BJWPost

My Food Obsession

Sep
19

I just recently realized I have an obsession with food.

Yes, I know for most of you that know me you may be thinking, “Really, you just now figured that out?”

And I answer, yes. But it’s not the kind of obsession of how many calories in versus how many calories I burn off or can I eat this and not get fat, kind of obsession. Not that I haven’t done that in the past, and quite frankly, I think that kind of obsession created a weight problem for me at one time. But when I decided to quite worrying about food that way and started looking at food differently, like what’s it really made of, I started looking and feeling better.

I read nutrition labels, cookbooks, articles on food and recipes like novels. Many of the stories I write for Green Living Magazine  have some kind of food component in them. In fact I recently did a story about waste generated at football sporting events and I wasn’t too excited about it until I came across this little nugget:

According to the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) food waste is the number one item being thrown into landfills.

This information got me excited about the story. No, not because of the amount and detriment to the environment this causes (which are huge by the way – food waste produces methane that escapes into the ozone if it isn’t composted), but because of the connection between food and the environment.

I have long been a proponent of whole, healthy REAL food. Food that is close to its natural origins, even if it is meat or chicken. If you look at it you should be able to recognize what it is.

As I have become more “obsessed” with this aspect of food I also become more aware of my son’s eating habits. I do my best not to make food an issue, but I want him to understand choices he makes when it comes to food. For instance he does not like walnuts. But I tell him to try them every now and then. To at least see if he likes them prepared this way or that. I let him know why they are good for him and then let it go. Because as a kid I HATED walnuts, I hated all nuts. In fact I remember my mother, aunts and grandmother always trying to get us to eat them. They would hide them in things or put them in baked things they didn’t want to share with us (hmmmm….smart!).

But you know what? I LOVE them now. I will eat them raw, put them on a salad, eat them in cookies. I really like them. So I’ve been thinking about this for a while. If I hated them then but love them now ( and there are many more foods in my life like that now, brussels sprouts, broccoli, avocado etc.) how’d I get there?

And if I did, maybe my son will too.

So last night as I popped pistachio after pistachio into my mouth while we waited for our dinner to arrive I asked my mother about her childhood experiences with flavors and food. She said she didn’t like avocados as a kid but loves them now. And she’s even starting to like peas now and she didn’t when I was growing up.

I told her I thought growing to like “good for you foods” had to do with early exposure to “real” food, like what she and I grew up with. My grandparents (her parents) were farmers and didn’t believe in processed or packaged food and what they made came from vegetables, fruits or meats from the butcher. Both our early childhood food experiences were with unprocessed foods.

I continued to mull it over as I devoured (and enjoyed) my delicious Windsor Country Vegetable Chop salad of kale, brussel sprouts, radish, avocado and crispy okra (of which I also hated as a child!).

Turns out I may be right.

In the Scientific American, journalist Brian Mossop writes in his article titled “Can We Be Trained to Like Healthy Foods?”

Now, an increasing number of scientists and physicians wonder if our propensity for unhealthy, obesity-inducing eating might be tied to the food choices made during our first weeks and months of life. Indeed, the latest research indicates that what we learn to like as infants paves the way for what we eat as adults.

I can relax a little about my son’s diet. He loves broccoli, he loves carrots and prefers real apples to apple juice. His first “baby food” was avocado (hates it now by the way). I tried to make sure he ate a variety of “yucky” foods that were barely processed or not at all. But it still doesn’t stop me from freaking out that I may not have done a good enough job ~ happily though, my mom has sound and a sage advice:

Just keep doing what you are doing, and don’t worry so much honey, he’ll be fine.

Then I think, okay, she’s right. And maybe I’ve also finally found a place for my obsession and passion for my job as a journalist, mother and foodie.  Maybe I can help other moms, families and people learn to eat and live healthier and better one post at a time.

Cheers,

~BjW

No Rest For The Weary White-Collar Moonlighter

Aug
20

Things have gotten so tough financially for families that many white-collar workers are now double-dipping to keep afloat.

Moonlighting used to be something that was a part-time, 10 or 20 hours a week type gig. Usually the moonlighting job took a back seat to the “real” money maker.

