By Emily Wahl
I didn’t grow up eating organic food. I’m sure many of you can relate to that. As a girl growing up in rural South Dakota in the nineties, the organic food movement had barely reached our radars. Frugality was the first priority, and my mom was an expert at getting meals on the table on a budget. Dinner was often a grilled meat paired with frozen vegetables or the ubiquitous Hamburger Helper. During the day I ate a fairly steady diet of junk food. A “caramel cappuccino” from a gas station on the way to school, or a box of Cheezits when I returned was common for me. The idea that this could be damaging to my health never occurred to me as I was skinny as a rail. But I was tired most of the time, and beginning to show signs of depression.
It wasn’t until I got to college and started developing more serious problems that I realized my diet had to change.
It has been a long and difficult process, but I have gone from being a person who was often stuck in bed to a person who is excited about what is in store for her life
Over the course of my time in college, my health began to rapidly get worse. I knew that there was something wrong, but I didn’t have the words back then. Today doctors have all sorts of words to define us. Words like autoimmune disease, adrenal fatigue, Hashimotos, and SIBO are all now at my fingertips, and I’m just a Google search away from discovering an overwhelming amount of information. But when I started to develop my problems I didn’t have these words; I didn’t have any understanding.
What I did know is that what we put in our body matters, and I had no hope of recovering my health without drastically changing my diet. It was around this time that I began to start researching what healthy eating really meant. With many competing health theories out there, this was quite the process. But all of the health experts seemed to agree on one thing; that we should be eating REAL food! Our food should be coming from farms or be as close to the source as possible. And it should be raised and grown according to time honored tradition, not sprayed with chemicals that are damaging to our health. I began to understand that it wasn’t just about organic, but about supporting a new, sustainable system of agriculture.
Eating organic and local food became about more than just healing my own body. It began to be about supporting the kind of community and culture that I want to live in. I want to know the people producing my food. I want access to the broad array of culinary delicacies that only come within a local food system. And I don’t want my children to be facing the environmental fall out from unsustainable ecological practices.
[pull quote:] There is a lie we tell ourselves; that this will go on forever, and we will never get better.
As I have walked this health journey for over a decade now, there have been many elements that have been essential to healing. I have used supplementation, herbal medicine, therapy, exercise, and lifestyle changes. Organic food alone was definitely not enough to bring about lasting change. But without it, all of these other interventions would have had little effect. It is easy to slip up and eat poorly when we are inundated with the conventional system all around us. But for me, the ramifications of bad eating choices are felt immediately. I could lose all of my energy for days, or be in instant, severe pain. I am extremely grateful to get to live in a place where these conventional, processed foods are not my only option, and I have the ability to access a wide array of amazing local products. Now my diet is largely composed of seasonal produce from Idaho’s small farms, grass-fed beef, and our own backyard eggs.
For me, making a permanent shift to organic eating took a health-crash and the realization that the medical system did not have a pill that would ever substitute for taking ownership over my own health. I got sick and tired of looking at my dreams in the distance and knowing that my body wasn’t strong enough to pursue them. It has been a long and difficult process, but I have gone from being a person who was often stuck in bed to a person who is excited about what is in store for her life. I plan on making my thirties a time of new endeavors and vibrant health!
There is a lie we tell ourselves; that this will go on forever, and we will never get better. But often that lie takes hold because we are stuck in a paradigm created by our dominate food culture. We live in a country that perpetuates illness by making unhealthy food seem normal, and training doctors to only help when the situation becomes dire. I thought I was alone with my problems, but I am beginning to see that I am just one of thousands battling for her health at far too young of an age. We have an opportunity to change the direction of our fast food culture and return to a way of living and eating that will make health the norm and not the exception.