Real People, Real Food: Two Interviews

I wanted to share the story of two people I know personally and the changes they’ve each made in their diets which have made a profound effect on their health – and to help those who are new to traditional and real food gain an understanding of just what a dramatic change for the better it can have on quality of life. Both of these individuals are people I’ve known for about six or seven years.

What is of particular interest about the stories of these two women is that both individuals spent periods of time eating either vegetarian or vegan diets, and experienced poor health as a result. Both Jenny and Lacey have remarked to me on several occasions just how much their health has improved since they returned to eating meat and started to discover the path to healing through real food.

Jenny Calla

www.mypicshares.com

Jenny is my next-door neighbor and nutritional therapist. The story of how I came to discover she was a nutritional therapist is kind of interesting. Jenny and her husband had moved next door to us about 2 years after we had bought our house. They moved here from Alaska (but were long-time residents of New Orleans) and were looking for a smaller city that had a good quality of life. The day I met Jenny we were coming home from someplace and were going into the house. It was night time, which made it difficult to see very well. We exchanged brief hellos and went on our way.

Sometime later, we were at the school a block away from our house because our son Tristan likes playing on the playground equipment. Jenny was there with her two labrador retrievers. We started talking and as it turned out, she was completing her training to be a nutritional therapist. My health had been in various stages of failing and I was seeing a chiropractor who was using some of the same principles in nutritional therapy that Jenny had studied, but wasn’t certified. I had felt like I had hit a wall with my progress, and needed someone who was a bit more knowledgeable.

So I started to see Jenny, and then not too long after that she suggested I make an appointment with the woman who had been her instructor, Lynn Osborne, who had a wealth of experience. Lynn was a resident of Olympia, but traveled frequently to different cities to see clients. The first time I saw Lynn during one of her Boise visits, the entire scope of my health began to dramatically change. It took some years (and is still in progress), but with occasional appointments when Lynn was in town and seeing Jenny in-between, things finally began to look up.

Describe your dietary habits when you were growing up:

Processed, processed, processed! Cereal, margarine, macaroni and cheese (Kraft), Kraft singles, canned veggies, Rice-A-Roni, canned chili, white bread/wheat bread. Little Debbie snack cakes, chips, pop tarts…oh, and grass-fed beef! (What, where’d that come from???)

Did you have any awareness of real food back then?

Yes, Grandma’s food is what I identified as “special”, real food.

How long did you have health issues before you were aware that what you were eating might be affecting your health?

Since 1998. It was weight-related.

What was your ultimate motivation to change?

In 2005, I started to realize that my health issues might be related to diet and knew it was time for a change.

How do you describe your diet when people ask what you eat?

Clean, generous with fats, low in grains, lots of veggies, fattier cuts of meat, nothing pre-packaged.

Have you gained an acceptance of how you eat, and how do you teach others about food amongst your friends and family?

Yes, but I can’t eat out without complaining. I’ve found that people really do want to be educated on how to improve their diets. They still think my eating is extreme, and organic is often demonized because of people’s perception about it being an elite product.

How long were you a vegetarian, and how did your diet affect your health?

From 2003 – 2005 I was a vegetarian. I felt better at first, but I was actually the most sick I had been in my life at the end. My motive was to help with my menstrual cramps. The vegetarian diet didn’t accomplish that and it actually caused more deficiencies in my body. Also, I had an increase in cavities – probably from eating so many grains.

What led to your decision to pursue nutritional therapy?

Health issues after being a vegetarian for three years.

What are some of your favorite foods/recipes?
Chicken stock or any home-made stock (I love the idea of no waste), lamb stew with lots of vegetables, and roasted chicken.

What is your advice to people who want to make changes and begin to eat more whole, real, and traditional foods?

  • Limit your fats and oils to organic (if possible) and eat butter, unrefined coconut oil, cold-pressed olive oil, and meat and meat products from clean sources like pasture-raised.
  • Learn how to cook! Dinner doesn’t have to be complicated to be healthy. Make a piece of meat, one steamed veggie with butter, and a green salad with homemade dressing. Even the organic salad dressings use unhealthy oils and have preservatives. Learn to make your own and get creative.

