Working Mom vs. SAHM Debate is Wack

A friend posted a link to a Marie Claire article about an upcoming book that tries to stir the pot on the Working Mom vs. Stay at Home Mom battle. It was hard enough to read the author, Elisabeth Badinter’s, comments so I know I won’t waste my time with her book, The Conflict: How Modern Motherhood Undermines the Status of Women.

Her argument is that women are putting their whole lives into their kids and ignoring all the modern advances that would allow these mothers to go back to work and get on with their lives without being so involved with their kids.

Here I will say that her point–that women need not give up their own goals and dreams while being a mother is a good one, but she didn’t make it well and she seems to believe these things can’t coexist.   True as well is her point that the marital relationship should be a priority.  Kids do need to see their parents loving each other and pursuing their own personal interests.  But Ms. Batinter’s position is extreme in that she thinks these things can’t coexist with a nurturing, devoted, “naturalist” parenting lifestyle. She can’t seem to comprehend that devoted parenting and self-expression and even working at a job can go hand in hand and appears to be downright offended by these mothers who … mother.

MC: You’ve written about a “naturalist” strain to modern motherhood—breast-feeding on demand, natural childbirth, eco-friendly washable diapers, homemade baby food—that pushes women back into the home.

EB: Unquestionably. The gains of the previous century—epidurals, bottle-feeding, disposable diapers—allowed women to reconcile their roles as mothers with the necessity of being financially independent. This 21st-century project of naturalism, which makes the female into an animal again, is a rejection of those gains.

First of all, this article seems to be focused on the very early years of parenting, which are not representative of the whole job.  Babies take a lot of work.  They need a lot from their mothers. They are a strain on the family because all of a sudden it DOES seem like everything revolves around the needs of the helpless baby.  Second of all, her list of conveniences are still here.  Mothers today still have the option for an epidural, formula feeding and disposable diapers. Last I checked, the Earthy Mama Society wasn’t trying to rid the world of options, instead, these mothers have been creatively finding and sharing more options.
In my community, there is a business called “Green Baby Diaper Service”  that provides mothers with unbleached cotton diapers for their baby. Then, they pick up, clean and return those soiled diapers so that mothers who do not have time or interest in the messy job of cleaning cloth diapers can still live according to their values of reducing waste or provide their baby with a cleaner material for their skin or avoid the chemicals and fragrances those baby diapers are doused with.
The “naturalist” women she is describing are going the extra mile to preserve the environment and the health of their child.  That baby does not care if he or she is wearing Huggies or hand made cloth diaper.  The baby just cares that she is dry and loved.  And while the baby may be more concerned with being fed than if it is from breast or bottle, there are well documented health advantages of breast feeding.  Maybe this is why so many educated women who go back to work have advocated so fervently for lactation rooms in the workplace and spend so much time that they might prefer to be pursuing their own goals or napping attached to a breast pump.  These educated women have the choice and they are choosing to put their child’s health above their hobbies and interests.
EB:“Homemade baby food is terrific if you know how to cook and have time to make it. But why demonize commercial baby food, which is balanced, quick, and accessible to fathers?”
Maybe Ms. Badinter hasn’t heard about the level of pesticides, sugars and sodium found in baby food.  And maybe she hasn’t seen how much more affordable it is to make your own?  Further, if she doesn’t learn to cook (or encourage her husband to learn) they will see a lot of their hard earned money going out the door on take out, which will likely make them obese and sick and then when they would be spending their precious money on trips to Disney with grandchildren, they will be spending it on trips to the ER with heart disease, stroke, cancer or diabetes; 4 of the most preventable chronic diseases caused by a poor diet.
EB:“And it’s this absence of vision in the middle of their lives that I find infantile. I’ll say it: infantile.”
Actually, Ms. Badinter, lack of vision isn’t really an infantile trait.  It’s really not expected from infants that they see the big picture.  It is expected of adults to see past themselves into a vision of the future and community, which is exactly what the “naturalist” mothers are doing.  A more appropriate description of an infantile quality would be “selfish” which is also a good description of your character. So, maybe your education didn’t get you as far as you expected if you can’t come up with an fitting insult.
MC: Do you have any advice for today’s young women?

