You wouldn’t know it by looking at my poorly stocked fridge and cupboards now stocked with pasta, crackers, bread and an assortment of gummy candies but I spent over 3 years as a pretty hard core health nut.
My health has been on a slow decline for going on a decade now (more like a fast freefall now…) and after each child of mine was born it was harder and harder to lose the weight and FEEL back to normal. After Little Dude (the last) especially the simple tricks of adding in more activity, eating more greens and cutting down on processed crap didn’t seem to do the trick. My IBS was flaring back and forth like crazy, my migraines were out of control (so not fun when you have a baby crying and 2 older kids bickering) and the fatigue had me wanting to nap more than all 3 kids… 4 if you include the Mr, combined.
The thing is I was so run down, tired and sore, I was in no condition to be spending what little not already busy time in the kitchen making healthy choices. No, our family went the easy route. Prepared meals, fast food for Mr. Mango at work, cheap bagged snacks. For anyone who knows me at all, already you know how out of character this is. I love to cook and always have. At this point in my life about as far as it went was sticking frozen lasagna in the oven and topping it with more cheese or spreading extra butter on a Pillsbury roll.
My migraines continued to come more often, last longer and hit harder. I gained weight (yea, not exactly what a woman who just had a baby wants right?) and felt bloated all the time not to mention my IBS was stuck on the C side of things. My depression was climbing and I knew it had nothing to do with postpartum issues this time. It was my whole body just giving up. I needed to do something.
The thing with bad or unhealthy habits is somewhere deep inside you know its a problem. You know your smoking is effecting your taste buds and lungs, you know your bottle of wine a night tradition is making for some not so great text choices and late for work hangovers, you know your video game binges push away family and friends and make work deadlines not be met. It’s called denial, the little place we live while we make excuses for the things we are or aren’t doing right. I was living there but I was ready to get on the move.
I had committed to exercise and healthier eating for weight loss before why not put the same effort into also trying to keep my body healthy, not just thin. I did my research and then did more. At this point in time the whole gluten free/crossfit phase was really just starting to boom, there is A LOT of misinformation out there on why to chose certain diet restrictions or why to add mega super foods. It took a lot of reading and then a full on commitment to a lifestyle and eating switch.
I went wheat (gluten) free, we stopped buying processed packaged foods (apart from some crackers, granola bars, fruit cups and juice boxes for the kids school) we cooked and baked with as much whole ingredients as we could, reduced dairy to almost none and cut out a lot of unneeded fats and sugars in recipes. I searched and searched from alternatives and substitutions. You have no idea until you try to cut it out, how much of even our baking and cooking ingredients (like herbs, corn starch, honey and especially dressings and sauces) have wheat and/or milk ingredients added in for fillers, thickeners or extra cheap flavor. It took a lot of trial and error and omitting a lot more than I originally thought out of my diet but it was settled and I was adamant I was going to give it my all.
The first month was almost too difficult to muster. I was still exhausted both for the same reasons as before (the bad diet and having a baby up ever 2 hours as well as two more to keep entertained) and the added stress of extra work in the kitchen, hours at the grocery store scouring ingredient lists and the withdrawal from my bread and sugar. It was hard and I shed a tear or more like threw a fit and wailed the first time Mr. Mango made toast after the first two weeks. It was HARD but I kept at it.
The next few months became easier. Not only was my youngest a little older but we had moved into our new home out of the big city, we had farmers markets available for fresh ingredients that fall and my kitchen routine was back in full swing just like it used to be except this time taste and health were both considered in each recipe. I had more energy, my migraines had lessened to only one or two a month and I even started to lose a little weight without really concentrating on calories, portion sizes or exercise. I felt in control of my health and even if certain things like my joint pain, IBS and woman issues didn’t seem to care what I ate I knew I was doing the best I could for my body.
Over the course of the next two years I learned more, I experimented more with different fruits and vegetables and wheat replacements. I resumed my exercise routines as soon as Little Dude was finally sleeping through the night. My world revolved around health and fitness and truly considered it a possible career path once the kids were old enough.
