What Happened When I Stopped Feeding My Body Trash

unhealthy food

“There is no sincerer love than the love of food.”

— George Bernard Shaw

I know few of you want to hear this, but I’ve always been skinny. Fourteen years after graduating high school, I’m still wearing the same pair of jeans.

It should also be noted that I’ve never purchased a gym membership. I’ve never participated in a marathon (or even run farther than the driveway to the house in the winter). And I’ve never lifted anything heavier than a two-layer chocolate cake.

But most notably is the fact that I’ve never been on a diet. Correction: I’d never given a single thought to the foods I ate. Healthy, unhealthy, high in fat, tons of calories…I didn’t care.

I never had to care. If I didn’t need to exercise or monitor my calories in order to stay skinny, why bother?

The Terrible Good Life

“There’s no better feeling in the world than a warm pizza box on your lap.”

— Kevin James

So if I didn’t worry about healthy foods, what did I eat?

I ate frozen waffles—the ones you warm up in the toaster. I ate pasta with just-add-water sauce that came from a box. I ate white bread and peanut butter like it was my job. I had a bag of buttery microwave popcorn every afternoon.

I lived within walking distance of an ice cream parlor, so I bought candy-filled, chocolate-laden delights at least once a week.

The local pizza joint offered three pizzas for $5 each. Every Saturday afternoon, my two girlfriends and I would lounge beside the pool with a pizza on each of our laps.

My roommate walked into our apartment one time to find me sitting on the sofa, using a fork to eat brownies directly from the pan. I polished off the entire thing in less than 24 hours.

That was my life. And I didn’t think anything was wrong with it.

The Day of Reckoning

“I never made one of my discoveries through the process of rational thinking.”

— Albert Einstein

Any rational person would look at all those things I just mentioned and question my sanity.

How on earth did I not see what a mess I’d made of my life? The true purpose of food is to provide nourishment. If a task fails at its most basic level, what’s the point?

I know there are people all over the world who have it worse than me. I bet there are tons of people who would kill for a pan of brownies. They wouldn’t even care if that’s all they had for dinner.

But because I wasn’t living on a street corner or in a third-world country, no one—including me—took notice of my actions. This continued until there was a day that someone did take notice. And it wasn’t me.

I knew a lot of things would change when I got married. But stupidly, never once did it occur to me that I might have to change my eating habits for the sake of my husband.

The first night I put pasta covered in rehydrated cheese sauce—and nothing else—in front my husband, he just laughed. He said it wasn’t real food. He shoved the plate across the table, went into the kitchen and made himself something else. During dinner we talked, and from that point on, I learned to appreciate food for what it was.

I Owed It To My Body

“Tell me what you eat, and I will tell you who you are.”

— Jean Anthelme Brillat-Savarin

Too many people have a negative relationship with food. They worry about getting fat. They struggle with eating disorders.

I wasn’t scared of food. I wasn’t depriving myself. But I wasn’t showing food the proper respect it deserved either.

Everyone knows overeating isn’t healthy. Most of us even acknowledge that eating to stay skinny isn’t a good idea either. But few people in the middle—the ones only eating to fill our guts—realize the damage we’re doing.

Nutrient deficiencies are real—and deadly. They can cause birth defects, brain atrophy, and Alzheimer’s disease. Shortages can cause blindness. Your bones will become brittle and brake. Without certain foods, teeth will begin to rot and fall out.

My body was the one and only thing that I was guaranteed to have for the rest of my life. I owed it to myself to eat better foods.

It’s More Than Just Food

“Food, in the end, in our own tradition, is something holy. It’s not about nutrients and calories. It’s about sharing. It’s about honesty. It’s about identity.”

— Louise Fresco

My food revelation wasn’t totally selfish. I also started to appreciate food as a cultural element.

I devoted hours to the study of global food practices. I sampled different cuisine and learned the history behind it.

Foods have powerful cultural influences. I appreciated learning the story behind the foods—the traditions, beliefs, modes of production, and more.

Traditions and customs associated with food should be honored—especially from countries different from our own. These things are more than just interesting; they should be appreciated and passed along to future generations.

Bringing Everyone Together

“If you really want to make a friend, go to someone’s house and eat with him…the people who give you their food give you their heart.”

— Cesar Chavez

The best part of my newfound food discovery was sharing it with others.

