When I first wrote this post, it was twice as long as the post I eventually published. After I scheduled the post to run and went to bed, I had second thoughts about all I had said, so I scrambled downstairs, deleted, edited and rescheduled the new post.
I am still trying to figure out the right balance. On the one hand, I don’t want to overshare, both because I don’t want the whole world wide web knowing my business and because I think the blog would be too focused on me. But I also think that if you’re not at least a little scared to press that publish button, then who’s going to want to read what you write anyway? So, while I am not as brave as Stacy of Paleo Parents in her recent post on what losing 135 lbs. looks like, I know I want to do more than offer recipes.
The other thing that troubles me about tackling my own wellness journey is just how it should be organized. Chronological? Ummm, boring. Topical? That doesn’t seem to offer the big picture.
Where I’ve landed for now is that I am going to pose and then answer some questions for you. Then, because I am trying to create a vibrant community, I am going to ask you the same question I’ve asked myself. You know, so we’re exploring the topic together?
So today I am tackling the first question – Why I Eat the Way I Do.
I can’t tell you why I eat the way I do without first explaining how it is that I eat. In sum, it’s this: meat, high quality fats, vegetables and fruit.
Here’s what I don’t eat: anything that didn’t either grow from the ground or have a mother, dairy products, seed oils, any oil that’s been hydrogenated, nuts, nightshades, bananas, legumes, and grains (save for some occasional white rice.)
If you’re the sort that needs a label, you can call it a Paleo/Weston A. Price hybrid with modifications made for sensitivities.
So why have I eliminated those foods? Two words – trial and error.
I eliminated artificially created ingredients like preservatives, artificial coloring, etc. in 1995 when my mother pointed out that when I ate processed meats, I suffered bouts of rage. She suggested that I try to minimize them to see if I felt better. I did and the results were life-changing. My moods became more stable, I stopped suffering from regular panic attacks, I slept better, my stomach felt better, and more. The decision to eliminate the artificial food products from my diet coincided with a move to Austin, Texas, the home of Whole Foods Market, so even though I was young and cash-strapped, I was able to enjoy a wide variety of foods.
I existed in this space of eating “all natural” foods for a decade. Even though according to traditional US dietetics I was eating a stellar diet, I was still having health issues. I suffered from nearly constant GI upset, had arthritis by the age of 28, and “enjoyed” ever-present cystic acne.
Fast forward to 2005 when I had my first child. Worried that the dairy proteins in my diet might be contributing to his tummy-induced wakefulness, I eliminated dairy from my diet. The results shocked me. Not only was he happier, I was, too. As a bonus, some of the acne around my mouth went away.
Based on my experience, I began to research the link between acne and dairy. I am going to save a lot of what I learned for a subsequent post, but suffice it to say there is a lot of evidence (both anecdotal and scientifically rigorous) out there that I am not the only one to make this connection.
And yet still, the GI issues persisted. I was given the diagnosis of Irritable Bowel Syndrome, a diagnosis of exclusion if there ever was one, and handed a variety of remedies from anti-seizure meds that knocked me on the floor to the suggestion to eat more fiber. (That latter recommendation made anyone who knew what I ate daily laugh out loud. Lack of fiber was most decidedly not my problem.)
In 2009, I finally consented to the “gold standard” test for celiac disease – an endoscopy. The results came back negative. My gastroenterologist told me that I didn’t have celiac disease and therefore there was no reason for me to avoid gluten.
(I’m going to skip over about a hundred visits to specialists of all stripes, MRIs, CT scans, and other scoping procedures I endured to try to pinpoint the source of what was now chronic pain and life-altering stomach symptoms.)
Meanwhile, based on media coverage of the “glowing skin” I would get from a vegan diet, I eliminated all animal products. I eagerly awaited the reduction or elimination of my acne and stomach problems.
Not only did I not experience “glowing skin,” my skin actually got worse. So did my stomach problems. And on top of all that, I acquired a deep psoas injury that required nearly eighteen months of regular physical therapy. My body just wasn’t healing.
Enter Paul Chek. I attended his nutrition lecture at the SCW Fitness Expo in 2010 expecting my diet choices would be largely validated. If you’ve ever had the opportunity to hear Paul speak, you will know what I mean when I say he blew me away. Paul is value-driven, evidence-obsessed and committed to holistic health and wellness. He told the story of working with a lifelong vegetarian who was suffering from wounds that wouldn’t heal and a host of other health problems. The first thing he did was make her eat a steak. As I sat there, I realized I wanted animal protein. I needed animal protein. I went home and ate an entire chicken.
The next day, my psoas injury felt better. It wasn’t 100%, but it had improved. So slowly, gradually, I began adding in more animal protein and high quality animal fats.
I think I’ll stop here before I tackle gluten. But, if you’re still with me, I hope you will share a bit about why you eat the way you do in the comments, on Facebook or via Twitter. (And yeah, I’ll be super-impressed if you can do in 140 characters what it took me more than a thousand words to begin!)