But not so much theses days.

In Wednesday’s Wall Street Journal, reporter Sue Shellenbarger writes that many white-collar workers are putting almost as much time in at a second job as their first job. Only these new white-collar moonlighters aren’t necessarily working at a convenience store or fast food chain.

These moonlighters are creating new, entrepreneurial careers for themselves.

One woman even got clearance from her university employer to moonlight on her graphic design business. According to the article, A New White-Collar Jungle, the woman, Jen Klabis, manages to freelance during her 40 to 50 hour work week.

Her hard work looks to have paid off, she was hired by her university as a designer. Now there were legal hoops to jump through for Ms. Klabis to become an independent-contractor for the university, but she has a new career too! One, according to the article, she will continue.

This is something we bloggers appreciate. Working something on the side, hours or minutes or weeks, to do something we find fruitful and fulfilling, and hopefully turn into a real career.

Yet, I notice in the article how many hours these people interviewed work and it leaves me wondering where is the time for family, fun, relaxing? I realize maybe, especially with the disastrous housing market, many people have no choice but to work two full or semi full time jobs to make ends meet.

The article goes on to describe the inability of these moonlighters to relax. According to the article:

The nonstop mental work of two white-collar jobs can leave them unable to relax even when things slow down.

Believe me, we have struggled during this recession too and I’ve watched my husband do much the same thing. Which has me wondering, at what price do we end up working so hard to create something for ourselves and family that our family or health is compromised? Where do we find balance? How do we juggle this life so that we have a life?

I’d love to hear your thoughts and suggestions.

Love the Life you Live,

-BjW

Mom Was Right About Eating Your Broccoli

Aug
10

I cannot tell you how many times I have heard it said by mothers of all generations, “Eat your broccoli.” I know I heard it from my mom, and I have said it too, (fortunately my son really does love broccoli), but I still say it when he’d rather eat pizza.

Being an athlete and food fanatic for the last two decades I know broccoli and blueberries are two of the best antioxidant around, but I don’t think my mom, or her mother for that matter did. And yet, they always told me to eat my broccoli.

What I think is interesting is how they knew that my sister and I should be eating our broccoli without today’s Internet, science and technology to tell them why it was so important. Home grown food, or natural foods were more the norm during my childhood. I grew up as a grandchild of poor farmers and it’s just what we ate. Until my mom divorced and I was a teen. Time and circumstances changed our diet from one of whole, natural nutritious foods to easier, prepackaged, processed foods.

Sadly, I found myself going the easy route with my family lately. I knew it had to stop and in my quest to simplify all aspects of my life, I also chose to follow a simpler diet, one with less ingredients. I wanted simple. I wanted whole foods. I wanted easy. I decided to use a very restrictive food list as my grocery list. Nothing processed (except milk and yogurt), a very short list of fruits and vegetables and meat types.  You know what? I was a much better cook! Less choices meant I had to be really creative.

I was surprised, but I loved the simplicity of fewer choices and knowing the food was good, natural and fresh.

Fortunately my family is reaping long term health benefits too (as is our budget!) according to a recent article on Scope, Stanford’s School of Medicine blog. A short list of five foods top the list in fighting cancer. Broccoli, blueberries, onions, tomatoes and soy.

Stanford cardiologist, John W. Farquhar, M.D., says evidence shows these foods all have nutrients to fight cancer. Despite the uncertainty of nutrition’s role in preventing cancer these five foods should be included in the daily diet, believe Farquhar, and his colleague, Joyce Hanna, associate director of Stanford Prevention Research Center.

Farquhar and Hanna co-teach Standford’s popular course, The Best Diet Ever, and in an article in today’s San Francisco Chronicle tell the benefits of eating a diet that includes the five super foods. Farquhar states in the article,

There’s still uncertainty about how important nutrition is in cancer prevention but I’ve found that if you deal with these specific foods, there’s evidence that they all have cancer-fighting nutrients. As opposed to genetics, nutrition is something that people can control.

It seems that “mother really did know best,” even if she didn’t know exactly why we should be eating our broccoli. See, “old school” eating values pair nicely with new and modern technology!

Eat Well, and Love the Life you Live.

~BjW