I started Stepha-Friendly Foods four and a half years ago when real food really was my life. (I was that Facebook friend. You know, the one who only ever posts about food.) I was using a real food diet to solve some health problems and avoid gallbladder surgery. Since that time, I’ve learned and grown every single day. My diet continues to change and evolve, yet still focuses on real food. I’ve seen the benefits of healthy food and the limitations. I’ve learned that the most healthy food in the world is useless when your relationships, career and other elements are out of balance.
I chose the name Stepha-Friendly Foods as a tribute to my college friends who put up with my extreme beliefs about food back when I was still figuring out my own identity. Back then, being vegan was a big part of my identity. A phrase that caught on when my friends would offer me some food was, “Is this stepha-friendly?” It meant, “Will you eat this?” I suffered in those days, not just in a social way that disconnected me from friends and family. I suffered from allergies, asthma, hypoglycemia, irritable bowel syndrome, mood swings, chronic yeast infections and chronic throat infections.
Looking back, I remember how it felt to have extreme ideas that continually came up against contrary beliefs. I immersed myself in vegan books and environmental clubs. When challenged, I became either weepy or defensive. I couldn’t properly debate or change sides in a debate. I spent many hours baking vegan cookies to share with my non-vegan friends, hoping to win them over. I avoided information that contradicted my beliefs. I sailed though my Environmental Ethics class (ironically team taught by professors Black and White) by focusing on the information and readings that supported my own beliefs. I excelled in chemistry and math, avoided dissection in Biology, avoided classes that might challenge my beliefs, even abandoned my pre-med major because I didn’t want to attend a graduate school that did animal experiments.
Fortunately I figured out that I wasn’t actually very healthy. At the same time, various things lined up in my life that led me to try other ways of eating and opened my mind to new ideas. I still believe that animals should be treated well. I do, however, include a number of pasture-raised animal products in my diet. I also discovered live fermented foods. I started with home-brewed beer and moved on to more healthy options, such as sauerkraut, kvass and kombucha. Many of my health problems have improved dramatically. My happiness has probably improved the most of anything.
Nutrition is a funny thing. If you start looking past the government guidelines and recommendations of standard dieticians, you will find tons of contradictory information. You will find diets that are low fat and diets that are high fat. You will find vegetarian diets and meat-centered diets. You will find mostly raw diets and mostly cooked diets. You will find low carb diets and high carb diets. Every one of these diets will claim to help you be healthy. In addition, each of these diets will have followers who have successfully used the diet to be more healthy.
How can there be so many different diets that work? What if the diet I try doesn’t work for me? Does that mean that I did something wrong? Don’t get down on yourself. There is no diet that works for every single person on the planet. Each of us is unique in a number of ways. Plus, the diet that works for you today may not work for you next week. Your needs can change based on activity level, stage of life, chronic illnesses and season of the year. To quote Monty Python’s Life of Brian, “You don’t need to follow anybody! You’ve got to think for yourselves! You’re all individuals!”
In this blog, I get to write about what works and doesn’t work for me and my family. I’ll share ideas and recipes that will hopefully help you find some of your own friendly foods. I’ve been studying nutrition since college and continually finding that the more I learn, the less I know. I enjoy learning new ideas and recipes and sharing them here. My goal is to encourage you to open your mind and experiment in order to find your own friendly foods and best diet. Use what resonates for you, but also try to be open to things that sound a bit unusual. Trust me, I didn’t go overnight from eating a vegan diet to enjoying organ meats. I started low on the animal food chain (chocolate covered crickets, anyone?) and worked up to a more varied diet in a way that made sense for me. Your journey will include different friendly foods than mine and probably won’t include crickets. (I promise to share that story soon.) Your own journey will also involve things that nourish you that aren’t food. That is why I also blog about parenting, relationships, career choices and simple living. Food is just part of the journey. I hope you will join me in this journey and share your own adventures and friendly foods.