Remember that adorable kid Mikey from the Life cereal commercial in the late 70s/early 80s? (I know, I’m dating myself here.) Shot opens with two brothers debating over whether to eat a cereal that is supposedly good for you. They decide to pawn it off on their little brother Mikey, who is not likely to eat it because he hates everything. Well, he takes one bite to the shocked exclamation, “He likes it!”
That pretty much sums up my relationship with healthy food: I know it’s good for me. I debated for a long time (about a decade) about whether I should eat it. I tried it, not thinking I’d like it. (Okay, it took me more than one time trying it to like it). And now exclamation marks please, I like it!!!
This is the story of how one mystery meat, TV food dinner eating, fast food loving American became annoying healthy. (Subtext… how you can too.)
I grew up eating food like Pixy Stix, Hoho’s and Fruit Loops!
My favorite meal as a kid was a cheeseburger from Burger King, French Fries from McDonalds, and a Frosty from Wendy’s. My mom would actually buy this delicious non-nutritious meal for us because she was exhausted after a long day at work and induced into mommy guilt by her two whiny kids who didn’t like being stuck at the babysitter’s. Plus those fine dining establishments were practically next to each other and on the way home.
Occasionally she’d make us eat something like apples or carrots.
Mostly she insisted on these kind of foods just as she was dropping us off at Gram’s, whose idea of dinner was frozen burger patty, boxed mashed potatoes, canned green beans & homemade cookies. I think my mom didn’t have the fight left in her to continue on with the food battles (besides working full-time she also was getting her Masters degree) so she tried to con her mom into trying to get us to eat something green (or naturally orange and red). Haha. We did have to belong to the clean plate club at Gram’s but those items rarely made it onto our plates.
Now I eat rather healthy. Almost disgustingly healthy. This is because I now think healthy tastes good (love love love kale). But also because I feel better, have more energy (to battle what Shaman Boy eats), look better (I stopped breaking out so much and am less puffy/bloated), and want to be active and healthy when Shaman Boy has kids so I can feed them ice cream, cookies and candy. Kidding. Sort of.
Eating healthy isn’t entirely beneficial. It’s made me a more annoying person. When I go to a restaurant these days, it takes me a good 20 minutes to find something I can eat. I have to grill the staff. Is it gluten-free? Have corn? Cheese? Sugar? (All of which I discovered I have food sensitivities to.)
So the waiter runs back and forth between the owner and the chef, getting a good workout in (see I’m really helping them be healthy too!) until we decide on something that I want and they can make. Surprisingly the easiest item to order is meat and potatoes. Only I don’t each much meat. (I eat healthy, remember?) So we are back to square one and lots of eye rolling from Shaman Guy.
This transformation from a preservative filled, mystery meat, sugar high diet to plants, plants, and more plants with oh my! a few whole grains thrown in has not been a pain-free overnight process.
The first time I went to Whole Foods, I cried.
Not at the abundance of gorgeous produce or practically any product from anywhere in the universe. No, I cried because it was overwhelming and I didn’t recognize any brands and they didn’t have Heinz ketchup.
Mostly because of the lack of Heinz ketchup.
(I grew up in Pittsburgh and the Heinz-ketchup-only program was installed at birth.)
My point is that changing my taste buds and shopping habits was gradual. Now I shudder when I have to shop at a “regular” grocery store that doesn’t have organics. So I buy the best quality food that my family can afford and try not to come off as too food-snob-ish at restaurants. My body thanks me. The planet thanks me. Most waiters at restaurants do not thank me, but hey can’t please everyone.
Shaman Guy has even grudgingly come around to thank me – although he took a vastly different approach to getting healthy. His motivation? He didn’t want to end up with a beer belly (vanity!) and he wanted to be able to kick Shaman Boy’s butt on a bike when he’s 70 (pride). Hey, whatever works.
Shaman Guy is an intense guy. He likes extreme sports, fast motorcycles, moving cross country multiple times. So he ate pizza, beer, and an obscene amount of olives one day and then started a juice fast the next. (I don’t recommend this method!) Supposedly for 60 days. (Extreme, I tell you.) He lasted 6.
Far from failing, Shaman Guy rebooted his taste buds. His mom, Junebug, made him eat lots of grey overcooked veggies as a kid. This was the 50s and that’s how you did it. The juice fast cured him of his veggie aversion. Now, instead of pushing his broccoli and peas around his plate, he eats them with gusto. Now if I could only get Shaman Boy to do the same.
Speaking of the little punkerdoodle… Does Shaman Boy eat healthy? Well, he’s a kid. He loves ice cream, goldfish, gummies, and chips. I’ve never seen him meet a carb he doesn’t like (pizza, quesadillas, pb&j, bagels, muffins…) But he also loves seaweed snacks. In fact, he’s converted several of his friends – who now literally jump up and down when we bust them out. He also wolfs down sushi, Indian, lobster, mussels.
Eating healthy started out as a pain in the ass, just because I wasn’t used to it. Now I thoroughly enjoy it. Dare I say, it makes me happy? Well, maybe I won’t go that far – it makes my body happy but it takes a bit more time and energy to eat this way.
As for my family? I don’t think that Shaman Boy has any idea of what a Happy Meal is, other than the ones we serve at home, our whole family at the table, eating rather healthy. I try not to stress about what he does or doesn’t eat since he’s already light years ahead of where I started. And look at me now. I’ve come a long way baby.
Gradual or sudden. Annoying healthy, kind healthy, sort not really healthy but trying. Go at your own pace. But hey, at least try it. Who knows? You might like it!