Food became a source of comradery. I don’t think I’d ever invited anyone over for a PB&J on white bread. But once I started preparing wholesome, nourishing foods, friends came flocking.

The dinner table suddenly became a place of conversation, connection and love.

Too many people have unhealthy relationships with food—for one reason or another. I was disheartened by the damage I had already done on my body, embarrassed by my cultural ignorance and saddened by the social situations I’d missed out on.

While I couldn’t change the past, I was so glad my food epiphany made my future more enjoyable.

Help me continue on my path of discovery by sharing your most secret food obsession or favorite cultural food tradition (by the way, mine is pupusas).

unhealthy food

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15 thoughts on “What Happened When I Stopped Feeding My Body Trash”

  1. Kathleen Andrews

    I so enjoyed your article and your humorous writing! Some laugh out loud comments in there. Congrats for finding a new way of eating while you are still young! My husband and I are just starting to eat whole foods, primarily plant-based and we are feeling so much better. Many aches and pains have just disappeared. We are in our 60”s. I love your idea if studying the cultures along with the food preparation. I plan to do this too.

    1. Congratulations on the new eating regimen–and the healthy side effects! It’s great that you and your husband can make that transition together. Good luck! Oh, and ps–I’m glad you enjoyed the article. I liked writing it! :)

  2. I never had to worry about eating neither. Food was never an obsession, nor a problem. I was never on a diet and don’t bother with scales. But when I went through an emotionally stressful time in my life. I lost weight and a lot of it. I had just given birth and was wearing a size 6 pants and went down to a size 14 in children. That still didn’t change my eating habits. Not till 20 years later and menopause kicked in. Oh those hot flashes, being tired and that muffin top! How could someone who never had a stomach have a muffin top, really!! Well I may be a little too late but I have to start some time. Thanks for sharing.

  3. Hey Jessica,
    Interesting article. I’ve actually been a personal trainer for 17 years and have seen all sorts of strange and unhealthy eating habits, but none quite as extreme as yours. I am astonished that you never got to be overweight, although I’m sure your body fat % was over 30.

    I also could eat anything I wanted up until I was in my late 30’s and then it started to slow a bit, but I always exercised. Your genetics blessed you for sure!

    Keep up the good work and on the healthy path!!

    1. Thanks for the encouragement. And yes, my late 30s are right around the corner. If I hadn’t made the revelation earlier, I’m sure my body would have done it for me in a few years!

  4. This was great Jessica, thanks!

    Yes, I find I feel my best inside and out when I’m in a healthy place with food. When I’m eating nourishing and wholesome food and having fun experimenting with different “super food” recipes.

    I find that if something tastes good and then I find out it’s really really good for me, it tastes even better! There is something really special about knowing that we are taking care of and honouring our bodies.

    Thanks again,

    Julia Kristina

    1. I like that…”I find that if something tastes good and then I find out it’s really really good for me, it tastes even better!” So true!

  5. This is a great post. I’m trying to remember that food is just fuel for my body. I don’t need to overfill my tank and if I put in the ‘cheap stuff’ I be sluggish.

    1. I’ve never thought of it that way. Good point! In hindsight, I was feeling sluggish because of the cheap stuff.

  6. I wish I liked broccoli as well as I like ice cream. I don’t. But I still eat it a lot of broccoli. I used to eat a lot like you describe but over the years I’ve had to change. Some years back I came to better understand how food affects our hormones which affects everything else and I’ve worked hard ever since to have a better relationships with food. But I’m going to confess, just the thought of McDonald’s fries makes me drool. There, I’ve said it.

  7. Thanks for your candid article Jessica! In a society obsessed with appearances, it’s nice to be reminded of the deeper (and more important) reasons to eat healthfully. I also abused my body eating mindlessly in my youth. I think about it much because I wasn’t concerned with my weight. In a way, I think being “skinny” can be a liability as it is misleadingly equated with being “healthy”. So not true. I actually got sick all the time as a skinny “junk foodie”. Once I changed my diet, though, I was amazed at how my whole world changed. Not only did my physical health improve (no more colds, flus, etc.) but my emotional and mental spheres also transformed for the better. Good nutrition is so much more than skin deep!

    1. Yup. So true. “In a way, I think being ‘skinny’ can be a liability as it is misleadingly equated with being ‘healthy’.”

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