EB: Don’t ever give up your economic independence. Don’t give up your job. You must be able to survive without a man. Because if you no longer get along with your partner or he treats you badly and you don’t have the means to leave him, you’re enslaved.

I’m not going to go on dissecting this article because I have better things to worry about.  But if anyone is concerned about her last point about financial security, which–with the rates of divorce, early death or a spouses unemployment are real concerns–there is a book called “The Feminine Mistake” by Leslie Bennetts that came out in 2007 that addresses these points more compassionately, more eloquently and more intelligently. Ms. Bennetts argument is that there can be balance in parenting, having a healthy relationship and pursuing a career.  It is not a book about “having it all” but about being prepared for anything.  She writes examples of women who devote themselves to their kids or even to their careers only to find that their husband has died suddenly of a heart attack and they do not know where their important financial or legal documents are stored.  Just as we are asking men to be more involved in parenting, women need to be more involved in finances, they need to continue to sharpen their skills and pursue their interests.  They can not do it all at the same time, and there will be years, like the baby years, when they can do very little except keep up with the essentials, but when life does slow down, women shouldn’t give up decision making of their finances over to men anymore than men should hand over all the decision making regarding children over to the women.
Balance comes from community.  There will be mothers who work out of obligation and out of choice.  There will be mothers who use disposables and those who use cloth.  We all have the ability to make our own choices and for the most part, I think we all put a lot of thought and consideration into these choices. Sometimes we have the ability to make choices based on what is right in the long run and other times we do the best we can with the moment right now.  But to advocate a “right now” lifestyle and to put pursuit of financial independence and monetary gain over the investment of attention, healthy nourishment and quality bonding and attention with a baby is so shortsighted, I struggle to fully comprehend what bubble she’s been living in.
EB:“I’m also concerned about the effects of the long-term fusion between a mother and child beyond the first few months.I’m afraid that this fusion will impact children in a way that we can’t measure today.”
I’m actually concerned about the effects of the long-term distance between a mother and child that develops when the child does not have proper guidance or attention.  I’m worried about the working moms who are so consumed by their own interests that the children eventually need to act out spectacularly to get their attention.  The misbehavior of a child having a tantrum in a restaurant while his mother stares at her phone pinning to Pinterest or responding to work emails or Facebooking the cute picture of 3 minutes ago is the thing that I personally fear will “impact children in a way that we can’t measure today.”  The BPA, pesticides, sugar and sodium in the convenient store bought baby food is something I personally fear will “impact children in a way that we can’t measure today.” The chemicals in the air fresheners, cleaners, laundry soap, shampoo and umbilical cords of our newborns is something I personally fear will “impact children in a way that we can’t measure today.”
Except we ARE measuring it today: in skyrocketing obestity rates, in skyrocketing diabetes in children, in skyrocketing asthma, ADHD, autism, food allergy and cancer rates in children; in skyrocketing depression and anxiety rates.
This is what worries me, and so those mothers who are sacrificing their financial independence, placing a bet that the investment in their children and in their bond of marriage will pan out and that they can do enough to counteract the onslaught of chemicals in products in food, the onslaught of negative or overly sexualized messages fed to our kids, the financial instability of a difficult economic state — those women are heroes.
Don’t love money; be satisfied with what you have. Hebrews 13:5

Where do we find balance?

There was a time when I didn’t care about balance. And then there was a time when I understood balance was needed but I saw it as something to happen over a lifetime. “Work hard and pursue your goals without rest while you are young so you can rest when you are old.” The problem with that is that you age too quickly and don’t know where all the time went.

