Progressions Through Unlearning.

Sitting at the dinner table as a child, my father used to force me to eat brussel sprouts. Each litttle green ball seemed to weigh 50 lbs., causing my hand to shake as I lifted it from my plate. It could have just been the fear of my parent’s wrath. Either way, I would eventually drop the round ball into my mouth and chew as if it was made of glue. Most of the time, I would save my milk so that I could flood my mouth to wash them down. Even today, brussel sprouts seem enormous, and I have yet to eat one as an adult.

I would have rather eaten Kraft Mac’n’Cheese and a 7-Up, or ordered some pizza from Pizza Hut. When I hit 13, that became more common. With my mother working a lot, convenience foods became the norm. I do remember the nights when she’d make pork-chops and apple sauce, or meatloaf, but more often were the evenings of Campbell’s Bean with Bacon soup, or Oscar Meyer hot dogs with the little cheese bits inside. I don’t remember whole grains or fresh fruits and vegetables playing even a supporting role.

Even now, I occassionaly fall victim to foods that I know are terrible for me. On a road trip last week I actually had a Mountain Dew; it was the first in over a decade. The result of having been raised on these food-like options is that I’ve struggled with my weight for most of my life. I have never been outrageously obese, but I have been consistently 10-25 lbs. overweight.

According to my doctor, I should weigh around 190 lbs. for my size and lifestyle. Currently I weigh 199 lbs.

At this point in my life, I take full responsibility for my food choices, but I also recognize that my formative years were shaped by the strategies of food marketing experts, and my parent’s need for cheap and easy meal time solutions. For the first time, I am doing my best to unlearn what I know about food, and am working to unpack 20 years of food baggage.

I am not alone.

I read an interesting article in today’s Wall Street Journal about some grocers in the Northeast who are trying to help customers do the same by labeling food items based on their healthfulness. My intial inclination is to assume that this is a positive thing. They seem to be following the government’s daily food recommendations, low in meat, dairy, sweets and fats, high in whole grains and fresh fruits and vegetables. But the skeptic in me wonders if this process could lead to the perversion of a well-intentioned idea.

I have included a video today from back in 2004. Many of you may have seen it, but Peter Jennings does a good job exploring food issues related to health in our country, and if you have the time I encourage you to watch the subsequent parts on YouTube; only then will you be able to make intelligent comments on his ivestigation.

Here’s to healthy eating.

– Christopher

14 Comments

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14 responses to “Progressions Through Unlearning.

  1. I do remember watching this over four years ago and I understood the information even then. Why are so many Americans continuing to be duped by the food industry? You make a very good point about how we were raised. I’ve been very fortunate to reverse most of my formative childhood tastes. It is very improtant to me and (I think many parents) to serve only the healthiest foods. It’s not always easy but we serve three healthy meals each day to our two children.

    I live in King County, WA where fast food items will be labeled with calorie counts etc. I’m excited by the possiblity that it will help many become a little smarter about their food choices.

  2. Joanne

    Seriously. I have to make you brussel sprouts. I make some damn fine sprouts. Maybe I’ll make them for your sister for dinner tonight. But next time you’re in town (or if I’m ever in your neck of the woods) I will set you straight on brussel sprouts. I also think your doctor is nuts, but maybe I’m thinking you are taller than you are.

    love,
    yer cousin

  3. Wow. I never knew that corn was in so much of what we eat. The bit about the cattle having to take antibiotics so that they can eat corn really made me upset. So terrible.

    I always feel so guilty when I feed my kids quick cheap dinners- chicken nuggets, pizza, etc. I try not to. I try to plan my dinners ahead for the week, shop accordingly, and leave myself the time. But we can’t always afford it anymore. The bread here at our local store is $4.69. Five bucks for bread that will last me about two days if I don’t eat it, and save it for my husband and kids. That is too much. So sometimes I have to buy the cheap bread, that I know can’t be good for us. What a shame that one is forced to choose between affordable and unhealthy or just not eating.

  4. julie

    I am on my feet all day long such that I carry my food with me. Not the easiest thing to do. I think many know what is healthy to eat but preparation, grocery shopping is at times over whelming. I guess that is my excuse.

