Over my lifetime food and I have had an up and down relationship. I love the way food tastes, its versatility, and the comfort it provides me. However, food wasn’t always my friend. Growing up I was an overweight child and food began to weigh me down. In high school I tipped the scales at over 200 lbs. It wasn’t until I left the nest and really had to fend for myself that I began to appreciate food. In college I was fortunate enough to get paired up with roommate that would last my entire four years. April could not have been more different than I was. Her area of study – Nutrition. We both had different ideas of what was good (and good for you) to eat, but she exposed me to a lot of things that were outside of my comfort zone. Those four years marked a turning point in my life. Of course, college is a trans formative period anyway, but that’s when I really fell in love with food. To this day I try to cook most of my meals at home with love. Knowing what ingredients goes into my body puts me in control.
My mom didn’t cook much. Maybe it was because growing up, she always ate out. My mom was the second to last child in a family of six. Grandma must have been too tired to cook by then. When my mom did cook, it felt like a special occasion. Most of the time I had to make meals for myself. My diet consisted of Kraft Macaroni and Cheese, Roman Noodles, Butter Noodles and the occasional Hamburger Helper. Basically any item down the boxed meal aisle of the supermarket. At school I bought by lunch everyday. I lived for Fridays when they served pizza. And it was the gross, cardboard looking, state issued, rectangular pizza.
Back then I didn’t ever realize what I was eating. It certainly didn’t entice my taste buds. I was just consuming food to fill time. If I was board, go look in the refrigerator. My first job was at a fast food restaurant too when I was 16. That didn’t help. I had access to free pop whenever I wanted and of course brought home food after my shifts. The combination of all these things had my weigh bollon to over 200 lbs. For a petite 5’2″ girl, that was a lot of weight.
When I went to college things started to change. It wasn’t right away though. I lived your typically freshman year of ordering out, eating in the dinning hall, and having late night 4th meals. There were countless trips to Subway at 2 a.m. It wasn’t until my Junior and Senior years of college that things started to click for me. My schedule became increasingly busy with class and work that I had to start planning my meals. I’d leave the apartment at 7 a.m. and wouldn’t return until 9 or 10 at night.
Another big influence on my food journey was my room mate April. When we met Freshmen year I was a little leary. She’s one of those girls how weigh 115 lbs soaking wet and thinks she’s fat. Girl Bye. But she grew on me. What do they say, opposites attract? We lived together for four straight years. I remember she would always comment on my I’m eating. Especially my beloved macaroni and cheese. April would say, “Do you know what’s in that?”. As annoying as it was, I started to look at the food I was eating. Most of it was processed garbage. She introduced me to cooking. Real cooking, with fresh ingredients.
Senior year we started hanging out with a group of international students. A brother and sister from Nigeria, two students from South Korea and a couple Frenchies. Let me tell you, they liked to drink! Jerry, representing team South Korea could drink you under the table. Those were some of my best times in college. I got to learn different cultures and they all liked to cook cuisine from their home country. Jerry made the best Korean BBQ one night. We setup a grill in the backyard, bought beers and had the whole neighborhood over. Nnamdi and Ada from Nigeria made some amazing curry chicken with rice for us. In the photograph to the left we all got together one night to have a dinner party. Everyone brought a dish from their country. April and I were there to represent the US. It was an international potluck.
Now, I love cooking. I see food in a whole new light. It’s a meal that nourishes the body. Food provides vitamins and minerals and Omega 3 fatty acids. Things our bodies need to keep going. Food can also bring us together. The dinner table is where barriers are broken and conversations flow. Food is nostalgia. The smell of homemade macaroni and cheese immediately brings me back to Thanksgiving at my aunts house. Some of my best memories are sitting around a table with friends and family. Food is pleasure. There’s a reason why we feel better after a meal. Some smells and tastes boost endorphins. Others claim to be natural aphrodisiacs!
Today, I do all my own grocery shopping. I don’t subscribe to any health diet or fad. My trick is focusing on whole foods and fresh meats. The less steps from the farm to my dinner plate the better. Goodbye processed foods and boxed dinners. I also cut out pop and sugary drinks.
My food journey was a long one and it will continue for the rest of my life. My weigh fluctuates, but I feel like I’m in a better position now. From my height, I’ve lost over 60lbs. It was gradual. I don’t ever see myself going back to that girl from high school. Now, I want to learn as much as possible about food. I’m even thinking about starting my own garden. Thank you for listening.
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