When I was 22 years old my stomach and I were fighting – a lot. I was just graduating college. I was too old for my pediatrician and yet to select and establish a relationship with a primary care doctor. So I went to a family member’s doctor for help.
She spent a few minutes with me and wrote me a script for Zelnorm. I remember sitting there puzzled. That’s it? Just take this pill? At 22?
At the time, I didn’t know what I now know about pharmaceuticals or diet but my gut (yes, I see the pun there) told me I needed to find the root cause, not treat the symptoms.
Instead of filling the prescription (obviously I am not a medical doctor. This is not medical advice. Consult your doctor. That’s what the lawyer has to say, right?), I played with what I was consuming.
First I reduced my alcohol intake. This one didn’t require any effort and happened naturally. (See note above about graduating college – there had been a lot of end of the year celebrations.) Next I thought I needed more fiber. When that didn’t work, I started removing specific foods from my diet for 2-3 weeks. That process identified dairy as the culprit. Eliminating milk from my diet provided immediate relief.
I tossed the unfilled Zelnorm prescription and later learned that young women were (allegedly) suffering heart attacks after taking Zelnorm. Heart attacks. Heart attacks from a prescription that treats symptoms rather than addressing the root cause.
As the years ticked by, my focus was on calories and fat. I avoided fast food, chips, fries, creamy sauces – all the foods that obviously aren’t helping anyone.
I figured if I kept my weight down, I was healthy. But why was I still feeling “ugh” by the end of the day? (by “ugh” I’m not talking about the acute pain I was experiencing drinking milk, but rather a small minimal discomfort. Sometimes described as feeling fat, yucky or blah.)
In the last few years, it’s become more mainstream that healthy is no longer just about the number on the scale. It’s also chemicals, food additives, pesticides and GMOs.
Reports have leaked about the sugar association’s (alleged) efforts to stamp out links between sugar and heart disease. Or Monsanto’s (alleged) practices of ghostwriting research. And the $110 talc powder verdict against Johnson & Johnson.
It’s a lot to keep track of! As the information kept mounting, we began taking the steps to clean up our food (reading this book helped a lot too).
Earlier this week, I learned that it was National Cheesecake Day. A co-worker generously offered me some of her cheesecake. When I declined, we talked through why (primarily because I can’t do dessert in any form of moderation. It’s all or nothing for me.) At the end she said, “So you basically eat like Jennifer Aniston.”
The process has taken several years, but here’s how we slowly transitioned to a diet beyond just calories.
First we minimized the processed food in our house. This required carefully reading food labels to learn what was in the boxes I was bringing home. I finally went below the Total Fat per serving line and started checking the added sugars and ingredients too.
From there it was organic fruits and veggies. This one has been hard at times. Something like Doritos is easy. I can just look at it and know there is no nutritional value in that concoction. But organic verse non-organic veggies: the only thing I can see is the price difference!
The last step was elimination of dairy and meat. I know this one is not for everyone. Dairy was such an inflammatory for me that it has been great for us. For others this might be eliminating gluten or sugar or artificial sweetener (years ago my brother pin-pointed this down to chewing gum or diet coke giving him headaches).
These days my diet is: lots of fruits and vegetables, minimal added sugar intake (read: no sweets), whole grains, nuts & nut butters and legumes – all organic when possible to minimize our exposure to the yucky stuff.
I know these types of things are irritating to read. Before making the change, I am guilty of reading something like this and being annoyed at the author.
But the numerous commercials on tv about eradicating bloat and stomach cramps tell me I’m not the only one who was feeling “ugh” by the afternoon. I had accepted that feeling as normal.
It was easier for me to believe that what I was putting in my mouth had nothing to do with it – that I couldn’t fix it. Then to face the music that I could do something about it by paying attention to what I put in my body.
So despite this type of post being potentially annoying, I’m writing it because if one person reading this is finally at the point of: enough is enough. I urge you to do it. Let me know if you’ve had a similar experience and any tips you’ve had to staying on track!
Note: Back to school with lunches and a set routine, seems like as good of time as any to talk about food. So the next few posts will be about what and how we’re eating. I’ll wind out the month with meal planning which is the culmination of all the things I’m trying to do and makes it manageable.
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