Friday, April 8, 2011

PART I - Why We Eat Traditionally (and the journey to getting there.)

I haven't posted in a quite a while...not that I haven't been busy in the kitchen, because I have!  I have all sorts of ideas for blog posts, and I've had some really spectacular successes in the kitchen, along with some failures, and some just Meh...moments.   Those will all be coming, and include my own homemade Mayonnaise recipe, a recipe for peanut butter cups that are AMAZING,  some great uses for coconut,  a new pizza crust that we love, kid-approved chicken nuggets, and a cauliflower recipe that will surprise you!

But - before all of that, I have some important things that I need to say.  This is something that has been in my heart and mind for several weeks, and I've spent a lot of time praying, and studying, and pondering.    I have so many things I want to say about why we have chosen to eat the way that we do, and also why there are ways we have specifically chosen NOT to eat.   But I want to do this in a way so that those who read this understand that I don't expect others to be on the same path, or at the same place in their eating.     I truly believe that any change people make in their diet towards more traditional eating, and away from the Standard American Diet (SAD) is a good thing.

Just a warning - this will be long.

First, a (Not So) brief history time-line of what led me to where we are today.

The Early Years:  I grew up as a pale, skinny, anemic (liquid iron at the age of 6 - BLECH!), bladder infections frequently, and I cannot remember a time since I was in High School that I didn't spend part of every winter sick.  Once I got to college, it became even worse.  I had innumerable bouts inner ear infections, bronchitis & pnuemonia, and lost my voice completely every time I had a cold - this continued into my adult life.

January, 2000:  I was a newlywed, who had just spent several months working LONG hours as a volunteer coordinator for a HUGE New Year's Eve event.  New Years Day, I came down with the worst Flu ever imagined.  I'd been sick alot, but never before had I been that sick.  For 10 days I was more dead than alive.  Even after I went back to work, for months I still felt like I just couldn't shake this flu I'd had in January.

2001 :  Realizing I had gained 20 lbs in the year I'd been married, I started getting really strict with my diet (which I'd never had to do before) and reading food labels became an obsession.  I refused to eat anything with more than 3 grams of fat.  Sugar content, and sodium meant nothing to me - I was all about the fat grams.   I also started an exercise routine that involved aerobics and weight training.   But I still couldn't lose any weight.  I consoled myself with the reminder that muscle weighs more than fat.    Also, still feeling like I had the Flu all the time.  I ached all over - joints and muscles, and I had migraine headaches that were becoming increasingly worse, and more frequent.

2002: Gave up on my exercise routine.  I could see that it was making a difference reshaping my body - but the pain was becoming unbearable.  If I exercised for 20 minutes, I couldn't do anything else for the rest of the morning.  And I still hadn't lost any weight. In fact, I'd gained more.    Ended up with a Rheumatologist who, after all kinds of testing, diagnosed me with fibromyalgia.  (I think this was his way of saying he had no idea what was wrong.)   He prescribed a Steroid, a pain med, and an anti-depressant.   I dutifully took them for several weeks, but during that time, I started losing myself.  In the words of my husband - "it's like living with a Zombie".  I not only had no energy, I had no personality.  I was in a drugged up fog, and avoided all contact with people, because I couldn't think of anything to say to them.    So, while I could still reason at all, I stopped taking the meds.  (and no, I did not consult with the Dr.)  
I found my way to the local Health Food Store, and asked if they had anything to help with Fibromyalgia.  They showed me supplements and also suggested I take a look at their book section.  One book leaped out at meEating Well For Optimum Health.    My heart leaped inside me!  This was it!   I wanted optimum health!   So, I bought the book (along with Eight Weeks To Optimum Health), and a supplement called Fibro-Max, and away I went.   I devoured the books, and started making changes immediately.     And immediately, I started feeling better, and started moving better.    So much better that when I went back to the rheumatologist for a check-up, I had lost 8 lbs, and was moving better than I had in ages!  
 I thought he'd be excited and happy that I'd found something that made me feel better.   He was amazed that I'd lost the 8 lbs, so I told him what I'd been doing, and let him know I wasn't needing any of the drugs.  I was not ready for his condescending attitude as he patted me on the shoulder and said "That's nice that it's, how about if we just find a different anti-depressant that won't make you so sleepy, hmmmm?"    I walked out of his office, threw away the new prescription, and never went back.
The changes I'd made had helped.  They did not give me back the measure of health I'd had previous to the year 2000, but at least I was able to function in society again. 

