experimentation) in the kitchen.

someone recently said to me that new york city is all about convenience. why go to riverside park when central park is a few blocks away? uh, maybe because you want to see the gardens and get a glimpse of the hudson?! if new york is all about convenience maybe that's why i'm often not keen on it. but i think this thought short-changes the city: new york isn't all about convenience, it's all about whatever you'd like it to be about. but for many people the city is in fact about immediacy, ease, and getting what we want as soon as we want it. convenience. i'm really not so keen on this convenience thing. yes, there's a time and a place for it, but if i live my life and it's dictated by this demand--this convenience, i cut myself off from countless experiences. from the subway ride to riverside park on which i might just meet that elusive love of my life.

convenience. an ugly word. one that might just be making america fat. you want something sweet?! and you want it now? go for it, get a snickers, after all their slogan is in fact why wait?

i spent two weeks in mexico, many years ago, living with a family. oh, how reverently i look back on that time. there was a lot of life in those two weeks. the food, oh the food! the high-quality milk and ergo vanilla ice cream! the bags upon bags of bread--and white bread, at that! yes, i remember the ruins of ancient cultures, the classes and car rides in which the musicality of the language both overwhelmed and inspired, but the food, i tell you!

i have spent the subsequent ten years in search of food like that. because apart from its unbelievable taste (unbelievable, i tell you), i actually lost weight there. in mexico. i lost weight eating more food than i've ever eaten in my life. and yes, i was sixteen. and yes, i was quite small to begin with. but puberty had just begun and i was suddenly struggling with the knowledge that i couldn't eat whatever i wanted (bowl upon bowl of pepperidge farm goldfish and real coca-cola) and remain trim.

just the other night i pulled out some corn tortillas, stuck them right on the burner, let them get some good charred spots and then spooned some guacamole right on top. it took all of two minutes. i wasn't expecting much, so you can imagine my surprise when i bit in, and thought for the first time since those formative few weeks in cuernavaca: this is it! i am tasting mexico!


and it was then i realized: the food was good in mexico. and it was pretty simple. high quality, real food, and simple.

and not terribly inconvenient. did you catch that part where i mentioned my guac filled tortillas took all of two minute?


two minutes, simple, and real? no plastic wrap in site? take that convenience! take that america! take that processed foods!

it's possible to eat well here.

after all, the experience is what you make of it.

48 comments:

Jennifer M. said...

Amen! Preach it!! ;) I 110% agree with you here. Thanks to folks like Jamie Oliver, this subject has been a lot on my mind too. Process foods are SO BAD for us!! It's no wonder every other person is dropping dead of heart disease or diabetes or cancer. We're basically eating a chemistry set from birth until death. Back to eating FOOD, I tell ya! Why do people make this so difficult? It's really so simple.

Amy T Schubert said...

LOVE this post ... thank you :)
It's amazing to me how someone can fight their weight their whole life, struggle with fad diets and absurd expectations about what they can and cannot eat .... and then just refuse to eat vegetables.
really?
My current favorite easy-as-pie snack is sliced red bell peppers dipped in hummus ... mmmmmmmmm.....
xo

Christina said...

I can't tell you how much I agree with your attitude about food and eating. When I was a teenager and into my early (well,earlier) 20s, I really struggled with my relationship with food and my body. I weighed myself several times a day. I restricted my food so severely that I was really proud of myself when I only ate a bite of brownie and would cry after eating ice cream.

The only thing that made that cycle stop for me was starting to care about how strong and healthy my body was, rather than how thin it was. I started running, eating real food when I was hungry, and not weighing myself. Feeling strong and healthy in my body has given me back the brain space to live a full, happy life instead of counting calories. While I run, or when I eat real food, I think about how I want to enjoy my health when I'm 90 and want to give my future children the knowledge and confidence to avoid those years that I suffered through.

I've been reading your blog for awhile, and I felt really moved to let you know that I am right there with you.

BrightEyedWashingtonian said...

totally and completely agree. 100%

Erin said...

There is so much I could say to this post, but my main thought is this... SING IT!

My husband and I often vent about the human desire for instant gratification and how it cripples us all somehow. Our way of life could be so much more, if we would just slow down and THINK. Love this post!!

Anonymous said...

Except I imagine the tortillas and guacamole came out of plastic containers, right? And had ingredient lists? Even a short one represents a process we do not fully understand. If the ingredients sound whole, are they? If the product is certified, is that what matters?

I'm never sure how far we should make ourselves go, grind our own corn and wheat? Or is there some line we can draw for convenience's sake since our only job of the day is not to hunt and gather?

I'm not sure we'll ever know the "right" answers.

Tucker said...

AMEN! amen! again i say, amen (:

Celeste said...

I adore this.

Grace said...

This is what I needed to read today. I've been wrestling with weight and thinking about launching into this diet or that diet... but in reality, I just need to set aside time to exercise and eat simple, real foods. Thanks Meg!

jasmine said...

