My guest post today is by Golden Carter. Golden talks about her journey as a mom trying to make the best decisions on what to feed her family. She talks about the real fear she had about food perpetuated by people like the “Food Babe” and realizes now how unreasonable that fear was. Follow her story. I believe many can relate to her story because I know I did. These are her words and her journey about learning “The Truth About the Food Babe” . . .
I like to think of myself as a reasonable person. I like evidence. I like science. I enjoy reading about the next exciting things in science like “NASA’s New Orion Spacecraft Completes First Spaceflight Test.” I am particularly fond of that one because my son is named Orion. I would so love it if he became interested in space. He is four years old. He could actually be one of those people that go to Mars. Yet I was fooled by nonsense. I fell into a pit of scary “chemicals in your food will kill you!” here or “nitrates cause cancer!” there. Food dyes were going to give my kids ADHD and GMOs were going to cause them to have autism, according to the Institute for Responsible Technology. All of these things were in articles I had read when I decided that my children and I needed to change our eating habits from junk food and processed meals to a more “healthy” diet.
My husband and I started out poor. We were teenage parents. He joined the military to support us. We had two kids and ate essentially ramen noodles and hot dogs for two years. My husband was deployed and returned. Another child was born and our poor eating habits continued. We ate boxed meals like Hamburger Helper, Kraft Macaroni and Cheese, and Rice A Roni. I rarely bought any fresh vegetables. My husband hated them and we really couldn’t afford them anyway. My husband deployed again. I found out I was pregnant the day after he left. I was back home with family throughout the deployment. We still ate pretty much the same types of foods, but with a more home-cooked flare. I would make meatloaves as my mom did. Not everything came from a box all the time. I had computer access much more frequently than I had ever had before. I kept track of my pregnancy progression and had access to more food information than I had before. We were always on WIC before, too, but their information never sunk in as much as what came from the internet. Or rather, it didn’t scare me.
I read a lot of the information, but I didn’t put much of it into use. I don’t really remember much of any of what I read at that time besides the standard pregnancy-related “don’t drink caffeine” or “avoid lunch meat.” It wasn’t until after my husband had returned home and we had returned back to our own home in Virginia that the dietary changes really started weighing on my mind. We rarely ate vegetables and the websites I read said that you were supposed to be eating at least five to eight servings a day. At least one man, Dale Pinnock, believes we are supposed to be eating twenty servings of fruit per day. So, I looked into getting more vegetables and fruit into our diets and that lead me into some things I wish I had never seen.
Personal Note From Minnesota Farm Living: Before reading the next section I felt like I needed to address some of Golden’s statements. I agree there are awful videos from livestock farms. I am outraged by any type of animal abuse. But as I have said numerous times before, the vast majority of farmers take very good care of their animals. I am not editing her story because this is her personal view, but I felt I needed to address issues Golden brought up.
Factory farming. I saw awful videos. I won’t go into it here, but I will say that it lead me straight into veganism cold turkey (pun not intended, really.) This was really difficult for my kids. My husband straight up told me he was not going to do it. So, I spent our food budget on two different meal plans each payday for about three months. Food was wasted because the kids hated it and absolutely refused to eat most of it. I actually did like quite a bit of the food. My husband refused to try any of the meals. We spent too much money on food. At the time, we were in a better place financially than we had been at the beginning, but not well enough to be spending $1000 a month on food. Veganism, and I am not going to say I discredit it or dislike it, had me convinced that I could save the world. I needed to keep eating only plants or it would be my fault that the animals were being tortured. I needed to eat only plants or it would be my fault that the world was going into an environmental disaster. It was at this point that I began checking every single label of every food item that came into the house. I had to. There could be no product that contained animal ingredients. This was time-consuming at the grocery store with four kids, but I did it every single time.
I started shopping at natural food stores. I spent more money than I would like to admit in those places. I fell for the “removes toxins” claim on most products. I switched my son to cloth diapers around this time as well. I still have mixed feelings about those. (TMI moment here) I also switched myself to cloth pads. I do have to admit that I never went back after that. They were simply more comfortable. Sorry, fellow science lovers.
I started making my own bread, muffins, brownies, cookies, and basically any other foods I could to try to get the kids to like the vegan food, but they still didn’t go for most of it. So, I switched back to animal products and went for “clean” approach. I followed websites and blogs that advocated for living a “Clean” lifestyle. Clean eating is eating only whole foods, nothing processed or containing “chemicals.” I was terrified of “chemicals.” Eventually, that led to the Food Babe. Vani Hari is “food activist.” She has a fairly famous blog and calls herself the Food Babe. I didn’t follow her religiously, but I did subscribe to her newsletter and I think I liked her Facebook page at one point, but I never commented on it. I found her because someone had shared a quote of hers on Facebook that said: “If you can’t pronounce it, you shouldn’t eat it!” I thought that was brilliant! Along with that quote, another rule in clean eating was that the ingredient list should be no longer than five items total. So, again with the checking of every single label. I had to make sure the ingredients were pronounceable, and that the list was no more than five ingredients long. Bonus points if it happened to be vegan because I still felt guilty about the animals. I still do feel guilty about eating meat, actually. My husband was a tad more on board with clean eating. He started to eat lettuce more and raw spinach. The kids were still very picky, but some meals were a success like coconut crispy chicken fingers or loaded potato soup in a bread bowl.
