Friday, February 8, 2013

On The Folly and Heartache of Perfectionism

There's a lot of hullabaloo on the paleosphere right now about an eyebrow-raising study, in which the lead content of bone broth made from organic chickens was found to be roughly 10 times more concentrated than in the tap water used to make the same broth - and the researchers say that this because bones are where lead is sequestered in the body. Of course, since our family eats a lot of soups made from homemade broth, you can imagine my panicky gut (no pun intended) reaction to this revelation. However, I am trying to not. freak. out. First of all, I know next to nothing about a) the source journal in which this study was published, and b) about lead concentration levels and their associated dangers. Secondly (and I thank God for this), there are so many brilliant minds heading up the real food community - many of whom are MDs and PhDs, so I am looking forward to reading their blogs' soon-to-be posted analyses of the study's data. That's not to say that I should not research and come to conclusions of my own, but so often I appreciate some dots being connected for me due to my lack of professional or educational expertise.

Still, my heart was heavy yesterday afternoon as I tried to soak up yet another situation where I thought I was doing well by my daughters, but ended up with at best a murky conclusion. After all, hang around the interwebs long enough, and you'll find that there's a conviction rendered against just about anything you can put in your mouth...spend any time searching specifically for dietary interventions for neurological disorders (as with my daughter's sensory processing and speech delay issues), and you're down an even deeper rabbit hole of often conflicting nutritional advice.

So, what am I now to do? I think, mostly, to remember Teddy Roosevelt's advice:
"Do what you can, with what you have, where you are."

That is the most that I can do as a mother. Ya know better, ya do better. So for the next week or so, I will suspend bone broth from our diets until further conclusions can be reached. In the meantime, I rely heavily on grace to sustain us where my well-intentioned dietary decisions have failed or may fail in the future.

There may not be a perfect dietary plan to support my daughter and her quirks; we may be tinkering with what helps her or hinders her for years to come. But, I'd like to think that despite the trial and error, in the aggregate, over time, we are averaging an uphill climb.

By this, I mean to say that even though there may be hiccups over food sourcing, contamination (besides this current lead/broth imbroglio, as with arsenic in rice, chicken, and apple juice), trying to make decisions over what is worth buying organic and what is not...on average, our choices have improved. I may not witness this week to week or even month to month, but I can testify to that improvement when looking over years.

You'll recall from a previous post of mine that I was once an extreme couponer. Here is one example of one of my coupon runs...I think this one cost me somewhere around $25. This run happened somewhere around 2008, if memory serves me rightly.

I was laughing to myself today as I pulled into our driveway after a trip to Wegmans. I thought to myself how fun it would be to recreate a grocery run lineup on our front porch...4 years (give or take) later!

Boy, I wish I could say this run had cost me $25...ha!

Side note: Having practiced extreme couponing, I did not walk away from it having learned nothing. Am I still using my savings strategies? You bet. At Wegmans today, I put most of our dollars to the "highest value added" items that we eat: organic meats and vegetables. (We also like to save by purchasing naturally raised meats from local farmers in bulk, but we are between bulk orders right now.) Apples and pears, coconut milk, and jarred pasta sauces rounded out the run. I picked up that butterflied organic leg of lamb because it was marked half off, and my organic chicken drumsticks were selected because they were the cheapest in cost per pound of organic chicken meat, as compared to breasts, wings, and whole chickens. I bought organic grassfed beef chuck roasts and ground beef, similarly, because those are cheapest per pound.
It does not take a rocket scientist to conclude - especially when comparing the two pictures above - that the ongoing habit of improving thousands of tiny little decisions over the course of days, weeks, months, adds up to a very different health trajectory in the long run. I may not ever know precisely the optimal foods to feed my family, but I certainly know that the bottom photo comes a whole lot closer to that elusive ideal than does the my grocery run from the top photo. (I do find it very funny that the only commonality between the two pictures is bacon.)

So take it to heart: Even if you have arrived at the point of delving deeper into your choices, and you are starting to feel confused, know that a handful of big decisions (avoiding sugar, for one) will have the greatest impact for your family. Yes, there are plenty of more minor decisions that remain for my family to research and tinker, but, instead of feeling the immense pressure of perfectionism, I try to rest in God's grace to keep us humming along, and thank Him for the progress that we've been able to make thus far.

Do you have a before/after grocery picture that you like to use as a reminder of how far you have come?

Edit to add: Chris Kresser published his first take on bone broth / lead here. It is a worthwhile read, and I definitely recommend following Kresser's site and other major players' sites in the next week or so to see what other information comes to light.



  1. I found Chris Kresser's analysis reassuring. Don't know if you've seen it. Still depends what kind of chicken you buy though.

    1. Yes, I just saw Kresser's take. It was a reassuring first take, but I am also waiting for his (and others') added analysis. For those who have not seen it:

    2. P.S. I agree that pastured chicken is the ideal, but it is out of reach for us financially at >$20/chicken (compared to $1.99/lb. for Trader Joe's organic chicken drumsticks). At that price range I'd rather spend the money on pastured beef.

  2. I realize your post was a year ago, but I just came across it. I don't know if this is reassuring, but my family is Chinese and I have been drinking homemade bone broth practically every day since I was a child. Usually it is made of pork or chicken bones or a combination of both. I am now 46 and I don't have any signs of lead poisoning or any related types of ailments. Yet. My parents did not go to the trouble of buying organic – just whatever was on sale, probably. This is an issue definitely worth following, and I am also interested in future findings. But for what it's worth, I seem to be OK.


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