2 March 2014
Can you recall what propelled you to embrace clean eating and organically grown foods? Did it coincide with pregnancy, weaning your baby onto solid foods or was it a gradual adoption over time?
I’ve always been mindful of eating healthy but a chronic health issue in my early twenties really opened my eyes to food additives and the importance of clean eating for my own health.
At the time I was working as an environmental engineer at a large mine in North West Queensland. I worked a 14/7 roster; 2 weeks of 12 hour shifts in a row followed by 7 days off “R&R”.
It was hard work in hot and humid conditions. I was tired.
By about day nine through the roster I would really start to struggle. I’ve never been a coffee drinker so while other colleagues could get through the fatigue by downing regular cups of coffee, I needed something else to give me a kick.
I was also trying to lose some weight (long hours behind a computer and all-you-can-eat buffet dinners at the mine mess were taking a toll on my figure) so it was no surprise that I chose Diet Coke as my heart starter.
It wasn’t too long before I couldn’t make it to 6:30am without a Diet Coke and I also needed a top up at lunchtime to get through the long afternoon.
I’m not sure if it was working very long hours, my growing Diet Coke consumption, the hot and humid weather or a combination of all three but my migraines, which I’d suffered on and off since my late teens, suddenly became more frequent and stronger. I’m not referring to a mild headache, take a Panadol and keep on pushing through migraine. I’m talking about vision auras, throbbing headache, nausea and violent vomiting, take-strong-medication-and-write-off-a-few-days-in-a-dark-cool-room sort of thing.
Initially they only occurred on my days off, so I could manage them by just staying in bed for a few days and no-one needed to know. But after a while, they started occurring at work AND on my days off ALL. THE. TIME. By then, I knew something had to change, fast.
It was obvious that unless I found another job, my hours wouldn’t change. So instead, I looked at things that I could easily control, and my diet was an obvious choice.
I kept a food and drink diary of everything that passed my lips and started educating myself in food additives. I ate a very basic, clean diet and even became vegetarian. I was determined to do anything I could to stop the migraines and improve my quality of life.
Although it had become my vice to get through a long day, it was apparent that Diet Coke had to go. And not just for the sake of my head! The enamel was also wearing away from my two front teeth and my dentist advised it was due to my high consumption of Diet Coke. He recommended I drink it with a straw to keep acidity away from my teeth, but I knew that wasn’t tackling the issue. I needed to give it up.
I went cold turkey for one week, experienced shakes and terrible, terrible headaches but after that week I felt so much better. Liberated even.
I’ve now been Diet Coke, and indeed soft drink, free for 14 years and I will never, ever go back.
While I am aware of non-food triggers for my migraines, the lesson in breaking up with Diet Coke was a very important one for me and certainly cemented the organic, clean eating path that I adopted at that time, and have maintained since.
There are hundreds of artificial food additives approved for use in Australia. Many of these prolong the shelf life of the food, enhance the flavour, or sweeten the food or beverage without adding calories.
It can be a bit overwhelming at first, but I really encourage you to read the ingredients in food you purchase, understand what the numbers mean and wherever possible, eat REAL food and drink water!
These days I am a bit of a food additive Nazi. My drive is not only for my own health, but the health and “healthy eating message” I pass onto my two young sons.
I invested in a Thermomix last year so I can make even more of our family foods from scratch. Despite the almost $2000 price tag I call it an investment because it has made cooking from scratch so much easier, less time consuming and cheaper. Homemade breads and yoghurts in particular are now a staple in our home, rather than being an occasional cooking project.
While I feel ashamed of the high Diet Coke consumption period in my early twenties and the major impact on my quality of life at the time, I am thankful for the experience and subsequent learnings. It really propelled me along the organic and clean eating path that I enjoy today.
Avoiding artificial food additives takes time, discipline, planning and indeed, some knowledge but the benefits are so, so worth it! I wish you the very best as you discover the complex world of food additives and set about reducing them in your diet.
Was there a particular event that kick-started your organic and clean eating journey? I’d LOVE for you to share below.
About the Author: Laura Trotta is an environmental engineer, ecoceptional mum and founder of Sustainababy. She lives in regional South Australia with her husband and two young sons.
20 February 2014
Like every new mum checking out of hospital, I left the ward with not only my new baby, but a decent dose of mother’s guilt.
