Who is the Extreme One?

Picture by Ramzi Hashisho

I used to take a little pride in not being too “extreme” in my “nourishing” food pursuit. While I tried to cook very healthy at home, I wasn’t against a white sugar/white flour dessert here and there, and I would be willing to have “compromise” food often enough, if out and about. Although overall our diet was quite healthy (and way above par compared to most), I was willing to “fudge” depending on our schedule and where I was. I didn’t want to be one of those extreme “health nuts” who turned their noses up on birthday cakes at parties, and couldn’t get together with other families if they cooked the meal. This was the most gracious pursuit, but not always the safest. While I don’t want to encourage anyone to be an ungracious guest, I do want to point out how the matter lies in our culture today.

When my health starting getting really poor (not necessarily caused by how I ate, but from other sources, such as long term stressful situations for a few years), I really had to swallow my pride and become “extreme”. Birthday cakes were definitely out and I always tried to host get togethers so I wouldn’t stress anyone out, making dairy, sugar free meals for me. Although, I have a few wonderful friends who have graciously been more than willing to cook a special meal for me. There are just a few places that my husband and I can go out to eat now as well (and even there, I feel I am compromising).
As I have thought about being so “extreme” now, I have wondered if it’s really me that’s extreme.

Think about it. Refined Sugar cane has only been made widely available for a few hundred years. And in those few hundred years, it has only been more recently where we have started using it in everything. When it was first “widely available”, it was still a rare treat for the common man.
But what do we have now? An extreme overuse of sugar. It’s not only in all of the desserts we consider normal, rather than special fare, but it’s in everything else as well! It’s even hard to find “health food products” that aren’t loaded with some type of sugar cane product.

As I have had to cut out all sugar cane products and realized how” extreme” I had to become to completely eliminate it , I realized I was not the extreme one. Our food culture is extreme.

But sugar is just one of many things that our culture is extreme in. We use preservatives, sugar, white flour, refined salt and bad oils in baked goods. We pump animals with hormones and other unnatural substances while crowding them in unsanitary conditions. MSG is still widely used in restaurants and in canned and packaged foods. We spend millions of dollars promoting cheap, non-nutritious food, and have three fast food joints on every block. When you look at most of the food on a typical grocery store aisle, there are few items that have even one food ingredient that is in it’s natural form.

It seems everywhere we turn -the stores, the advertisement, what’s cooked in most homes, what’s served in restaurants, what’s served at schools and what cookbooks call for- we are bombarded with fake, “newfangled” non-nutritious food.

So while it may seem “extreme” to go back to whole food eating with proper preparation at home, it’s really only an illusion cast by an extreme culture. We may look and feel extreme, when we compare ourselves to our current age. But when we look behind us, to cultures past, we realize that we are only going back to common sense food preparation. In the history of the world, no culture has ever eaten like most Americans do today. Because I am aware that I am fighting against an extreme food culture and I may have to press hard to make the right changes in my life.

While this truth is daunting, and discouraging in some ways, it encourages me to press forward in my “extremeness”. For all of those “extremists” out there just like me, be encouraged, you aren’t really as nutty as people think you are. For those of you who are not currently working towards changing a typical American diet, be encouraged to make simple steps towards a more common sense food preparation.

In the end, I am at peace about my extreme food choices, because I don’t find them extreme at all. I just consider my choices common sense.

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I love beautiful and simple food that is nourishing to the body and the soul. I wrote Fresh: Nourishing Salads for All Seasons and Ladled: Nourishing Soups for All Seasons as another outlet of sharing this love of mine. I also love sharing practical tips on how to make a real food diet work on a real life budget. Find me online elsewhere by clicking on the icons below!

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Comments

  1. lrimerman says

    Kimi,

    Great post and you are right on. I feel exactly the same way. I compromise less although we still compromise to some degree, especially because my kids are in public school so there are many instances where I just go with the flow and just try to teach them to make the right choices. My middle child is very much into eating NT way and healthy and refuses most of the “bad” stuff. My daughter however, will eat whatever she gets her hands on!!

    The only good thing is that the mainstream is starting very slowly to use a bit more common sense and I hope in the future we won’t be the “nutty ones” but mainstream.

    Lisa

  2. Milehimama says

    This is so true! We can’t have MSG (and calling it Autolyzed Yeast Extract doesn’t change its effects) and it, along with Yellow #5 and Red #40 et al, is in everything.

    It’s extreme when there are entire aisles of the grocery store that do not contain a single thing we can eat. And MSG has only been around since the 40’s.

  3. Mrs. Amy Brigham says

    Well said! I also have to give a big thumbs up to milehimama’s comment. 99.9999% of the foods in the regular grocery store are ones I cannot have due to their gluten and/or soy content. Regardless of if one can eat these two foods, that’s a truly sick amount of them to be consuming, along with corn–the other of the “big three” food allergens. Variety is the spice of life…and a great way to avoid food allergies in the process ;o)

  4. Michele says

    Well said, Kimi! 🙂

    I completely agree. It was sad today while we were visiting a local farm that had a “cafe” on the premises. We thought this would have been a great opportunity for them to serve fresh, delicious food. Instead, it was fried “elephant ears,” hot dogs, pastries, etc.

