Friday, January 11, 2013

Why I Started This Blog

In my introductory post, I said the following:
After years of being useless in the kitchen and generally unhealthy, I got fed up and learned how to cook. These days I have a passion for making good food, with an increasing emphasis on promoting wellness and eating with all the senses.

But there's more to it than that and it's a slow Friday, so let me back track a little.

As some of my younger friends returned to school after their Winter break recently, it made me reflect back on my disastrous diet during college, when I was probably at my worst health.

If the above looks like a reasonable diet to you, I am so, so sorry.

It was 2001 and I was a 17-year-old Freshman at art school. Most days, my diet consisted of 2 snickers bars and three Coca-Colas. Sometimes that was augmented by a hot dog (plain, without toppings) from a street vendor, or if I was really hungry I'd have a packet of unseasoned Ramen noodles mixed with a Thai Chicken-Flavored Lean Cuisine from the closest convenience store. And that's about it. I never drank water or exercised, and I smoked cigarettes to complicate things even more. Does all that make you feel a little ill? It should.

I feel sick thinking about it in retrospect, but I felt far worse when I was actually living with that diet and lifestyle. My picky eating habits had followed me into adulthood and, damn it all, I was going to have a candy bar for lunch... every day. It goes without saying: I had constant headaches from dehydration, mood swings from a caloric deficit, vitamin deficiencies, and if drawing class ran late in the evening, I would feel faint before it was over. I lived in a constant state of fatigue and stress. And I owe most of that to just plain ignorance.

WTF are these?

So now, more than a decade later, I'm talking about food and health in a blog. Why?

To continue battling (my own) ignorance about food and wellness.
College was Bottom for me, but since then I've been slowly moving toward the healthier lifestyle I live today. And the journey continues. Like any life change, being in good health requires constant attention and discovery, and blogging is a great way to chronicle research and track progress. In addition to just paying attention to how I feel, I've done a lot of reading over the years to guide my eating choices. I (along with a little help from Michael Pollan and other food icons) have come up with my own amateur's list of practical food principles that have been working well for me so far:
  • Cook and eat with all the senses.
  • Avoid processed foods when you can get whole, natural foods instead.
  • Stock healthy foods in your pantry so you always have something nutritious on hand to work with.
  • Alternately, don't stock foods that are devoid of nutrition, or on which you're likely to overindulge.
  • Try to find balance in everything, down to what you put on your plate.

It's a growing list, and I'll revisit those themes throughout my writing. I'll update the list as I think of more important points, too. On a related note, it's about...

Holding myself accountable.
Despite all my research and knowledge, I still have moments of weakness. I love my job as an illustrator, and really enjoy the perks of getting to paint from my home studio and travel to conventions to sign and draw stuff, but any sedentary job can encourage bad habits, especially when there's no mandatory routine to your day. In the frighteningly recent past I've been guilty of nearly all of the bad habits that come with this lifestyle. I'm not talking about the ridiculous "oh heavens, I ate some cake!" food guilt that people seem to obsess over. I'm talking about slipping into bad routines like drinking too much alcohol when stressed, relying on energy drinks to get through 12-hour days at conventions, rationalizing buying crap food because it's faster and cheaper, sitting for too long and skipping workouts... that sort of thing. So writing in a blog should (hopefully) help me stick to my intentions of eating and living well.

Inspiring others.
Sharing what you love is a really important act in my opinion. I spend a lot of time encouraging that practice among art students, so that they can grow from each other's passion and experiences. If my recipes, stories and pictures might inspire someone else to go make a real meal tonight instead of heating up something from a box, that's a win for both of us. Other bloggers and friends have had that effect on my life, and I'm very grateful to them all.

And lastly, of course:

It's an excuse to take and post big, sexy pictures of food.
Yeah yeah yeah, I know there are already a million amazing food pics on Pinterest, but none of them are my food pics, and there's always room for more visual goodness! So this blog is my new food photo sanctuary until further notice.

Ahhh, that's better.

If you grew up eating your fruits and veggies and already have an active healthy lifestyle, this blog might be a bit boring for you. That's totally fine. If you're like me, and you're on the mend after years struggling to get out of Candy Bar Hell, then I hope some of what I have to say will resonate with or be useful to you... or maybe you just want to look at pictures, and that's fine too.

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