Forget everything you've been told about food. There's a virtual minefield of information out there about how and what to eat and I find most of it confusing, conflicting and oppressive. White flour is bad for you, eat small meals throughout the day, corn syrup causes diabetes, eat five servings of fruits and vegetables, how many calories are ideal for my body weight- It's exhausting, right? So, by any means necessary, let it all go. As of right now, you're starting over with a clean slate.
Like most people, I want to look great, feel great, and have abundant energy to accomplish my life's work. And as someone who's experienced a lot of angst around eating, I completely understand how tempting it is to search outside oneself for answers in the latest health study, diet fad or celebrity success story. What has helped me is to quiet down all the external chatter - all the "shoulds" we live with everyday - and listen to what it is I really desire. I've discovered that what I yearn for is satisfaction - in every sense of the word. I know I'm not alone in this.
What truly satisfies me and what makes the most sense to me is eating real food - foods that are unprocessed and as close to their natural state as possible. In the last 20 years, technology, marketing and politics have taken over food production and completely gotten in the way of us eating in our own best interests. Eating real food is no longer the norm. We've lost our taste for it; our senses have been dulled to accept processed, cloying and chemical flavors.
But before I lose you to what might sound like ideological grandstanding, let me assure you that the road back to real food isn't as difficult or as joyless as it sounds. In fact, it's brought me daily doses of joy and beauty, a healthy, energetic body, new friends and acquaintances, a creative outlet, a connection to nature and so much more.
I believe in every fiber of my being that real food is the answer to what many of us are looking for without even realizing it. It's our direct connection to health, to community, to culture, to nature, to creativity, to pleasure, and to nurturing ourselves. Not to mention that to eat real food is to work with your body's innate wisdom, not against it, which naturally brings with it the benefits of health and vibrancy.
Eating well is a life skill. It's about learning to trust ourselves, getting back in touch with our instincts and returning to those things that nourish us and give us pleasure. Remember pleasure? I do. And we all need a whole lot more of it, especially right now.
So, through an ongoing education of trial and error, I've developed Real Food Rehab, a practical philosophy of eating well that I would be honored and delighted to share with you. I'm a native Chicagoan with a macro-force of resources to help make this process as simple, pleasurable and delicious as possible. I realize many of you are starting at different levels of knowledge, skill and experience. I also understand that not everyone wants to cook - some people simply want to be able to throw together a healthy meal for themselves.
To those of you who say you have no time to shop, to cook, to satisfy yourselves and your family with real food, I say, that is a choice you make. It can be a brutal and busy world out there, I get it, but time isn't something we're given, it's something we take. This is not an all or nothing proposition either. This is a process you take step by step at your own discretion and the good news is Chicago is chock full of delicious resources for every taste and budget. And wait until you taste some of the beautiful food produced and grown right here and in the surrounding area. I promise it will make the quality of your lives that much better.
Here's yet another important point I want to raise: I don't believe that any real foods are inherently bad for you. Not one. Trust that only you know what makes you feel good or bad. So, cut out the fear and eat and embrace what you love. Learn to cook what you're passionate about; follow what fascinates and moves you. Use the best, quality ingredients you can afford. For example, say you love a grilled cheese sandwich every now and then. Elevate it by buying yourself a gorgeous loaf of sourdough at a local bakery, use real butter and maybe try some Comte, Gruyere or Fontina Val d'osta cheese. Invite a friend over, crack a bottle of wine, and make a simple green salad. Bring out the cloth napkins. Why not make it special? We are only here for a short time and beautiful food is your birthright.
Next Week: Resources to Create a Real Food Fridge & Larder
Follow Dana Joy Altman on Twitter: www.twitter.com/RealFoodRehab