When I started thinking about how I would convey the scope of this journey my mind leapt to Abby from NCIS, maybe I had just watched the show. Who knows? She would totally rock this role, mining for information about the chemicals that have been added to our food source, and uncovering the reasons why. I bet the team wouldn’t be surprised to find some of these chemicals in an incendiary device! She is extremely passionate about what she does, and I find it easy to relate to that passion when it comes to the subject of food.
Bottom line: I am an aspiring, informed consumer, not a medical pro, nor do I intend to be one. This journey began because I wanted to feel better.
When I realized the benefit of this effort, I felt compelled to share and since then I have been able to help others like me. I aim to make it easier for people to read and demystify labels so they can avoid the bad stuff, give them some healthier alternatives, and then arm them with the ingredients to create an attainable menu for themselves.
My passion for helping people feel better is the common denominator, and I vow to do it more often.
Several years ago I was experiencing stomach discomfort which would keep me awake or wake me up out of a deep sleep. I would wake up groggy, unproductive, and frustrated. As I contemplated my symptoms, I had a hunch my discomfort was related to the food I was eating especially since I noticed they occurred after meals. Similar to Abby from NCIS, I dug deep searching for answers like a forensic scientist. What I found was shocking and disappointing. This pivotal moment changed my whole perspective about what I shopped for, consumed, and prepared, including meals at some of my favorite restaurants.
I started a food journal, hoping to find a common thread with my eating patterns. The journal wasn’t extravagant; I simply used a few sheets of notebook paper in a folder, assigned each day a column at the top, and then listed each mealtime, snack, etc., in the left hand margin.
Since I favor a vegetarian diet, I chose foods I thought would make me “feel full” and satiated. For breakfast I ate boxed cereal, for lunch I made a tofu or hummus spread sandwich, and my dinner choices included bread and pasta. Yes, I noticed my menu was heavy on the grains and that was too much; my body required more variety.
Dinner is where I focused the most research effort, especially since I was feeling most of my discomfort at night. I recorded the information, started to investigate, and soon a pattern emerged. What I discovered about my bread and pasta with sauce only scratched the surface. I had opened Pandora’s Box and uncovered some troublesome information.
First, I learned that if I introduced more variety into my food selection, I would benefit more from them. Then I learned too much of a good thing is not such a good thing. I learned to go for breadth, assortment, variety, and not depth when choosing my meals.
Moderation is key - not just for weight loss, but for the good foods you do eat. “Variety is the spice of life” but also more beneficial for our bodies than we realize.
Then, I learned something even more disturbing: the pasta sauce I was using at the time contained High Fructose Corn Syrup (HFCS). I was confused! Why does my sauce need to be sweetened when it is already made with tasty tomatoes? There is so much flavor in good tomatoes that there is no need to add a sugar substitute, especially one that is not healthy for our bodies. Unfortunately, I started to uncover more than just the HFCS. Even when I chose a ‘healthier’ or organic sauce option, I ran the risk of ramping up my blood pressure. There can be an exorbitant amount of sodium in a serving of pasta sauce.
Finally, the most unsettling revelation was the discovery of Partially Hydrogenated Oils (PHO). I was shocked at what foods contain this chemical!
My trips to the grocery store were becoming formidable; I scanned the shelves for my regular items, twisting and turning jars, cans, and bags to scour labels. It was exhausting, but also a rush for my research-geared brain. I had to allocate more time for my grocery shopping there was so much to learn about the choices I was making, I was all in.
This is where it all started, it feels like a lifetime ago. However, it's only the beginning. I'll be sharing more about my journey in the next few posts, stay tuned!