It’s a topic I care about above any other and it can be a tricky one to discuss. I don’t prescribe to a specific diet such as veganism or vegetarianism. I don’t believe in restrictive eating, especially when it comes to diets like “Whole 30”, paleo, raw dieting, keto, or any of that other mumbo jumbo out there, labels are limiting. Food is meant to be fun, adventurous, and creative. To me, the confines of following a certain set of rules feels cumbersome and boring.
My attitude (simply my own opinion) is that what you eat should be adapted to what makes you feel the most alive, energetic, and sexy. The problem is many of us have stopped listening to how our body reacts when we put certain foods in our face. We have lost the ability to detect the difference between fueling our bodies and mindlessly munching. When I tune in, my body lets me know if I need something hearty and grounding or light and airy. I can sense when I need to take a break from caffeine or sugar, or if a lot of gluten or cheese is feeling heavy in my digestive system.
More than I care about the bodily awareness around eating, and I do, I could talk about the genius of our bodies for days. My main schtick about food is where it comes from. This has become a borderline blinding obsession of mine. Believe me, there have been many moments when I wish I didn’t care, if I could slip back into a state of ignorance about what I put in my mouth. But, being fiercely passionate about something changes you on a cellular level, it alters the way you move through the world, how you schedule your day, and what you prioritize.
This all started in college, I had the delicious pleasure of growing up with a mother who did a lot of gardening and believed that food should be whole and fresh, nothing boxed or processed passed through her doorway. I wasn’t grateful at the time but once I discovered the abomination of cafeteria food I was quick to realize that my quality of life was directly related to how I nourished my system. I started diving into books by Michael Pollan and Dan Barber, I watched (arguably too many) food documentaries, I researched and tried on many different diets. My biggest turning point was a book by Barbara Kingsolver called Animal, Vegetable, Miracle. I remember how jittery and alive I felt reading her book about a year long adventure of eating only foods that her family was able to grow or obtain locally. That was my moment of yes. It has been my mission ever since to purchase my own property, build my dream home, greenhouse, root cellar, purchase some beautiful hens, and dive headfirst into becoming as independent from the system as possible.
I began to fine tune a system of eating that made me feel like a queen. I taught myself how to eat healthy on a tight budget, how to cook good food with little equipment and simple ingredients. For several years I somehow managed to be a full-time student, work a part-time job, and train for ultra-marathons all while cooking all of my own meals with fresh, organic or locally produced ingredients. It remains one of my greatest and most perplexing triumphs. I became a wizard with seasonal eating, food prep, and scouring the health food store for weekly deals and steals. I spent several summers gathering 90% of my ingredients from the local farmers market. Unfortunately, things like rice and olive oil aren’t produced in Montana so I had to make some exceptions.
I feel like we (we, as in everyone, as in the general population) make excuses to avoid eating healthy or make moves to live our most vibrant, fulfilling life. Here are the ones I hear the most: I don’t have time. I don’t know how to cook. I don’t like cooking. It is just easier to eat out. Organic food is too expensive. Organic food isn’t even organic it is just a government scam to get more money from consumers. I hate that hippy shit. Why don’t you just go eat more granola. Some of those statements are valid. It is not, and never will be my intention to push my crunchy agenda on anyone. Cooking is tough and if you weren’t taught those skills at a younger age it can be confusing to navigate. Luckily, it’s 2019 and the resources at your fingertips to become literally anything you want to be is endless. The argument about organic food being a scam might be true, I don’t currently have the resources to trace every ingredient back to the original source and do a thorough investigation covering the exact production process. Years ago I made a conscious decision to put my money in the direction of my beliefs at a fundamental level. I believe in small scale farms, in the downfall of monoculture and corporations, producing food with consideration of environmental impact, and keeping chemicals and pesticides out of our bodies and soil. I believe in the importance of having time to cook and gather around an intentionally produced meal. I believe in farmers markets, health food stores, community food operations and community supported agriculture (farm shares). I believe, with every last fiber of my being, that taking the extra time to hunt down sustainably grown food is worth the time and extra dollar (or dollars).
It is all an exploration and in general you have to figure out what works for you and your body, everyone is different and there is no one size fits all or magic solution. This is just my story and what I learned that works for me. If this is something you are interested in please know that you don’t have to be rich to put good food in your body, you just need a little creativity and drive.
Writing by Anna Vanuga
Photography by Lauren E. Lipscomb