Cooking, just like any other pastime, is a process in which we grow as we learn more each time we practice. It starts casually, hopefully in childhood, with helping in the kitchen. Perhaps it was cookies, or scrambled eggs, or a sandwich. Overtime, it evolves into a way to sustain ourselves during our adolescence and early adulthood. We may make pancakes at 3am, or a quiche for a Sunday brunch with our friends. Some of us continue to use cooking as a way to find a healthier lifestyle. Perhaps those dinner parties are also a way to enjoy time with friends while staying on track with our food guidelines.
This is how it all aligned for me. I was always a picky eater, but in an advanced way. I hated pb&j, pancakes…even mac n’ cheese… when I was a child. I loved sushi and rare steak. The older I got, the more my tastes came around to the comfort food my friends grew up with. Part of this I thank to my husband, who has the tastebuds of a 7-year-old (in a wonderful way, I swear) and part of this it my progression in cooking, and my yearn for simplicity.
I started to cook from scratch in college. I was searching for an answer to many years of chronic migraines, pain, sleeping problems etc. I knew part of the answer had to be my lifestyle. I was a party girl – I stayed up late and drank empty calories and smoked cigarettes, and pretended that my youth would last forever. But I was always “healthy”. I grew up that way. A few years of enjoyment couldn’t ruin everything…until it started too. But, as things usually do, they all fell into place. I landed an internship with an herbal supplement company my sophomore year of college. I was quickly thrown into the health part of the food industry. My job evolved into a communications manager role and part of that job was to blog about my experience using the herbal cleanses we offered. I was elated to get to try a $200 product for free…but I had to share my experience. What if I got sick? What if I got a rash everywhere? What if I had horrible diarrhea? Did I have to share that part too? Of course.
But it didn’t happen. Instead, I had a breakthrough. I felt better than I ever had before. I was waking up early without needing coffee or an alarm. I was wanting to exercise and instead of feeling exhausted from it, I felt energized. Something was happening inside that I didn’t even know I needed. I gave up a lot of food during that time including sugar, dairy, & grains. I was beginning to eat only organic food from our local food coop. I didn’t yet know how important local was, but soon I would learn. After I finished my required three weeks of cleansing, I didn’t go back to the way I was. It pushed me to change.
I started researching. This was back in 2012, so the Paleo movement was barely in existence. The science was few and far between about what I so intuitively understood. The things that were so obvious to me where things that hadn’t even been studied yet. I was deep in the functional medicine mindset before there were podcasts about it from my favorite health & wellness gurus.
To be honest, it was overwhelming. It felt like the more I learned, the less I knew, and the more anxiety I had about everything I was exposed to in my life. The cleaning products, the beauty products, the environmental toxins. It was all starting to make sense and it was disgusting me. I had to change everything all at once and NOTHING less would be okay. This is part of the problem with humanity, we are so set on an all or nothing mindset that we can hinder our own progress. I had to overcome that, and so will you, and I promise it’s okay.
Start small. Start with your favorite things and make incremental changes. Any step in the right direction matter. Even a step backwards matters. Valentine’s Day 2014 was the last time I enjoyed blood chocolate. I say enjoyed because I’ve had it since and I definitely didn’t enjoy it. I’m a fair-trade, organic dark chocolate person and have been for over 6 years. Once I had no other option and I bought an almond Snickers, remembering how much I used to enjoy these. Hungry? Grab a snickers. Well, never again. But I had to take that step backwards to remind myself of why I came so far. That “chocolate” tasted like crap. Those almonds did too. What’s the point in eating a food-like substance when eating real food does so much more good for our world?
So I push you try try good food, try better food, and eventually try for the best. I’ll provided you with some of the staples in my life and how you can find what’s good, what’s better, and what’s the best way of enjoying them. My best is always local and/or fair-trade, usually whole foods cooked in an optimal way for absorption in my body. It’s what makes me feel the best when I eat it. Maybe it’s different for you, and that’s okay. But find out what makes you feel the best and enjoy that wholeheartedly. I’d love to hear about your favorite foods to make from scratch!