Friday, February 22, 2013

“A Single Step”

Photo taken around seven years ago after a month of all raw fruits & veggies.
          Ever since I had a health scare last summer, I have been mulling over the idea of taking one step at a time. My uncle, mom, friends, and doctors all cautioned me to add and/or subtract a single action to my life rather than going to the extremes that I have tried in the past.
For instance, I could stop drinking anything with calories (for me that would be almond milk in coffee, 100% fruit juice, and sweet tea). Or perhaps I could eat a large salad every day or walk 30 minutes four times a week. Or maybe I could start writing down everything that I put in my mouth. The point is to choose something small and begin. As Lao-tzu said, “A journey of a thousand miles begins with a single step.”
But where does the journey really begin?
Over ten years ago when my mom mentioned the Daniel Diet and the internet first became popular, I took a step towards a healthier lifestyle diet while gobbling down information.   
I’ve studied the raw food diet for years, read numerous books, blogs, and websites, starting with Shazzie, The Garden Diet Family, Frederic Patenaude, and From SAD to RAW, and brainstormed plans or challenges with friends. Before raw foods became all the rave, I completed a 15-day master lemonade cleanse, a 40-day juice cleanse and 30 days with only raw fruits and vegetables. I’ve even been quoted in a raw food book.
What keeps taking me away from an all-raw diet?  It’s extreme and so difficult to maintain.
What keeps bringing me back?  It’s healthy and brings so much energy, clarity, and health.
Going back and forth does not work, so what is the answer?  Balance, yet I believe balance is different for each individual.  I haven’t completely discovered balance in my diet yet, but I am closer than I was when I took that first step.  When I do discover balance, it will not be something to copy.  Read about…yes.  Study…yes.  Learn from…yes.  Copy…no. 
For me, it’s all about health, not dieting.  Choice, not willpower.  Abundance, not lack or deprivation.  Blessings, not curses. 
The truth is I know what it is to be healthy, and I’ve taught that to my daughters.  I know what is best for me to eat. I have a strong foundation, not only from everything I have researched in the past twelve years but also from my childhood. I grew up on a 300-acre beef farm in south-central Missouri where we ate fresh meat, eggs, and milk from the farm and vegetables and fruit from the garden.
I remember shelling peas, snapping green beans, washing beets, eating carrots straight from the dirt, shucking corn on the cob, picking apples and strawberries.  I remember carrying buckets overflowing with potatoes, tomatoes, and cucumbers. I remember canning pickles, okra, and salsa for colder months. 
We dined on farm-fresh scrambled eggs with our diced tomatoes, onions, and jalapenos, stir-fried chicken and fresh veggies, or spaghetti made with our canned tomatoes and fresh ground beef.  We rarely ate out, rarely drank soda, rarely consumed junk food, and usually had home-baked breads and desserts.  Our drinking water came from an underground well, and we were an active and hardworking family. 
I had a strong foundation for what it meant to be healthy physically, for what it meant to eat well. However, I did not have a strong foundation emotionally and became an emotional overeater and eventually a yo-yo dieter. How I hate the diet mentality, and how glad I am that I am moving away from it and towards balance and health.
No matter what, never allow yourself to get caught up with the diet mentality, which is mired in extremes and unhealthy measures.  Unfortunately, in today’s society, we are raised on it, suckled on new fads, fear-based advertising, and misinformation.  What that leads to is desperation, from which there can be no true transformation or complete health.  I know because I lived it.  About six years ago, I wrote this:
          My whole life, I have felt a desperate need for instant salvation, for cleansing:  immediate weight loss, beauty, healing or change. I’ve relied on juice cleanses and fasts to miraculously fix everything and hated myself for not sticking with extreme diets. I’ve thought that if I were clean and good, then I might be worthy. The loss has eaten at me; I’ve coped by filling it with so much food the face in the mirror, my body, became a stranger. Only recently did I discover that the fat cocooned a lost self. The authentic child floated, drowning in an ocean of masked fins, trapped in a world of phoniness, lies and power struggles. The forsaken child became the forsaken woman. Who I am frozen inside an ice sculpture fashioned by everyone else.
Since then, I have learned and grown so much. Finally, finally, I am starting to see my past and my present clearly. I am starting to live balance and health in all areas of my life. What does it mean for me in terms of my daily food intake?  It means that I eat around 75% fruits and vegetables for each meal and add daily green smoothies and salads (and the other things I eat are gluten-free, dairy-free, mostly chemical-free, whole foods, organic when possible). It means that I eat mostly home-cooked meals and choose healthier options when eating out. It means that I cut out all sugar except dark chocolate and honey.
Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. said, “Take the first step in faith. You don’t have to see the whole staircase, just take the first step.”
And maybe there are multiple staircases. We can take a step up one and reach the top only to discover that we have another staircase to climb. The important thing is that we are taking action and climbing. 
Whatever the first step is for you…take it…begin today, right now.

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