Thursday, March 1, 2012

My Health Nut Journey

I encourage baby steps. It can be daunting for someone to completely change their lifestyle overnight. Baby steps are good! I didn't become a health nut (food snob?) overnight! I'm still learning! I'm still growing! I'm still *gasp* compromising.

The old ways always drew me near even as a child. My dad cultivated a love of history and old things in me. He would talk of his days on the farm in Ohio with no electricity or indoor plumbing. He would take me to local historical sites. He would let me tag along as he ventured to old homesteads (with permission) to metal detect. He had me work in the garden and help with the chickens and goats that we hand. All this and more set the wheels in my mind turning towards traditional foods and herbal healing.

Despite all that, I grew up on a traditional American large family diet heavy on processed carbs and koolaid and low on much of anything else, but we (my brothers and sister and I) were all skinny kids, so we didn't think much of it.

Puberty hit with a vengeance. I joined the ranks of my older brothers nose to nose in the mirror examining our terrible acne. Around that time, my father took us to The Farmer's Museum in Cooperstown, NY where I fell in LOVE with the farmstead, herb garden and apothecary shop. My dad purchased a book on herbs that I devoured. It was overwhelming for me, and I tried a couple of acne remedies with no avail. Still, I wondered at how the whole herbal thing worked.

As the pressure of high school and later a job at a fashion store grew, I became more aware of my health by way of making sure I fit in a tiny sizes. This expanded my dietary journey into the late 90's world of fat-free. It didn't matter if you ate crap, just so long as it was fat free. To this day, I remember watching Richard Simmons holding the microphone in the face of a morbidly obese woman of color who repeated his mantra of, "Calories don't make you fat. Fat makes you fat." It wasn't until 10 years later that I realized just how wrong that is!

So, I battled with my self-image and the continued unhealthy eating and lack of fats and vitamins and minerals wreaked havoc on me farther still. My skin was heavily scarred by acne that would not quit. My menstrual cycle was long, heavy and extremely painful. I could lose or gain weight, but no matter what my body always looked unfit. I couldn't advance in any fitness or sport because my body lacked the proper fuels it needed. I suffered depression and fatigue. By college, I was sleeping up to 18 hours a day. I couldn't concentrate on much.

This continued into my early married years. I hated feeling so tired, unfocused and depressed. I searched for answers, but not many came. Taking chemical birth control didn't help, either. I gained weight, my lack on concentration increased, and I suffered from leg pains. Yet, somehow, I thought I had it all figured out and put hubby on my low-fat, fat-free diet. I cringe at what we ate those first few years of marriage. It harmed both of us. We were both tired, irritable, unhealthy, and fed up.

Then, through a blog, I discovered "Nourishing Traditions" by Sally Fallon, and it made sense to me! I read some of it to hubby and he said, "That's what I've been trying to tell you all these years!" It was after the birth of our oldest son. I had hit a weight loss plateau that would not budge. It was a leap of faith to give up the only "healthy" lifestyle I knew of fat-free and jump right into full fat traditional foods, but I did. Within a short period of time, I went from my pre-baby weight of 130 lbs to my fittest ever 123 lbs. I was strong, lean, muscular, but more importantly, HEALTHY!

Growth continued from that springboard to where I am now. I still have a long way to go and a few other bumps in the road to overcome, including my daughter's extreme picky eating habits and irritable bowels. The road also included making my own homemade infant formula when my breast milk dried up before my 3rd baby was a year old.

It is all baby steps. Education. Practice. Commitment.

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