Congratulations on reaching the halfway point! Any stories you’d like to share on what you’ve experienced in these 6 weeks?
Lori: Thanks. It has been a learning experience for sure. As a family, we have been very strict as to what we use for our meals. The kids often look for something more familiar, and sometimes it leads to two versions of meals being prepared. My blood sugar is consistently below seven without any medication which is a huge accomplishment for me. I have lost a few pounds and my clothes are fitting differently. I know also that we have inspired others to try the foods and be supportive by not offering items that are not on the list.
Doug: Cutting up a deer for the first time with my nephew Blake. Gives you more appreciation for the food you eat and where it comes from.
Kenzie: I don’t have any stories because I’m a plain and boring person in general. I really want some wild strawberries.
Michele: Partridge soup. It took an entire afternoon to make. I invited my mother for supper and she talked about how her father hunted and her mother cleaned and cooked the animals. Partridge soup was one of the things my grandmother made well. Everyone liked the meal that night. It felt like a bridge to the past was built while sharing stories over a bowl of soup.
Kitty: I am so glad to be able to say I have made it halfway. I just want to share the appreciation I have for eating regular meals. It took only a few weeks for my body to want breakfast (something I never ate) and to look forward to meals that are filling not just to my body but also my soul. I have slowed down and sit down to eat, chat and enjoy the people sharing a meal with me.
Rick: The biggest challenge was to overcome the stress of doing this: What am I going to eat? Where do we find these foods? Will I crave the colonized foods? However, once I got my mind wrapped around it, I experienced a deep sense of optimism. I can now see that it is possible to truly change my relationship to food, focusing on the foods that the Creator provided to our ancestors, and enjoy the diverse flavours of these foods. We used to hear that food tastes better because of the love that the cook puts into it. That is very true in this challenge.
Lindsay: This period of my life has been especially challenging due to unforeseen circumstances that were rather overwhelming. I had no idea if even participating in this challenge was going to be possible as stress and anxiety affect my health much more acutely then it does those who are not chronically ill.
In learning about who I am in the midst of obstacles and almost insurmountable challenges, I find I’ve learned to love myself in ways I’ve never known before. To keep present in this challenge, I had to reach out to supports, create a plan for self-care, and build a sense of community. For me this became about much more then food, it became about what sharing, receiving and nourishing look like while aligning oneself with “tradition”. Food is a medicine and it is spiritual, it has connecting power that we see across the spectrum of our ceremonies and prayers.
I feel nourished, supported, beautiful even! I am at a point in the challenge where I can join the other participants in creating lovely (and at times experimental) meals while also reconnecting with my body in healthful ways.
Kylee: Thanks! One of the best things about doing this challenge while working at Everlasting Tree School is the kids are intrigued about it. They are wanting to learn more about why it’s so important for us to eat nutritious food. We had a talk the other day about heart health because different family members of theirs have had heart attacks in the past. Seeing their thirst for knowledge and wanting to take care of their own heart at five years old is really encouraging.
Jenyka: I don’t have any stories to share yet.
For those following at home, do you have any advice or tips on what has helped you through these first few weeks of the Healthy Roots plan?
Lori: One of the things that we did was to stay firmly within the allowable items for our meal preparation. This will allow us to see what being strict does for our health and wellbeing. Then, once we know, we can experiment later, once the challenge is done as to what the more familiar foods do to how we feel. One struggle we have faced is to figure out where to access the items on the list, how to prepare them and creative ways of increasing the flavours. I think to make this more accessible to the community members following along – this should be shared openly. I think my best advice is to be clear in your own reasons for taking on a challenge and understand that you are only accountable to yourself. Everyone must take the responsibility for their own health and wellness in all ways – physical, emotional, psychological, spiritual and social. But together we can help support each other through it.
Doug: With the food it’s just trial and error, and I think people already know what is good for you. And I know it’s hard in the beginning to change how you eat and think. If I can do it, anybody can.
Kenzie: My advice is to start with strawberries because strawberries are awesome.
