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How to navigate food (and life) transitions

How to navigate food (and life) transitions

“How do you get your family to accept a real food diet when all they want are chicken nuggets?” “My kid is a picky eater. He eats cereal three times a day. What do I do?” “I want to eat ‘healthy’ but I crave a sugary snack every afternoon (and evening, if I’m honest)!”

The struggle is real! You are now convinced of the basics: that eating a healthy diet means eating more real, whole foods, and less of the food-like processed stuff that comes in packages! Bravo! But how do you go from the head to the heart (or should I say to the mouth)? 

That moment when you invite yourself over to your farmer's for dinner....

So, yeah, I did that. I’ve been the customer of a farmer in Pennsylvania for over 10 years and it suddenly struck me that it was high time we met. Well, that’s only part of the truth. I have indeed been ordering food from his farm—amazing meat, the best eggs with the most orange yolks, cheeses that are textured and tasty, and MUCH more—for a long while, but what motivated me was that I got wind of the fact that a fellow customer had dined at Peter’s house and I was just plain jealous. On our private Facebook group, she talked about how they ate a lovely meal and sang songs afterwards and I was as green as moss. I wanted to do that, too! I was encouraged by our farm liaison to reach out to Peter to arrange for a visit, so I did. I called him and asked if my husband and I could join them for dinner. Then the game of phone tag began. My farmer, Peter, is Amish and the Amish live simple lives, eschewing technology for the most part, so the telephone at their place is off in a separate building. So I called and left a message, making my request. And then he called me back and left me a message. Then I called back and left his adult son, Samuel, a message and then Samuel called me back and left me a message. And so on.

Eventually we connected “live” and it was a study of the different cultures we live in, though we are only a few hours apart. I would make a comment like “We can’t wait to meet you!” and then…pause….pause…pause….pause “It will be fun,” one would reply. I was rushed and citified. They were calm and country. I knew the visit would rock my world.

When the day came, as we pulled up, we saw two little boys hand-cranking ice cream. Peter greeted us and explained that the boys were his grandsons and that they were making it special for us and that it takes 1000 cranks till it’s done. We were humbled and touched immediately.

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They took us to meet their cattle up on a nearby hill. Most of them were lying down. Samuel explained that when cows are content, they lie down. These certainly seemed to be at peace. We went to see the chickens. They were beautiful, clucking happily, pecking away at bugs and microbes and what not.

After the brief tour, they ushered us into their home. There, we were blown away. Peter’s wife, Sarah, presented us with a spread fit for royalty. Let me back up here and explain that earlier, in one of our phone tag messages, Peter said that Sarah wanted to know what we would like to eat. She could serve chicken, pork, beef, or fish. In reply, I left a message saying something like “We like everything!” Imagine my shock and surprise, then, when they set before us literally EVERYTHING! The meal included: peaches with cottage cheese, pork chops and sauerkraut, beef and potatoes, gravy, chicken and honey mustard sauce, peas and carrots, salad, pickles and cheese! And kombucha to drink. Oh, and rolls and butter. And, of course, the ice cream and apple pudding for dessert.

I couldn’t help but wonder if something was lost in the translation between my saying we liked everything and their thinking we wanted everything. I came to find out later, to my relief, that they often treat guests to multiple course meals like that. Regardless, we were moved by their gracious hospitality. Samuel had to leave the table (before dessert) to feed the animals. When he came back, he and his parents let me interview them (though they are generally private people--which is one reason I am not using their real names). So I pulled out my recording equipment and we got started. It was a halting interview, to be honest, since they were unaccustomed both with microphones and answering questions on the spot. But it still offered small glimpses of how they shifted to organic farming (the first in their community to do so), and the health and business struggles they’d faced over the years.

Afterwards, we did indeed end our evening with a song. I was so grateful for the life-giving service they do all of us with their work on the farm. It was wonderful to raise our voices as one. Food brought us together; sharing a meal and singing together solidified the bond. As we prepared to leave, they said, with concern in their voice, “You’ll be getting home around 9 p.m.!” We understood why they were worried when we found out that their day begins at 4:15 a.m. Our 9 p.m. was equivalent to their midnight!

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All told, we were on the farm for some 4-5 hours but that brief time gave me invaluable insight on the important work of the farmer, the timeless (and often thankless) work of managing the land and animals to provide for the life and health of countless others. Let me know in the comments below if you’ve ever met your farmer and what your experience was like. And also let me know if you’d like me to post the interview as a podcast sometime. It wasn’t a perfect recording, but it was a perfectly amazing evening.

