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The Five Stages of Switching to Real Food

The Five Stages of Switching to Real Food is familiar to anyone who has ever gotten fed up with the Standard American Diet. And perhaps along the way, they found their head stuck up their own ass.

real food

Spices, an orange, and garlic. Oh my, I’m so full. I couldn’t possibly eat another bite of whatever this crap is. Oh look I can grind my own spices and use cast iron? Aren’t I quaint? Quick, hand me that ironic old-timey apron and pour me some rose in a mason jar.

Over the last few months, I have been digging deep in my archives and updating old posts. I make recipes printable, clarify directions, or maybe add additional knowledge that I have acquired in the years since I first wrote it. Some posts I republish, and some I just spruce up and don’t announce it. In the end, the decision to promote an old post is made using two criteria: is it something I can take new photos of/improve the old photos, and is it useful to you all. The answer has to be “yes” to both of those things for me to call attention to the post.

As I have been going through this process, it is like reliving my journey to real food. I have always loved to cook – the only present I specifically asked for when I turned five was a cookbook. But how I cook, what I cook, and why I cook have evolved quite a bit since starting this blog. In rereading old posts I can see themes emerging that I assume is not unique to my experience. I have termed it the Five Stages of Switching to Real Food.

Stage One – Denial
This is the stage when you really don’t see anything wrong with what you’re eating. Maybe you are starting to have health issues that are caused by food. Or you’ve gained some unwanted pounds that are slowing you down and you need a healthy reset. But at this stage, you’re lying to yourself and working hard to convince your brain that you’re still 15 and can eat whatever you want without issue. This could also be referred to as the “Cheez Whiz” stage.

Stage Two – Anger
During the Anger stage of switching to real food, something happens to you and it pisses you off at an epic level. Perhaps you watched a documentary that made you think twice about your diet. Or maybe it was a book that led you to examine your food sources and intake. It could also be a wake-up call from a medical professional. In the anger stage, something fires you up and you get a bug up your ass to make dramatic changes.

Eventually, you go through your cupboards and throw away anything some book or website told you was bad for you. Or if a label has more than six ingredients, it goes in the trash. “That isn’t organic”, you exclaim as you throw yet another can of shelf-stable soup away. The food industry and Big-Ag is out to get you and you’ll be damned if you are going to be another nutrition sheep in their overly-processed flock. Your life is all or nothing right now. Food has become your god.

Stage Three- Bargaining
You have drunk the Kool-Aid (but then spit it out because Kool-Aid is full of preservatives and red dye) and are ALL IN. This is your new life and you are fired up about every morsel that goes into your family’s mouths.

Small problem. You never told anyone in your family that you were turning their lives upside down and taking away their favorite foods. You beg and plead with your kids to eat their muesli soaked in apple cider vinegar because “it’s healthy. That TV doctor told me”! You use beetroot and cabbage leaves to dye all the homemade snacks you spend hours making because kids love bright colors. Speaking of bright colors, “Timmy, drink that celery and turmeric shake because we have to make sure we rid your body of all the toxins”.

Kids adore turmeric shakes. Trust.

You spend the bargaining stage constantly wondering why everyone doesn’t understand what you understand. You have read like five blogs, two magazines, three books, and listened to 15 podcasts. You know everything and people would be better off if they just listened to you. What is it going to take to get your five-year-old daughter to stop her annoying crying and just blow out the candle on her seed loaf birthday “cake”. You went to the trouble of pre-chewing all the oat groats before baking it. And the sweet potato and date frosting are to die for! Ungrateful brat.

In the bargaining stage of switching to real food, your Facebook and Instagram feed become a constant stream of photos of your homemade yogurt and granola recipes. You scold people who post photos of their happy kids at birthday parties in front of their store-bought unicorn cakes. White sugar! White flour! Poison. For shame. If only people cared like you cared. Who needs sleep and friends when you can stay up until 1 am making homemade, real food goldfish crackers for your kids? And why in the world does everyone giggle when you explain how important it is to soak your nuts? Don’t they know it is vital to draw out the phytic acid? PHYTIC ACID people. Ugh, this world is going to hell.

The bargaining stage is very lonely.

You’re kind of acting like a giant douche.

And you realize that turmeric gives you the runs.

Stage Four – Depression
Also known as the “but, but, but…Nutella” stage.

During stage two (Anger), you cleaned out your cupboard of anything “bad” for you, and all that is left is a dented can of artichoke hearts and a jar of dried beans that your then toddler used for a Thanksgiving table decoration at preschool four years ago. And you realize that until two weeks ago you didn’t even know how to cook dried beans.

You reread the food bible 15 times trying to find a loophole that lets you eat everything you used to eat. You tear at your hair while collapsing on the kitchen floor and scream “but I don’t even like artichoke hearts”.

Maybe this stage finds you in need of motivation. So far, everyone in your family hates you and even the dog won’t eat your cooking. You look at some blogs or read more magazines and more books for inspiration and you follow a prescribed meal plan. The Norwegian Salmon With Quick-Pickled Capers and Spring Ramps with a side of local organic baby potatoes was delicious. But unfortunately, it took you 90 minutes to make, 120 minutes to clean up your kitchen, and you spent your grocery budget for the entire month on one meal. You’re hungry, you’re broke, and you want some damn Nutella. This is not sustainable. You want your old lifestyle back. You’re hungry. This sucks.

And turmeric is still giving you the runs.

Stage Five – Acceptance
Also known as the “I got this” stage.

At some point between trying to enjoy that can of artichoke hearts, and foraging for nettles and mushrooms, you threw up your hands. You realized that you need a way of eating that is a lifestyle change and not a quick fix. You can’t go balls to the wall anymore, but you don’t want to go back to daily fast food and food that made you feel sluggish and cruddy. Perhaps you google “switching to real food for real people”. And maybe, just maybe, you find yourself on my site.