In fact, in my 4+ years of mothering initially one, and now two gorgeous boys, it’s likely that not a day has passed without me beating myself up about something. From the simple guilt of initially leaving bub with dad for an hour to duck to the shops or gym, to the more substantial “I want to contribute more to society and have an identity that isn’t 100% wrapped up with my kids, but I want to be with them too” dilemma facing working mums, mother guilt and I are, at times, BFFs.
Throw in my Catholic upbringing and my overwhelming drive to want to live with a minimal eco footprint, it would seem that I am loaded with a double helping of icecream with hot chocolate fudge, nuts and a wafer serve of guilt!
While eco mother guilt can be so isolating, I have a hunch that I’m not alone..............
Ever gotten behind in washing your cloth nappies and had to delve into your emergency stash of disposables? Been spotted in your local supermarket buying commercial baby food because you just couldn’t be bothered making any? Driven your car to appointments because you were just not organised enough to walk the kiddies into town in the pram? Or the Holy Grail of eco-mother guilt – gotten hubby to do a night bottle feed because you just couldn’t drag yourself out of bed and breastfeed. I type all of these with no judgment whatsoever by the way, I’m just trying to make the point that at some stage, most ecoceptional mums would have done one or all of these things and then beaten themselves up.
I must admit that despite having a long way to go, I am getting better at pushing aside feelings of guilt when things slip a little. After all, guilt is the emotion you feel when you have done something wrong, it shouldn’t be associated with not living up to your own expectations, especially when you’re giving everything you’ve got!
Last year was a great lesson for me as it was the first time I’ve never really been able to live up to my eco aspirations. Bub no.2 was pretty unsettled and needed a couple of lots of surgery for different health issues, both of which involved a 1200km round trip to Adelaide. It seemed that the endless days of unsettled behaviour stretched on for months and into a fair chunk of his second year. By the time he was approaching 14 months I was worn out emotionally and, thanks to carpal tunnel syndrome taking hold of both my hands and wrists, worn out physically.
I’d always figured that by being super organised, especially around my meal planning, I would be able to keep on top of things if, and when, life threw a curve ball at me. Well I could for a few days and even weeks (I keep a chest freezer full of homecooked meals and rotate them so we’re never caught out) but after a few months, several things that were once in control had to slip. We simply needed them to.
It was the first year we hadn’t planted a winter crop since we started organic gardening 9 years earlier. Sadly one of our two chickens passed away and we gave the other away to a good home. At the time our son was sick, we were running on barely any sleep and didn’t have the time or energy to be in the garden or sourcing more chickens. Instead of feeling guilty or like I had failed in some way though, I felt a combination of sadness and relief. Sad that we had to give up some aspects of eco living that we love and relief that we had given ourselves permission to do so. I knew I was giving my all to this parenting gig and the vegie garden and chickens could wait until life became easier.
I focussed on caring for my boys, putting a healthy homemade dinner on the table each night and keeping up with the cloth nappies and turned a blind eye to our once productive organic vegie garden that now resembled a wasteland and some tidying and cleaning around the home.
And I’m glad I did! I’m not a superwoman, I’m an ecoceptional mum.
A year on, life is slowly returning to normal. We have chickens again and found some energy from who-knows-where to plant a summer crop of tomatoes. Too bad the weeks on end of temperatures in the mid forties wiped out our crop, but that’s gardening for you! On the plus, I’m actually looking forward to planting our winter crop soon with our two boys and having them help care for the plants as they grow.
If, like me, you’ve gone through, or are in, a stage where you’re not living up to your eco aspirations and are grappling with the associated feelings of eco-guilt, please consider the following:
- Every journey in life has peaks and troughs, including your eco-parenting journey. You may need to let some things slip in order to get through the rough patch but can easily pick these up again when you’re back on your way up a peak.
- If you are looking after young children day in and day out and they are fed and clean, you are doing an awesome job. If you’re managing to do this AND put a healthy meal on the table, use cloth nappies, breastfeed or do whatever eco-parenting task takes your fancy some or most of the time, you are doing an ECOCEPTIONAL job!
- Being a mum is tough work. Being an ecoceptional mum is tougher. Make sure you regularly take time out for yourself so you can recharge your batteries and achieve your eco aspirations over the long term.
I’d LOVE to hear your experiences of when you’ve struggled with eco-guilt and how you managed through these periods. Feel free to share below.
About the Author: Laura Trotta is an environmental engineer, ecoceptional mum and founder of Sustainababy. She lives in regional South Australia with her husband and two young sons.