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Hilda Labrada Gore is a health coach and fitness professional. She is the DC chapter leader for the Weston A. Price Foundation and is the Wise Traditions podcast host. Wise Traditions can be found on YouTube, iTunes, Stitcher, iHeartRadio, Google Play Music and at westonaprice.org.

A Maasai promise: a u-turn toward traditional foods

"I know and I promise that there will be a very huge U-turn for my community. We will be turning to where we came from."  Dickson Gisa, a leader in his Maasai village, spoke these words to me in a conversation in his home just a few days ago. Dickson is the one who took the initiative to contact the Weston A. Price Foundation (WAPF) a year or two ago. He had come across the WAPF wise traditions principles and they resonated with him to such a degree that he asked WAPF to send someone to his community because "we are all getting sick."  So WAPF honored his request and sent me and Mary Gerke, a nurse and WAPF leader from the midwest, to his remote village in Matapato, Kenya, not far from the Tanzania border. This May, I returned to Dickson's community to follow up. What a joy it was to reconnect! I had the privilege of speaking once again about the importance traditional diets, while immersed in the gracious, welcoming Maasai culture. Along the way, I even got to enjoy some of the very traditional foods they have always embraced! But, best of all, I was able to see the changes the community had already implemented, as a result of last year's visit.

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Nowhere was this more evident than in Dickson's own home. His wife, Joseline, gave up her job as a preschool teacher last year to develop a garden on their land. She grows traditional greens, kale, peppers, tomatoes, carrots, bananas, cassava, and more! Her harvest is so abundant that she has enough for her own family and then some. Members of her community come buy food to sell at market. Dickson told me that Joseline made this choice very deliberately so that their family could avoid purchasing food from the shops/grocery stores.

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At every turn, their were positive signs. The youth group, comprised of 18-30 year olds, affirmed that they wanted to continue the traditional foods "campaign." And after my presentation to the community members, the pastor stood up and suggested that all women present begin cooking traditional foods again "starting now." (Dickson told me later that when they learn of something that is good, they try to apply it to their lives right away.) On Sunday morning, the pastor spoke of incorporating wise tradition principles into their church programs, and a church elder testified, "Just like we need to change our attitude toward God, we need to change our attitude toward feeding and health."

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Apparently, Dickson is not the only one who is convinced that the wise traditions that have been handed down for generations are a God-given gift that offer life and health and promise for the future.

I can't wait for you to hear my conversation with Dickson, which I recorded with my podcast gear. I hope to publish it sometime this summer on the Wise Traditions podcast. You can listen to all episodes by simply going to the westonaprice.org website and clicking on the podcast link on the right-hand side bar. Or, better, yet,  subscribe to the Wise Traditions podcast via iTunes, Stitcher (if you have an android phone) or the RSS feed (also on the westonaprice.org site's podcast page). You will certainly be encouraged, as I have been, and you will learn a thing or two about health and wise traditions around the world!

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Hilda Labrada Gore is the DC chapter leader for the Weston A. Price Foundation (WAPF). She is also the host of the WAPF-sponsored Wise Traditions podcast. She is traveling in Zimbabwe and Kenya as part of the WAPF international project initiative.

 

 

The Biggest Loser...but in real life!

On the t.v. show "The Biggest Loser," people lose drastic amounts of weight in dramatic fashion, only to gain it back when they are off the air and the cameras are gone. Dramatic is the right word for it. It is a t.v. show, made to entertain. Those who produce it are interested in ratings, certainly not in the health of the participants. They "help" them lose weight, all right, but in all the wrong ways for all of the wrong reasons. But contestants sign up to be on the show, nonetheless, grasping at the slim hope that they might become slim, in actuality. It's easy to understand their desperation. Richard Morris could certainly relate. For him, walking to work was akin to hiking Mount Everest. He would huff and puff and sweat up a storm and it was only a few blocks away from his place in New York City! He was in terrible shape. No surprise. The man weighed over 400 lbs. Dieting? Hed been there, done that....in his own words, "a million and one" times. The only thing they were good for was packing on the pounds (after some initial unsustainable weight loss).

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Richard was pre-diabetic and struggling with asthma and high blood pressure. Every day he woke up asking himself, "Is today the day I die?"

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This is Richard today. Yes, as you can ascertain, he has undergone a complete transformation! He is in excellent shape, as are his wife and two daughters. He works a job and runs a family farm. And in his spare time, he runs spartan races!

Be inspired by his story in this half-hour episode entitled A life unburdened.

