Saturday, September 25, 2010

Why am I here?

What would possess me to focus on this topic for my thesis?  I have been interested in health for a long time - it seems to be a difficult balancing act for me to maintain functioning levels of health -  and because of this I naturally became interested in nutrition.  I first came across Nourishing Traditions, the Weston A. Price Foundation cook book/nutritional bible while I was studying nutrition as part of a herbal medicine diploma, but it wasn’t until a few years later, when my baby daughter had difficulty breastfeeding, that I acquired the book and became aware of the Weston A. Price Foundation. 

I was disgusted by commercial infant formula – it somehow managed to have both the qualities of being sterile and putrid simultaneously, neither of which appealed to me.  I googled something along the lines of “baby formula recipe”, wondering if such a thing existed and immediately found the raw milk formula recipe from Nourishing Traditions.  It looked quite complicated, calling for ingredients such as; homemade liquid whey, lactose, bifidobacterium infantis, high vitamin cod liver oil, unrefined sunflower oil and so on, which was a bit off-putting.  

I contacted a friend who had similar food interests and was forwarded to a woman in Wellington who referred me to a local woman, Rebecca who was regularly purchasing raw organic milk from a farm.  Meanwhile I had bought Nourishing Traditions and pondered over the formula recipe.  I contacted the farmer and drove out to pick up my first taste of organic raw milk.  The farmer was particularly well informed.  He told me that the milk was safe and mentioned experiments where pathogens had been put into raw milk and the enzymes naturally in the milk had fought off the foreign bacteria.  The raw formula I made smelled much better than conventional powdered formula, despite the fish oil.  My daughter drank it down and was a particularly healthy baby.  I must admit I did simplify the formula, particularly after she started eating solids.  Through Rebecca, I joined a milk group, taking turns to drive the forty minutes to the farm to collect everyone’s milk. I quite enjoyed the milk and began culturing it, making yogurt, kefir and experimenting with cheese. 

During this time I became quite well acquainted with Nourishing Traditions, particularly the controversial advocation of natural saturated fats and raw animal products.   It occurred to me that the conventional nutritional information I had seen was confusing and often appeared to be skewed in favour of the food/diet food industries which I found to be particularly unsettling. These factors, combined with my passion for food, motivated me to focus on this topic for my Master’s thesis.


  1. Thanks for sharing your journey. I find it helpful in the maze of information, and throes of anxiety when feeding my family, to get back to the basics of WHY I am doing this.

  2. Thank you from me also, Isa. My own experience with formula feeding, and the very sad days which led to it, are (I suspect) crucial to my drive to feed my family as well as I can learn how to. I think you are brave to blog your story - I can't bring myself to blog about my first experiences of earth-motherdom not turning out as I'd planned.

    I am annoyed by the shift to demonising the shape of children's bodies which is getting extensive newspaper coverage at the moment.

    Have you had a squiz at the blood type diet book(s)? I had a look and as well as being just intrinsically wrong to me (the idea of sitting at the dinner table not talking and also this separate foods for each person in the family were just ridiculous), it highlighted the intellectual games which we can play with food until the books are playing games on us, not the other way around. The blood type books are all about strict rules to live by and not about learning from your own body what works.

    My openness to the good fats idea is particularly shaped by my son's eczema, and the difference which flax seed oil made once I worked out how much he needed (lots!).

  3. Hi Sharon - all the 'information' we get exposed to about food and health all the time can be a bit of a head spin, can't it?

    Hi Sandra, I have left out a lot of personal details in this post - it's going to be the preface to my thesis. There are some things that are very hard to publicise - but I was obviously desperate enough to go to such great lengths to find a better substitute - and crazy enough to feed my baby something that health officials would have considered 'risky'.

    I haven't seen any news coverage about children's body shapes - is this related to the obesity 'epidemic'?

    I have looked into the blood type diet and I found it particularly restrictive, but I wonder if there is some merit in the argument that certain people fare better on some types of foods than others - based on their ancestors evolving to eat said foods. Healthy eating recommendations often prescribe blanket instructions for everyone to follow but some people fine they do really well on certain diets - low carb, vegetarian, etc. If you were going to follow the blood type diet you'd hope that everyone in your household had the same blood type! People are often so cut off from their own bodies that they need someone else to tell them what's good for them, which is just another sad characteristic of out modern world - although I often find myself with low blood sugar, gazing blankly at the pantry, wondering what on earth to eat!

    I didn't know flax seed oil was good for eczema - interesting. I wonder what function(s) it has that help with that. I find eating lots of natural fats is good for my skin, but I wonder if the alpha linolenic (?) acid in flax is also helping because it works on the anti-inflammatory pathways.

  4. I just ran across your blog this morning. We are up in Northland and leaning more and more towards Weston A Price style eating. I'm really looking forward to hearing more about your research and the differences between the Real Food Movement here in NZ and in the US.

    I'm a US expat, so I've seen the Far Right of the US up close. I wish more of the US Real Food blogs were less religious as it wears me out no end.

    Good luck with finishing up your thesis and I've got you on my RSS so I can get updates!

  5. Hi Melanie
    I find the way personal convictions can blend together in blogs quite interesting, although it scares me sometimes! I suppose we get quite used to secular messages, especially in NZ, and it can be strange to be reading something you agree with about food only to find it changing to something completely different about God, etc. I'm interested in finding out more about what you're doing in Northland.