    Michele

  5. Jill says

    AMEN! I couldn’t agree more. It is so hard to make good choices in such an extreme world. I can’t tell you how often I feel like people think we are odd because of our limitations or food choices. Thanks for reminding me that I’m not the odd one. 🙂

  6. Stephanie @ Keeper of the Home says

    Yes!!! Thanks, Kimi, for this encouragment today. I’m feeling a bit worn out as I near the end of a summer spent bending over backwards and catering to those in my home who consider the foods my family and I eat to be weird and extreme. I’ve struggled here and there, wondering how strange I really am at times, and I hear it often (in the little things that people say or don’t say) in my social groups, that I am just a bit too extreme for their tastes.

    It is discouraging, to think of where our society has gotten to, with all of it’s fake food and false nutrition. Thanks for telling it like it is- we are not the “extreme” ones at all!

  7. Maggie says

    How do we do it? If so much of our food has some form of cane sugar, refined flour, or corn syrup in it, what are we left with? How do busy people on a budget make it work?

  8. Kimi Harris says

    Everyone,
    Thank you for the great comments and sharing your personal experience. It’s so true, isn’t it? Bad food is everywhere!

    Maggie,
    That is a great question, but it needs a long answer. I will try to get back to you soon, when I have a few moments. 🙂

  9. Proud Parents of 4 says

    Well said Kimi – I agree totally! I must say, though, that I have been blessed with people around us who believe in nourishing our bodies and taking care of them and so not only do they not think we’re “weird” but we are able to encourage and glean from one another – what a joy that is! My dh and I laugh sometimes when people see us lugging in our cooler(s) while we travel – you should see the faces. . . yep, we load them up with our organic, pasture-fed meats, organic and straight-from-the-farm eggs, raw milk and cream and all the organic produce and homemade breads we can fit in there! lol 😉 Thank you for this blog and the wonderful recipes you take such effort and time to share – our family loves them! 🙂 God bless you and yours!

  10. Mary (Mary's Nest) says

    Oh my goodness…I couldn’t agree more. I don’t think you’re extreme at all. The other day when I read the ingredients on a package of Thomas’ Toast R Cakes Corn Muffins I was disgusted. High Fructose Corn Syrup was the first ingredient. Even my husband – who usually doesn’t care about this stuff at all – was surprised. I went home and made some homemade with wholesome ingredients. They turned out better than the store bought! For the recipe, go to:

    http://marysnest.typepad.com/marys_nest/2008/08/remembering-tho.html

    All the best,

    Mary

  11. Sage WhiteOwl says

    Yes I too agree with your post and I also agree with Maggie's comments. Many people have LOW incomes & want to eat healthy. Most "healthy" products are quite expensive or not available. Too sum it all up…even cooking from scratch & with the healthy ingredients, is a cost that low incomes can not afford. What can they do? Thanks and I enjoy your blog very much.

  12. Kimi Harris says

    Sage Whiteowl,

    I am hoping to address this later in the week. But it’s true that those with lower incomes won’t be able to afford what higher income families can. It’s an indisputable fact! I know that I sure wish I could afford certain more expensive foods.

    There is no easy answer, but there are certain things we can try to do to have the best health we can afford. 🙂

  13. Watercolor says

    Great post. My grandmother thinks I am stupid and extreme for buying organic produce. I point out that when she grew up on her parent’s farm in the 20’s and 30’s, she ate organic foods…. because that is the way it just WAS. She still thinks I’m stupid, lol.

  14. Sage WhiteOwl says

    Thx Kimi for your response and I will be looking forward to addressing this issue. It is a problem and there are not many “talking, blogging” about it. Living a simple/no frills lifestyle, either by choice or not…feeding a family “quality/healthy” meals is quite an expense and any info on achieving this will be great. I have no real answers since I only have to worry about a 2 person household…and I “chose” to live very simple. But none the less my heart goes out to all you cannot afford “good eats”. THX for letting me vent some.
    Peace from Oregon

  15. inspired says

    Thanks for a great post! I “wandered” over here from mommaofmany’s blog. We started our food journey in 2006, not because we medically had to but in the desire for something better. I have never expected my extended family to change for us, but I hoped that they would not sabotage us. I am now labeled as the “food snob”. Never mind that they are all on atkins and weight watchers and everything else in order to “lose weight”. I am simply making a dedicated effort to change the way we live and look at foods. Very frustrating! You have encouraged me!

    Stephanie@inspired
    http://www.homeschoolblogger.com/inspired

  16. Kimi Harris says

    Stephanie,
    Welcome! Isn’t that funny? People can be just as extreme in the pursuit of losing weight, but not when it comes in pursuing wise food choices for health. 🙂 Thanks for sharing your thoughts and I am glad that this post encouraged you. I partly wrote it because I needed to remind myself of some facts to encourage myself. 😉

  17. says

    I’ve been saying something similar for awhile now- people will ask how I can subject my kids to such an “experimental” diet (I have one son who has recovered off of the autism spectrum, and another who is healing from ADHD and mild OCD, by following the GAPS diet). How is eating actual food experimental? What “is” experimental is eating a low-nutrient, high sugar diet that is loaded with petroleum and neurotoxins- it’s a diet almost devoid of actual food. I’m fond of saying that just because you can eat something doesn’t make it food!

  18. says

    Thank you for posting this! I often feel extreme and overly complicated for others, but I know that I’ll feel bad as soon as I cheat. I’ve started eating whole foods (Paleo-style at first, and then gradually incorporating brown rice and legumes again) a year ago and felt on the first day already that my energy levels restored. I never want to get back to my old ways of eating.

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