I have often been told by women that they would love to cook and eat healthier, but their families just don’t like that type of food. I might consider that an excuse to not change, but I do understand the issue. You make a great lasagna with zucchini noodles and you end up the only one eating it and everyone else is grabbing chips and salsa from the cupboard. Yes, it has happened to me more than once.
Here is my question, do we think it’s worth it to go to the effort to provide healthy meals to our families? We know that their health is dependent upon getting good nutrition into our bodies, and lack of good nutrition can bring on a host of problems. I know that sometimes we feel we are fighting a battle to find delicious recipes that will get them, and ourselves, eating healthy meals and actually enjoying them. So what is holding us back?
Here are some the problem that I see:
1. It has to be all or nothing.
First of all, we feel it is “all or nothing”, that either we cook extremely healthy, or we cook like our families demand, often from a box or package. We feel like we have to go “cold turkey”, and only cook the foods that are almost unfamiliar to some, after years of cooking like “everybody else”. Look at all the magazines and recipe books, do you see real food on the cover? Or do you see mixtures of boxed cakes and canned icing, or casseroles with pasta and canned soups? Even if you see a fruit salad, it has packaged cream substitute on top. We can’t expect our families to change their tastes overnight, any more than we can change everything we know about food and cooking overnight.
2. Brain stimulating chemicals.
The issue here is that we are used to flavors and tastes that have been designed in a chemistry lab. It has been proven that these chemicals stimulate the brain in ways to make them extremely addicting. So it is no wonder we crave those chemicals, or that it is so difficult to give them up. Have you ever tried to give up a soda habit? Who knew that giving up MSG or salty foods such as pasta and breads is just as difficult?
3. Overwhelming information.
We are so overwhelmed by the conflicting information of what is “healthy”, that we can get so frustrated we give up. One day we should eat low fat, the next day we should eat high fat; how do you come up with recipes that need to change on “health rules” that change on a daily basis? How is your latest gluten free, dairy free, sugar free, fat free, vegan, Paleo, salt free, taste free diet going?
4. “Just feed them!”
When we are exhausted and it takes too much to do all the preparation for a healthy meal, we start getting short sighted. Just getting food on the table without having to think about it too much becomes our main goal. I have heard this described as “fill the hole” (the hole in the stomach), indicating that it doesn’t matter what the quality is, just that there is something to fill them up without complaining too much. This puts the health of the family as the last priority.
5. The forces against us are strong and powerful.
If you think of the money behind getting us to eat packaged and processed food, it’s incredible. If you think of the money behind the advertising that affects us not just daily, but hourly and by the minute, it’s overwhelming. The odds are against us, unless we work hard to protect ourselves. I can be snarky and say “if you don’t buy it, you won’t eat it”. However, how many times have you seen “healthy” or “natural” on the container and thought it would be fine; then later read the label and realized you just gave your family as much sugar as in a soda? Marketing for fast food and junk food is fighting your every effort to get your family to eat a salad or broccoli. Honestly, Dairy Queen or baked chicken and broccoli? Really? How do you convince your family that the other “side” (which I call the “Dark Side”) is really not an option? We are literally fighting a fight equivalent to David and Goliath. The good news is, David won.
What are the results?
All in all, the result of all of these is that we put the health of ourselves and our families as the last priority. I am not saying that we are weak, or less intelligent, we are just overwhelmed and over worked. Look around, that is the reason the fast food business is booming. Look at the restaurant parking lots at 6:00pm, they are usually packed. We are looking for short term solutions, because we often times don’t have the energy to look long term.
What are your long term goals?
Honestly, if we consider long term goals as the most vital of our goals, we have a totally different look at the situation. We all honestly know short sighted eating tends to create long term deterioration in health. Once we reach 40 or 50, what we have done to our bodies comes back to bite us. Some people don’t have those effects until they are 60, but by then, how well can you come back from that without medical intervention? If you or your husband is chronically ill, can’t work, can’t contribute to an enjoyable lifestyle, the other one has to be a full time caregiver. Or worse, you both have chronic illnesses and your social life is going from doctor to doctor to figure out what your latest issue is.
The Care Giver’s Dilemma:
When the person who is supposed to be tending to the health of the family couldn’t do it, they end up being a full time caregiver to a chronically ill person.
I am not saying they are to blame, because if they were doing their best but met with resistance, they did what they could. However, if my goal is the long term health of my family, I am going to fight a much harder fight.
Life gives us what it gives us, and we are not in control of it. We don’t know what will happen in the future. However, avoiding the path that almost certainly leads to chronic illness, to me, is well worth a lot of effort. I do not want to be the person that contributed to the ill health of my family, just because they didn’t like my spinach lasagna. What do I do? Keep trying, keep looking for things that they are willing to try, and slowly get them used to the fact that they are going to be looking at vegetables every night at dinner. That the chicken is NOT going to be fried, and I am not taking them out to fast food. That is just how it is.
So what do we do?
What I want to say is so cliche: “fight the good fight”, or “choose your battles”, or “just eat real food”, but we need to be David in a world where Goliath is the entire food industry. We need to figure out what battles we are not willing to lose, and fight in that arena until we win. Even if the only success you have is your own health, at least you will have your health to be the care giver you will need to be. Perhaps your improved health will cause others to see that it is possible to make changes in a way that isn’t impossible. Make it a goal to learn what real food tastes like, learn how to make delicious meals, and even desserts with these foods, and just ignore the packaged and canned foods in the grocery store. Learn where the farmer’s markets are, learn who has grass fed beef and pastured poultry; learn what these even are and how to cook them. Learn what the “Dirty Dozen” and “Clean Fifteen” are. Educate yourself, and if you do get overwhelmed, you can go to talks like the Girls Gone Kale Friday Night Talks, or find us on Facebook and ask questions. Don’t be shy, you can see by the drive through lines at the fast not-food places that you are not alone in this battle. Be determined to keep the long term goal in mind.
Who am I to say all of this?
Sometimes I see people look at me, as if they are asking who makes me the expert. I just want to say, I am NOT the expert on you. You are the expert on what is going on in your life. You alone know what you can do, what you are struggling with, and what has happened in your life. I am only here to support you in your own journey. I am not here to specifically direct you, but I do have some experience weeding out some bad ideas, and slowly incorporating some good ones. I have studied lots of sources, and come to some conclusions, and it appears some people agree with me. I have heard and said the statement “just eat real food”, but true to our nature, we often want more direction. We tend to like “rules” that give us boundaries. Each person has their own need for boundaries, and their own weakness (or holes in the fence).
Sometimes it helps having someone objectively show you where you could make some subtle changes. It helps to have someone help you see the importance of the long term goal and keep you in the battle for the health of you and your family.
Although I want you to take responsibility for the health of yourself and your family, I don’t want you to feel like you are alone, fighting against Goliath. I also want you to know it is a fight worth fighting. So I am here as an educator, a friend, and a health coach, to support you in your journey.