What does FOOD mean to you?

Focusing on nutrition for the month of June as this is one of the most critical pieces when it comes to making a lifestyle transformation. I used to think that exercise alone was the answer. Year after year, I still was not seeing the results that I thought I would from exercising intensely and eating minimally. The balance was not there and it took years for me to understand that. Once I started paying more attention to my nutrition, logging my food and how my body was reacting to food, introducing more fruits and vegetables and less processed foods into my diet, and educating myself, things started to click! 

Food has meant many different things to me - a means to an end, a part of my culture and environment, a way to celebrate, a way to treat myself, and finally a way to nourish and care for my body.

For a large part of my life food was just a means to an end. I ate at regular intervals (breakfast, lunch, dinner) and knew that it kept me fueled so that I could do the things I liked to do (play, dance, etc..) and learn. Food was also a part of my family history - we were Italians that always had food at the heart of any celebration. Food was also a part of my environment growing up as my mother made everything from scratch and encouraged me to help her cook. We lived overseas for the majority of my life and food was a large part of the cultures where we lived. Every celebration big or small included a HUGE feast! I ate many different foods as I was introduced to spice and unique flavors at a young age. My parents also were adamant that our family ate the same food at mealtime rather than separate meals for the kids and adults.

As I grew into adolescence and began my life in the U.S., I was introduced to fast food and came to enjoy eating charbroiled chicken burgers and Mexican pizzas. I was working after school and had money to spend on food that I wanted. I justified my love for fast food as a means of "treating" myself to foods that I had not had as a child. In high school I didn't seem to gain an ounce despite my poor nutrition. I did spend time exercising at the gym which I am sure helped a little.

As I got older and entered college, however, my choices caught up with me and it was much harder to stay slim. I was 15 pounds heavier in college than I am today and yet I exercised intensely and ate very little with the intent to lose weight and look thin. It was in this environment that I became very aware of my body and the fact that I did not fit the image that was portrayed in magazines, on TV shows. My relationship with food during this period of my life was very unhealthy. I ate like a bird, ate the same things over and over that I thought were healthy, exercised A LOT and could never understand why it was that I looked the way I did when I thought I was doing everything right. It was not until I became more educated in nutrition that my relationship with food changed and this happened during my first pregnancy.

Wanting the best for my baby, I started reading books on how to make my own healthy baby food and came upon an amazing book called Feeding Baby Green. Not only did I learn healthy ways to make food for my baby and a schedule for introduction of first foods, but I learned a lot about nutrition in general started to re-think how I viewed food myself. I came to realize how important food was to the nourishment of my body and the positive and negative effects that certain foods can have on a body. It was at this time that I began branching out and trying different fruits, vegetables, recipes, cooking at home more, reading more, and growing.

It has taken me a few years to get to a place where I enjoy food, I understand the direct impact that it has on my well-being and now am passionate about sharing this with others. I am the most fit I have ever been now NOT because I follow a crazy workout regimen or barely eat any food but because I eat whole, unprocessed foods that make me feel good and I have a goal of moving my body in some way, shape, or form everyday! I have come to accept my body as I have a unique genetic makeup and will never be exactly like anyone else. What I am is strong and that is 10 times better in my book than skinny! I no longer have an all or nothing approach. Food is a part of my lifestyle that is constantly changing. Food is a way for me to nourish and care for my body.

Food is not just fuel..it is a story, a unique story that includes many things to include your genetics, culture and environment. What is your story?