YEAH!!!! I know I probably won't ever ban ALL processed foods from my life, but it is getting easier and easier to cut them out. When you can taste and FEEL the difference, it isn't that hard. Levi and I just had a big, huge conversation about this over the weekend. We really don't want our kids to even know what fast food tastes like... or looks like... or smells like. Obviously, they'll grow up, and they may go places we don't like with their friends, but, hopefully, if they have a background of eating real, healthy, DELICIOUS food, they won't even want the toxic stuff. My dream is that it won't even exist anymore by that time. Yeah right... but one can hope! :)

becky said...

I feel like I need to print this out and stick it to my wall or somewhere else I'll see it--the 'fridge, maybe, or the pantry. I have learned so much from your blog and--well, learning about food is one of them. I am slacking, so much, in my changes of diet--slacking so much in my exercise and in my care. I am trying to nourish and aid my mind but, I realise, the body needs it too. Thank-you for this--a million, million times over.

Krystle said...

I love this post. I really does make a difference. What you fuel your body with is more important than how much you work out. Giving your body nutrient rich food instead food processed makes it easier for our body to live. We have more energy. We are happier. We are able to live the life we want.

Noodles and Waffles said...

Great post!

Have you read Animal, Vegetable, Miracle by Barbara Kingsolver? It's a great book with many of the themes you brought up here.

Stacey Sargent said...

Thank you for this! It is just what I needed. I've been able to eat what I want and stay thin until about a year ago, and it has been soooo hard for me. I used to eat crap all day long and it never mattered. Now I have to work really hard to not give in to the 25 years of living like that, and start eating REAL food, so that i can lose the weight and keep it off and always be swimsuit ready! love this post so much!

PinkSass said...

It's like you were reading my mind.

I was just talking to my husband last night that when we have kids I don't want them to eat anything processed. But then I wonder can I really do that when kids are going to be around it when they get older. But I feel like I can give them a good foundation and hopefully they won't want to drink that pop or eat those chips. Here's hoping to eating the really good stuff real food!

carla thorup said...

um, the food in cuernavaca is what my dreams are made of. seriously.

oh what love fills my heart when i think of mexico. perhaps la gringa tacos al pastor will ring a bell? i hope so!

and real food is where it's at, thanks for the reminder.

Jenny said...

Totally agree, except I would go a step further and make my own guac. Packaged guac freaks me out and tastes...unnatural.

jenny said...

you. are. so. right. this is hilarious. i NEVER post about food. and today... i posted about food. and i posted about a quick, easy, healthy recipe. well... sort of healthy. and i posted about how my downfall (ESPECIALLY WHEN HOME WITH MY BOYS!!! LIKE YOU SAID!!!)... is a pack of frozen cookie dough!!! UGH!!! you're almost inspiring me to throw them out. almost. ;)

Alexandria said...

Here here sistah friend. Processed food is everything that keeps people from having the lifestyle that they want. Health is key. And healthy food sure is tasty.

Rachel said...

Totally agree with you and the comments above: fresh food is what it's all about.

And as much as I loved babysitting, it single-handedly RUINED any self-control I had whenever I was there...and makes me nervous about having kids one day...guess they'll just have to eat healthy food too!

Jill said...

so this is a lesson i'm recently learning for myself. and its funny because part of what began opening my eyes was a mom at our church and her book/blog "my two year old eats octopus" (at wordpress.com). you might find it interesting and share some similar philosophies/soapboxes ;)

Cas said...

A friends once told me.
She doesn't follow a DIEt.
She follows a LIVEt.
By eating real food like you're suggesting.
As corny as it sounds.
It's something to think about...

-Maria- said...

love this- also, you have a wonderful reading voice, that's a Julliard trained voice for sure:)!

Mackenzie said...

so, so much truth in this. :) amen, meg fee.

Jenni @ Story of My Life said...

Wonderful observations here, Meg. I've been coming to these same conclusions, too. And as I've started incorporating more "real" food into my diet, it's seemed a little like my head it coming out of a cloud. It's pretty amazing. :)

withoutizy said...

If you have time watch a documentary called FOOD MATTERS you can find it for free to view on the net. It talks about this, it's based around RAW food. I don't eat an entirely raw food diet, but I'm trying to incorporate as much of it as possible :)

Ana* said...

you have such a beautiful voice, I feel like playing this and replaying it one time after the other. No, I am not trying to be creepy, yes you're too much of a good narrator, and yes... Take that America, eating healthy and keeping a beautiful body is a healthy lifestyle, not something that can be done by starving two days before wearing a bikini.

Listening to you speak made feel better about the healthy eating choices I started making on Friday. Watching my diet and calories.

colleen said...

i agree with this. i always try to focus (during the week) on eating real food - salad for lunch, stopping in to eataly for a small piece of salmon and green beans to make for dinner. and i exercise. feeling thin can be great. but feeling healthy is the best.