What You’ll Learn

  • How Richard gained so much weight in the first place
  • The role his family's poverty played in their food choices when he was growing up
  • What diets he tried and why they failed him
  • Richard's a-ha moment that led him to leave dieting behind
  • What first steps he took to rid his home of processed foods
  • What foods they bought (and where they bought them) as they switched to eating real food
  • What happened when he flirted (briefly) with the idea of eating the old way
  • How the Weston A. Price Foundation resources played a part in his transformation
  • The role of cooking in his life
  • How his daughter's early puberty was reversed through real food
  •  How he got into obstacle course racing

Links & Resources

About Richard Morris

Richard Morris worked in IT, but now lives a life that is drastically different. Richard lives in Virginia, running his farm, running spartan races and running in the human race, in brave and new ways!

If you enjoy the podcast episode, please share it on FB or Twitter. And leave Wise Traditions a review on iTunes which gives important stories like Richard's a broader platform!

Why conventional food is more expensive than organic. Really.

I just got my oil changed. I had a coupon so I was psyched up. “I’m going to save $8.00!” When all was said and done, though, my grand total was over $150. (The oil change included a new cabin air filter, tire rotation, and more.) The oil change company tossed in a free car wash, but I was still experiencing sticker shock. I couldn't help but wonder if I'd been hoodwinked into spending more than necessary. Not my car, but doesn't it look happy?

As I was stewing over the hefty price tag, the service manager came up to me and said, “If you are good to your car, it will be good to you." Obviously this was a line intended to make me feel better, but, to my surprise, it actually worked. He had a good point. If we neglect oil changes and regular maintenance we put our car at risk. We may be penny-wise but pound-foolish. Cars that are not maintained well seem okay in the short-run but in the long-run, they  become sluggish and eventually irreparably damaged.

When it comes to eating and our health, there is a similar relationship. If we feed ourselves on the cheap, with foods that fill but don't nourish us, we will save money in the short-run but we will later pay the price with our diminishing health. Conversely, if we fill ourselves with the best food we can afford, including, yes, organic veggies and fruit, and hormone-free and antibiotic-free meats, we will pay more up front, but we save ourselves the pain (often physical) and expense of health care costs.

When we look at our food budget, we forget to take this into account. It is expensive to eat well. You will spend more in the short-term. Your wallet will feel the pinch. But would you rather feel pain now, monetarily, or later, both physically and monetarily? This is why I say that conventional food is more expensive than organic. One costs more at the register, but there are hidden, more serious, costs with the other.

The best food---you know where it comes from and what's in it!

Conventional veggies and fruit are grown with pesticides sprayed on them (and sometimes are even genetically modified to contain pesticides). Pesticides are bug-killers and chemicals meant to kill aren't good for any living beings. Packaged and processed foods contain preservatives, colorings, and flavorings that our bodies cannot recognize or assimilate easily. Non-food products in our food are difficult for our bodies to digest and can hurt us, from the inside out.

What do  you think? Am I off base here? Is conventional more costly than organic, really? Do you agree or disagree? I'm eager to hear your thoughts!

 

The accidental foodie

This is the house that Jack built. Do you remember that nursery rhyme? At first you just saw the house in your mind's eye, but then the story took you deep inside, so that you could see how the house was linked to people and creatures, in ways unexpected. house that Jack This is analogous to my relationship with food. How did I become so passionate about food, its origin, and its effects on the body? Look at my journey and you'll see that I wasn't born with an organic BPA-free spoon in my mouth. This is the story of how I became a foodie quite by accident.

If there's one word that summarizes my journey, it's this: relationship.  Some years ago, a friend invited me to hear America's "most famous farmer" Joel Salatin speak. (He wasn't that famous back then, by the way, but he certainly is now! You may have even seen the article that came out just last week in the Food section of The Washington Post entitled  "Joel Salatin's growing on us.")  Anyway, I went to his presentation primarily because of my friend's insistence.

At the end of the night, honestly, I didn't know what to make of Joel. I thought he spoke too quickly and too passionately. (If you know my speaking style at all, this should make you smile!)  He was asking the audience to reconsider their relationship to food, to the land it grows on (or grazes on) and to the one who grows it. His ideas seemed radical and strange. Nonetheless, I was intrigued enough to buy his book "Holy Cows and Hog Heaven: The Food Buyers' Guide to Farm Friendly Food."  I even got Joel to autograph it for me. The inscription was puzzling, though. "Hilda: Welcome to the team! Joel" What did he mean by "Welcome to the team"? What team?

Joel knew then what I only came to realize later: I was on the brink of being drawn into an amazing group of passionate, vibrant people---a team that was sparking a food revolution of sorts. farm freshThey were making different choices: planting gardens, getting local food, avoiding overly- processed foods and commercial retailers. I had no idea who I was getting mixed up with!