And what about those unfortunate people who work hard to reach their dreams, sacrificing the quiet moments, sacrificing relationships and sacrificing others in their pursuit only to lose it all based on one bad decision?

Balance, even when you desire and value it can be hard to find. We schedule ourselves so tight with activities and appointments. We are going going going till we’re gone.

What does balance mean to you? What does it look like?

Picky Eaters, Cooking and our Most Important Job as Parents

I am completely to blame for my kids’ picky eating for two reasons.  First, I am also a picky eater.  Second, I am a terrible cook.

I do not get the joy and excitement from food that others have.  I’m not eager to try new flavors and textures.  In fact, just writing “new textures” makes me think of eating something slimy and my stomach is turning already because in my head, that is what you foodies mean when you talk about “texture.”  I know it.  You want me to eat an eel or a jellyfish or a worm something.

My lack of interest in food naturally fostered a lack of interest in cooking. It makes sense, of course, doesn’t it?  If I’m not that thrilled with food, why would I spend time learning how to shop, prepare and cook the food?  Food is necessary for survival, but in the US, there is plenty of it around, or at the very least, there are plenty of things around posing as food. It’s relatively easy to eat out of a bag or box or a can or a vending machine and it requires less clean up, less preparation and less thought which allows us to get to all those other things we would rather do than deal with food.

Still, I did eventually learn how to cook. But without the inborn love of food, my motivation was not the food itself, my first motivator was money.  In my early, post college years, I did not have the money to go out to the glamorous restaurants to eat.  I had to teach myself how to cook.  I was drawn to foods with flavor, but not a lot of flavor.  When I had food cravings, it was typically for something cold or hot, or something crunchy.  And I had no idea what any spices looked like or were called.  I had a lot to learn!

And while I really didn’t want to be opening up a box or a can every time I ate– not because I had a whole foods agenda of any kind;  it was an act of rebellion against the way I grew up. We ate a meat and potatoes only diet supplemented with boxed Stouffers dinners.  When we had vegetables on our plates, it was usually broccoli or peas from the freezer, green beans from a can or a cob of corn.  Except for the corn which we loved to roll in butter, the vegetables were rarely eaten.

It should also come as no surprise that even back in the day when processed foods were less prevalent and GMO’s were non-existent, a diet lacking in a variety of nutrients made me a sick kid.  Ear infections and strep throat kept me out of school countless days.

Now, as an adult and mother, I am attempting to introduce more whole foods, more variety and more nutrients into my children’s meals.  It is not easy.  Everywhere they go outside my house, it seems they are offered convenience foods, sweets, snacks, candy and junk.  Between soccer, dance, softball, and baseball, I have yet to see orange slices handed out as snack.  Instead, the kids get gummy fruit snacks, Sun Chips, Capri Sun and last week … chocolate iced cupcakes with sprinkles.

How did cupcakes slathered with icing become an appropriate snack to give kids after running their hearts out in sports for an hour? Let’s set aside the long term illnesses like diabetes and obesity that can come from this, what about the short term stomach aches from all this sugar?  And while I was completely horrified, I seemed to be the only one.  Where has our judgement gone?
Why do we not seem to connect that not eating healthy equates with eating unhealthy and when you are not eating for health, you are eating for illness?

So, in all this, the challenge still remains … how can I introduce my kids to more foods and encourage a love of those foods without making them feel deprived, left out, resentful of those foods?  And how can I encourage them to love eating without making it an obsession?

I have to do what so many other families have to do.  I have to get involved and get my kids involved.  I have learned my lackluster talent in the kitchen is matched by my lackluster talent in the garden.  And my continuing education on cooking sometimes leads me to make meals that are completely inedible and nearly set the house on fire with 3 foot high flames coming out of my cast iron pan like I did last week when I was trying to cook a cheese quesadilla.  Yes, you read that right.

