From the Introduction
Hi, my name is Marshall Reid. When I was ten, I asked my mom if we could do the opposite of the Super Size Me documentary and be healthy for a month. Super Size Me is that movie where a guy ate McDonald's for thirty days. I asked to do this because my classmates were making fun of me and I didn't feel good. I couldn't run and keep up. I wasn't fast enough to play tag and ball with kids at recess. And I always pulled on my clothes to keep them from creeping up on my stomach. We ate out a lot and I snacked a lot. I just felt like something had to change because I was getting really unhappy. I was worried that I was always going to feel that way.
I was happy my mom listened, and we sat down together and talked about what we thought "healthy" meant to us. We decided on some things that we thought sounded reasonable to us, like cooking more and reading ingredients. We talked a lot about changing habits and making new ones—good ones for a lifetime. My mom asked me if there were people I wanted to be like. She asked me how I wanted to feel when I was a teenager and when I was an adult. It helped me to picture in my mind how to get to those feelings. My mom, sister, and I talked a lot about physical activity and exercise. My mom asked me what kinds of foods I liked and if I would help her in the kitchen. We decided to call our project Portion Size Me because it was similar to but opposite of that movie, and a part of our problem was that we just ate too much!
We have had lots of fun and many adventures with this project, and we wanted to share them with you. In fact, it's not just a project anymore. It has become our life. It isn't always easy, but I will tell you that it does get easier and easier as you keep going. This book is a mix of two types of books: a cookbook and the story of my family's journey to healthier living. I don't want to spoil the story, so I'm not saying anything other than it was a success! So come on, let's Portion Size Me!
Meet Marshall's Mom (aka Alex)
Portion Size Me came from the mouth of babes. My babe! And I am so proud of him!
When Marshall suggested the concept, I was excited for a project to do together that would unite us and perhaps even help him build his self-esteem. He is such a rich and colorful young person, and I want him to feel good about sharing his personality and to not feel inhibited because of his self-image or feel sad because of playground meanness. I was very surprised that he identified and spoke out about his needs at only ten years old. The internal strength it must have taken him, and the self-awareness and ability to put it into words, are among the many traits that make him a dynamic and colorful personality. I knew right away this project was going to be very good for all of us.
As we got underway and I began to observe our habits from a new and fresh perspective, it became clear to me that some absences and voids needed to be addressed. In particular, I noticed the absence of proper respect for food and focus on its nutritional value, and the void of good habits and the self-discipline to back up those habits. After just a few conversations with Marshall about how we were going to lay this project out, it occurred to me that I was the one responsible for not empowering Marshall with the healthy connections to food that would follow him into adulthood. I learned from Marshall that he had become an emotional eater and not a fuel-driven eater. That made me worry that, as an adult, he would continue to turn to food for comfort and other emotional needs instead of feeling the simple joyful appreciation of food's ability to keep one's body functioning.
Once Marshall and I agreed on our Portion Size Me goals, I next had to figure out how to incorporate them into our very busy schedules. After all, I believe our schedules were what began to dictate our food choices for convenience's sake. I looked for ways to simplify our schedules and organize my time better, such as writing out a grocery list for a week at a time instead of stopping by the store every other day to pick up a few quick things.
I looked at the kitchen from a historical perspective, and I then considered the modern technologies developed to aid with cooking. I spoke with my neighbor, who already has grown children, and a few friends about how they felt about their kitchens. I don't mean what appliances they had, how their cabinets looked, or whether or not they liked the design of their kitchens, but rather the emotions and feelings their kitchens evoked. Why is it, for example, that whenever you entertain, everyone lingers in the kitchen despite other wide-open spaces with comfy couches and tables? I believe it's because we know that the kitchen is a source of comfort and the place where one builds connections with others.
