Founder's Note: How often will we wonder "When will I see results? Is change happening?" or "How hard should I try?" Do you hear a tiny voice chiding, "Are we creating mini-monsters who will rebel against our high standards? Or are we raising responsible healthy citizens?" Trusting our heart is all we have - until you meet someone like Julia. It is an honor to feature Julia's confession as one of Savvy's first blog posts, offering a delightful glimpse of what 'can-be' when we embrace this journey.
When I was a little younger than I am now, my favorite breakfast food was a Brown Sugar Cinnamon Pop-Tart.
I would pop it in the toaster and eagerly watching the wires glowing red inside, evidence of the mini oven at work. I can remember that first glorious, sugar-filled bite; the perfect balance of sweet, gooey filling and crispy cracker crust. The toaster oven always melted the insides just right. Most of my mornings began with a trip to the toaster oven. Eggo waffles, french toast sticks, those cinnamon roll things with icing in the middle… I was the freezer aisle’s biggest fan. I was young, I didn’t really care where my food came from, and I just cared that it tasted good. If I ever felt the inkling to eat healthy I would reach for Special K or Cheerios. Because those were good for you, right?
Aside from my blasé, unhealthy personal eating habits, I had never been much of an athlete. I was typically placed on teams with the rest of the kids who the league felt too bad to cut. I was only ever in the mood to play whatever sport I was currently pursuing if the weather conditions were perfect, if I wasn’t tired or hungry or had a lot of school work, if something better wasn’t going on – in other words, I was hardly ever in the mood for sports. During dance recitals, I was typically placed in the back or far corner, to spare the audience the pity of having to watch me maneuver across the stage with the grace and poise of a scarecrow. I wasn’t coordinated or graceful or strong and much preferred to be indoors in front of my computer screen, writing, or drawing, than on a stage or a field.
For me, my transition into a healthier lifestyle began my freshman year of high school with the introduction of two big changes. The first began with a dramatic increase in physical activity. A few of my friends’ older sisters were members of the high school cross country team and decided they would follow in their sisters’ footsteps and join. I thought: great! A sport you don’t have to try out for! I figured it would be an easy sport to slack off during, while still receiving the social benefit that came with being on a high school sports team. The ultimate trade-off. A complete win-win. Until I realized they were actually going to make me run.
The first year, I claimed every injury in the book, especially during interval workouts; I was a world class complainer. I would always be icing or stretching or massaging a muscle because, let’s face it, I was a wimp. And it wasn’t necessarily my fault. I was so used to being instantaneously granted with everything. I lived in a comfortable home with AC in the summer and heat in the winter and a dinner on my table every night. I was faced with little to no discomforts in the past and would easily sidestep them if they crossed my path. “Endurance” was not a word in my vocabulary. Why endure through three miles in the rain after a long day of schoolwork when I could wrap myself in a blanket and read a book instead?
The change spurred by running came gradually. I remember finishing the second lap of my first 800 race, and pushing myself to the point where I could not feel my legs beneath me and realizing just how far I had come from huffing and puffing through my first five-k. This past May I finished my first half marathon. It was not easy. In fact, it was incredibly difficult and taxing and I literally waddled into work the next day. But it felt amazing; perhaps not physically, but spiritually and mentally. It reminded me of the capacity the body has and the incredible ability we are all granted to push through every next obstacle or mile even when giving up seems like the more appealing option. It was not endurance or training that drove me through all 13.1 miles, I truly believe it was an innate sense to push through until the end; a drive that was far more mental than physical.
Around the same time I began running, the second aforementioned change was occurring in my household.
This change began with the disappearance of the Oreos from the snack cabinet. My family had always been a big dessert family. I was blessed to have always been fed delicious and diverse dinners which deviated from the typical hamburger and hotdog or taco or pasta nights many American families were raised by. Every night was something different and equally as delicious. But one thing remained constant: dessert. When ice cream, a usual household staple, was no longer an item listed with the groceries, I knew something was up.
Turns out my mom had decided it was time for a change. A big change. Freshman year of high school ushered the year of “wheatberries” and “lentils” and kale, lots and lots of kale. It began with our food and migrated to our cleaning supplies. Why did it suddenly smell like oregano every time my mom cleaned the toilet? And our wet wipes certainly did not smell like lemon-scent anymore. Tom’s of Maine produced our deodorant and face wash and toothpaste. My mascara was now certified “organic” – I had no idea that was possible. My mom was determined to make this last past a “crazy phase.” And she has: years later the toilet still smells like oregano whenever it’s cleaned and kale apple salad is a cookout fan favorite.
With all of that being said, my journey into a land of toxin free, healthy living is not over. I will confess: I ate a cold piece of Domino’s pizza this morning for breakfast. Do I regret it? No, it was absolutely delicious, and it is a mistake I intend on repeating. I use Tide to clean my clothes. The bottle might advertise the product as “free & gentle” but 1,4-dioxane doesn’t really sound like a chemical I’d willingly rub on my skin. But that’s just the thing: this journey is not perfect. No one’s is. You can’t simply wake up one morning and decide that you will remove ALL the chemicals that could potentially cause you harm from your daily routine. Like Kristi advocates – it’s about little changes. It’s about waking up in the morning and going for a short run, about spraying your pans with coconut oil instead of Pam, about removing that nasty chemical from your makeup bag.
This toxin-free, kale-loving, health freak journey for me has just begun and I can’t wait to see where it takes me.
(Julia and her mom celebrating Julia's first half marathon. )