But I won’t give up.  I trudge forward with my gardening gloves digging through soil made with poop (UGH!), I compost my kitchen scraps and look up on the internet what those bugs are eating my tomato plants.  I try to saute, not flambe; to bake, not burn.  I flounder and fail and at times we feast on something delicious I will likely never be able to replicate.  And in all of this, I am learning some things that I think others might need to learn too.  I’ve learned to make stock as well as to take stock.  I can make my own sauces. I know the names of a dozen pasta shapes. I nibble basil leaves fresh off the plant.  I snack on fresh peppers and cucumber plucked from my own back yard.  I am starting to feel powerful and hopeful in  my newfound skills.  My kids are healthy and active.  At well visits, their pediatrician does not recognize them, even though when they were infants and toddlers, they had so many appointments and so many medications and so many missed days, the hospital nurses and pediatrician’s office receptionist would recognize us at the gas station and grocery store.

Can you imagine how powerful it is to cook and feed your family nourishing food?  I may not want to eat your eel soup or talk to you about bouquets of flavor or compete who can tolerate the hottest peppers, but I understand the satisfaction in nourishing my children.  My job as a mother is to prepare them for adulthood, encourage them to be their best, urge them to find and use their talents.  And the first step in all that is giving them something to eat.  If that food does not give them the energy, nourishment and nutrients to be the foundation for everything they have planned that day, then it really doesn’t matter if they can kick a ball, play a song on the piano or recite a poem in Spanish.  If they are going to miss the concert with an ear infection, ask to sit out the second half of a game because they don’t feel good and decide they’d rather watch TV all Saturday than go explore with friends, then they are not being set up for success.  They are being set up for failure.  They can’t win if they can’t play. And the foundation for success is health.

So, I’m not judging.  If you are new to this like I was, I understand how hard and overwhelming it seems.  And I understand how easy it is to do what everyone else is doing.  But I also don’t think it’s going to be easy, 15 years down at the road, to watch our kids heartbreak and disappointment as they lag behind, doubt themselves, medicate instead of motivate and give up believing they can do anything they want if they just set their minds on it.  Because their minds won’t go anywhere without their bodies to carry them.

For this reason, we can’t give up.  We didn’t sign up for parenthood saying, “I’m going to do this part way,” or “I’m going to quit when this gets hard.”  We may need to rest, we may need take out sometimes and we may just tear into a Stouffers now an then.  But can you imagine the difference in your lives if the frozen dinner is the anomaly?  Can you imagine what you will be able to experience  and accomplish if you no longer take sick days?  Do you know the money and time you will save over time?

I’ve rambled long enough and hope to tell you another time all those things.

Thanks for reading.

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Waste Free Friday

20120921-111309.jpgToday was not 100% waste free, as you can see by the little brown granola bars all wrapped up next to the napkins, but I’m a huge fan of doing your best and being happy with it.  How often do we skip a workout when we only have 10 or 15 minutes with the excuse that it’s not enough time to make a difference?  How often do we give up on our diets after a lunch or dinner out with friends and a single indulgence?  How often do we give up with the slightest bit of discouragement or criticisms?  Let’s not do that anymore.  Let’s do our best and be happy.

Today my best involved a granola bar that was wrapped in plastic.

And maybe my best at work will include a mistake or late attendance at a call.

And maybe my parenting will include a moment of bad listening or indulging the kids or bribery.

And maybe my friends will be a bit ignored and my dog will be scolded.

Let’s not give up over all that stuff.  I packed a granola bar, but I STILL made big steps in saving my kids health, my community’s health, my environment and my finances.  Let’s focus on that part?  Deal.