I searched my memories of childhood and the foundation of my relationship with food. Unlike my husband Dan, who grew up on a farm, I grew up in a small town in Northern California. I saw vineyards and farms and cattle, but I pretty much believed everything was born, raised, and packaged at the local grocery store. It was a safe naïveté because food in our household was always very carefully counted for the sake of calories by the head of household. Fresh fruit and skinless chicken where staples, and I, as a pre-teen, was the primary cook for the house. There wasn't any joy in it; it was a chore. Occasionally, I was provided with the ingredients and picture of a beautiful dish cut from the pages of a fashion or interior design magazine and asked to put it together. That was stressful, as there was a lot of pressure to make the meal correctly. Later, as a young adult in Manhattan attending school and working, cheap became my culinary focus; I lived on pizza by the slice and salad bars. So my relationship with food had a rocky and unstable foundation to begin with. Once I could afford to go out to a wonderful New York City restaurant, I do remember feeling an inner smile as I appreciated the colors, designs, and flavors on my plates. It was during this time that I took advantage of NYC's international flavor and really began to open up my palate to different cultures and their cuisines. My ideas of food began to change as I met many different people and explored new locations to enjoy food. Eating out became a form of entertainment and a social medium, which was also not an entirely healthy relationship with food.
So, that was one of our goals: to return to the kitchen and create real, delicious, and nourishing meals. To step back and refocus the importance of the kitchen and the family's participation in creating fuel for our active vessels. We decided to document the experience via home videos for a couple of reasons. First it was to be "documentary" in style like Super Size Me. Second, we had just discovered Skype video calls with Dan in Iraq. This new access to media was a big help to our family during his deployment, but there was a big time change. So we thought if we posted videos, Dan could watch them and then we could all Skype about them at a later time. The third purpose for creating videos was to hold us accountable to our goals. It was an outside source that we had a responsibility to keep up with. Neither Marshall nor I had any idea he would be so good on camera; we had never done anything like it. None of the videos you see are rehearsed or directed, and we have only had a handful of retakes due to excessive giggling or distraction from a friend or dog.
I am so happy to share our experiences with you. I am not embarrassed to share my failures with you either. We promise not to tell you to do this or to do that; we are simply sharing what we have learned and the impact that our adventure has had on us. We also promise not to bombard you with lots of heavy research and statistics. For example, it is up to you to form your own opinion on whether or not milk pasteurization is for you or whether you want to eat all organic foods. We will, however, provide you with a brief definition of certain terms so that you may look into them further if you wish. We are sharing some of our favorite recipes that are uncomplicated and direct, plus some culinary terms and definitions to make cooking fun and enlightening. We're including history and folklore accounts of food to use as tools to spur conversation and association with particular recipes. And of course, Marshall's charm and inspiration follow you through this book.
I hope our family's examination of what has become such a common problem in the United States today, and our solution for becoming healthy become tools and solutions for you and your family. We as a country are on a path to a disease-filled future, robbing us of our hard-earned dollars for the sake of healthcare treatments and costs that could have been prevented. I hope that if you are a child or the parent of a child reading this book, you will relate to the struggles we identified and feel encouraged that you are not alone. You can be strong, regain control, and feel as good as you possibly want to feel!
Portion Size Me Goals
This is not a diet, plan, or program that we created to rigidly follow. This is a lifestyle. It is about putting food in the spotlight, at the forefront of your mind, and viewing it as beautiful, nutrient-rich fuel to energize one's body and soul. We want to be happy and fulfilled—never feeling robbed or restricted. We want to explore and be food adventurers. We can think of ourselves as our own personal chefs, and we can create delicious meals that avoid the extremes that may have derailed us in the past. Even if a situation arises where the best choice cannot be made, a mind-set of moderation still guides us. We just make the next choice the best choice.
With Portion Size Me, we want to change our unsuccessful behaviors slowly, and we want to enjoy every moment with our families and with ourselves as we begin to feel positive changes occurring. This is our commonsense approach, and there is no miracle to it—just thoughtful consideration, planning, and patience. For example, Marshall suggested to his elementary school that they create a healthier lunch just once a month, so that there's not too much impact on the school budget. He then suggested that the following year, they serve the new, healthier lunch once a week, and the year after that, twice a week. And so on. That way they can plan and ease into the budget changes. Slow and steady! That is a wonderful example of moderation and avoiding an extreme change that could be viewed as a barrier.
Our new attitude is that food is the tool, the fuel, and the fire that propels your body to function through your day and throughout your life. Our food choices and the quantities we eat have been problems, but food is also part of the solution. We are going to embrace it, harness it, and own it to make us feel better and stronger, and help us look the way we want to. This book shows how we are going to make that emotional and attitudinal shift toward food.