I helped friends and family members get started on their paths to weight loss, muscle gains or just over all healthy living. I instilled a positive view on vegetables and healthy treats to my children and I’ve even convinced Mr. Mango that cheese and bread don’t have to go with EVERYTHING. After a while though….it felt like a lie.
My migraines were back. \my IBS seemed to be worse the more whole foods I ate. My joints and muscles hated me no matter how well I stretched, how easy I took it on my workouts or how balanced I tried to keep my nutrient intake. The fatigue would set in for weeks. It would come in waves, all consuming and then ebbing away. New symptoms started popping up like neuropathic pain, skin rashes, joints seizing up, eye problems and a host of internal pains and twinges. Were they really new or had I been so busy ‘being healthy’ and dealing with doms that I didn’t feel them coming.
I felt defeated, stuck and honestly gypped. Why the hell was it working so well for everyone else. I was damned committed, for years! People managing a 30 day effing cleanse boasting about their results and how good they are feeling and I’m sitting here after my 900 day food logging anniversary getting ready for another round of tests and awaiting my first of many 2015-16 new diagnosis.
But I kept going. I’m not going to lie and say I enjoyed it as much. I felt like the extra effort and cost (up here in Canada the price for fresh produce and lean meats is atrociously high, even during peak harvest season) just wasn’t worth it. Had it just turned into a habit?
No. I know that eating healthy and exercise in general helps the body function better. I see it in the people around me making strides to better their lives. I see it in my kids who love their side of brussels sprouts just as much as they love their mashed potatoes. I see it in my spouse who feels and acts better when he isn’t loaded up on processed crap. So I kept going, maybe it wasn’t making me better, but hey maybe if I wasn’t focusing on healthy whole ingredients so much, I’d be much worse off.
Until of course a couple months ago my innards decided to go spas-tastic on me. Saying I’ve had to do a nutrition 180 feels like an understatement. The severity of the problem is enough to risk the worsening of every other symptom that I’ve hoped to keep away by cutting out simple (useless) carbs. Both my gut and my gut doctor feel it’s imperative to stick to a whites only type deal for now and no I don’t mean eggs. Aka the pasta and pastry lovers dream diet.
I have been waiting over a month now for my ’emergent’ scope, MRI and possible exploratory surgery. Don’t even get me started on the lack of health care professionals up in here, unless you’re a celebrity or you’re literally gut busted up and open on the table, there is a long ass waiting line ahead of you to get help. I’ve been instructed to eat like a teenage boy until the process is done.
That’s a month of waiting and hoping it’s only temporary, that my healthy diet isn’t the problem, it was just adding fuel to the fire of something that can and will be fixed and I can head right back to it after (I know fat chance, but a girl can hope). On top of it all everything else in my body is flaring up hardcore. Is it the breaded goodness? Or is it just following suit with my gut and it’s all interconnected? Have I really been fooling myself this whole time that I have any control whats over on how my body feels or reacts?
Worse still, its a month of being a hypocrite. I still believe salads and hearty soups are a great alternative to fast food. I still believe whole foods and lean cooking make for a healthy lifestyle and can prevent and/or reverse a lot of health conditions. I still post and comment on my personal social media pages the benefits of different greens, how limiting sugar can help or how easy it can be to sneak vegetables into children’s meals. I just can’t/won’t do it. Does that not make me a hypocrite?
Yes….and no. If I lost the ability to use my legs, I wouldn’t stop telling people that getting out for a walk and stretching their legs is good for them. If I lost my ability to hear I wouldn’t stop telling people that music soothes the soul. If I found out I was allergic to water (yea that actually exists) I wouldn’t tell people not to drink it.
I may seem like a hypocrite, but I have the best of intentions. I have lost the ability to eat healthy but in no way does it mean I’m going to tell people it’s a waste of time and money or a useless venture. Good whole foods, reduction of processed and nutrient light foods and concentrating on healthy portions of nutrient dense foods is the way to go and I will never say otherwise. Just know if you’re able to eat a stacked up salad or hearty and chunky soup. I’m not judgmental, at the moment I’m just a little jealous.