100% Waste Free Lunch

When I pack my kids their lunch in the morning, I do it out of love and concern.  I love them and want the best for them and I am concerned that the food choices they face when they leave my cozy home will not nourish them and at worst may harm them.  It may cause cavities, it may upset their stomach’s, it may give them a sugar high followed by a crash, it may cause them to put on extra weight and it may, horrendous as it sounds, trigger development of a cancer as a result of pesticide residues or genetically modified foods breaking down essential enzymes.  This is when I even ask myself, “Do I sound totally nuts?” But the truth is, I’m not nuts, but our food choices are.  So, I shop with a focus on whole foods and organic.  I strive for non-GMO.  And then I lovingly pack a lunch for my kids.

But concern for their health and future can’t stop at the food I pack. I must also consider what I pack their food in, because those little baggies are going to be around when my kids are grown and it is a waste and a shame that their highlight is a 3 hour trip in a lunchbox carrying pretzels or grapes and then off to the dump.

In fact, it is estimated that an average lunch packing child creates 67 pounds of waste from disposable packaging in lunches.  Sixty seven pounds!  That is more than each of my kids weigh themselves!  And that is every year.  So if I pack a lunch from kindergarten to senior year, that is 871 pounds. Between my two kids that is almost a ton of trash! Literally!  Multiply that against the other 23 kids in their classroom, the other classes in their grade, the other grades in their school and you can see that the waste of those one use baggies is huge.

But I know how much we love convenience.  I love it too and it has been challenging to switch to waste free.  Additionally, it requires an upfront cost.  Buying the cute reusable baggies and containers is expensive. But, as with most quality goods that are designed to provide lasting use, it is worth it, and in the end, the dollars make sense and you wind up ahead financially.

Waste Free Lunches estimates that on average a waste free lunch costs $1.37 less than a lunch made with disposable spoon, napkin, pouches and baggies.  In a typical school year, that amounts to a savings of $246 per person. Additionally, buying whole foods or snacks in bulk instead of snacks in individual serving packages is a major cash saver.

So, when I add up the cost of the lunchbox, water bottle, reusable baggies and containers, I will have still saved over $150. Next year, of course, I will save the full $250 because these supplies will still be in use.

Here is what I use:

PVC Free Lunch boxes from Hanna Andersson.  Honestly, this is way more lunchbox than we need.  It is too big.  That bottom section goes to school completely empty every day. I spent $26 on these but would have done better to get the smaller $20 or $16 option. Lesson learned. The part of this purchase that I am very happy about though is that their products are non-toxic.  Be careful when selecting a lunchbox or lunch bag that they are not loaded with PVC, have lead traces or other chemical making them stink and stain free.

Stainless Water Bottle by Kleen Kanteen $17.  These go everywhere and are used all day long. If you want huge bang for the buck and can’t go completely waste free right away, start with the water bottle.  And make sure you give your kids clean water inside that bottle!

My daughter’s bottle was purchased 6 years ago at Target and I have no idea what I spent but considering how long we have used it, I’d say it was worth it.  She also has a BPA-free Camelback thermos that I got for her two years ago for $16.

Each kid has a small round insulated thermos for the lucky days I pack them spaghetti, mac and cheese or leftover casserole of some sort.  I can’t find the kind I use online anymore as they are at least 5 years old but these are similar and cost $25 each.

This year, I got a set of Lunchbot containers that are being shared among all of us.  The jury is still out on these.  I haven’t quite gotten into the swing of using them but I do like the design and the feel of them.

I also just purchased some Reusies reusable snack bags.  I got these in the mail yesterday and I already love them.  They were fun and easy to pack, the kids were excited, the size was great for their snacks. After the water bottle, this is the second thing I would invest in for bang for the buck.  Think of all those little plastic baggies you will never need if you use these! Put your sandwich right in there! I combined their snacks this morning, since I got two each.  Pretzels and Pirates Booty in one and grapes and carrots in the other.

ImageI also have Laptop Lunches.  These were my introduction to waste free lunches and are still my favorite.  There is nothing more fun or satisfying than packing lunch parts in all the pretty colors.  The containers are non-toxic, easy to use and fun.  I’ve been using my lunchboxes for over 6 years and they look identical to the day I bought them. I wash them on the top shelf, I throw them in the cabinets. I am not gentle.  These things are sturdy. I really didn’t need to get the other products because these work great, but there are days you want more flexibility than the hard container.