11 February 2014
Cath Lousberg completed Sustainababy's January Endota Day Spa Eco Challenge to TAKE TIME OUT. This Eco challenge encouraged participants to consider where they come in the family wellbeing stakes and make an effort to put themselves first, at least once, during the month of January. By looking after themselves, ecoceptional mums are best placed to both parent and achieve their sustainable living goals without the risk of burnout. This is the story of Cath’s journey.............
The January Eco Challenge at first seemed like an open invitation to pamper myself, and although I think that all Mums are worth it, being on one family income and busy with a baby and a toddler, I was not able to visit the salon or spa. Instead, I took the challenge in a different direction and looked at how I could Take Time Out and set myself up to keep looking after myself.
Two children keep me on the move, but it is not the same as exercising for fitness. To Take Time Out, I have made a commitment to exercise every single day. This hasn’t meant a particular regime (and weeks of +40 degrees have forced me to be flexible), but there is nothing stopping me from doing a session of star jumps and stretches at 11pm if that is the first chance I’ve had for the day.
In terms of cash outlay, this commitment has cost a total of $200 for the season pool entry, a new pair of running shoes (that I will probably mainly use for walking), a decent sports bra and a pair of goggles. I found this to be cheaper than a monthly gym membership, not restricted to specific hours, and better for the flexibility I need to make sure I exercise. None of it left me feeling guilty, as even those runners have helped to remove one of my excuses for not exercising.
I realise that I am a lucky mother to have two children who sleep well. It is such a waste though if I do not, and the biggest reason for this is completely self-inflicted: I go to bed too late.
As part of the January Eco Challenge, I decided that I needed to focus on getting the sleep I need to keep me on my best game. My husband works long hours and enjoys the mind numbing familiarity of the TV. For a while, I have been fooling myself into believing that sitting down and watching with him was ‘together time’…it truly amazes me how successful we can be at believing our own stories. Realising this cycle has released me and I am happy to go to bed earlier.
With all the lifestyle ‘tweaks’ that I was implementing, I was still able to Take Time Out, by enjoying:
- Child free lap swimming, thanks in part to the fact that my youngest is just old enough to attend the crèche at the local recreation centre;
- Home pedicure – I know it doesn’t last as long or feel quite as good, but I sure enjoy having painted toenails;
- Lunch with friends once in the month and coffee every so often with other mothers and ex-colleagues;
- Family walks whenever the mercury has dropped to a reasonable temperature.
This month I have enjoyed Taking Time Out and I will definitely be doing more of it.
Congratulations Cath! It's great to see that you not only made an effort to Take Time Out during January but you've set yourself up to continue to make yourself a priority in the month's ahead. For your efforts you have won an Endota Day Spa Cocoon Gift Voucher valued at $120. This voucher can be redeemed in any Endota Spa across the country and includes a billabong foot bath, dry body brushing, warm oil cocoon, scalp massage and full body massaging. Enjoy!
If you would like to sponsor future Sustainababy Eco Challenges and introduce your product or brand to our large following of eco parents, please contact firstname.lastname@example.org.
29 December 2013
This January, Sustainababy is eco challenging you to TAKE TIME OUT for your chance to WIN an Endota Day Spa Cocoon Gift Voucher valued at $120!
All mums work hard. Eco mums, due to the nature of bringing some tasks that are conventionally outsourced back into the household, tend to work a little harder.
Tasks such as using cloth nappies, cooking from scratch, planning your family meals, walking rather than driving are super rewarding for the environment, family budget and health, but they tend to rely heavily on mum to make them happen.
I know just how difficult it is for mums to look after themselves as it is something I personally struggle with, but it is SO important. If we eco mums don't put ourselves first occasionally there is the potential that we can burn out, become resentful of the extra effort required to live greener, and throw the towel in. To help you look after yourself and achieve your sustainabe living goals, we've teamed up with Endota Day Spa this month to offer you an awesome incentive to take time out and put yourself first for a change.
I'm not suggesting you ditch the family and escape for a week to a health retreat, but instead would like you to make a concerted effort during January to look after yourself, take a break, however short, and be mindful of where you come in the family's well being stakes.
How you Take Time Out is entirely up to you but may include:
- going to bed early or sleeping in at least once during the month
- soaking in a bath
- reading a novel
- having a girls night out with your mum's group
- treating yourself to a massage or facial
Document your journey of discovery through the month for your chance to WIN an Endota Day Spa Cocoon Gift Voucher valued at $120. The voucher can be redeemed in any Endota Spa across the country and includes a billabong foot bath, dry body brushing, warm oil cocoon, scalp massage and full body massaging. If these treatments aren't for you, you can exchange the voucher for a standard 1 hour massage or facial.
