October Unprocessed Challenge Reflections: Part 2

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Last week I posted about my reflections on my October Unprocessed Challenge: The good. Now I get into the “not so good” :). There were definitely a few bumps and blips during my October Unprocessed Month. But I told myself before I started the challenge, expect things to go wrong, reflect and move on! Here are some of the major ones I encountered:

1) Social situations: Throughout the month, lots of friends and family supported my choice to go “unprocessed”. A lot of people were curious to know more and I tried to encourage others to really think about what they were eating and small ways they too could cut down on the processed junk. However this month showed me just how hard it is to avoid processed food. Food and social situations go hand-in-hand. Family gatherings, dinners with friends, work meetings, first dates, special celebrations, holidays, they ALL include food. And unless you are cooking all of those things from scratch, it is pretty much a guarantee that processed food will be involved. The thing is, I didn’t want to be “that girl” at a party will all those dietary restrictions. I wanted to eat with everyone else, enjoy the company and not worry about whether the food contained an ingredient I couldn’t pronnouce. So I slipped. For example, I ate chips one night when I was over a friend’s house for a board game night. I had french fries and beer at a Leaf’s game. I ate a nacho dip at a friend’s house for our “family dinner” night. But reflecting back, I know these slips are OK. Because healthy eating is never perfect, and it is important to look at the overall picture vs. nitpicking every hour of every day.

2) Time crunch: The October Unprocessed Challenge made me realize just how damn busy my life is. I work a full-time job, I take on students at my job (therefore doubling my workload), I try to blog, I help my boyfriend with his house renovations, I go to physiotherapy for my knee, I do yoga/workouts 4-5x per week to keep up with my physio, I try and spend time with family/friends and I try to cook everything from scratch. WHEW! When there aren’t enough hours in a day to accomplish everything, you have to start letting things go. Unfortunately sometimes I let scratch cooking go. For example, one week I was so busy and my freezer stash was dwindling, so I had to rely on take-out Sushi and peanut butter sandwiches for lunch. It was tough! It made me realize that there are certain things I will never have time for (e.g. making my own vegetable stock or my own almond milk), and that is OK. Again, it all comes down to looking at the big picture.

3) Feeling “preachy”: I have a tough job. I work with clients who not only have a mental illness, but they are disadvantaged in many areas of their lives (e.g. they don’t have proper housing, enough money for food, have concurrent substance use, are very mistrustful of the “system”). Needless to say, it can be very challenging to motivate my clients to make healthier diet choices. Often, the choice isn’t even there (e.g. a client will be living at a group home where all meals are prepared for them). During the month of October when I was trying to choose unprocessed, local and mostly organic, I sometimes let a little bit of judgement creep in. For example, I was meeting with a client who wanted to lose weight, however was consuming several bottles of Coca Cola every day, french fries, burgers, Chinese takeout etc and was refusing to give these foods up. I couldn’t help but think to myself during the interview “OMG, don’t you understand what poison you are putting in your body? Wake up!”. But of course, I had to stop myself. I was being “preachy”, even if it was only in my mind. This client needed to make their own choice, my job is to help support them in making an INFORMED choice, not judge them or force them to change.

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So looking back, was the challenge worth it? OF COURSE! Despite some of the road blocks, I feel like I gained a better understanding about what my body needs, and how to treat my body right. Moving forward, I am going to continue to choose mostly unprocessed foods. I want to continue cooking, baking and educating when I can about the benefits of choosing less junk. But, I’m still going to enjoy my potato chips on occasion and not feel guilty ๐Ÿ™‚

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