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Circus Animals- and a note from my oldest

Somedays, Most days I feel like I am running a very small circus. With three kids, busy work schedules, after school activities, family visitors, and meal planning, life has truly become a balancing act. (A very diligent worker, I hope to have something to show for all of my hard work very soon).

That being said, one thing I try not to jeopardize is the way I am feeding the family. I strive for a tiny amount of leafy greens on each plate, and a small handful of steamed veggies every night to balance out whatever “animal protein” or “starch” they may be enjoying. While it may not be perfectly balanced, we certainly pop in a whole foods pizza in the oven once a week, it is such an improvement, that if I don’t take a step back and look at the whole picture, I’ll miss the beauty of it all.

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Meet my oldest step son. Twelve years old and quite intelligent, I asked him to write me an essay on how he feels about the way he eats. I’ll add my comments in at the end and let him roll with it. Enjoy!

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Hi, I’m “J” and I am 12 years old and Lauren’s stepson. I am going to talk about how eating healthier has made me a completely different person. (For the better).

2 years ago my school lunch consisted of 1 large bag of cheese puffs, 1 large bag of non-healthy pretzels, a sandwich containing just deli meats, and dessert. Other days I would have lunchables, and then I would come home to eat fried chicken and other ‘’comfort foods’’ courtesy of my nanny who loved to give us slurpies, cheetoes, white cheddar popcorn and other yummy junk foods (at the time, being a kid, I honestly didn’t mind). Every Monday my dad would take me to McDonalds after school for an after school snack off of their dollar menu. I realized I was starting to get a tiny bit chubby, yet I had no idea why. When we moved to Texas my dad wanted to start eating ‘’healthier’’. Let’s just say that thinking back on it, I find my dad’s idea of healthy (which was a lunchable and Gatorade for lunch and a hormone packed rotisserie chicken for dinner) funny.

One day I saw my dad on his phone texting a contact that said ‘’Dream Gurl.’’

I thought to myself, “hahaha my dad’s got a girlfriend.”

Later that night he took me alone into his room and told me he had a girl that he liked. I said, “Ok dad. That’s good for you.”

Then he told me that she doesn’t eat meat.

‘’Does she eat fish?’’

‘’No. She also doesn’t eat cheese, eggs, or milk.’’

‘’What does she eat?’’ I asked in curiosity.

‘’Vegetables’’.

Oh great, I think to myself.

My dad’s dating some weird vegetarian chic that doesn’t eat food.

So later we start eating a lot more vegetables. At first I completely despised them, but soon after we started changing gradually: eliminating fast food first, fried foods, artificial foods and so on. In our school lunches we would have things like pb and j’s with organic ingredients, bagels with cream cheese, granola bars, Amy’s Cheddar Bunnies and things like that.

One day Lauren got us the treat of Zevia soda and I immediately loved it. Since I had been deprived of soda, Zevia was just great.

I started becoming better as an athlete, better academically, I felt great, I didn’t have any feelings of sadness, or anger, and I started looking a lot better too. I was definitely able to run a lot faster, get better grades, feel better emotionally, and make a lot more friends after I had made these very small changes in my diet. Apparently even my school teacher noticed this because near the end of my 5th grade year, she approached me and told me that when she looked back at pictures of me from the beginning of the year, I looked a lot different, and my facial features had changed because my face had become less round. I laughed at that, I had to admit, even though I still preferred donuts to broccoli, I kinda liked the way I looked.

From there, Lauren started taking things out of my diet till she got to the point where now every morning I drink freshly made carrot juice with things like beets, romaine lettuce, celery, spinach and other ingredients. For lunch today I had organic apple sauce, a sprouted bagel with raw honey, an orange, raw organic sunflower seeds, and a Kashi bar. For an afternoon snack I have a Vega protein shake, and for dinner I have things like quinoa pasta, salmon, a rotisserie chicken from whole foods, and always a small salad to begin with, and then either broccoli, or green beans. This is completely my choice to eat this way because I have seen changes in myself.

I now know the truth behind that juicy McDonalds burger in your hands.

I exercise regularly and am a far better athlete than I was before. I am in my school’s accelerated learning program and I have a lot more energy than I used to (I don’t know how much my parent’s like that though ;) ).

Overall I think that eating healthy is a great benefit and the world would be a lot better off if everybody else did too.

Lauren:

Thanks buddy! O.K. Well that was a pretty nice assessment. I laughed when he read it to me out loud. I tried to format it so that you can enjoy it as I did.

Some comments and clarification: I must mention that since I met J, he has always been an outstanding student. So the part about him being a better student after eating differently since I have met him, is flattering, but I cannot take credit for that one. That being said, he looks very different. I did not even realize how different he looked until I stumbled across a picture of the kids right before I met them. Now he looks like an active and healthy young athlete. In that sense, it would make a lot of sense if his new confidence in his physical appearance has made him feel more confident in the classroom, and thus also feel smarter.

As far as “taking things out” of their diets, and “despising” vegetables…

When the body is used to having something “artificial,” “refined” and heavily salted on a regular basis, it becomes a learned addiction. If we grew up eating pastries for breakfast– Sunday morning donuts are going to look seductive, served up with coffee and fake creamers. In fact, these “treats” were designed to seduce. Donuts practically reflect sugar, they glisten so brightly.

When we enjoy a diet void of real wholesome ingredients, it is inevitable that healthier things are going to taste bland in comparison initially. It takes some getting used to to acknowledge that there is taste outside of fluorescent cheese doodles, and heavily salted meats, and additives… But yes, we have to actually try these things to learn to like them. Crazy as it seems, “J” actually requested that he start drinking juice in the AM.

In addition, changing one’s diet is not going to miraculously melt away all external stressors because we are all living in a complicated world. “J” has every right to feel aggravated, sad, etc. What is fascinating though, is that he picks up on the fact that foods can make him feel differently (happy, sad, irritable, grumpy, lazy, tired, angry), run faster, feel more energized and lighter on his feet.

As a family, we have all transformed for the better. Sometimes it’s just harder to see how far we’ve come, when we are already standing there.

How do you feed your family in a pinch? What are your family’s eating now? Do your kids, or you like veggies? What kinds? Have you changed the way your family is eating recently? Have you noticed a difference?