Lacey Reynolds

www.mypicshares.com

I met Lacey during my adventures as a music promoter in the local Boise underground music community. Lacey and I knew each other for a couple of years casually, and then gradually became good friends due to being involved in many of the same events as performers and organizers. Our friendship grew further within a circle of four other amazing women that are still close today.

Although some of our lives have gone down very different paths, we all still hold our friendships dear and important. Lacey works in a cancer treatment center in a Boise hospital, and has remarked to me numerous times at how this job has shaped her view of health, food, and nutrition.

Describe your dietary habits when you were growing up:

I survived on a diet based on two basic theories; he who eats fastest eats best and when all else fails there is cereal. My diet was whatever we could afford at the time. Some meats, but mostly processed lunch meats or anything canned. Cereal was cheap and could be bought in bulk, so usually that. I remember that when we got a Swanson family-sized turkey dinner with re-dehydrated potatoes it was a big deal. My mother never cooked, except for the occasional fish stick, so whatever was a dry good or could go in the microwave is what my sister and I lived on.

Did you have any awareness of real food then?

Yes, my grandmother and great grandparents cooked quite a bit, so I knew there was a difference between grab and go or dinner per se. But no, I never had any awareness of the ingredients or what might be in them.

How long have you been aware of health issues that were affected by what you eat?

Right around the age of 16 I guess. I went on an Atkins-like diet and lost 65 pounds; at the time I was almost 170 (I’m 125 now). I started looking into the role of carbs and processed sugar in my diet, that sort of got the ball rolling. I gave up soda and fast food at that time also because I knew they were bad for me as far as my weight, I just didn’t realize how bad they were until later on.

What was the ultimate motivation to change your eating habits?

Back then it was weight loss, but after a few years of eating nothing but processed dairy, coffee and red meat (especially the factory-farmed variety) your body and bowels start to seek revenge. I always felt full and bloated and was depressed more often than not. Luckily, I was blessed with a cook as a boyfriend who also believed in supporting local and sustainable farming. In order to stop the rest of the bad habits (we both ate really well when compared to most Americans), I went vegan in order to force myself to look at what I was eating more closely and to slowly reintegrate things into my diet.

How much time did you spend eating a vegan diet? Describe the reasons for your choices.

I spent around 4 months completely vegan and trying to avoid the processed soy products as much as possible. Part of the reason I went vegan was health concerns; I knew I was eating way too much meat and cheese and not enough whole grains or veggies. The other part was I was fed up and disgusted with how much hormones were in the meat I was eating! No only was it not grass fed but fed on grain (which is a whole different issue) but it was being genetically- modified or “enhanced”. It scared me away from all meat and poultry. After 4 months I went back to eating live culture, goat, or organic cheeses, some fish, and cage free organic/duck eggs produced by local farmers.

When did you decide to make a change and what was your motivation?

Back to meat? When I discovered that I was headed down the same path of lazy eating, but as a vegetarian. The faux meats had found a home in my fridge and when I found out (thanks Raine!) just how much soy was being genetically-altered I was back at the starting point all over again. Basically, I went vegan/vegetarian to rid my diet of genetically-processed foods and had to go back to eating meat to get rid of the genetically-processed soy in almost all vegetarian food! Ironic, no? I’m very careful about where my meat is farmed and where my dairy is produced. It made me realize no matter meaty or veggie, convenience kills. It might be hot dogs or Boca meat, but GMO’s have no place in the food chain.

How do you describe your diet when people ask what you eat?

Recovering vegetarian.

How do other people in your life view the way you eat?

I‘ve never really thought about it. My partner, George, and I are on the same page with what we want in our food, especially now that I‘m back eating meat again. I do know that I look at what other people eat now and wonder how I ever survived eating those items and it scares me that they still are.

What are some of your favorite foods/recipes?

