Thursday, February 28, 2013

Our Food Journey - Part 1

From Awareness to Reality

I have had several people ask me lately about how and why we eat like we do, how we got started, and so on. So, I thought I'd kill several birds with one stone and put it all down in a blog post. I have to say that there is no doubt in my mind that God has taken us on this journey. He wants what is best for us not just spiritually, but physically as well. So, here goes!

When I became a teenager a couple of things happened that changed my general awareness regarding food. First I had the privilege to go on several missions trips in which I was exposed to several different types of food from other cultures. Before this I had been a pretty picky eater, but overseas we were required to eat everything that was set before us. This pretty much cured me of my pickiness. Also, my family got involved in Melaleuca, Inc. This gave me an awareness of the dangers of chemicals and the need for natural ways to clean and be healthy. My parents stopped buying Pepsi for us to drink all the time and we started drinking more tea and water. We also started eating whole grain bread. We also started using natural cleaners. However, beyond that I didn't go much past awareness and avoiding some chemicals. I still ate a pretty typical Standard American Diet (SAD). When I think back on the stuff I used to eat... UGH! I ate some pretty nasty stuff back then.

With my limited knowledge of what is "healthy" I navigated my 20s, and gained a good bit of weight in the process. I met Shawn when I was 26, and we married a little over a year later. He had grown up eating a much more healthy diet that I did. His parents were more aware of the problems with sugar, white flour, and MSG than were mine. Also, since his family was from California, they were familiar with ingredients that I was unfamiliar with. Shawn's mother taught me to use and love things like cilantro and avocados. When I was pregnant with my first child I somehow knew enough to try to have a natural delivery, so I read some books, learned the Bradley method & sought out a midwife who was part of a conventional OB-GYN practice. I was having a lot of pain in my ribs from costochondritis (inflammation in the lining of the rib cage), so she referred me to an amazing chiropractor, Dr. David Block.  He recommended that we not get our daughter vaccinated and suggested a really good pediatrician. (I did consider his suggestion, but at the time I was pretty ignorant about vaccines and only knew the information provided by conventional medicine and the media. It didn't even occur to me at the time to research the ingredients in the vaccines. If I had, I would have definitely refused all vaccines. As it was, we did wait till she was a year old before we started vaccinating.) After my daughter was born I still had to work till she was eight months old. I had a terrible pump at the time and wasn't able to get enough milk for her when she wasn't with me. She also had trouble with dairy. I had to go off all dairy while I was nursing. When I ate dairy she would scream half the day. After I went off dairy she was a different baby within two weeks. (Of course, at the time, the only dairy I consumed was conventional dairy. I didn't know about the benefits of raw milk at the time.) I needed something to supplement nursing while I was at work. We tried soy formula, but she wouldn't take it (and for that I'm extremely grateful now since I've learned more about soy and its dangers). One day a friend was keeping her. She tried to give her the soy formula, but all the baby did was somehow suck on the nipple without taking any of the formula in ALL DAY LONG! I guess she didn't like the taste. That was one HUNGRY baby! She couldn't get enough of me that night! Obviously I needed to find another way to supplement nursing, so I told my chiro about the formula debacle. He suggested that we give her raw goats milk and gave me the name of a local farmer. We tried it, and she didn't react to it, so from the time she was seven weeks old or so, till she was eight months we supplemented with goats milk when I couldn't nurse. The goats milk was expensive, however, so we only used it for her. Shawn and I did the South Beach diet for awhile and lost several pounds. (I know now that the focus of the diet is wrong and it overlooks the foods we need to be truly healthy, but it did help to think more about what is healthy and what isn't.) Other than that we really didn't look much into nutrition, though we did continue to avoid processed flours and sugars and some food dyes. When I was training to work with kids on the Autism spectrum at work I had learned at about how red and yellow food dye contributed to hyperactivity and autistic behaviors, so we avoided them some, but we hadn't completely eliminated them from our diet.

Fast forward a few years to when our son was three years old. We had learned that he had a speech and language delay and we had noticed that when he had red dye he would be extremely hyper, so instead of just avoiding red dye, we eliminated it for him, though we still let our daughters have it. My youngest daughter also has a speech and language delay, but she didn't display the same hyperactive behavior after consuming dyes. Our son amazed us when he was offered anything red (and I do mean ANYTHING till we explained that he could have  things that were naturally red) and would turn it down without any prompting from us, even when we weren't around. Not long after that we learned that he has a Pervasive Developmental Delay (PDD-NOS). This essentially means he is on the Autism spectrum. He is high functioning, but because he has speech impairment, he is not considered Aspergers.

Somewhere during this time I learned about the death of Ramey Reeves, who I had gone to college with at Liberty University. We were little more than acquaintances at college, and she wasn't someone I had kept in touch with. I had just happened upon a post from another friend on MySpace about her illness a few weeks before she died. I started finding out everything I could about her on MySpace and Facebook. God really worked in my life through Ramey as I learned more about her. I was convicted by the joy she displayed in life and her desire that everyone know about Jesus. She had an easy way about her in sharing the Gospel, and she was a great friend to many. I was also able to reconnect with several friends from Liberty as I learned more about her. God has used these connections in so many ways in my life. I have been greatly influenced by what I've learned from these people. There are a couple in particular whose input has had a strong impact on my life. One of these friends has a blog and posted a lot on Facebook about a traditional diet and nutrition. I was intrigued and began reading her blog and several of the ones she linked to (which lead to more links, and more links... I've shared the ones that are good places to start researching here). As I did more and more research we began changing our diet to a more traditional one. We almost completely eliminated processed flours and sugars except when we were away from home. I began making my own organic sourdough bread and began searching out pastured meat, eggs, and raw milk (er, "pet milk", that is, since they don't sell raw milk for human consumption in NC; my "pets"--wink, wink--really loved it). We switched to mostly all organic fruits and vegetables and I started shopping at the local Farmers' Market on a regular basis. I had pretty much nailed down all our sources in North Carolina, and then we moved to Virginia. I had to find new sources all over again! (To me sourcing the food is the hardest part about a healthier diet. Once you've nailed down your sources and worked out your routines then it's no big deal. Plus it's so much more beneficial and enriching to shop from farmers instead of impersonal grocery stores. I've met lots of wonderful, interesting people in the last few years.)

This post is part of Fight Back Friday.

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