A couple of years ago I read the rather life changing In Defense of Food by Michael Pollan. As with his other books, The Omnivore's Dilemma and Food Rules, he advocates returning to a diet of unprocessed, organic foods. The thrust of much of his books (with a lot of research to back it up) is that those of us living in Western Countries are eating ourselves to death, with heart disease, cancer, strokes, diabetes and other diet-related illnesses. These illnesses are almost non-existent in cultures eating a traditional diet. Traditional diets vary widely: however they have one thing in common: the diet is unprocessed.
Not only are we eating too much, we're eating the wrong things.
As humans, we're not designed to eat cheerios, twinkies, pop tarts and lots and lots of meat that has itself been fed an unnatural diet of grains. As he said, "we are what we eat, eats". I also like James Colquhoun's analogy: "We don't feed chimps in the zoo that kind of food, so why would we eat it ourselves?"
One of Pollan's great food rules is to check the packets of any processed food we buy. If it contains more than 5 ingredients: don't eat it. If it contains ingredients our great grandmothers wouldn't recognise: don't eat it.
Great advice. And rules I've been following ever since I read his book. I'm quite anal about checking labels and turfing anything with preservatives, numbers or stuff that doesn't sound like food.
Which has led me to cooking more food from scratch. Increasing the amount of fruit & veggies bought every week. And doing without some of the stuff we used to eat, like pikelets. Those things are not meant to sit on a shelf for 10 days. Ewww!.
This has been a mild curse, especially when I am tired, time poor and it really would be easier just to open a packet of Ole Mexicana Plastic Burrito Bake Sauce and serve it up to my enthusiastic, wide-eyed kiddies. But knowing what I know now, looking at their beautiful enthusiastic wide-eyes, I just can't bring myself to do it. Mind you, they're not 100% happy about it. Kids will be kids.
The blessing has of course been not only a re-disovery of my love of cooking, but we're eating such a varied diet now, consisting of a lot of seasonal produce and formerly mysterious ingredients, such as quinoa, Thai eggplant, purple carrots, kale, rainbow chard and golden beetroot. We're having more vegetarian meals every week and loving them. Real food cooked from scratch tastes awesome.
However...... it doesn't take long before the "cut out the crap" thinking starts to extend to other areas of one's life.
I mean, it's hard to check food labels with nazi-like precision whilst throwing aluminium-laden deodorants, shampoos, conditioners, body washes, perfumes, moisturisers, hairsprays, hair gels, window cleaners, surface cleaners, oven cleaners, floor cleaners, laundry detergents, fabric softeners AND EVERYTHING ELSE CONTAINING POTENTIALLY HARMFUL STUFF in my trolley.
So..... I've decided that 2012, with it's lovely, even and rounded-numberness, is going to be the year I eliminate as many harmful chemicals from my life. As much as possible.
Ugh. It can be a little overwhelming and exhausting to have one's eyes opened a crack.
The good news is: whilst I'm impatient; and whilst I'd like everything to be perfect immediately; I know that this is a gradual process. I can't wave a magic wand and have it all done. And I know that with each new thing turfed and replaced with something kind, I am making progress.
But I did take a shopping bag into the bathroom and filled it with all the things that contain sodium laureth sulphate and all those other compounds that belong in a lab. I have replaced those products with beautiful products that contain plant derived ingredients, organic coconut oils, rosehip oil and other stuff that is kinder to my body and the ocean. It's actually been a revelation and a lot of fun finding new products that are just as good to use that aren't full of numbers and words I can't pronounce.
As this is such an extensive and life changing process, I'm going to blog about it, hopefully to inspire others to follow suit and demonstrate that it's actually not that hard. It just takes a little commitment, some mindfulness and a bit of enthusiasm to keep up the good fight.
Wish me luck.