As the Customer Service manager for Bloomingfoods on the East side, I have the good fortune to meet and talk with many customers and members of our co-op. Often I am answering a simple question about where to find a product in the store, taking a special order, or helping to bag groceries. But other times I have a more involved interaction with a customer. I get to help with recipe ideas or find out about a person’s food allergies. I’ve helped people discover a new favorite meal, and I’ve heard about how someone is beating cancer through his diet. And this is the part of my work I love most.
A few months ago, I got to chatting with a customer about something she was buying that day. She told me she was using it to make her own deodorant. She explained she was concerned about the ingredients found in many commercially available products, and also that she was very frugal. So she was saving money and getting something she and her family use daily that she knew would be safe.
This conversation continued over subsequent visits and expanded into other areas. She has inspired me with her ideas about food, health, family, cooperatives, and appreciating what we put into and on our bodies. Her name is Natalia Rayzor, and she very generously agreed to talk with me more in depth and share her story with me, and with you.
Natalia is the Training Coordinator at the IU Credit Union, which is also a cooperative. She and her husband Jeff have a 5-year-old son, Nathan. And it is their son who provided a lot of the inspiration for Natalia and Jeff to change their lives. It was this high risk pregnancy that had Natalia hospitalized on bed rest for 6 months. Because of this, and because he was so precious to her, she decided she would nurse him and make all his baby food from scratch. She bought only organic foods, and spent much time boiling, freezing, canning and jarring his meals.
In the meantime, Natalia and Jeff struggled with excess weight, allergies, ongoing sicknesses, and general health issues. They finally decided they had to do something to respond to these problems. As Natalia explains, “There are multiple reasons Jeff and I chose to change our lifestyle. I began researching and asking friends about natural food choices because for the past three years we continuously were sick between September and May. I knew this was taking a toll on our immune systems and we were beginning to see the same for our son. Our weight was elevating and I was becoming more and more concerned with toxicity and chemical intake into our bodies and our son’s.”
They had been shopping at Bloomingfoods for about 10 years, but finally decided to become members in early 2010 when, in March, they chose to commit to an organic/whole/natural food choice lifestyle.
Since that time, the effects of their decision have been dramatic. Jeff has lost 65 pounds and Natalia has lost 55 pounds. But that’s not the most important part of the change. Natalia points out, “The weight loss has been nice but honestly, it’s not about that. It’s about removing toxins from our bodies and lives, and improving our overall health. It’s about learning to appreciate the natural foods and incorporating more whole foods into our lives.”
As she told me, she now has a greater respect for food. “I can hear my body telling me what it needs. I truly feel I am putting nothing but good into my body.” She doesn’t count calories or fat. She’s made minor changes like replacing white rice in favor of brown rice or amaranth. She uses quinoa pasta instead of semolina. Jeff became enlightened about GMOs and decided they need to eat naturally raised meat as often as possible. A fairly simple guideline they use is “to not purchase or eat foods with ingredients we can’t pronounce,” Natalia said with a laugh.
Has it been easy? Making a major lifestyle change is a daunting task, Natalia admits. “I would recommend not thinking of such a conversion as a weight loss mechanism, but rather, determining what’s important to you. Is it less chemical intake, whole foods, less artificial byproducts, gluten free, vegetarian, organic? Once you narrow that down, it helps you to be objective and gives you direction. For us, it was actually fun to learn about different products and taste-test different brands. Realizing that organic food does taste better was such a treat!”
And, she says, Bloomingfoods has been a big help with all of these changes. “We’ve chosen Bloomingfoods as our main grocer because of its cooperative nature. Having worked at the IU Credit Union for nearly 15 years, the cooperative philosophy is very important to my family. The idea that a company is member-owned, democratically controlled, and operated entirely for its members helps make our shopping choice that much easier. By far, however, it’s the employees that have helped us through this process. Everyone has been so helpful answering our questions, helping us convert from commercial brands to organic ones, and just being friendly. You can truly tell that they care and believe in what they’re doing.”
As we talked, Natalia told me that these are big changes for her family, but she is just one person, and the changes may not necessarily make a big impact on the world.
But they do! That is the beauty of the Bloomingfoods community. We share ideas. We get to know each other. We create friendships. And we inspire others.