Finally, this was a totally unnecessary purchase but I couldn’t resist; I bought the kids each their own reusable napkin. Why is this unnecessary?  Not because they don’t use napkins, although, some days I do wonder when I see their sticky faces hop off the bus. And not because paper napkins are okay, but because we all have cloth napkins or scraps of fabric that can be turned into napkins at home.  Someone is making a killing on these decorated washcloths and I was happy to fill their pockets.  Honestly, you can find something at home to use like I did for the past several years, but if you want to support a product made in USA by a company focused on sustainability that has a cute design on it like I did, well, I won’t stop you! These are cute. I do, wonder how long they will look this cute especially once they encounter spaghetti day.

Of course, the savings goes farther than just lunch. As you may too, we have an on-the-go lifestyle. Most of our meals are on the benches at baseball practice, at the tables outside dance class, next to the soccer field, on the beach, at the pool, at the park… you get the idea.

When I have portable, reusable containers, I can be prepared with snacks and meals on the go and the temptation or need for fast food or other junk food options is also tackled.  It’s a picnic lifestyle but it works!  Your kids, your planet and your wallet will thank you for giving it a try.

Some days, it’s good enough to simply not be part of the problem

So, here’s the dilemma: You are a mom trying to limit your kids exposures to toxic chemicals, additives and preservatives in food and products. You struggle but you are making progress at home. You read labels and cook from scratch as much as possible without losing your mind. You buy organic, garden and limit sugar. While you do all this, you also believe strongly in balance, because getting so consumed by avoidance of toxins and sugars and GMO’s could drive you crazy. On top of that, you have kids and those kids need balance too. So you try to keep things fun and you remember to let go and not let yourself get too worked up, after all, the point is not to keep your kids in a bubble and out of all the fun. The point is to have a full life, will lots of experiences and friends and love. And to do that, you have just let go every once in a while.

My unspoken rule is that when my kids are at someone else’s house, there are no rules on what they eat or play with. So, if their friend takes them to fast food or offers them soda; if they want it, they can have it. Which is all fine–now that they are still young and not out with friends very often. I also pack their lunches and snacks, so they are still eating well when they are at school. I have about 80% of their food choices covered and feel good about what they are eating and using on their bodies. But as my kids get older I feel compelled to be host to the parties, or to supply treats and snacks myself which doesn’t always go over well with the other kids and moms.

It’s easy to feel overwhelmed at times and to even play mind games and doubt and think, maybe all this isn’t going to make a big difference after all. Maybe all my efforts are for naught.

And then today,  I went to my kids’ school for a treat for my daughter who had a birthday over the weekend. I struggled to find something to bring her class that wasn’t loaded with sugar and artificial flavors and dyes. I finally settled on two dozen chocolate chip cookies from a gourmet bakery that does not use artificial additives as many of the grocery store variety use. As I was prohibited from making my own cookies due to school regulation, this seemed like thirty dollars wasted. I paired that with Honest Kids juice pouches and headed on my way.

As I brought out the treats, several kids expressed disappointment in the absence of those neon iced cupcakes but took a cookie anyway. They all also grabbed a juice box. After helping them insert their straws, they one by one started to come to me to return the juice. They didn’t like it. It tasted like water. They don’t like drinking water. They hate water. Did I bring any Sprite?

20120910-135918.jpgAs they looked up to me to see if they could turn in their organic Honest Kids juice pouch in exchange for something sweeter and with bubbles, their back teeth glinted in the sun. It seemed all these kids had fillings and caps on their back teeth. Not just one tooth, but as far as I could tell their entire bottom molars were capped in silver. And that wasn’t the only thing extra, they were also carrying an extra 10 or 15 pounds of weight.

