Sunday, December 20, 2009

Preface Part I

All-natural eating?

Eating healthy has always been a priority. Growing up I watched all four grandparents succumb to lifestyle-related infirmities, and now witness many relatives whose eating habits have set them on the well-worn track to dealing with avoidable health issues such as cardiovascular disase, high cholesterol, musculoskeletal problems, and even some cancers.

As I approach 25, my creaky knees remind me I am not exempt from the blessings and curses of my genetic history, and at this very moment, my DNA is in conversation with my lifestyle choices, working out the body I have and will have. In addition to inheriting my Aunt Ruth's piano savvy and my Aunt Helen's tendency to kick her leg up and down when it's crossed, I might be subject to the health problems of my ancestors, especially the ones related to the heart. I am the steward of this body, a gift from God, and how I nourish my body enables me to do his work.

Eating healthy has not always been a successful project. College was a colossal failure, apart from the dining hall salad bar and stir fry line. My roommate kept frozen cookie dough in our dorm room freezer, and you can guess what happened to that and why she was mad at me for most of freshman year. Over summer breaks, one of my favorite things to do was down a gallon of fat-free no sugar added vanilla ice cream. It was too bad that the Notre Dame study lounge had a free Diet Coke fountain, and that I brought an empty Nalgene bottle with me to study. It was also too bad us students liked, frequently, to turn frisbee-sized dining hall waffles into two layer cakes with the help of the dessert bar.

My post-undergraduate service teaching experience wasn't a healthy eating milieu either. While community life was spectacular, the six of us were short on cash and time. This lent itself to a litany of processed meals: Easy Mac, Hamburger Helper, pizza, fried chicken, and disastrous dishes from the Three-Ingredient Cookbook like halibut with salsa and Fritos. An eater when stressed, I was also known to chug Diet Dr. Peppers and swing by McDonald's for a Big Mac after a really bad day at school.

Even with all the junk food and the occasional stressed-out eating binge, I felt my eating habits were plausibly healthy. Then I went to Spain, and something changed.

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