Up to this point, my relationship to food had been utilitarian. I was hungry, so I ate. I just needed enough to quiet my stomach and fill my belly. Once I had children, a shift occurred. I wanted them not only to be full, but to be nourished. I wanted them to be healthy and well. I set out to identify the most nourishing foods I could, to serve them to my family. My relationship with food was morphing: from utilitarian to intentional and purposeful.

The "team" I was joining had purpose in spades, so I learned from them. I joined a group that received food deliveries from a farm in Pennsylvania. We got milk, eggs, meat, produce. I loved the food and was pleased to know the farmer who was providing it. He even had a name: Jake! I started digging deeper (no farming pun intended). I found books--"Nourishing traditions", Joel's aforementioned book, "Good calories, bad calories," ---blogs--- "100 days of real food", and "Food renegade"---and faith-based guides like "Treasures of healthy living"! Suddenly, I was looking at food very differently. I began to see it as miraculous and beautiful, life-sustaining and delicious!

Talk about a transformed relationship, huh? And I'm not through learning. Not by a long shot.  I did get certified as a health coach by the Institute for Integrative Nutrition, so that I could share the wealth of resources and discoveries I'd made. I also became a DC chapter leader for the Weston A. Price Foundation (WAPF), an organization committed to helping people find nutrient-dense foods. (I'm happy to answer questions about either of these groups, by the way.)

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Where are you on your journey? How closely have you looked at the food on your plate and where it came from? If you are just starting to make different choices, congrats! And brace yourself. You may start out just wanting to put good milk, meat, and eggs on your table, but you just may end up as part of a team that you joined, quite by accident!

"Mom, stop making us healthy!"

My friend's third-grade daughter uttered these words, as she spread her Nutella liberally on her white bread. The mom is making changes for the good of her family, but they don't appreciate it, apparently. What a surprise, no? john-wilhelm-nutella-hed-2014

If you've ever had Nutella (its main ingredient is sugar), you understand how addicting it is. And why a kid wouldn't want to surrender it very easily. at. all.

Let's face facts. You are going to experience some pushback from your family when you embark on a mission to "make them" healthy. Originally I was going to entitle this blog, "How to avoid fighting with your kids over getting healthy" but then I realized that I wanted to focus on the positive. Rather than addressing potential conflict, I'm going to give you tips on how to help your family enjoy the journey toward a healthier diet.

1. Have them buy in. Literally. Include them when you go grocery shopping. Show them articles (if they're old enough to read) or explain to them how healthy, happy cows, make healthy happy milk or meat. Help them understand that "junk food" is just that: junk. I've heard tell of a family whose kids would beg for the happy meal toys. The mom would go to McDonald's, order the happy meal, give the toy to her child and then throw the entire meal in the trash. Her kids won't touch fast food today. They know it has no value.

2. Go ninja.  If your kids or spouse aren't buying it, so to speak, go stealth. Don't make any major announcements about your undertaking. Take it slow, so that it's practically imperceptible. You can't expect to pry the Nutella away from them, all at once, without their noticing. (By tninjahe way, regarding Nutella, we've been there, bought that.) Make gradual changes that they may not even notice at first. Buy a cereal with less sugar in it. Or replace cereal with less processed breakfast choices, like eggs or a banana with peanut butter (if the kids are running out the door). Water down your juice. These are all ways to get a little less sugar in their diets.

If you want to get more veggies on the plate (and into your kids' bodies), check out Jessica Seinfeld's cookbook "Deceptively delicious." Her take is that you might need to sneak the veggies into some of your dishes. She has a mac and cheese recipe, for example, that calls for squash or cauliflower. While I don't agree with every aspect of her approach or diet (her recipes skew low-fat), I applaud her for her ninja style: tricking picky eaters into eating their spinach (and other such).

3. "Upgrade" at the grocery store. If you buy the pseudo/bright orange mac and cheese, switch to Annie's Organic as you transition away from the convenient little boxes. Get a different brand of chips, made with GMO-free corn. Buy your old, regular brands a little less often. When the kids begin complaining "Mom, we're still out of Nutella!" empathize (while being careful not to let a little smile cross your lips) and offer them new options: organic peanut butter with honey on sourdough bread or melted cheese on a spelt tortilla.

 4. Go home-cooked and familiar. No need to go radical with dishes and veggies the family has never heard of---kohlrabi casserole, anyone? "Healthy" food doesn't mean weird, dry, boring and yechy. Keep familiar dishes on the table that have been upgraded. My mouth is watering just thinking about the organic (hormone-free/antibiotic-free) burgers and home fries (organic potatoes cooked in lard and butter) that our family is going to eat this weekend.