When I left with a bag of leaking, mostly full juice bags, I felt reassured that even though they didn’t like the snack, at least I was not contributing to their poor health by giving them one more sugar and corn syrup filled snack.

I turned into the cafeteria to dispose of the bag of leaking juice pouches and saw my son sitting with his class eating lunch. The school lunch was waffles drenched in maple syrup with eggs, apple slices and chocolate milk. My son was happily eating leftover vegetarian lasagna, carrot sticks in his Lunch Bots Containers, happily drinking the same Honest Kids Juice pouch denied by my daughter’s classmates, all packaged neatly by me this morning in his his PVC free lunchbox from Hanna Andersson, I thought, “At least I’m making a difference in two lives and not contributing to the burden of obesity from sweets and candy and soda and sugar at every turn.”

There is a famous quote that I enjoy that says,

“You’re either part of the solution or part of the problem.” — Eldrigde Cleaver

And today I decided, some days it’s good enough and I will be satisfied with simply not being part of the problem.

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Eating for an Early Death

Has the term “healthy eating” lost its meaning for you?  It seems we talk a lot about eating healthy as a goal or as something we do occasionally, when everything works out just right.  Like exercising, it’s something we know we should do but it’s on our list next to “vacation in Venice” and “donate to charity” as something we will get to eventually.

We talk about “junk food” casually is if it were also the occasional indulgence knowing full well that we indulge in something we shouldn’t daily.  Whether it is soda or chips or a burger in the drive through.

And when we do eat “healthy” it is still far from what we need to be eating.  So, I ask you to consider if you are eating healthy only when you make a point of it?  Maybe once every couple of days? or once a week? Is it possible you are eating healthy even less than that? And if healthy isn’t eating isn’t what you are doing 9 out of 10 meals then do you know what you are eating the rest of the time?


And if you are eating “unhealthy” do you know what that means?  You are eating to be sick. You are eating for illness.  You are eating for an early death.

Don’t get mad at me. I am just the messenger.  And I know you don’t have time for this. And I know you are tired of hearing about this.  But I am tired of hearing about the skyrocketing obesity rates. And I am tired of hearing about the kids who are sick and the shortening lifespan. And I am tired of going through the grocery store and finding nothing edible.  And the only way any of it will change is if we all work together to change it.  If we all see the value in life.

We need to to feel we are spoiling ourselves when we eat foods that give us energy, not when we gorge ourselves into a food coma.  How about an indulgent organic berry picked fresh off a vine as a food fantasy instead of a slab of meat drenched in a cream sauce?

Isn’t it strange to you that we indulge ourselves, celebrate our achievements and praise each other with food and “treats” that will eventually take everything we care about away from us?

We rationalize our junk food culture in so many ways. We feel we deserve it. Or we just didn’t have time for anything else.  We can’t all be perfect, you know. That’s totally unrealistic.  I call BS.

What’s unrealistic is thinking that we can keep going at this pace, eating crap every day and not pay the price down the road. What’s unrealistic is to think those choices we make when everyone is watching are the only choices that matter.  What’s unrealistic is thinking that when you eat to be unhealthy you will somehow still end up healthy anyway because you’re pretty healthy today and your parents lived a long time.

Come on now. You’re smarter than that.

And right about now I bet you are going to stop reading. Because you don’t want to hear it. You’ve heard it before and the last thing you need is another lecture.  You are busy and you don’t have the energy and I just don’t understand what your life is like.  And because you know what I am going to say next. Stop feeding yourself a bunch of lies and a bunch of crap food. Just stop.  Stop making excuses. Stop blaming someone else.  Stop making me repeat myself.  Stop putting it off. Just stop stop stop.

And then I realized something even more alarming than our skyrocketing obesity rates, asthma, autism, arthritis, diabetes, cancer and chronic illness rates.  I realized, people aren’t stupid and they’re not ignorant.  People have just flat out given up. And they don’t even know it! I started to wonder, Is our culture passively suicidal?