Fresh caught salmon filet with organic cream cheese and garden fresh basil leaves. Place cream cheese on the thin cut fillet then layer with spinach leaves, sprinkle with dill and roll up. Tie with wet cotton string and place on the top shelf of the grill. You’ll know when it’s done when the edges start to brown.

Carrot cumin soup with cashews

Organic Top Round crock pot stew with goat cheese cheddar and Two Brothers Organic sourdough bread

Onion cheese tomato casserole

Foods: Goat cheese, raw bell peppers, almonds/cashews, g-raw-nola, steak and potatoes, Oddwalla superfood/super protein bars, tempi (hemp milk ice cream), and hummus (my own home-made).

What advise do you have to those who want to make changes but might be unsure about where to start?

Start small…small print that is. READ YOUR LABELS. The first step is to know, really know, what your putting into your body as fuel. Hopefully, that will give you a good indication of where to start. Another way is to do the old “out with the bad in with the good” idea. Each week, trade out something you know is bad for something good. It could be as small as trading from Folgers to a organic fair trade coffee, or giving up processed cheddar slices for any number of other choices. Make it a fun food adventure, not a task. There are so many good, healthy and delicious foods out there when your eyes are open to finding them. Take some extra time you go shopping to read labels and explore options.

What are your health/real food stories? Please share!
This post is part of Food Renegade’s Fight Back Fridays Carnival. Please visit Kristen’s site and read all the other great posts linked there.

5 Comments

  • March 19, 2010 - 9:52 AM | Permalink

    love this, especially interesting re cavs and vegetarianism, i think this is a dirty secret about veg/vegan/high grain diets.

  • March 19, 2010 - 10:45 AM | Permalink

    I can’t even tell you how grateful I am for stories like this… my story told by another mind/body. I am so grateful for a community of women like this. *sigh. You guys make me so happy.

  • March 19, 2010 - 11:03 AM | Permalink

    Emily and Lindsay – I am so grateful for stories like this too, because I believe that real people telling their stories have some of the largest impact on others and giving encouragement to make positive changes to health. It’s especially personal for me because I know both of these people so well, and spent a couple of years in a vegetarian-type diet too.

    Interestingly, I also experienced cavities while I was eating this way, and had not had them since I was a teenager (when I was also eating poorly). I haven’t had any return of cavities since I started eating meat again, and that’s been at least 13 years. But I continued eating processed foods with no idea what I was doing to myself, and as a result I ended up with the debilitating health problems I started to experience right around the time my son was born and for years afterward. My absolute goal in all of this is to help people and hopefully prevent others from going through some of the things I did. That makes it completely rewarding! :)

  • March 21, 2010 - 6:53 PM | Permalink

    Raine,

    What a great post! It’s so interesting to me hearing others stories and really realizing how many people grew up on processed food. It’s so different for me since both my parents were immigrants and I just didn’t grow up with this. Mind blowing. It was great hearing Lacy’s story and coming back to nourishing nutrient dense real food. Veganism, I just don’t understand it. Thanks for sharing these stories Raine!

  • March 21, 2010 - 8:27 PM | Permalink

    Hi Diana – thanks for your comments! There are so many people who grew up like this when I was young. I still can’t believe, even though I had probably more “real food” than some people did (my mother did cook from scratch for quite sometime), how much junk we ate!

    I don’t understand veganism either, but the way some people who are vegan and vegetarian behave, as well as others who are not eating a good diet, is starting to make more and more sense to me now. I remember being horribly depressed and anxious so much of my life. I still have some depression from time to time and anxiety (who doesn’t?), but things are much easier to deal with when I am eating a good diet. My stress levels are so much lower and easier. When I don’t eat well, I pay for it in so many different aspects, and it’s the same for people in my family. I don’t think until you have experienced these things first hand, do they make sense.

    You are fortunate to have grown up with real food and cooking in your life! It has taken me until nearly 40 years of age to really start getting interested in cooking and food. But I’m so thankful for that now! :)

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