It is amazing to me that what I write here can have such a tremendous impact on people’s lives without me even knowing. I got an email from an old friend a few weeks ago telling me how much Summer Tomato has influenced her life over the past year, and I was so touched by her story I asked if she wouldn’t mind sharing it here to inspire others.
Virginia Griffey is an editor in Oakland. She spends her time running, snowboarding, cooking, and hanging out with her friends and dog, Pebbles. Virginia is currently training for her third marathon while trying to raise $1,500 for The Leukemia & Lymphoma Society. Donations of any size are greatly appreciated.
Follow her on Twitter @virginiagriffey.
A Year Of Summer Tomato Inspiration
by Virginia Griffey
A few months ago, while enjoying a delicious dinner I’d made of steak, roasted potatoes and chard, I realized just how effective Summer Tomato had been in helping me become a healthier person. I discovered Summer Tomato last October after getting in touch with Darya again over Facebook. I checked out her blog and immediately was hooked.
I’ve spent the past year developing my own healthstyle based on numerous tips from Darya. Now I weigh 22 pounds less, I feel a lot more energetic, I’m a better athlete and I’ve tried a bunch of new vegetables that I never would have thought to eat.
When I came across Summer Tomato, I’d been wanting to lose some weight for a while. I ran my first marathon in October 2008, and I gained five pounds while training. I hear a lot of people say they run so they can eat whatever they want, and that’s the way I had been thinking. Clearly, eating whatever I felt like didn’t work, regardless of how much exercise I was doing. It took my 150-pound body nearly seven hours to complete the marathon. I knew losing weight would make me faster and less likely to get injured.
I’d also been curious about eating and its effect on health. Another thing I hear a lot of people say: “I’m only going to live once, so why restrict what I eat and drink? I’d rather die a little younger and happier than live to an older age while not really enjoying life.” I think what many of these people don’t understand is that when you die younger because of diseases that often are tied to nutrition (cancer, heart disease, diabetes, etc.), it’s not a quick death. It’s a slow, painful process of hospitalization, surgery, expensive medical bills, stress for you and your family, and the inability to do the things you once loved.
I know this from experience because I’ve had to deal with several kinds of cancer, heart disease, diabetes and stroke in my own family. I’ve seen the attendant suffering, and it’s not something I want to go through as I get older, nor is it something I want my family to have to worry about.
The first thing Summer Tomato helped me change was the way I thought about eating healthfully. Diets are restrictive. People give up on diets or can’t maintain their weight loss, because of the restrictions. I don’t think about restricting myself. I think about what kinds of delicious foods I can add to my diet. I think about simple ways to integrate nutritious foods into what I’m already eating. For example, I’ve often turned to legumes and rice as a simple meal for eating at work. Instead of starting over from scratch, I began to add vegetables to the dish or bring a salad as well. Later, I started cooking new kinds of dishes that were based on vegetables.
Darya also has helped me understand the importance of meal planning. If I take the time on weekends to think about meals for the upcoming week and go grocery shopping, I’m set. Breakfast is usually steel-cut oatmeal with plain full-fat yogurt and fruit or muesli with yogurt and fruit. Lunch is usually a salad (greens, nuts, dried fruit, homemade vinaigrette and occasionally some cheese as a treat) and a one-pot meal like a soup or stew that I made myself over the weekend. Dinner can be a wide range of things depending on what groceries I’ve picked up. One of my favorites is fried eggs on top of chard.
There are plenty of things I need to work on: eating slowly, shopping more at farmers markets (Summer Tomato did inspire me to visit Oakland’s Grand Lake farmers market for the first time after living nearby for more than a year), avoiding the processed foods that beckon from around the office (they’re rarely as good as I think they’ll be), planning meals based around what I’ve bought rather than buying food based on meals I’ve planned. I have been making slow progress on these things, and that’s what is so great about the Summer Tomato Philosophy. It’s all about making gradual, small, permanent changes rather than doing a whole bunch at once and then going back to your old ways.
I’ve made so much progress in the past year. I weigh about 128 pounds, but I’m wearing clothes sizes that I wore when I weighed 110 in high school, so I know the weight lifting has built up lean muscle that’s keeping my metabolism up and giving me sexier arms and legs, and a thinner physique. I finished my second marathon about 40 minutes faster than my first, and I’m training for my third marathon now. I’m really enjoying what I’m eating, which is essential to eating healthfully. I’m cooking a lot more, and I’ve found great joy in cooking for myself–though it’s fun to impress my friends with amazing and simple dishes too.
Here are some more of the wonderful things Darya has brought to my life:
Delicious foods I’ve started eating: sardines, fennel, chard and fried eggs with smoked paprika.
Exercise: weight training. I had been doing this consistently for a few months before I found Summer Tomato, but Darya’s discussion of its benefits has kept me committed.
NEAT: I wear a pedometer now, at least on weekdays. I know I get a lot of exercise on my own, but my goal is to make sure I’m not otherwise sedentary, so I don’t count my running. Things like giving my dog a long walk every day and walking up one floor to use the restroom at work go a long way.
Knowledge: I know a lot more now about how the foods I eat affect my health and how the industrial food system affects my health, public health and the environment. Darya has inspired me to go beyond what I read on Summer Tomato and pay more attention to food-related news. I even went on a Farm to Fork Tour a couple of weeks ago in Brentwood, where I learned more about local agriculture and sustainable farming–and ate delicious food!
Darya’s dedication to Summer Tomato has improved my health and my life. I’m not missing out on anything by choosing to eat nutritious food. I want to enjoy a long life of running, snowboarding, cooking and eating amazing meals, and spending time with family and friends. What I’ve learned on Summer Tomato is helping me do just that.