Sunday, December 11, 2011

HOW do you develop GOOD eating habits?

I don't know about you, but I didn't develop my current health conditions by having perfect eating habits. It's the truth! First of all, I came from a family where you had to eat everything on your plate. We rarely had sweets around our house, so I remember making a lot of peanut butter and grape jelly sandwiches. My comfort food was Mom's homemade macaroni and cheese. (This was actually before Kraft packaged foods.) The only vegetables that ventured to our table were from the naval commissary and sat in our pantry as canned peas and creamed corn, warmed up only as an afterthought.

As I grew into adulthood I didn't have the slightest idea how to cook. I decided to read a lot of cookbooks and ended up joining a Gourmet dinner group. We alternated homes and selected menus by trying to out do the previous dinner groups. Not exactly a healthy way to cook, but in my twenties I wasn't really concerned about healthful eating. I was an active youth and young adult, participating in dance, gymnastics, running and skiing and I wasn't concerned about my weight.

That was until the night, at age 23, when I was hit by a drunk driver and ended up in the hospital for 3 months. My physical activity basically came to a stop as I worked through multiple hip surgeries and months of physical therapy. My doctor's told me swimming was my best option. I learned to swim and did lap swimming for several years until I developed severe ear infections and a vestibular disorder.

As I raised my kids, I became more aware of whole foods and fresh fruits and vegetables and started changing my cooking techniques for my family's needs. As the years went by I learned more and more and actually had the energy to invest more time and effort to create healthy whole meals. Some were more successful than others but we definitely had our favorites. Freshly baked breads with wholesome ingredients brought everyone running to the kitchen because of the amazing aroma.  As my daughter became a teenager, she wanted to be a vegetarian. I had her talk with our family doctor to explain the importance of eating whole proteins. My daughter depended a lot on dairy products for many of her proteins, however we did eat a lot of legumes and whole grains. Our greens branched off from eating iceberg lettuce and cucumbers only to spinach and kale.

As my health issues multiplied and my activities lessened, the doctors recommended I lose weight, their only "suggestion" was to join Weight Watchers. I did so, and through the decades the menus and food groups changed a little, but this is where I really learned to eat a variety of colored vegetables. My best success came when I prepared the vegetables as soon as they came home from the store. I cleaned, chopped, sliced and diced - putting vegetables into containers or bags ready for the weeks' activities. My kids loved this stage. They were very happy to have tasty snacks easily available. It took a lot of self discipline to keep this habit going and I did so for quite some time.

As my health got worse and nausea took over my daily activities, I lost much of my desire and discipline. There were months when I could not drive or leave the house. I nibbled here and there, trying to stop feeling so nauseated. It wasn't a healthy habit. We really couldn't identify the reason for the chronic nausea.

My arthritis got worse, exercising became more painful. I had multiple surgeries, nerve paralysis, liver disease and then I developed diabetes. This became serious. I've researched and learned a lot to help my specific health needs. It was earlier this year I learned about anti-inflammatory foods and am continuing to learn what foods help or hinder my health. It's been a challenge as sometimes I think I have it figured out, and then I have health reactions and try to determine whether it's food driven or not. Unfortunately diligence has not necessarily paid off.

I'm learning about nightshade vegetables, and as I select one of the foods and try it (say, tomatoes) I see how or if it appears to inflame my body. I determine whether I can eat a small amount, what variety and then track my food choices in a food journal. There are some foods (tomatoes) which truly inflame my body no matter how I fix them or in any amount. I add new foods to my diet - and in doing so, I end up eliminating other foods (mostly carbs).

When I don't feel well (which is several days a week), I don't like to cook or prepare food anymore. I just grab easy foods, but I'm trying to make better choices - like Green Smoothies! (Yum, see link below.)  It's hard to lose weight when I cannot exercise very much. My doctor is helping me manage the pain and try to do more. I try to pace myself and make priority lists to help set goals. I use the balance ball every morning to straighten my core muscles and stretch my back, neck and leg muscles.

I'm still learning - it's a life long goal. If you have had success in developing good eating habits - please share your experiences (here) with others! Thanks for stopping by today - hope to see you again soon.
Here's a link to try a Green Smoothie!