A year ago, I believed ignorance was the problem. People just didn’t know how bad the foods they were eating and products they were using and choices they were making were for them.  There was a time when I didn’t know and when I found out, I was shocked. I was shocked and I was overwhelmed but I was motivated to turn it around for me.

And it is true there is a lot of misinformation and confusion out there. We don’t even know what eating healthy is anymore.  There is so much confusion.  Is it low calorie? Low fat? Smaller portions? Vegetarian?   We are learning more about healthy eating and finding it isn’t necessarily any of these things.  Healthy eating is eating clean.

How did it come to be that when we eat we need to worry that we do not eat poison, pesticides, cleaning solutions, chemicals and carcinogens?

Whether we want to admit it or not, this is the state of our food system today.  If you are eating from a box or a fast food bag, you may as well be eating Styrofoam peanuts drizzled with antifreeze because that stuff is not going to nourish you, it is going to kill you.  Not today, but eventually.

So the goal became to spread the word!  Help others to understand how that fast food was empty food and their soda was filled with chemicals and the fluoride in their water was eroding their health and the plastics their babies were teething on was leaching into their blood and the trash they were creating was not going away. And so, it seemed so simple.  Spread the word!  Tra la la. It may not seem like good news but if we all worked together for the greater good, things would get better. And what an accomplishment THAT would be!

Fat chance.

No one wants to hear it. No one wants to know what they are doing is harmful when they want it to be a party…  but I know the messages are getting in and we are simply tuning out.  Maybe it is too painful to hear. Maybe it seems too alarmist to be true.  But maybe, just maybe everyone is already feeling sick and hopeless and tired and stressed and anxious.  Maybe the problem is just that culturally, we’ve had enough and we’d just like it if maybe, just maybe, it was all over.

I just learned of the term “passively suicidal” yesterday watching Hoarders. I know. I know.  I started then I couldn’t stop.  Of all things I was cleaning out boxes for a garage sale and thought it might inspire me as I multi-tasked. But, it was horrifying to me.  On the show, this woman had diabetes and she would purposely put herself into insulin shock through “carelessness” because she just didn’t want to live anymore.  Point blank she would say she wasn’t suicidal, but her actions showed that she was. She didn’t care enough to choose life and to choose health, so passively, she was choosing death.

So, why has everyone given up?  Why?!

Here’s why.  Because they blame themselves.  They feel responsible for their fat, for their cholesterol, for their illness.  They are constantly searching for a break but they never give themselves one. And most times they do eat “healthy” they walk away hungry, broke, confused and unsatisfied.  They believe that in order to be healthy, their food needs to be bland, their portions small, their wallets empty. When they go on a diet, it is punishment.  Would indulging in something decadent really be so exciting if it weren’t for the fact that a “healthy” lunch often has the texture of playdough but half the flavor? Would the holiday food coma be so enjoyable if it weren’t for all the meals we’ve walked away from hungry in our attempts to lose weight? And doggoneit we hardly ever lose weight on a diet anyway, so what’s the point?

The point is that it’s not your fault.  That diet soda is making you hungry. That low-calorie breakfast is shrinking your metabolism, not your waist-line.  And that “healthy, all natural” snack you just paid double for?  That was made with genetically modified soybean.  Oh, and that wrinkle cream you are using because age is not on your side either? The chemicals in that are making you fat too.  Pretty much everything you do, every turn you take is making you fat and sick.  And everything you are told to do will make it worse.

But there is one solution.  Eat Clean Foods and Limit Toxins.  It’s not as scary as it sounds.  It’s less scary, for instance, than an early death preceded by years of illness. But you have to want to live enough to change your habits.

Do you want to live?  Actively live?  Do you want to do something every single day that will improve your health and lengthen your life and the quality of it?

Think about it. And if your answer is YES, then Start Now!