My journey started when I became pregnant for the first time. It was a surprise and I was ecstatic. Having been a physical education major and with my masters degree in exercise science I thought I was healthy. We are taught in school the basics of nutrition, but that would be government based nutrition (at that time was the food pyramid). So my first 3 months was a typical pregnancy. I was sick daily and I didn’t like to cook for the smells, so we ate out a lot! I basically stopped at the “M” every day on my way to work because I craved it, and I didn’t throw it up. As a side note, I have horrible mother guilt knowing what I know now and that I could have harmed my child.
Anyway, after the morning sickness was over, pregnancy was breeze…I ate the SAD (Standard American Diet) giving in to all cravings up until about the 22nd week. My OBGYN noticed that my baby was not growing properly, so I was sent to a high risk specialist. They determined that she was IUGR and my placenta was not working correctly, so they put me on aspirin and hoped for the best. Every other week I had ultrasounds to check her growth and my amniotic fluid levels. At my 39th week u/s, they determined that I did not have enough amniotic fluid to sustain her and I needed to be induced that night! I went to the hospital to start this process. I told them no medicine as I wanted to do this natural…At least one thing held-I was able to give birth naturally to my baby girl, she only weighed 5 lb 6 oz and was perfectly healthy (or so I thought…) I knew that the best option for her to be healthy was to breast feed, and I had a very supportive family and my mother did the same with her children. So she latched well and breast fed until 17 months.
I could venture to say that we all might think we are healthy. We drank skim milk, ate margarine, and whole wheat bread. I cooked with chicken breast only and ate the ‘SAD’. I thought nothing of it until something started changing, and even then I was unsure. I started having stomach cramps after eating certain foods, specifically red meat. So I avoided it and started doing a little research, but not much. I found a local farmer that raised buffalo and sold bison meat, so I decided to give it a try. To my elation, I had no stomach problems, and the taste was amazing.
The next change while my daughter was very young, was becoming a member of the local food co-op. I knew that I wanted to make her food, and the book I was reading said only buy organic produce. At that time, this was the only option for organic foods. Not much thought was given to food at that time. When she started eating solids, around 7 months or so, I had purchased some ‘puffs’, those dissolve in your mouth cereal things. They did not make ‘organic’ at the time but everyone said that she would love them. So I caved and she gobbled up 1/2 the can and with in 30 minutes had a head to toe hives rash. Can you say first time mother freak out?
Even though I knew little about nutrition, I flipped over the canister and read the ingredients-all were familiar except Red dye #40. I called the company and complained and their response was ‘well that has never happened before, so we will send you some coupons for some free cans.’ That day changed our lives forever. My daughter was my world and I wanted to get to the bottom of this. That just opened the ‘rabbit hole’ and remains the main reason why I do what I do. Knowledge is power.
I started buying all organic ‘processed’ foods i.e. processed frozen dinners, cereal, pizza, burritos etc. At that time I didn’t cook a lot and we went out to eat often. No thought was taken into that food at all. I started to remember recipes from my mother and grandmothers and started to re-teach myself how to cook. It was mostly chicken breast and bison to start, but at least it was a start. I was still making sandwiches for lunch and occasionally eating dinner out, but I was becoming better in the kitchen. It was a step closer, but not where I wanted to be.
My research taught me the connection between food dye and her hives reactions. Little did I know that it would open a world of lies, corruption, misinformation, and eventually lead me to REAL FOOD. I found a nutrition seminar that was semi close to where I lived and decided I needed more info about nutrition. Being a personal trainer I knew it would not only benefit me, but my clients as well. After that class, I felt like I had more info to share but it still wasn’t enough for my family. Something was still missing.
I had continued for about 1 1/2 years to get local bison until one day, they sold the herd! What? No more bison? I love red meat! What am I going to do?
By this time we had a very small farmers market open every Saturday with fresh eggs and vegetables. I frequented the market eating and cooking as local as possible. I had become friends with one of the chicken farmers there and loved talking to them about REAL food.
I had heard of people buying 1/4 of a cow in bulk for a year or so and how tasty it was. I needed to do this. So I asked one of my farmer friends, and he said that his neighbor had an extra 1/4 steer that they were not going to use this year and needed to sell. He gave me her number and I called. I asked all the questions I knew at the time, grass fed, hormone free, antibiotic free, etc. What was the price and how much of this meat am I getting? The price was fair and it was many bags of frozen cuts of beef. From steaks and ground beef to filets and ribs. There was one problem – I didn’t have a deep freezer or a place to store it! Gasp! What can I do? I told her that I was interested but needed to find a deep freezer first and would be in touch.
As luck would have it my grandfather had an old (30 plus years) deep freezer in his shed that he was not using anymore. The freezer worked, I just needed a place for it. So I had my brother, an electrician by trade, wire an outlet and we put it outside under the carport. Not ideal but it worked. So I got my first 1/4 of beef. That was the first major food purchase that turned the Real Food eating into a REAL food Adventure! That beef was amazing, and we loved every bite!
Now that I could find beef and veggies, I was doing well. My daughter was still having issues even though we were mostly organic. I continued to dig deeper into the nutrition research.
