When I was a little girl I remember these simple words my grandmother said to me.
Anna Van Dyken is Feed Me Healthy: Author, WW Ambassador, and everyone’s Friend.
“You don’t need a lot of ingredients to make good food tasty, you just need seasonal fresh food and a few things in the pantry to make the basics”
and I still live by these wise words.
You see my grandparents came from a generation where you just made do with what you had, and that wasn’t always much. I remember the back yard was a magical place that my grandfather grew everything seasonally each year as that’s what they were taught to do from generations past. My grandfather and I harvested many delicious fruits and vegetables and handed them over to my grandmother and I watched her cook them into family feasts. I was always in awe of my grandmother, watching closely being always by her side in the kitchen as she made the most simplest of meals for the family with basic pantry staples and fresh vegetables from the garden! Quite often, the chicken as well they kept them back then in the back yard. I even learned to pluck one, but that’s another story.
My Grandmother making past with my Great-Grandmother, Grandfather and Mum
These memories are not only vivid in my mind but etched in my soul and reminds me of my Italian heritage. As a child, and right into my teens and adulthood, my grandmother was not just my Nonna, but also my influencer, my teacher and my friend. Everything I know about cooking, came from her. The passion, the love of family and the generosity of sharing with others. I wanted to be just like her. I will always be grateful to her for everything she taught me, right up until the day she took her last breath.
My love of food has always been associated with emotion. Love, happiness, contentment, sadness & grief, all through my life. I’m sure as a people we can all relate to that in some way. I don’t think I’m alone.
My grandmother fed her family with love, and this association was also passed onto not only me, but other family members as well. Both sides of my family, mum & dads were much in the same when it came to food. So, in turn I passed this “traditional love” onto my own family.
The mentality was, the more we homecooked, the more love we are showing. Knowing it was a wonderful thing, but not realising the vast amount was actually doing us so much harm as we were also not really taught any self-control. This was a problem all through my childhood right up into my adulthood, until the decision was made to change.
There were a few “attempts” to change to healthier options, and decrease the portions I was eating, but nothing ever lasted long. Food unfortunately was just that good, and my taste buds controlled everything I consumed.
As I got older, I fell in love with baking which led to overconsumption of all things sweet. Weekends were filled with challenges to bake the most fabulous cakes, biscuits, and sweets. My sister & I of course enjoying the fruits of our labour and wanting to impress our mum, we got better and better at it, and my weight increased more and more. It didn’t help that she didn’t have a weight problem either. But again, the emotion of being happy and baking with a sensory overload of delicious smells and all things good, were more important than my health.
My first serious attempt of ever losing any real weight came after I met my then boyfriend who asked me to marry him. I wanted to look good for my wedding. This was the first time I ever went to what was known then as Weight Watchers. Both of us, did it together, and successfully lost kilos together within a few months of following the program.
Married life of course was blissful, and full of lavish meals to impress my new husband. The kilos came Back on.
My Amazing Sister Christina
My only sister had been diagnosed with Terminal cancer at this time in my life and my focus was elsewhere. We indulged in everything food, as it was comforting. We were the best of friends not just sisters. We always had each other. Family is Everything to me. The best years of my life were spent with her.
The battle she had was 6 years long, excruciatingly hard, and distressing to watch her go through, remissions for short periods of time only for the cancer to come back more aggressively. More times than not, it was so depressing, feeling helpless watching her battle for her life. The one wish that was not fulfilled as yet was making her an Aunt. She sadly lost her battle before that happened at a tender age of 24. My life was beyond shattered.
The weeks following her death were hard, in fact the hardest of my life and I didn’t know how I was going to deal with it to be honest. To this day, I think that she sent down a gift, one that I’ve held onto tightly and am forever grateful for. You see, I lost my sister on January 19, 2001, and 2 months later, just before Easter, the first “celebration “without her, I found out I was pregnant. It was bittersweet at the time, emotions were high with mixed feelings of happiness and sadness. Her and my wish had finally come true, but she wasn’t here to celebrate that. However, this was how I and in fact my whole family got through the early grieving stage.
THE GIFT OF LIFE
Ethan was born the same year, just before Christmas. Yet another first without my sister, but the focus of course was on the gift of that tiny life, and that healed the hole in all our hearts, not fully, but a little more.
As the years passed, I stayed at home to raise Ethan, and in tradition showed him all the love in the world through nurturing him and of course feeding him with food with no limits.
At this stage in my life I was so big it stopped me from taking him to the park and getting down on the floor and playing with him, as I couldn’t get up. Oblivious to these facts, I carried on. Throughout his primary school years, as a family we were all slowly increasing in weight but didn’t see the problem.
Looking back now, I think the comfort eating was there to try and fill the void of not having my sister in our lives. We talked about her often, we cried often, we laughed often, and we ate a lot more often too. But Ethan knew exactly who she was as he was growing up, it was important for me to include her in our lives even though she was no longer physically here, we all did that as a whole family.
It wasn’t until Ethan was in school that we had issues arise with his weight. At 10, he was being ridiculed and teased about being what I would call “chubby”. It was later on that we found out the full extent of his being bullied for being overweight. However, the moment that stopped me in my tracks came one afternoon at Ethan’s school.
“The day I will never forget, the day that Changed our lives …”