Karen in Progress said...

Amen sister. I have lost over 30 pounds in about six months by doing just that. I have a long way to go, but I'm not yo-yoing anymore. More importantly, I FEEL much better. I'm not that into my looks, and I'm not that into fashion. I often times wish I was because I think that would help me have incentive, but I am into living life. And living life is so much better when you have stamina and energy and no migraines. Eat Real!

Rachael said...

I couldn't agree more.
I switched to a raw food diet because (a) I wanted to eat healthy and that meant fruits and veggies and (b) I was too lazy/didn't know any recipes. So I just started loading up on fruits and veggies for every meal. Long story short I had to modify it in two ways: Not be afraid of bread, wheat of course. I had cut out too many carbs and it was weighing on my mood and (b) take some probiotics, etc to help my poor tummy deal with all the increase in raw foods (if you know what I mean).
It's been a year and a half since I made the switch and it's now hard for me to watch anyone eat anything shrink wrapped.

Anna said...

The food most schools serve infuriates me. How are kids supposed to get the most out of school if their bodies are crammed full or sugar, sodium, fat, and man made chemicals? I tend to avoid packaged foods because I'm stubborn. I don't want to be socialized to crave what big companies want me to crave. That is also why I cancelled my cable. There are too many ads.

Ramona said...

awesome post! I so agree on your thought about convenience. I believe this touches every area in our lives. We should always be ready to go the extra mile. Ready to be changed and change habbits because through change we grow.

communikate. said...

Just.what.i needed.to.hear.

thank you for sharing your wisdom.

meg said...

Mexico really does have the most amazing food! It's funny because I have the most sensitive stomach, (IBS and lactose intolerance- I know, too much information) yet Mexican food is the easiest thing for my stomach to digest.

It's really inspiring to see just how easily someone can get out of the "convenience" mentality. If Portland has one thing figured out, it's that real food is the best food (but that's the only thing). Cheers to more guac quesadillas in your future!

iheartkiwi said...

Love this post.

I went to Guadalajara to visit my grandmother over the summer and we made fresh squeezed orange juice every morning and homemade tortillas for dinner.

Real food, real ingredients.

Anonymous said...

Okay, not to be nitpicky here, but if it's Trader Joe's guacamole, it's convenience food. Unless I'm misunderstanding and you made the guacamole yourself -- from avacados and tomatoes and onions and lemon juice that you chopped and mashed and prepared and seasoned. Otherwise, I'm fairly willing to bet that there was a plastic container involved, no?
The thing is, I think this meal sounds delicious and there's nothing wrong with it, but I think you have to acknowledge that there's a tiny bit of hypocricy in this -- and to maybe consider that had you actually made the guacamole from scratch, you might have felt even closer to Mexico.

(I look at the above comments and see that someone else has already sort of pointed this out. But I think it bears more discussion. Because where do you draw the line between what is previously prepared and what is fresh? You know?)

Okay, off of soapbox. All that said, I applaud your ideas and agree with you wholeheartedly.

fluroescent said...

What an interesting idea that we are living in a way that is convenient rather than good for us. I'm sure that spreads out much further than what we put on our plates.

Thanks for the food for thought, Meg :)

Daina @ New York State of Mind said...

loved this post. My boyfriend, Brian, recently changed careers from actor/server to personal trainer/nutritional counselor. And that change has definitely positively impacted how I eat! I lived on processed foods, and am gradually learning that fresh is the only way to go. Here is his website/blog if you want to check it out; he posts stuff frequently that I think you would like.

http://www.spiralforlife.com/

Hope you are having a great week! Book club rescheduling soon?

Little Tree Vintage said...

this post was the best, not only because of the fact that everything you said was dead on but because america needs to hear it..everything is about taking the easy way out, that's why everyone is obese, there is corn filler in everything! and people just keep eating processed because they are too lazy to do otherwise. it boggles my mind

Laurnie said...

You are speaking my language!!

lizzy said...

i love how you think so very much.
and what an advocate for the authentic you are.
thank you, always, meg.

Ashley said...

i absolutely adore this! SO much!!

Emily said...

I completely agree.

Kate said...

I think the thing with processed food is the convenience. But you're right, it leaves you feeling all gross and heavy. After I get done eating fruits and veggies I feel so great, like I can go run and be active. It leaves you feeling great.

I'm babysitting right now and it's so easy to find yourself eating frozen pizzas, cheese toaties, chicken nuggets.

Bridget said...

genius, meg. genius. seriously. i wish everyone got this.

dems. said...

The book "In Defense of Food" by Michael Pollan is all about this. Check it out, it was eye-opening. And I agree 100%.

Melissa said...

Just discovered your blog from "Rockstar Diaries." I love it and I love this post. It is so unbelievably true and accurate! Very well written.

Ivy said...

Um, yes it is a monetary conspiracy and it TICKS ME OFF.

I agree with your thoughts, TOTALLY!