Endota Spa are top of my list of places to visit whenever we travel to Adelaide and my husband often gifts me one of their treatments for my birthday or our anniversary. Over the years I have been visiting Endota I have always looked forward to their treatments using their increasing range of quality organic body products, pleasant staff, welcoming organic tea and clean rooms. Endota is a brand I personally value and for this reason, I am even more thrilled to offer the January Eco challenge for you.
Keen to do the Eco Challenge? This is what you’ll need to do:
- Request to join our closed Sustainababy Monthly Eco Challenge Facebook Group here. In this group you'll meet heaps of other like-minded eco mums doing the eco challenges who can help you along the way.
- For the month of January make an effort to take time out for yourself.
- If you'd like to be in the running for the prize, email a short summary of your journey (500 words maximum) and supporting photographs with subject line “January Eco Challenge” to email@example.com before midday AEDST Friday 7th February 2014. Please ensure your summary is grammatically correct as the winning summary will be published word for word on the Sustainababy Blog.
The winner will be contacted by email and their summary will be published on our blog no later than 5pm AEDST Wednesday 12th February 2014.
So what are you waiting for? Put yourself first for a change and TAKE TIME OUT!
11 December 2013
Cathy McNab completed the November Sustainababy Eco Challenge to get her kids grubby. This is the story of her journey......
Finally!! The cold, wet weather has passed (well, mostly) and I can get some vegie seedlings planted. Well, I can as soon as I’ve done this job, and this one, and then this other one….. Suddenly, November is here and still not much has been done in the garden. Arrgghhh!!
But, along came the Sustainababy Monthly Eco Challenge and I was motivated to get my act together. Because not only was I (over)due to get into the garden and get things happening, it was also a timely reminder about how important it is to involve my 2 year old, Miss E, in the garden. I love being outdoors and pottering in my garden and I want to share the joys of nature with my daughters. While Miss Z, at 8 months, is probably a bit too young to be doing much, she still enjoys being out in the garden with me, Miss E and the dogs.
First things first, we needed to dig in the manure that had been waiting for weeks. Luckily, we had some help from the neighbour (also 2 years old) to help with the “dinging” (AKA digging) and to help break up the clumps. We found some lovely big worms, which was a good sign for the soil.
While the muscle work was done by me, the planting, feeding and watering has definitely been a team effort. I have talked with Miss E about what we are doing, and while the technical details might have gone a little over her head, it seems the best way to learn is by watching and copying Mummy.
I think I can safely say that Miss E’s favourite part of being in the garden is the water play. She’s been making “soup” (1 part dirt to 5 parts water), jumping in muddy puddles (that she created herself!) and helping with the feeding and watering. I now have a first class waterer to help me.
So, what have I learned from this challenge? I’ve learned to involve my daughter in what I’m doing in the garden, so that she can learn and enjoy it with me. I’ve learned that it doesn’t matter if she gets dirty – it’ll wash off, and she’s enjoying herself while learning. I’ve learned that things don’t have to be perfect to be right.
And what has Miss E learned? That strawberries taste best straight from the plant. That there are lots of creepy crawlies in the garden. That helping Mum means you get to water the plants – and stick your hand in the shower of water so it sprays everywhere!
And soon, she will learn about harvesting and eating our goodies (hopefully this year she’ll learn to wait until they’re ripe!!). I’m looking forward to some zucchini, lettuce, tomatoes, capsicum and pumpkin with VERY low food miles.
Thanks Laura for the kick up the bum that I needed to get me and my daughters back into the garden.
Congratulations Cathy! For your efforts in giving Miss E her first gardening lesson you've won a Gardening 4 Kids Gardening Pack valued at $94.
Congratulations also to everyone who completed the November Eco Challenge. It was the most popular challenge yet and we received many entries; it was so hard to select a winner! I loved seeing how many of you got your kids outside and opened their eyes to not only gardening, but the wonders of the outdoor world. Keep up the great effort!
Thank you to Gardening 4 Kids for sponsoring the Sustainababy November Eco Challenge. If you would like to sponsor future Sustainababy Eco Challenges and introduce your product or brand to our large following of eco parents, please contact firstname.lastname@example.org.