Clean eating was all about avoiding the nasty GMOs, though. So, I did that, too. I bought organic food when I could. I looked for the GMO Project stamp on my soy milk. I went to the farmer’s markets, even. I even drove to an actual farm three hours away from my house just to buy eggs.
This was one thing, though, that I wasn’t sure about. Sure, I saw the Natural News articles. I admit that I did share them back then. Even then, though, I questioned some of the things that were said. When people started saying that GMOs were responsible for cancer, autism, ADHD, eczema, asthma, and basically anything else under the sun, I decided to investigate for myself.
I stopped listening to Food Babe. I stopped listening to 100 Days of Real Food, and every other blog and website I had subscribed to. In fact, I went and unsubscribed to all of their newsletters. Because when I did look, I found not a single peer-reviewed journal to back up any of those claims. They used the Seralini Rat study several times as a claim, even though that study has been discredited. Those rats were genetically predisposed to cancer. I lost my critical thinking skills when it came to this whole healthy eating thing.
I drove myself crazy just trying to do the right thing. I was so stressed out just about food that I would sometimes cry about it. It shouldn’t be that difficult to just feed a meal to my family. Yet, these internet “food activists” had me so blinded that I believed it all. I believed them over actual scientists. Scientists are just in the pockets of Big Ag, right?
I will say that I am happy to have made it through that relatively alright. My kids do eat a bit better now. My husband eats spinach. I make better meals and more of them are not from boxes. I am far less stressed these days about food now that I don’t have to worry about every single ingredient coming into the house. I do still read food labels out of habit but I don’t read every single one.
And . . . I just had some Cheez-Its. ;)
Here are some people/websites/blogs I follow to help me through my learning journey about GMOs:
Kevin Folta – Public scientist and educator interested in teaching hard scientific information about the strengths and limitations of biotechnology.
Biofortified – Biology Fortified, Inc. is an independent, non-profit organization devoted to providing factual information and fostering discussion about issues in biology, with a particular emphasis on plant genetics and genetic engineering in agriculture.
GMOAnswers.com is an initiative committed to responding to your questions about how food is grown.
CommonGround – A website where moms can go to get answers on how their food is raised or grown.
This is Why It’s Okay to Feed Your Family GMOs.
10 Things I Wish the Food Babe Knew
Sarah [NurseLovesFarmer.com] says
Great story, this will be shared many times! Good for you, Golden, for doing your own researching and reevaluating your food choices based on science and not fear!
I absolutely love her story. I could not have said it better myself!
Janice Person aka JPlovesCOTTON says
Golden, thanks so much for sharing your story. Having met other people who are truly afraid to eat various foods, I can only imagine how draining all of that was. Congratulations on finding a tipping point and reading up for yourself on the topic. To shift from fear to empowerment on food is incredible! Far too many times I too have eaten over processed foods and not eaten the fruits & veggies I should. Luckily I made that switch and one to drinking more water than soda without fear…. It was just based on health & knowing what to eat. One of the biggest changes for me was around protein…. Eating protein in the morning, a boiled egg or two makes me feel better and helped me lose some weight. Before I go, let me tell you I work for Monsanto and would be glad to. Help with any questions you have. We even have created a website for just that at http://discover.monsanto.com hope you have a great holiday with your family!
Golden Carter says
Thank you! I know Monsanto has been deemed the boogeyman thanks to the food activists. I think I may have read the website already for an essay I was doing on GMOs. I hope your holiday is nice as well. Thank you again.
I loved reading your story Golden, thank you. I wish more people had your critical thinking skills. BioFortified is one of my favorites as well. A very worthy project. I also have learned new things from the Skepti Forum pages on FB. Thanks again for sharing!
While I never went vegan, or stretched our family’s grocery budget beyond what it could handle, I too traveled down into the anti-gmo rabbit hole. Earlier this year I started joining and following pro-vaccination groups. It was my time in those groups that led me to do more reading and research on my anti-gmo views, and while I was home on maternity leave at the end of the summer, I climbed up out of the rabbit hole. Thank you for sharing your story.
Thank you for sharing! This is similar to my story…not exactly the same, but I really understand where you are coming from! Happy we were both able to see through the hype at some point and learn to trust science again! Best wishes to your family.