Michele: I’m so glad we’re taking on “The Challenge” as a family. I imagine it would be hard to get through it alone in the midst of family members obsessed with pork, pizzas, and pockys. To anyone with the courage to take on the challenge, I say take it on as a family or with a dedicated circle of friends. Challenges are easier when you’re surrounded by support.
Kitty: For all you folks following along at home — BRAVO! I want to share this with you: talk to everyone about recipes and new ways to prepare your food. That will keep you from getting in a rut of eating the same thing over and over again. Also, ask the folks doing the challenge what they are preparing and how. Support each other and please post on the Healthy Roots page what you are doing to join in. Tell everyone what you changed because small changes are impactful too. Did you add a new veggie, eat breakfast every day, went without sugar one day a week? All of those changes help you to become a better healthier you and might inspire someone else!
Rick: This requires some reasonable substitutes as we work towards a traditional Haudenosaunee diet. Not all the foods on the list are readily available. I haven’t hunted, fished or gathered all the foods in advance of the challenge. Next season, I would plan ahead and make sure that we have a wider variety of traditional foods stored, dried or canned without preservatives. Collection of fiddleheads, wild onions, wild leeks and edible mushrooms would have helped. We also could have used more help from our hunters and fishermen willing to share their bounty.
Lindsay: We all have our own set of micro-challenges when changing our lifestyles! My advice would be to embrace these challenges, don’t feel lesser for having them! We are all doing the best with what we have and it feels awesome to just accept yourself for everything you are without shaming yourself for not doing “good enough”. Start from where you are now and know that every movement forward is moving forward regardless of how big or small it is.
Kylee: One thing that has helped me these past few weeks has been meal planning. I noticed on the days I have everything planned out, it is much easier to stick with the challenge than the days I throw things together.
Jenyka: I have been packing my lunches the night before. I also had some help from the dietitian with what to cook and how to cook from the Healthy Roots list. Attending some cooking classes in the community could help with figuring out what to cook.
Are your goals still the same as when you started? Has anything changed or been added to what you’d like to accomplish?
Lori: My goal from the start was to take on the challenge as a role model and to show everyone it is possible to stop drinking soft drinks and stop eating the five white gifts. I have had health benefits from the changes to my daily intake and people are starting to notice and mention the changes, which is encouraging.
Doug: My goal was to improve my way of thinking. There is less commotion in my brain. I can think of one thought and not be distracted by other thoughts. The many voices have stopped (ha, ha). Many aches and pains have gone away as well.
Kenzie: My goal was to lose weight and feel better and I have lost weight and do feel better! I have added a new goal to walk at least 5 000 steps a day.
Michele: My goal is still pretty much the same, to eat Haudenosaunee foods and be more active to see just how my body and mind react to the change. A new goal to be added in February is to practise dancing once a day. My sister sent me a jingle dress not too long ago and it’s about time I stop neglecting it. Another is to catch a small game animal this month to clean, prep, and cook all on my own. Can’t get any fresher than that.
Kitty: My goals were esoteric — to be healthier, live longer and be fit. I have narrowed them down more, to be overall healthier, mind, body and spirit. Enjoy the connections made while preparing, eating and enjoying food. I find meals to be more social now. I’m not just eating because I need to, but because I am looking forward to it. Especially breakfast — starting my day being grateful and thankful for all that I have.
Rick: My goals have remained unchanged: meeting the challenge as faithfully as I can; change my thinking around food; and reducing my medications for diabetes, high-blood pressure and cholesterol. My fourth goal was to lose 20 pounds and I’m half way there.
Lindsay: My goals haven’t changed per say but they have been refined! Rather than clinically managing chronic illness with food alone (because with all my research and knowledge on food and chronic disease, until now I was fixated on “health concepts” with food), I’m realizing how incredible the mind is. What does having a “good mind” really mean? It’s a deep lifelong exploration of who you really are, loving all your perceived flaws, expanding that love to all around you and using that good mind to heal yourself.
Kylee: My goal of overall health has remained the same, the only change is that I want to focus more on my mental and emotional well-being.
Jenyka: I have almost achieved one of my goals. My biggest goal was to be better at meal preparing and it has been a lot better. I think for the rest of the challenge is to really get into trying different meat.