Acceptance is the stage where you realize it doesn’t have to be all or nothing. You don’t have to be in it to win it. Your life can exist at the intersection of healthy food and some other stuff. You can be a normal person in a normal life and still eat real food. You don’t have to spend hundreds of dollars per week on food and have an empty soul.

This stage is the fun one. You can go out to dinner or a BBQ and not feel panic. You can go to a friend’s house for dinner and not stress about what they are serving. You can eat your favorite cheat foods and still hold your head high. Acceptance is all about balance and grace. Grace for yourself and grace for others. And maybe some fun experimentation. Who knew you liked beets? Look at you trying new things. You’re rocking life.

The Five Stages of Switching to Real Food are something that plays out time and time again. It is a pretty familiar pattern to anyone who has felt inspired and gone through a food transformation. Each stage is important because, in the end, it brings you to where you should be – at the crossroads of eating really healthy quality food that doesn’t break the bank…and enjoying that spoonful of Nutella that was calling your name.

 

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12 comments on “The Five Stages of Switching to Real Food”

  1. This cracked me up! For us there have been a few extra stages, like… What do you mean you all of a sudden can’t eat almonds? Everything I bake is with almond flour!!! And also, What do you mean you developed a sever allergy to eggs at the age of 37? How the hell am I suppose to cook gluten free, dairy free, egg free food!
    Ugh. We are currently in the sage of- I know better than to eat this crap, but my give-a-damn is busted so we are eating it anyway.
    We are slowly getting back to eating more real food, but it’s taking a while. I’m ok with that for right now.

  2. This is so awesome and why I have loved your site for years! Thanks for being so hilarious and poignant no matter what the topic. You keep us all sane!

  3. Oh may I remark how funny you are lady…. loved it, what a hilarious way to look at the food dilemma we all seem to be having lately. I do have to say though the other thing I do when I am in the grocery store … I judge (in my head) the person or persons buying the horrible pre-packaged food and preservative ridden items that the grocery store sells and promotes actually. I shouldn’t judge these people, but dang, when do they get themselves educated?… seems like never since it is always the cheapest or the up front items that grab people’s attention and their kids begging for the “–rap”… I also have to say I live in a very high-cost area for food, which is sad, since we can grow almost everything here and not rely on pre-formed, pre-flaked, preservative ridden “..rap” we call “food” really…. it’s disheartening, but thanks for your words, which always entertains me to no end.

  4. Oh may I remark how funny you are lady…. loved it, what a hilarious way to look at the food dilemma we all seem to be having lately. I do have to say though the other thing I do when I am in the grocery store … I judge (in my head) the person or persons buying the horrible pre-packaged food and preservative ridden items that the grocery store sells and promotes actually. I shouldn’t judge these people, but dang, when do they get themselves educated?… seems like never since it is always the cheapest or the up front items that grab people’s attention and their kids begging for the “–rap”… I also have to say I live in a very high-cost area for food, which is sad, since we can grow almost everything here and not rely on pre-formed, pre-flaked, preservative ridden “..rap” we call “food” really…. it’s disheartening, but thanks for your words, which always entertains me to no end.

  5. I had a good laugh, too. Not to be smug, but only to say I dodged a bullet: I skipped parts (only parts) of stages 2, 3 and 4, but only because I am a pessimist (I’m an eye roller, too) and know myself so well. I KNOW what I am willing to give up and what I am not willing to give up. I KNOW what reasonable substitutions are for our family. I was all “PHYTIC ACID?” – and I find alarmist books annoying. Anyway, we’ve mostly just consumed “real food” all along because it’s less expensive than processed food. The weirdest diet we were ever on was the “One dollar and under” diet we were on in the 80’s. We didn’t eat anything that cost more than $1 per pound. But that was a going from two incomes to one with the first child economic thing. Now, it’s more an “all things in moderation” attitude. Heath issues limit alcohol and caffeine, and a few other lesser things. I will die an earlier death due to cheese addiction, and I am fine with that. A person has to have something, and Nutella doesn’t do it for me.

    I’ve seen all the changes and the huge amount of effort you’re putting into your blog – GO GIRL.

    I am sorry for the losses you’ve had and am so empathetic about all those feelings.

    It’s good that you have such a great sense of humor.

    • $1 diet? I can’t say I have ever heard of it, but it doesn’t sound like it was lasting option for anyone. Yikes!

      I had to be dairy-free for both Jack and Bennett for a time, and not having cheese was one of the saddest things in the world.

      Thank you so much for being a long-time reader and for the kind word about the changes. I’m working very hard, but it doesn’t feel like work because it is so rewarding and fun!

  6. Haaaaa! I about died, I went through each of those stages. Fed one of my kiddos a cheap hotdog the other day and he totally didn’t die contrary to what all the documentaries have told me (and, gosh, I seriously do love those food docs!). I got a kick out of the loophole part. I’m always like, ‘pretty sure they forgot to mention diet coke and alcohol are just fine!’. I did eventually give up pop. Not the alcohol…..I blame my children for that one though ;p

    • I used to watch Jack eat something junky, and I thought I could literally see his body absorbing the chemicals.

      I’m fairly certain that most medical experts recommend alcohol in moderation, especially red wine. I think you’re just being healthy.

  7. OMG, I made the mistake of reading this when I got to work this morning. I was trying really hard to stifle my laughter, crying cause I was laughing so hard. I\’ve been reading your blog for years & this was one of the funniest & truest (is that even a word?) things I\’ve read. Thanks for the laughs & making me feel ok about the struggle 🙂