For the last three weeks, I’ve been embarking on a new way of eating food. Well, it’s new to me, and it’s going to sound like a massive fad-diet, which is embarrassing for me to admit to, but it’s working. I’ve done it before, and had massive results, but as I let myself slip, let myself fall back into old habits, the weight came back (duh). I’ve cut out the carbohydrates in the food I eat. Like before, I’m seeing massive weight losses already – something to the order of 12 pounds as of yesterday – and I feel amazing. I have lots of energy, I’m feeling balanced throughout the day, and I’m simply not feeling the bloat and lethargy that came with gorging out on stuff I used to eat – like pizza, peanut butter sandwiches, bread of any sort really.
I’m also not spending my money on convenience foods. Our break area at work has vending machines stocked to the gills with grab-and-go foods that are “perfect” for the bus driver job. What they also are full of, however, is preservatives, chemically altered ingredients, and lots of other nasties that, simply put, my body just stashed away in the form of fat. I’ve “cleaned up” my calories, so to speak, and am reaping the rewards from it in terms of vitality and overall goodness.
I’ve been here before, lost 25 pounds, and remember feeling spectacular. Of course, I was also still a smoker then, and it was prior to my moving in with Raymond (a stressor that brought about the comfort-eating/weight gain). Now that I’ve gotten rid of the smoking, and we’ve settled in quite well with each other, I can get back to me, to my waistline, and the goals I have set for myself.
Again, this is all well and good, and I’m pleased with my results, but what I’ve been paying further attention to this time around is the procurement of food. On my last go-round with these eating changes, I was putting money into the household food pool with the fellas I lived with, and making a go of eating better out of what was available in the cupboard and fridge. I didn’t have to hit up the grocery store, and thus didn’t have to experience what buying food was like. In fact, I hadn’t bought groceries or gone on a proper grocery shop for a very, very long time – something like two years.
One of the pillars of this food thing (I’m still not calling it a diet – a word I rather hate), is eating as close to the source as possible. Single-ingredient foods, actual cooking, using real ingredients to prepare meals and such – all of the ways in which making food has been done for thousands of years until very recently – are fundamental to this plan. It also strongly suggests buying as organic/natural as possible, which I’ve done for the most part, and which leads me to the reason for this post in the first place.
I’m having the time of my life learning how to cook again. I’m really, really enjoying the preparation of food that is nourishing, honest, and wholesome. I love following instructions (akin to why I love buying IKEA furniture or those little plastic model cars) and achieving results that are pretty decent. What I’m realizing as I do this, though, is the cost of all of it. On average, for myself, I’m spending about $100/$150 week on groceries. That sounds like a lot, and feels like a lot, to me, but when I look back at bank statements that show what I was spending on vending machine food and gas station treats, the cost is about the same. Still, this is for one person on a decent income. That’s about $400-$600 a month just to eat right. That’s a lot. A lot, a lot.
What I keep thinking about, as I shop, is why food that is better for me, closer to the actual source, and minimally/not-at-all altered by humans and science/chemistry, costs so damn much? Furthermore, why do I feel like eating healthy and doing right by my actual body has become a privilege, and not a basic human right? Why, because of my income level, am I afforded the ability to procure food that is life-sustaining and vital, but the person making less than me, or who is reliant on assistance to simply survive, has to then also make do with sub-par food?
I refuse to shop at Whole Foods. I struggle with even going near Trader Joe’s, or our own locally-run semi-step-down from Whole Foods called New Seasons. The feeling of classism and entitlement washes over me every time I enter those places. I go to my local bigger (Kroger) grocery store because it’s not only super-duper close to my house, but because I do need to find stuff on sale/reasonably priced. Also, it should be said, I feel like I’m shopping among my peers. I don’t feel the arrogance that I can almost smell on the air when I do happen to pop into a Whole Foods. I don’t feel like I’m “in the way” of some obviously more important person than I when I’m comparing items on the shelf, or whipping out my calculator to see what my running total is for the food shop while I’m at Kroger. I’m just a blue-collar working-class schlub getting his food bag on the best way he can for the amount of money that he has.
What remains, though, is this gross pit in my stomach as I wonder why I need to spend more money on food that is actually healthier for me, rather than have that be the industry standard for all food, and made available to everyone at every economic level. Why can’t a piece of chicken just be chicken, and not “chicken breast meat with salt, preservatives, added fluid, and some chemical that I can’t pronounce, etc?” Why do I need to go out of my way to get vegetables that aren’t sprayed with goddess-only-knows-what, waxed, or chosen for looking “perfect?”
The point I’m trying to make here is this: I am fortunate and lucky enough to be in a situation where I can afford to make choices about the quality of the food I eat, and that quality can be quite high, if not the highest available. I know for a fact, though, especially since food-stamp approved food is clearly marked these days, that not everyone around me is as fortunate. I know that everyone deserves the right to healthy, real, nutritious, body-positive food, but what I don’t know is why this isn’t so.
In my slow-cooker today is a piece of beef that smells just like the beef I remember having as a kid. I seared it with salt and pepper, and added beets, carrots, onions, and celery, along with some beef broth that I made earlier this week, and have it set to cook on low for 8 hours. I cannot wait to see how my first pot roast comes out.
That beef, though, cost me a pretty penny. It is from grass-fed/pasture-raised cows. It’s certified organic. It’s also flown in from Uruguay. It cost me $23 for 2.5 pounds of meat. I bought it knowing I was splurging, but I can’t seem to understand why this has to be this way. I mean, I understand the economics behind feeding an exploding population, but surely there has to be a better way, both for the animals that are raised for food, and for the people consuming animals for food.