5. Slow and steady wins the race! A hare at heart, it's hard for me to admit this. I am a person who likes to do things on a big scale--I love huge, dramatic change. I know I'm not the only one, if the January Facebook "detox" posts are any indication. People think they need to make up for their nutritional sins (as it were) by fasting or drinking veggie smoothies for a month. The problem with big dramatic changes is that they're difficult to maintain. And as mentioned above, they will bring about conflict, disappointment and resistance from our families.

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Better to keep plodding away with incremental changes, like replacing Aunt Jemima syrup with real maple syrup or swapping out margarine for butter. These little changes can help you make inroads on your road to improved nutrition for your family.

What are some of your ideas? What small changes have you made that have made you feel successful and that are nourishing your families in new ways? Please comment below. I'm eager to hear your thoughts!

Organic on a budget

I gave a nutrition presentation to a group of young moms this week. it was entitled:

"Seven heavenly tips for healthy, happy families."

(Okay, okay, I confess I got carried away by the rhyming and alliteration. I'm not sure what made the tips "heavenly" other than the fact that they came from me.) Toward the end of the talk, one mom commented, "Hilda, I really aspire to this. But I just don't see how my family can afford to eat this way." Many moms nodded in agreement and talked about the common phenomenon of spending their "whole paycheck" at Whole Foods.

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I could empathize. As a mother of four, and an avowed foodie, I have seen my fair share of grocery bills that looked like luxury car payments! So I appreciated the money-saving tips that came up in the course of our conversation. Especially at this time of year, when money is tight, few of us can afford to splurge on groceries. I love the tips that the moms shared and I hope you do, too!

1. Eat less meat. High-quality meat (grass-fed, and antibiotic- and hormone-free) has a host of benefits, including being a vital source of vitamins B, D, and iron. But its price is higher than the ground beef that's on sale at your typical Safeway or Giant. One mom said that she justifies paying, say, $10 for quality ground beef versus $3 for the "regular" ground beef, by simply serving it less often. In other words, instead of having meat with dinner 4 or 5 times a week, she might just prepare it once or twice. But when she does, she is serving her family the best---meat that is both delectable and deeply nourishing, with none of the side effects of conventional meat.

Talk about paleo!

2. Shop around. Yes, buying organic is expensive if you do one-stop shopping at the high-end stores. But now organic produce and other natural foods are often available at places as varied as CostCo, Target, Wal-Mart and even your local grocery store. (Kombucha is cheaper at my neighborhood Safeway, for example.) Finding the deals takes a little more time, obviously, and you may have to go out of your way to get them, but if you plan it right, you can come away with some decent savings.

3. Know your "clean 15 and dirty dozen." If you want to ease into your organic purchases, start here. This handy-dandy chart from the Environmental Working Group is a guide that distinguishes "clean" produce---that which has the least amount of pesticide residue and chemicals---and "dirty" produce--that which frequently has significant amounts. The "dirty" ones are the ones you should avoid, obviously. Choose organic the next time you want to buy something off the "dirty" list. And feel free to buy the less expensive conventional "clean" produce next time you go shopping, guilt-free.

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4. Farmers markets - When I brought this up, the moms began to murmur and shake their heads. It's true--farmers markets aren't known for their low prices, but I see buying fresh greens there as a great deal. Even if they are pricier than their store-bought counterparts, they will taste freshKale-2er and better, making it more likely that your family will actually eat them. The outcome? Less science experiments in the produce drawer of your fridge and more yummy nutritious food in your tummies. Here are two sources to find awesome markets in the DC metro area: first, a map compiled by the Washington Post in April of this year, and second, a list of FRESHFARM markets in the area. Kale never tasted so good!

5. Buy bulk - I'm not talking toilet paper or laundry detergent (though I suppose that's great, too). I'm talking sides of beef. This is especially easy to do if you have freezer space to spare. Right off the bat, here are two farms I can recommend that sell meat in bulk: Black Diamond Meats in Blacksburg and Polyface Farm in Shenandoah, VA. Black Diamond will ship meat. For Polyface Farm meats, you need to be a part of their buying club. Both are worth looking into, but I have to warn you. You will be spoiled. One taste of these high-quality, mouth-watering cuts and you will never go back to the mystery meat on pink styrofoam trays in your grocer's freezer.

Hope these tips give you a little more spending money for Christmas presents this season. I am certain that if you follow them,  you will find yourself nourished and happy and more able to cope with all of the challenges and busyness that come with this time of year.