Nutrition Habits: Bring forward the Good and Release the Bad

By: Christine Marshall Hersom

Was nutrition a big topic at your house growing up?  It was not necessarily a big topic at my house…but I grew up on a dairy farm.  We ate well.  All fresh, homemade food.  We consumed a lot of calories, but we worked hard.

“Mmm,” I digress, but I could smell my grandmother’s fresh, baked goodies – they were to die for.  I still have a MEGA sweet tooth.

Living and working on a dairy farm was about routine. It was a very active lifestyle.  I got up at 3 a.m. and started my day with oatmeal before hitting the barn chores. I  learned later that I am what is called a “habitual eater” (a story for a later time).  After chores, we would wash and dress for school.  By the time we were done, my grandmother had a huge farm breakfast on the table.  Yes, I know, we were eating again. It always consisted of steak, potato, eggs, toast and all the fresh whole milk we wanted (another habitual eating sign – whoops, I said that story was for another time).  The amount of work done before sunrise created a starving youngster.  I ate like a man and never gained an ounce.  I would bring homemade baked goods to school for snack every day.  After school I would have a large glass of fresh whole milk and more baked goods. I was living the life, right?!

There were always fresh baked sweets in our home – did I say it again?  One of the major themes of my life; cookies, pies, brownies, whoopie pies…I am drooling while writing this.  I was always thin as a child.  It was partially genetics and partially the working lifestyle I lived.  I could eat calories enough for two people and never gain weight. The “active” lifestyle, and being able to eat “how and what I wanted” would eventually catch up.

Once I grew into adulthood and lived with my own family, I followed those same food habits.  I made all the food homemade with fresh ingredients.  We had large-farm type breakfasts, normal lunches, and huge sit-down family dinners.  While it was wonderful, I was no longer as active as when I was growing up.  Most of us aren’t, especially with a 9 to 5 job, a husband who was a nurse with his own schedule and raising children with their school and social activities. 

Obviously, my weight crept up.  I always felt bloated, tired, and just blah.  In my middle to late 30’s, I took it upon myself to change my diet a bit.  I added more fish and less red meat.  I felt super doing it.  However, the family was used to the large “comfort” meals.  I felt neglectful cutting back on those rituals, so in typical fashion – and like many mothers, I gave up my eating plan and continued to cook the same way for “all of us.”  After all, it was easier to give in.  It was easier to shop and to cook all the same things.  And it was easier not feeling guilty.  The feelings I was “not joining” in on family dinners because my healthy food meant I was different.  I actually felt selfish for feeling like I wanted to improve my nutrition.

 

Fast forward to age 56. This Winter I was really feeling down about my size, health, and just a general malaise/depression. I found Coach Peggy and joined her Coach Peggy Real Time docuseries.  In one of the first few weeks, she had us write down our family nutrition wellness history and habits.  “WHAT?  Come on.  This is crazy.  How does what I ate, who I ate with, who prepared what and said what about food when I was a child even begin to play into how I feel now?”  I was shocked; boy, does it ever!

If you want to review your eating habits now, look back at what you brought forward from childhood.  I know.  Still not buying it?  I had brought forward: huge portioned-farm meals that provided the calories a person needed for working intensely on a dairy farm.  The food choices were calorically high mostly caused from carbohydrates: milk, potatoes and SUGAR!

My adult job was a legal secretary not a farm hand.  So, while I did bring forward many healthy eating choices and habits such as fresh fruits and vegetables daily, I also brought forward the “need” for red meat at least FIVE times a week, loads of potatoes and home-made bread.  Oh, and have I said, sweets?!!!

My family did not talk about nutrition when I was growing up.  We knew our farm life provided us with amazing nutrition.  I have a memory from the 70’s of high grocery prices, scarcity of jobs, and neighbors and friends eating lots of rice and hotdogs.  Yet, I remember complaining if I had to eat another steak, I would simply explode.  I joked about going on a hunger strike. 

What I did not know, is that my childhood friends eating habits were very different and they were creating a blueprint of their future eating habits and memories as well. They did not live on a farm.  They were not “forced” to eat steak every day.  They would have killed for a steak at that time.  Most everybody’s “habits” are learned and different.  If you really want to review your nutritional habits today, take a look back. 

Ask yourself a few questions:

  • Did my family eat healthy?
  • Was anybody “dieting” all the time? And maybe you felt guilty to eat or you embedded the thought you need to diet.
  • Was food used as a reward or was used it as fuel as it should be?
  • Did you eat packaged and processed foods versus fresh?

Your childhood memories and habits surrounding food created your “norms.”  I have learned that many of my thoughts and actions regarding food were not my fault.  I have really learned this year, decades later, to assess what I needed nutritionally based on what activity I do or do not do.  I have the control to make my choices, set my boundaries and decide what goes in my mouth.  And I am devouring that power. Literally.

by: Christine Marshall Hersom

Email: Christine at christinehersom@gmail.com

All Things Wellness, LLC

 

Click on the video below for a short clip from Coach Peggy regarding the “What has your family and friends done to you?” Family Wellness History & Habit: Nutrition