I made the horrible mistake of switching my daughter to soy milk because she was having issues with dairy…..(again horrible mother guilt) I took her off soon after and switched to organic milk for 3 years. During that time, I had sourced raw goats milk from a local family and she enjoyed drinking that when we could get it. She again started having issues with her stomach on and off, and that is when it got serious. I had a newborn at the time and I was much healthier and knew more about nutrition. (He was breastfed for 32 months!)
It seemed like every time one of them had an issue, the doctors didn’t know what to do. They were not ‘normal‘ issues. I took her to a GI doctor and he said take her off dairy, she is lactose intolerant….UGH.
I was continuing to do research and watch our food. I had signed up for a free podcast on the internet based on REAL FOOD. I learned through one of the speakers about RAW milk and pasteurization. The expert spoke about how the lactose enzyme is actually killed in the process of pasteurization and your gut does not know how to digest it. Making most people become gassy, bloated and displaying general symptoms of ‘lactose intolerance’. I decided to find some raw milk and give it a go. At the time, I could only find raw goats milk and she was able to tolerate it well, but didn’t care for the taste. Our local co-op began to sell raw cows milk as pet food (but I later found out that they were grain fed cows). Not long after that a local farmer started selling raw cows milk at our local farmers market and we tried it! Can you say WOW? I can remember that huge taste difference. It was amazing and she had no stomach issues either! (Read more about raw milk here)
During this time, I had been working on my culinary skills, gardening skills and managing work with 2 kids. Most peoples biggest complaint is not having time to cook meals, it takes to long, or they are just to tired to cook when they get home. I knew that giving my family wholesome, REAL food was very important and that using every resource I could think of to do that would help me. So, I did a few things to maximize my time. I utilized my crockpot 3-4 days of the week and used the ‘cook once, eat twice (or 3 times)’ method. Using a whole organic chicken for 3 meals and then saving the bones for broth is much cheaper that buying organic chicken breast and boxed chicken stock. (Make Homemade Chicken Broth)
I was so lucky to inherit both of my grandmothers’ and my mothers’ cooking skills. I don’t ever remember my grandmothers using a recipe, just a pinch of this and a pinch of that is how they cooked. As I honed my skills, it became apparent to me that this is how I will cook too. I rarely used recipes, just going off of intuition and memory.
I became very fond of my crock pot for frozen hunks of meat turned into moist and tender dinner when we were away. The next night turning that left over roast into BBQ or a stir fry with completely different flavors. Knowing how to do this saves time and money in the kitchen, and allows you to buy and EAT REAL food.
Cooking REAL food to me has become an adventure and so many people think that it has to be expensive or time consuming to be good. That’s why I like teaching cooking classes and educating people about REAL food. It can be as easy as throwing together some stuff in a crockpot in the morning for a nourishing dinner. How hard is that? It’s all about the preparation. I started trying to promote nutrition and holding cooking classes but people were just not interested. It is sad that they would rather pay $50 for a family meal at a restaurant then learn how to cook 5 meals with that same amount of money.
When my son was born, during his first years….I was healthier, but nowhere close to how I am today. I discovered Weston A. Price during that time and started eating and cooking with a lot more traditional fats. We purchased 1/2 hogs and rendered the fat for lard, 1/4 sides of beef, whole chickens and turkeys as well as lamb. I keep all the meat bones for broth and make tallow from lamb and beef fat. Our local farmers market carries raw whole milk, cream, and kefir, which I now purchase weekly and make fresh raw butter and other tasty treats. The farmers market now have fresh chickens, all cuts of meat, bones and fat for you to purchase and even some traditionally prepared breads.
I now have a entirely new approach to food. Food is supposed to Nourish your body and keep you healthy. We supplement with Fermented Cod Liver Oil, elderberry juice, and kombucha, and have butter with every meal. I have figured out how to use all parts of the animal so we don’t waste. We add sea salt to our water, which is filtered because our water is the the worst in the country, yes country! I have a cabinet full of essential oils and natural remedies. I have a yard full of fruit trees and a large vegetable garden. We have a flock of chickens for eggs as well as a few ducks. I’d like to get a mini goat one day, but that might be pushing it!
Teaching people and educating them on what REAL food is, how to find it and how cook it has become my passion! My goal is to educate as many people as possible and plant the seed so they can do their own research and discover what I have come to love. I recently became a CHEK holistic lifestyle practitioner which encompasses everything that I have taught myself and learned. The CHEK course fueled my fire to do even more.
My journey began 8 years ago this September. I never would have thought that becoming a mother would have led me down this path, after all, it is just ‘food’, right?
I have changed my views of what is ‘healthy’…..Real food heals and restores.
REAL FOOD, REAL LIFE, REAL SIMPLE – If you’re interested in buying real, whole foods, and live in the West Michigan area, click here for info on joining my buyer’s club!
I’m Emily at Nourishing Mama, a personal trainer, CHEK holistic lifestyle coach, nutrition specialist & nutrition educator. Currently, I am a personal trainer incorporating holistic lifestyle & nutrition into my client’s lives. I also teach nutrition at a local college & am a full-time mother. I have a daughter who will be 8 in Sept. (the reason I am on this journey) & my son is 3 1/2. We have a small farm of 8 chickens, 2 ducks, 2 rabbits, 3 cats, & 2 dogs that are all non-gmo/no soy fed. We live in Pensacola, Florida.