This week’s makeover is for the Startup Family. Meet Kim, Jim and sons Matthew (16) and Stephen (14).

How They Currently Eat:

I am so pleased to introduce you to the Startup family, because I admire what they are doing. Mom is aware of just how much their diet needs to change, and I think it is so courageous and admirable of her to sign up to do this Real Food Makeover. Kim, you’re amazing in my books!

Their diet includes a lot of starch and processed grains– boxed cereal, bread, bagels, pretzels, chips, potatoes, rice. They also eat a lot of sugary foods and drinks (especially the boys and Dad), including packaged snack cakes and Coke.

Breakfasts are primarily grains, included lots of boxed cereal with milk, bagels, pop tarts, with some eggs and toast on the weekend. For lunch, it’s a bit more varied, including some sandwiches, leftovers, fruit or salad for Mom, but more carbs and sugar snacks and drinks. Dinners consist mainly of a starch/grain and meat/poultry. Mom and Dad might eat some veggies, but the boys don’t care for them.

Their Goals:

In Kim’s words, “Health and healing!”. Amen to that!

Both Mom and Dad would like to lose some weight. Jim is dealing with high blood pressure, high cholesterol and diverticulitis (and is on meds for them). Kim has pre-hypertension (and is also on meds). Both boys struggle with serious allergies and allergy onset asthma, as well as persistent eczema requirement medication for Stephen.

Kim’s major goal is to learn how to make tasty food, in a simple and manageable way, that her three men will really enjoy and happily eat. If she can get everyone eating better, many of the health problems will start to subside, and then they can tackle things more specifically. But first things first- let’s get them eating better!

Time for Their Real Food Makeover!

Image by bptakoma

3 Baby Steps for Them to Take:

1. Begin to get themselves off of the sugary, processed snacks and drinks, moving towards ditching them entirely (but we’ll start with decreasing them for now).

2. Institute a new rule of minimum one fruit or veggie each day for Matthew and Stephen (corn and potatoes don’t count!). For Mom and Dad, the rule is minimum two. :)

3. Kim has joined a CSA for their produce (yay!) and began looking into grass-fed meat but stopped there. The next baby step in regards to food quality is to get that list of grass-fed beef options back out, find one, and purchase some good beef (or begin a serious savings plan to make a big purchase).

Hope For Those With a Long Ways to Go

As I sit here, typing this post at 9:30pm on a Friday night, the tears are beginning to fall and I can’t do anything to hold them back. It is painful to see a family struggling with what they eat. It is painful to think of the ultimate consequences of those choices, and the daily lack of health, energy and vibrance that they experience as a result. It is painful to think that they might feel stuck, condemned, frustrated, guilty, beaten or hopeless.

I have to confess… when I first began looking at what this family eats, I felt overwhelmed. My first thought was, “I’m in over my head. I’m not really sure how to help them.”

My second thought was, “God, you’re their only hope. Without You to give me wisdom and speak through me, and without your Holy Spirit to minister to them and give them the grace and strength to make these changes, none of this is possible. But with you, ANYTHING is possible.

Quite some time ago, I began a post called “Hope For Those With a Long Ways to Go”. For some reason or other, it got shelved and has sat in my drafts folder for months on end. As soon as I finished praying and began to write notes again, I remembered that old post.

Most of all, I remembered why I wanted to write it– because I used to eat just like this family. There is not a speck of exaggeration in those words. I ate just like them.

Perhaps that is where the strong sense of compassion came from. I know where they are, because I’ve been there. I remember the feelings of fatigue, of pain, of general ill health. I remember the sickness, the antibiotics, the acne, the stomach cramps and pain. I remember hating vegetables and being truly addicted to coffee and sugar and wondering whether I actually had the will power to make the necessary changes.

Yet somehow, over the course of the past 7 or 8 years, I have gone from eating a diet of almost entirely processed and incredibly sugary and chemical-filled foods, to eating a diet of whole, traditional, nutritious and nourishing foods. The girl who considered “eating her veggies” to mean having some iceberg lettuce or baby carrots slathered in ranch dressing now thoroughly enjoys fresh green beans, brussel sprouts and beets.

Image by Stevie Rocco

So what happened?

Change happened. It wasn’t overnight. In fact, it really wasn’t all that fast. It was sometimes tedious. There were many steps forward, and often almost as many steps back. There were good days and bad days, and lots of days that were just in between.

Sometimes it was hard work. Other times the changes felt simple and right and I enjoyed making them. I made lots of mistakes. I faltered at times. I still sometimes struggle (yes, even today) with the desire to go back to old habits, to old comfort foods. Yet overall, there has been a complete lifestyle change. All of those small steps accumulated to become something bigger, something significant.

Today, eating well has become almost effortless. My tastebuds have changed (yes, they really do change over time!). New treats and pleasures have replaced the old ones. I honestly can’t imagine ever going back. A new norm has been established.

For the Startup family and everyone else who is struggling because they feel like they have such a long ways to go, here is some encouragement from someone who has been there before:

  • Start small. Pick a few areas that you know could be improved and work on just those things at first.
  • Replace like with like. I mentioned this in a previous makeover. Switch your white bread for a better, whole grain store-bought brand. Start to overcome a pop addiction by substituting Club Soda or carbonated water mixed with your favorite fruit juice. Love pizza? Forgo the frozen Delissio and try making your own to indulge in.
  • Reward yourself. Bake some homemade cookies to enjoy after a week of no fast food. Buy a new cookbook or something you’ve been wanting for the kitchen after two successful weeks of meal planning and from-scratch dinners.
  • Don’t give up. Be prepared for the fact that you will slip. You will eat things you didn’t want to eat. Get back up again. Keep going. Just pick up where you left off and try again.
  • Give yourself some grace. You won’t figure it all out overnight. You will still be drawn to the foods you’re used to eating. You will still fall back into some bad habits. You’re not perfect, so don’t expect yourself to be.
  • Instead, focus on the small victories… a new vegetable you tried and liked, a homemade dinner that turned out really nicely and got rave reviews from the kids, two days without a can of soda.
  • Don’t give up! Did I say that already?
Image by D Sharon Pruitt

There is so much else that I could say in regards to specific health and diet changes (and rest assured, I still will), but if there is one thing that I feel I absolutely must say for this particular makeover, it is this:

There is hope.

Kim, Jim, Matthew and Stephen, there is hope. You are not destined to eat this way and experience the consequences of ill health forever. You can change, through God’s tender mercies and unfailing grace. Your story does not end here. Little by little, you can and will make positive changes that will benefit you in ways you’ve never dreamed.

Know also that this is not all there is. What you eat and the state of your health does not define who you are.

Praise God that this life is only fleeting and temporary. One day these broken and weak bodies of ours will be replaced with new ones, more glorious than we can imagine, and with perfect health and happiness, we will praise our Savior and enjoy Him forever.

More to Come…

Next week I will continue on with the Startup family, in what will be the very last of the Real Food Makeovers. I’ll suggest some more specific ideas for them, as well as offer them a Sample Weekly Meal Plan with lots of links!

Do you feel like you still have a long ways to go? Are you discouraged about that or do you feel hopeful about where you’re headed?