“We are living in a world today where lemonade is made from artificial flavors and furniture polish is made from real lemons.” ~Alfred E. Newman~
This quote can either cause someone who is reading this to either think I’m crazy or a genius, and I can honestly say that I understand both sides since I have been on both of the sides of the spectrum when it comes to processed foods. I grew up in a household where we did not have a lot of money, so eating fresh fruits and vegetables were not always an option for my family and eating processed foods was cheaper and quite honestly faster to make. Don’t get me wrong, my mom was not the one who spent most of the grocery money on junk food. If anything she tried her hardest to incorporate healthier eating especially as I got older since my weight started going on a downward spiral. When I think about it now, not only was I a minority growing up in Florida but I was also an OBESE Asian which in many ways is like an oxymoron. You see, in the Vietnamese culture, the skinnier you are the healthier you are and most men prefer a woman who has very little meat on her. I was definitely the atypical Asian because I was far from being skinny and had a diet that probably was not the healthiest especially since Vietnamese diets mainly consist of fresh fruits, vegetables, poultry, and fish.
Throughout the years, I always thought that Oreos, Kraft mac and cheese, and Sloppy Joe’s were normal foods that were okay to eat. I never really thought about whether those types of foods were healthy or not since I grew up eating it. It wasn’t until I got into college that my thinking on processed foods began to change. My very close high school friend who I still talk to now began to educate me about the dangers of processed foods. If you knew this friend of mine, they had the “typical” diet of Americans such as pizza,cookies, and ice cream, so much to my delight, it was always fun hanging out with her since I knew that she would always have some delicious junk food waiting for me to devour! 😉 Anyways, her mother had been diagnosed with breast cancer and to make a long story short, they decided to take an alternative route to treat the breast cancer. They went to a biochemist who began to educate them that what you put in your body truly affects your health, so the junk foods that were a consistent part of their diet was taking a toll on her mom and that their eating habits had to change if they wanted her mother to get better. Not only was she encouraging her mom to change her diet but also the family and that is what they did. They went from buying Little Debbies to buying organic fruits, vegetables, meat, and fish, and they CUT out ALL processed foods! After several months of clean and organic eating, her mother was no longer diagnosed with breast cancer. Throughout the whole time my friend was going through this, I began to evaluate my eating habits and started researching the dangers of processed foods. I started to cut back on processed foods and began to buy foods that were grown from nature. I won’t get into a lot of details, but if you think about it, it just makes sense to eat wholesome, fresh, locally grown fruits and vegetables that contain very few ingredients instead of sugar laden, chemically altered processed foods that contains so many ingredients that it ends up taking up most of the package. To make it worst, it’s impossible to read most of the ingredients because it looks like it came from a foreign language! To me, I want to be able to read and understand what I’m about to put in my mind.
Even though it’s been several years that my view began to change about my diet and trying to incorporate healthier food options and staying away from processed foods, it’ still not an easy thing to do. When I look back on the periods of my life when I began to pack on the pounds which have been at least 3-4 times, I noticed that my diet changed drastically! When I was at my heaviest, my diet consisted of fast foods, processed foods, and practically no fruits and vegetables. I always found myself feeling tired and having a hard time focusing on tasks soon after eating a huge meal that consisted of burger, fries, and soda. It wouldn’t be long before I began to get hungry again, so I felt as though I was constantly eating but never feeling satisfied. When I was at my smallest, my diet changed completely. It went from eating processed foods to eating tons of fruits, vegetables, and poultry. I found that my energy level was higher and that I was full longer. My overall health and well being was amazing. Now one would think that feeling that way would have prevented me from gaining weight; however, as we all know, life tends to bring about changes and sometimes they end up being more stressful and busier than one anticipates it to be. I found myself getting back to my old habits of eating unhealthy because it was faster and convenient; however, the tradeoff was not worth it because I ended up gaining the weight back. My goal this time is to try to be more conscious of what I buy and taking the time to read the ingredients of packages. Not only am I interested in losing weight but I’m more interested being healthy especially as I get older. This journey is not only about losing weight and looking good but it is also about incorporating permanent lifestyle changes such as my eating habits. Will it be easy? Of course not since this has been almost ten years of me trying to minimize eating processed foods. The awareness and knowledge are there and now it’s time for me to take it to heart and apply for the long term. With ALL of this being said, to help with my challenge of incorporating more fruits and vegetables into my diet while minimizing processed foods, my husband and I will be planting our own vegetable garden in the next couple of weeks which I am excited about because it allows us to be in control of what we are putting in our garden. Nothing beats homegrown vegetables that you can pick yourself from your own backyard!