My father in law asked me that a little while back. He's right- I didn't used to eat like this. Ever heard of the S.A.D.- the Standard American Diet? That's what I ate growing up. Fast food (still remember those off menu cheese sticks from Long John Silvers), biscuits from a can, fried bologna sandwiches on white bread, Kraft mac'n'cheese from the orange box, and Lay's potato chips with onion dip. You name it, we ate it. The nutritional value of the foods we were eating never really factored into the equation. It just wasn't something that was discussed or talked about.
It's ironic, really, because my parents were outside of the mainstream in many ways. My sister and I weren't vaccinated. My mom breastfed back in the 80's when it wasn't as popular as it is today. We were homeschooled. I even remember, as a teen, my dad explaining to me that he believed that the unhealthy American diet was responsible for the drastic rise in chronic disease and infertility over the past several decades. The truth was right there, so close, but somehow it never made it's way all the way into action.
My dad is the reason I'm so passionate about eating real food and feeding it to my family. He passed away at only 39 years old, when my sister and I were still teens. He was morbidly obese, and died in his sleep one night due to an enlarged heart. He weighed about 350 lbs when he died, and that was after losing about 300. We had no idea that he was in trouble or that his heart was enlarged. I never got to say goodbye. I just woke up one morning and he was gone.
I wrote this back in April and shared it on my facebook wall, on what would have been my dad's birthday:
Do you think that what you eat doesn't really matter? Or maybe you're meaning to start eating healthier, but you keep putting it off? Can't seem to make time for exercise? Think it's all not really a big deal? When you see me talking about cleaning up my diet, do you think I've taken it just a little too far? When I tell you I don't feed my kids sugar or grains, do you really think I've gone off the deep end??? Does it make you uncomfortable when you hear about the risks of eating fake food and not exercising? Are you feeling uncomfortable right now, reading this status?
Good. I hope you are feeling uncomfortable. I hope you're feeling uncomfortable enough to DO something about it. Because you know what else is uncomfortable? Missing your dad. Watching his favorite team win the NCAA championship without him. Knowing you'll never get to introduce your kids to him, at least not this side of heaven. My dad should be turning 47 today. But instead we lost him to obesity at the too-young age of 39.
Please don't make the same mistake. Please don't think that it doesn't matter, that it won't happen to you, that you have plenty of time left. Your family needs you. Please honor my dad today and think about what kind of changes you can make to be healthier. You don't have to change it all at once. Take baby steps. Do a couple of things at a time. But please, don't keep putting it off. Do it for you, do it for me, do it for your family.
Does that seem shomewhat inappropriate? Would it still feel inappropriate if my dad had died from lung cancer, and I was pleading with you to stop smoking? What if he had died in an auto accident, and I was spreading the word about how seatbelts and car seats save lives? Would it be ok for me to spread those message? Why is it different just because I'm talking about food? Fake food kills. Obesity kills. And I'm going to keep sharing that message with as many people as I can.
I don't say all of this to defame my dad. He was amazing in many ways. I could go on and on about all of his good qualities and things that he taught me. But today I'm sharing the source of my inspiration, and hoping that maybe you're feeling inspired too. I don't want to just remember the good about my dad. I also want to remember the ways that he fell short- not so that I can be bitter about them, but so that I can learn from his mistakes and hopefully not make the same ones. I do what I do in honor of his memory- not to defame it.
So this is why I'm so passionate about real food. There are other reasons, and I'm sure I'll talk about them later. But my dad is one of the main reasons I eat the way that I do. I never, never want to get so unhealthy that I'm in danger of leaving my kids without a parent. Sure, I could die at any time in a freak accident. But if that doesn't happen, I want to be the best steward that I can of the body and the life that I've been given. I'm not just going to sit back and say, "Meh- it doesn't really matter what I eat." Because it does matter. If it didn't matter, my dad would likely still be with us today. And I'm not going to make that same mistake.