I was a “diet” junkie from the age of 14. You name it, I tried it. Lemon detox – mmmm – yes please I’ll have two (I’m starving!!!), Calorie Counting – sure hand me the calculator (I don’t have enough fingers or toes to do these numbers), Healthy Choice “Food” from a cardboard box via the microwave…tasty, what’s for dessert!
Each diet was great, my short term give it to me right now saviour, until my body starved of actual nutrients flung me over the edge of sanity, and I binged my way back to, and over my previous weight, with all of the heart-warming self loathing that comes with being such a failure.
If only it was just me.
By the time I was 32, two of my older sisters had been under the knife for weight loss surgery, my younger sister had been diagnosed with Hashimoto’s disease (a genetic auto immune disease affecting the thyroid and related to poor gut health) and a disease my mother also has, as well as type 2 diabetes.
I was topping the scales at well… let’s just say 20 kilo’s more than what I am today, and it was going up not down.
I had resigned myself to this being my future too. The photo below isn’t me at my biggest – I have no photos of me at this time. This also means I have no photos of me with my children over a period of about 3 years because I hated the way I looked – and this breaks my heart.
I spent months reading, researching, shopping and cooking. It was like trying to solve a mystery – a lot of clues, a lot of missing pieces, questionable witnesses (experts) giving conflicting advice and with very little evidence to support their opinions. There just seemed to be no easy way to keep the criminals (the not so real food) out of my pantry and fridge. When you consider that I grew up on a farm, this is almost crazy. I should have known better, yet with all the mis-information, and clever marketing from big food companies, I had clearly lost lost my connection to Real Food.
But despite this, progress was made – I gradually changed meals that I had once cooked out of a jar or packet, and made them from Real Food ingredients that I could buy locally and on a budget.
I lost weight – 20kgs to be precise and found that I no longer needed the anti-inflammatory drugs previously prescribed for me to deal with chronic back pain and the anti-depressants for depression and anxiety. I also had loads more energy and most importantly to me, I stopped the emotional roller coaster that my “diet” mentality had created – no longer seeing food as reward or torture, no longer looking in the mirror and hating what I see and no longer feeling guilty about what I eat.
But it wasn’t just me who benefited from eating Real Food…
My husband lost weight.
My eldest daughter Chloe found it easier to concentrate at school, her reading level improved and actually went up to that of an adult at just 12 years old, and she discovered a new love of inventing her own recipes.
My middle daughter Jasmyn’s non-allergic rhinitis (a set of symptoms that resemble an allergy, without a known cause) completely cleared up, meaning she could actually breathe and see in the mornings without taking antihistamines daily. Not bad for a condition that “can’t be cured” according to WebMD.
My youngest (Nicholas, then aged 4) stopped his daily temper tantrums and meltdowns (OK we still get a few of these but that’s more about inheriting his father’s DNA than it is about food). He sleeps better now and chooses for himself not to eat blue food colouring – because HE is now aware of how food affects how he feels, (not bad for an eight year old)!
My family are now healthy and my daughters (who are now almost 15) wouldn’t even consider going on a “diet”. They don’t have the body image issues I had growing up, they love to cook and whilst they like completely different foods (I seem to have a carnivore and a herbivore) they both love to eat! They both also usually have beautiful clear skin, except for the odd occasion where they find themselves at a party/sleepover eating not so Real Food.
Back when I was 20kgs over-weight (after 18 years of dieting on and off!), I never thought any of this would have been possible.
Our family has come a long way, and it wasn’t without some work and some questioning looks from family and friends. Five years ago, I could not have imagined that we would eat the way we do today. From snacking on chocolate bars and chocolate ice ream (together of course) to eating nutritious meals that carry us through the day and night, it was a journey of many small steps – that has taken us so far from where we were, to where we are now. It’s a journey that anybody can take – and that I am now dedicated to helping other families take.
So in 2011, I enrolled in a Bachelor of Health Science in Nutritional Medicine and began teaching kids in primary schools about food and cooking. While working in schools I found that there are so many children who have very limited diets, who don’t know where real food comes from, have never grown or cooked anything themselves, and can’t cut up their own food because they are used to convenient pre-packaged servings.
This work and my ongoing formal education has taught me so much more about how to help others facing similar challenges to what I have experienced, but it also made me realise that to really help our kids, I needed to help their families – starting with the main care giver in most families, “Mum”. This is why I started Real Food Families. I hope you join me on this journey to give our kids and ourselves as mums, a choice to be healthy for the rest of their lives.
With love and kindness,