My journey: how the co-op shaped my future
July 18, 2016
My journey to healthy, organic living wasn’t a clear cut one. Like most of the American population, I was raised on canned veggies, shelf-stable processed food, frozen meat and TV dinners. It was comforting, familiar and affordable. I never assumed food was the enemy or that purchasing from mass-appeal chains eroded our local economy and the planet. I knew wholesome foods and buying local was important, but I didn’t quite understand the why behind it.
My first revelation
My first “aha” moment came soon after I married. We bought pre-made pseudo-foods due to lack of finances and knowledge of how to cook. We ate poorly (meaning unhealthily, not lightly!) and shopped at supermarkets because that’s all we knew. We both gained a substantial amount of weight, and felt lethargic and unhappy. And on top of it, our money wasn’t going to our local economy, it was going overseas. I knew we had to do something different — for our mind, body, health and community.
And then it came to me. Why don’t I just eat real food instead of pre-made, processed food? I took the plunge and traded in applesauce for apples, peanut butter for whole almonds and white pasta for spelt and barley. I started eating “clean” — cutting out highly processed, artificial junk and eating foods in their rawest form. I started shopping on the outside aisles of grocery stores and avoided inner aisles where processed foods lurked. Shopping wasn’t a chore anymore. I actually enjoyed perusing and purchasing healthy, wholesome foods — which not only looked good, but tasted good.
“Let food be thy medicine and medicine be thy food.”
I lost 20 pounds in two months, and really felt good. To ensure I didn’t revert back to my previous ways, I prepared homemade meals using wholesome ingredients and packed them in BPA-free containers every day. I knew exactly what was in my food and had an excuse to not get take-out. A few months passed, and I was down another 18 pounds. Food is so incredibly powerful.
My second revelation
After a few months of what I thought was “clean eating”, I discovered the organic section of our local grocery store chain. But I thought: real food deserves its own store, not just an aisle or two. And, why don’t I shop at a place that cares about me and my lifestyle? That’s when I explored becoming a member of our local co-op. I’ve never felt so in touch with my Iowan roots than I did when I walked into New Pioneer Co-op for the first time. Grass-fed this and cage-free that; it really opened my eyes to what real food should look and taste like. Rainbows of local produce as far as the eye can see, a homemade nut butter station and an 8-foot tall bulk section of every spice, herb and tea imaginable. That's when I had my second "aha" moment. I realized I wasn’t truly eating clean because I was still consuming pesticides, hormones and GMOs — the very stuff that was making me sick in the first place. I took clean eating to a whole new level when I vowed to eat organic.
Losing weight and gaining back my confidence was my initial goal when I converted to wholesome foods and natural living, and it did more than that: from day one to the eleventh month, I dropped a total of 50 pounds, went down five pant sizes and lowered my cholesterol! No pill, shake or fad cleanse aided in my results — just real, organic, local food.
Part of something bigger
But it's about much more than that now. It’s being part of something bigger. I shop local when I can, not only because the food quality is out of this world, but also because I find meaning in it. Knowing everything I put into my body is good for me, the environment and our local economy is a powerful realization.
Today, I’m a huge advocate for good-quality food, and of course the co-op. Co-op communities make sense to me now. A co-op is not just a place that sells organic, natural and sustainable food and products, but it is also a way of life. Customers are more than just members; they believe in a better tomorrow for our local community, nation and planet. I love trying new things and I get excited about making organic, cleaner versions of my old favorites. It’s reassuring to know that everything I put into my body is making me healthier, inside and out. This journey changed my life — and I owe it all to good, old-fashioned, organic food and the support, knowledge and impressive selection the co-op provides.