  5. My parents provided a pretty good eating model (compared to most) when I was a kid in the 60s and 70s, with an abundant organic garden on our urban lot and lots of homecooked frugal food. But my mom made a huge mistake with the skimmed milk and margerine, IMO, and she often overcooked vegetables, especially while boiling. Consquently, I used to hate brussels sprouts, too, and green beans (actually, I hated most cooked veggies, which I now realize was because they were overcooked).

    Now in my mid 40s, brussels sprouts and green beans are among my favorite veggies, but it took years, no, decades to get over my poor impression of many cooked veggies.

    I eagerly look forward to eating local crops of fresh veggies – in season! – from my farm subscription veggie box (CSAs rock!) and I have learned a wide variety of easy preparation techniques to bring out the best in each variety, including steaming, roasting, various cutting methods, as well as garnishing with “pasture” butter, home-roasted nuts, garlic, caramelized onions, and/or herbs, plus a touch of coarse sea salt.

    My 10yo son loves most vegetables and eats them with gusto (though I noted he doesn’t take to frozen mixed vegetables any more than I ever did).

  6. Simplicityinkansas

    Enjoyed the post and insight as well as your blog. Upon reflection, I had a great role model in eating in my mother and ‘slow food’ in the 70(s) and 80(s) yet lost the skills during my transition to living as an adult. Having made the transition back to removing processed food, fast food, soda and other items that were high cost and low food value has changed my life in many ways as well as my budget.

    I continue to examine my diet and make better choices each day to be frugal as well as well nutritious and eat better each and every day moving back to basics in the food selection. Also, the discovery of cooking again has been a key piece of joy and satisfaction in my life which you can not get that at Burger King! LOL

  7. Cari C.

    Thank you both for bringing attention to a subject that sorely needs it. I also went through the realization that my parents were victims of great advertisement campaigns, and I, in turn, a victim alongside them. I too struggle with food/weight issues as a result of my parent’s, and later on, my own food choices. It is such a intelligent, refreshing thing to read your blog, and I so appreciate the valid attention you guys have brought to the related subject areas. You both have support in TN!

  8. I’m in the same boat as you. I was raised on hamburger helper, canned veggies, and fast food. Like you, I remember eating healthier when I was younger, but the older I got, the less healthy the meals became.

    After reading Nourishing Traditions and finding out a lot about how food and non-food affects our bodies, I’ve continued to strive to improve my family’s diet every day. A little bit here, and a little bit there, slowly but surely. It hasn’t been easy, but slow and steady wins the race, as they say. And a little bit of an improvement is better than none at all.

    I haven’t had a Mt. Dew in quite a few years myself. In fact, I can’t remember my last one.

  9. Sharon

    Cool experiment. A few assorted thoughts:

    You may be able to get some fencing on freecycle to protect your garden.

    Your students might like the book Scratch Beginnings where a guy starts life over from a homeless shelter as an experiment.
    http://www.scratchbeginnings.com/

    If you inspire some additional people to try your $30 for a month for food experiment, if they will go to the food and recipes forum at
    http://www.simpleliving.net
    there are several posters who would be willing to help them try and get the maximum nutrition out of their local loss leaders and seasonal produce at the time they do their experiment. Also tell them to check the garden forum there for a sample example of a huge garden from $1 in seeds.

  10. Cecile

    This is the second “Eating on $1 a day” blog I have read today. I feel very fortunate to live in Los Angeles where we have a myriad of ethnic grocery stores that carry cheap fresh produce. Just a couple of days ago, I bought brussel sprouts for 49 cents a pound, cabbage for 20 cents a pound, broccoli for 50 cents a pound, tangerines for 59 cents a pound and grapefruits were 3 for $1. It’s actually possible to eat healthy and cheap around here. I wish it were the same for the rest of the country.

  11. holly

    Try oven roasting vegtables; 2-3 T olive oil in pan, preheat oven to 400, place chunks of any vegetable (potatoes, carrots, brussel sprouts ect) in pan, sprinkle with salt and pepper, place in oven and roast. This method will change your mind about veggies, they are so good this way we serve them for Christmas dinner

  12. Kim

    Hmmm, interesting. From the video – it seems to be a governmental problem. What do you think the new administration is going to do about it??

  13. STL Mom

    I agree with Holly – roast some brussel sprouts until they are brown and carmelized, and try them again. They may not become your favorite veggie, but that cooking method makes them tasty for people who thought they were okay, and edible for people who thought they were awful.
    I just found your blog and it looks very interesting. Thanks!

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