When Andrew Wilder challenged people to join him in avoiding processed foods for a month, 415 people took the pledge. That was October 2010. This October, 56 of the original pledgers have signed on again. They have been joined by nearly 2500 more.
It is not too late to take the pledge for 30 days, a week, even a day. The important thing, Wilder insists, is to become more aware of what we put in our bodies and how it affects us.
Wilder defines unprocessed food as, “any food that could be made by a person with reasonable skill in a home kitchen with readily available, whole-food ingredients.” That may sound restrictive to wine and chocolate lovers, but a wander around October Unprocessed 2011 shows how easy it actually is to cut out all those ingredients with unpronounceable names. With so many tips, inspiring guest posts and a regular dose of tasty recipes, the site shrinks the learning curve to manageable size.
Easier Than It Sounds
That learning curve was the biggest hurdle last yearís pledgers faced. Wilder says, “Our culture isnít designed to help us with eating healthily. Pretty much everything is designed to get us to do the opposite. So we have to unlearn and relearn.”
Time is a factor in busy lives. So is the need for some kitchen skills. Wilder makes both easier by providing recipes for healthy dishes that can be made in a hurry.
The process will look different for everyone, and Wilder encourages people to tweak it so it works for them. One of this yearís pledgers is not using any oil in October. Another is reading more labels than ever before. They are Tweeting about it with the hashtag #Unprocessed and following on @eatingrules. They are carnivores, vegans, and vegetarians, and they are all having fun sharing tips, recipes and encouragement.
Others have signed onto Facebook, where a “Like” gives instant access to “How to Read the Nutrition Facts Panel.” The handy, one-page guide provides a simple translation for the complex labels that appear on all processed food.
Gather Around the Table
Wilder admits he had his own challenges sticking with unprocessed foods, like the day he reached for a bottle of Sriracha hot sauce and realized it contained preservatives. He persevered, and what he and many others who gave it a try learned was that avoiding what some people call “manufactured edible food-like substances” gave them an energy boost. They felt better, and some of them even lost weight (though that was not the intent of the challenge).
“There is no such thing as perfect food,” Wilder says. “There is no way to eat perfectly. There is only better. There is no such thing as a superfood. Itís a continuum. Itís a journey, and it should be an enjoyable journey and one that brings people together.”
A week into last year’s challenge, someone commented, “I baked bread for the first time in my life.” That was a high for Wilder, who remembers the daily family meals of his childhood. “We need to get back to that,” he says. “The only thing better than fresh-baked, home-made bread is eating it around the dinner table with your family.”
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Photo of Andrew Wilder from October Unprocessed