2003:  Much like 2002, until November, when joy of joys and wonder of wonders, we discovered that we were going to have a baby!   Almost immediately, I started having problems with the pregnancy.    By 5 months, I was on bedrest, and was also very familiar with the Obstetrics wing at the hospital, having spent a lot of time there with pre-term labor.  Oh, and did I mention that I was horribly sick during the whole pregnancy?  The foods - crackers, etc... that I was told to try to settle my stomach only made it worse. Finally, I was losing weight!  Only now I wasn't supposed to!    Every day I craved strawberry milkshakes (but only if they were made with real strawberries), and green salads with cheddar cheese, boiled eggs, and ranch dressing.  Oh, and chicken salad with lots of mayonnaise!    Even though I had no idea at the time, my body was craving healthy fats and proteins, with  dark leafy greens and berries.  Perfect nutrition, if I'd just know what that was then!    

2004: Our son was born a month early.  He had some complications, and a week after he was born, he was pumped full of broad-spectrum antibiotics, not once, but twice.   I cry now thinking of this, because it was unnecessary, and in all probability, it set the stage for all of his health issues to come.  The rest of 2004 is a blur, along with much of 2005.   He was a demanding baby...never wanted to nurse, or take a bottle, spit up projectile vomited a lot, had diaper rash so bad that he bled...but despite all of this, he still seemed to be so very alert, and interested in all of his surroundings, and full of a sense of wonder.    I was tired - physically, mentally, and emotionally exhausted.  But I thought that was normal for a new mom.   Any good eating habits went out the window as we ate what was quick and easy, and didn't create more dishes in the sink.     
2006:  My health issues became increasingly more difficult.  Some mornings I didn't know how I was going to make it out of bed.  I hurt all over, and I spent a lot of time crying over the fact that I had a toddler,  and some days I could hardly care for him.   We both seemed to catch every virus that floated around,  and his health was only marginally better than mine.  
Through a couple different friends,(who I am positive were led by God)  I was led to an alternative practitioner, who for the first time, told me my problem wasn't Fibro.  I had tested positive for Lyme's Disease!   In the myriad of testing, I'd never been tested for it.   I also had Epstein Barr syndrome (chronic fatigue), probably brought on by the Lyme's...I sat in her office and wept.  For the first time in years, I felt like I had hope.

2009-2010: Still on a journey to feel better.  I've felt so much better over the last few years, but still struggle with aching in my muscles and joints, migraines, and many, many bouts with  colds/flu/bronchitis/pneumonia.   More than that though is that my little guy is now in Kindergarten, and with a teacher who doesn't like him.  She had admitted to me that she thought he was "not normal" from the first time she met him.  Then she asked that we have him tested for Autism.   Although I knew in my heart that wasn't the issue, I took him to his Dr.  who confirmed for me that he wasn't Autistic.   Didn't stop the teacher from disliking him though.  I knew that he was not a compliant child, and could be difficult, but I also knew that he was very bright, loving, kind-hearted, and full of natural curiosity and wonder for the world around him. He was also out sick from school for 38 days of the school year!   I decided to take him to the Natural Practitioner I'd been seeing.  She diagnosed him with intolerances to Gluten, Corn, Refined Sugars, and artificial food colorings. He also had a yeast infection throughout his body. (despite being on a daily probiotic)  We immediately started a gluten free/corn free/sugar free/food coloring free/yeast free diet, and WOW!  What a change.   His congestion, ear aches, attitude, attention span....just about every issue in his little life started getting better!   And because I was eating this way also (it's too hard to cook two different ways) I discovered that all of his intolerance issues were probably inherited from me.  Eating gluten & sugar free, I realized that my migraines were diminished greatly, along with my congestion, and also my re-occuring bouts with bronchitis and pneumonia.   I still had unexplained inflammation in my body - my legs, ankles, and feet would swell to a point where I couldn't put on shoes, but it wasn't water retention.  But all in all, I felt better than I had in years, and my little guy was finally experiencing some better health.     We were now just a few steps away from discovering a Traditional Eating path...

I'll continue in my next post with how we discovered Michael Pollen, Nourishing Traditions, and the Weston Price Foundation!

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