Jen Hobby says
Wonderful I can relate so fully. Particularly to the poverty diet. I hope someday my kids appreciate that one. Disney Land? IPhone? OR fresh fruits, veggies and meat? The latter has won in our home. And they’re too young to understand. I’ll just add how utterly tragic it is that the pregnant wife of a deployed Soldier cannot afford a healthy diet. My husband is a Veteran, I know. Thank you both for your service.
The Shepherd’s Daughter
Katie Pinke says
Golden, thank you for sharing your story and experience. Wanda, thank you for sharing Golden’s story on your blog! I also was a teenage parent on a poverty diet for a few years through food stamps and then long past it. I appreciate you sharing the journey, details and where you are at now. It takes all of us sharing from our own experiences and break away from the confusion and bring clarity to celebrating food choices! Thank you again. Merry Christmas!
GMO, if I can avoid it, I will. Whou will have the courage like me to say that they are against GMO. As I can see, all the posts above are in favor of that story.
And that’s the great thing about food choices. You can choose what you will and will not eat. I personally advocate for the truth about our food and not fall for the misinformation that is so prevalent.
And this is the great thing about food choices. You can decide what you want to eat or not eat. Personally, I advocate for the truth about our food so moms can make good choices for their families and not be bullied into food fear claims.
Cairenn Day says
Why should we be against a technology that is beneficial to farmers and to the environment, and that is the same as conventional food?
I avoid organic produce, because I feel that the risk of bacterial/viral contamination is too high. I avoid organic meat, because an animal deserves the best vet care available, if they are sick or injured, not woo and wishes.
Thank you for sharing your journey. I hope your story encourages others to overcome fear-based eating as well!
Nelly Kostova says
Well done! But you would have saved yourself a lot of stress if you have started with…the lessons in a biology textbook. I don’t know American system very well but I have seen some textbook for the secondary school and I am quite sure they give enough information about the basic organic substances that build our body, the enzymes we need ( have you noticed that humans lack enzymes to break down cellulose?), the dietary needs of a healthy human, and I hope, something about GMO’s. This plus a bit of thinking for yourself would have done the thing much earlier. Anyway, this article made me think about my approach when I am teaching this stuff- I will spend more time discussing these issues in class to give my kids better basis for their choices. So , thank you!
Thanks Nellie! Hoping this article, along with others, help educate about the truth and not the misoerceptions that are rampant.
I only have a high school level education for biology. My high school biology teacher was a creationist, unfortunately. There was not really anything about GMOs that I remember. During my high school years I was pretty indoctrinated into a belief system that did not encourage critical thinking. I ate the Standard American Diet, though we did learn some stuff about needing fruits, veggies and about the Food Pyramid in school. I believe that has been updated since then to the My Plate system, though. Everything else I learned about was stuff I had to research on my own.
Golden, cloth pads have nothing to do with being sciency or not. I love them, and especially science people should see the benefit: Mainly a lot less landfill.
And you’re so right: Much more comfy.
I personally only have a problem with GMOs due to Monsanto and the horrible way they treat their farmers. But I don’t generally believe GMOs to be problematic.
Kat, I appreciate your comments. How do you feel that Monsanto treats their farmers?
I mentioned the science bit in relation to cloth pads because the “crunchy” crowd tend to say they are healthier due to fewer “chemicals” etc.
That was the original reason I switched to them. I didn’t want the “bad” stuff next to my skin. I thought they were causing me the discomfort. Turns out it was just the scratchiness in general of the pad. The cloth is softer and doesn’t irritate.
I’m not really familiar with how Monsanto treats their farmers, unless you are talking about the seed thing and them only allowing them to use a certain seed for one season. If that is the case, I believe that was not the truth.
Eat real food, mostly vegetables, not too much.
Can’t disagree with that!
Greg Gunthorp says
But this blog is trying to give the impression that eating fresh fruits and veggies in place of the typical diet of highly processed food is a bad thing. Nothing could be farther from the truth. There is way too much highly processed food, mostly empty calories from refined carbohydrates and hydrogenated oils, consumed in this nation.
Charlsy Anesetti says
This article leaves me with such joy! As a producer, and someone deeply invested in conventional agriculture, it is such a battle each and every day just to market our produce as the world becomes so removed from the farm and the facts.
Farmers choose GE seeds from numerous companies, including but not limited to Monsanto. (Syngenta, Pioneer). Farmers sign technology agreements with the companies regarding buffers and insect refuges to prevent cross-pollination issues. These seed companies also sell conventional (non-GE) seeds and organic seeds. Seeds with specific hybrid characteristics have been patented since 1930. This is not a GE issue. Farmers who are serious about production do not re-use seeds because of degradation from year to year, which yields less crops the next year; not worth the money to save seeds even for non-patented seeds. There are thousands of peer-reviewed studies showing GE foods are as healthy and safe as non-GE.
Advice: Shun the woo. Shun Food Boob. Avoid the sanctimonious Chipotle, which arrogantly brags about being “healthy, sustainable, organic, non-GMO, local, natural” and lots of other BS descriptions, and then poisons hundreds of people.