About two weeks ago, I quit the Diet Coke.
Like any other addiction, it had to end. Good things couldn't come of it and it was time for me to move on. After 20 or so years of ingesting chemicals, it's amazing that my body hasn't rotted from the inside out or that my teeth aren't jumping ship, one by one. And if nobody had never told me how bad aspartame was for me and my migraines, I would probably be sitting here, plucking away at the keys in front of me with an icy cold one perched on that coaster over there in the right hand corner of my desk, which now remains empty.
Thank god coffee (in moderation) is still on the list of things that are okay for me to have.
Finding the aspartame (and other artificial sweeteners) in the foods I eat (ate) isn't hard. It's in practically everything, even things I don't eat, like the lipgloss I was so happy to find at Pier 1 for $2 (cherry flavored). I wonder if that's going to give me headaches?
It was hard, but I did it. I removed all the fake sugar and sugar-like substances from our house. Yup, only the real stuff from here on out. Because I'd rather have small amounts of the real deal than large amounts of it's chemical imposter.
I am on a roll.
I stopped buying bread at the grocery store.
Inspired by a recipe I found online, I dug out my KitchenAid and got to work. I have baked 6 loaves of bread and 1 batch of rolls so far and have the burn on my forearm to prove it. It's really not that hard. The kids love it, they say their friends are envious of their homemade bread, and they scolded me about buying hamburger buns with preservatives in them - which makes me infinitely proud. And maybe, just maybe one of these days, I'll find a good homemade hamburger bun recipe.
No, I'm not sewing slacks for the boys or making Katie different dresses for different days of the week.
I stood in the grocery store, willing the hands of the clock to freeze for just a few minutes so that I could actually read the ingredients on the back of all the yogurt. Obviously, the brightly-hued tubular kind was going to be bad, so I didn't even pick it up. And I knew the fat-free kind was chock full of aspartame, sucralose, saccharin or some other kind of artificial sweetener, so I overlooked those too. But why does the regular, run of the mill, garden variety yogurt have to have so much crap in it? Why? It's just yogurt! Even the expensive Greek yogurt was disappointing.
Do I have to go to Trader Joe's for everything?
I'm not turning our lives inside out and upside down. I'm trying to make a few better choices here and there, for the health of all of us, that I hope will stick for the long term. But I feel like we're waging a war against everything we've ever eaten.
Thankfully, our culture has begun to wake up (lord knows it's taken me long enough so why not everyone else?) when it comes to the food we eat. Thankfully, there are Michael Pollans and Jamie Olivers out there who relentlessly try to change things. Hopefully, more and more people will begin to listen, to really let it sink in, that we need to change our everyday eating habits to reflect the healthy people we want to be, who we were meant to be. Our bodies weren't designed to exist on 30 year old Twinkies (however nice that may be) or energy drinks with enough sugar to excite an elephant.
While there's absolutely nothing wrong with the occasional trip down the fried food highway (or the brownie express, in my case), it shouldn't be a way of life - certainly not a way to live. It should be something reserved for those really, special occasions and no, I'm not talking about what a miracle it is that you rolled out of bed this morning.
I've heard it said that it takes hearing something at least 5 times for it to really make sense, for you to really understand it. Well, I think my time has finally come. After seeing Super Size Me a few times, reading Fast Food Nation, seeing Michael Pollan speak and read his books, watching Jamie Oliver wage a war against America's school lunch system, and hearing the words from the neurologist's mouth: that stuff is bad for you, I'm ready. Finally.
Bonus? I might have fewer migraines.
Step 1 was to get rid of aspartame.
(I need a t-shirt: ASPARTAME, BE GONE!)
Step 2 was to bake our own bread.
I have no idea what the next steps will be or when they'll happen, but point is - they will happen. Because just like parenting, I can't read the future, I don't have a crystal ball, and I don't have all the answers. I'm just another mother, trying to get it right, and trying not to lose my mind in the process.