It’s the Food!
(This series was originally published in December 2013.)
Part 1: The Rambling
I see “Well, look what I found!” in the email subject line from my college pal and expect to laugh at a film clip from undergrad projects 25 years ago. Instead I’m shocked to be face-to-face with myself in a cell phone video message I’d sent him a few years ago. I’m joking about the fun of electric scooters as I sit in one at Target with the walking cane I used for years in the shopping basket. My body is 90 pounds heavier than now and I hardly recognize myself.
In the years since I sent this message, I have radically changed how I eat and my health has improved dramatically. I rarely see video of myself, and seeing my body in motion, instead of the carefully edited snapshots I allow online, brings immediate tears. The memories of the suffering – both physical and emotional – of decades of poor health wash over me: chronic pain, arthritis, digestive disorders, complications from an emergency surgery, anxiety, depression, the many misdiagnoses, the side effects of unneeded medication for the misdiagnoses, and the social shaming of being obese, as if it was a choice or a character flaw.
The shock of seeing myself in the video is not about vanity or being overweight. I know I am beautiful at any size. (And so are you. See “Before” Me.) When I began my health recovery, my goal was not to lose weight. I’d been overweight most of my adult life and after trying many diets with very little results, I’d written my size off to genetics. (Literally, see “Do These Genes Make My Butt Look Big?”) I just wanted to feel better and to know I was eating as healthy as possible.
It’s shocking that I changed my body and my health so dramatically simply from changing what I eat – not from a pill or surgery or a miracle cure, or even exercise. (Not exercising is a confession, not a recommendation. I have been, at best, a sporadic exerciser.) Not only do I look very different now, it seems all of my life is different – from energy level, to mental focus, to the absence of chronic pain, to less depression and anxiety, to the very, very different ways people respond to me now. The emotions are messy: rage at years of misdiagnoses and being stereotyped as lazy, gratitude for the healing, and blaming myself for not learning more and doing more sooner. It’s harsh to realize that years of sickness and pain were so unnecessary and could have been avoided with better medical access and care and better food choices.
Though I’d written briefly about this on my personal blog, after seeing the video I felt led to share more of my health recovery story. It’s shocking and embarrassing how little I knew about nutrition and the content and safety of food. And most appalling to me is that I was not smarter about all of it. Like many people I am a novice at healthy living.
Since I began my health recovery in 2010, I’ve wavered between two extreme urges: avoiding writing about it because of the complexity and exposure to scrutiny of the very personal act of telling one’s own health story, and wanting to run through the streets screaming “It’s the food!! What are you eating?!” My intention with this new blog is to find a happy medium of sharing my experiences, explorations, tips and interviews with experts as I continue to get smarter about my health. While I’ll eventually also share “before” and “after” photos, and there are plenty on Facebook, etc., I hope for now this post will inspire you on your own health journey. I’m excited to move my food revolution from my kitchen to this blog and beyond, and thankful for the message from my past that inspired me.
Part 2: The Lists
Since 2010 I’ve completely changed how I eat and the results have been amazing health recovery, including 90 pounds of weight loss. Following is a simple bullet point list of notes about the steps on my health recovery journey.
I’ll write in more detail about many of these things in the future. And soon I’ll also post “before” and “after” photos.
Disclaimer: Generally I abhor advertorial articles/blog posts, and any articles here are purely editorial. However, it is impossible to share my health story without references the people and products who are part of it. Please note: Whole Body Health was previously a client of my PR/marketing business.
1. The Fire Engine 2 Diet by Rip Esselstyn
I saw Rip Esselstyn’s TEDxAustin talk live in February of 2010, and in August of 2010 I began a vegan diet by following his book. I have since added eggs back to my diet because I love them and love the easy, versatile source of protein.
2. In December of 2010 I began working with chiropractor Dr. Jeff Ulery and acupuncturist Moria McCarthy of Whole Body Health. My work with them led me to test for food allergies and to discover I had a gluten intolerance, as well as an allergic response to nightshades.
3. In January of 2011 I took the Whole Body Health for Life Class which helped immensely in learning to eat differently and detox and cleanse.
4. Robyn O’Brien’s 2011 TEDxAustin talk was also a big inspiration to me to change how I eat.
Here are some of my Do’s and Don’ts:
- high fructose corn syrup
- nightshades – tomatoes, potatoes, peppers, eggplant. Yes, I gave up salsa. I have a food allergy or sensitivity to these and I feel much better without them in my diet.
- alcohol – initially I only avoided alcohol when detoxing, but now I simply find the buzz is not worth the detoxing needed to clear it out of my system
- most processed food
- processed food with mystery ingredients – if I don’t know what it is, I don’t eat it
- fast food
- over the counter medications – There’s usually a more natural cure with no side effects.
- prescription medications – I avoid unless absolutely necessary. I’ve reduced my prescriptions, which I was told I would be on for life, from 8 to 1.
- whole foods (Most of what I eat can be found on a farm.)
- local and organic fruit and vegetables as much as possible
- detox tea
- protein powder – I eat lots of smoothies and shakes. I love the convenience and ease, and fewer dishes to wash.
- vitamins and supplements as recommended by a nutritionist
- amino acids as recommended by The Mood Cure by Julia Ross
- epsom salt detox baths – 2-3x a week
Part 3: The Before and After Photos
I’ve written in several places about my hesitation to share “before” and “after” photos because as a feminist I don’t want to support the “lookist” prejudice of our culture that bases a woman’s value on her appearance. Yet as I shift into a more conscious effort of regularly exercising it seems important to show the physical difference of a 90-pound weight loss over three years mostly due to dietary changes.
I make part of my living doing PR work and I know the power of an image. I also know “before and after” photos can be misleading. The same person in the same light can look completely different depending on details like posture and camera angle. Often “before” photos look radically different because the “after” photos are shot by a professional photographer in a studio with a stylist and make-up artist. So I’ve intentionally chosen photos that are snapshots, though a few are snapshots with very good cameras by very good event photographers. In trying to find photos with somewhat proportional and similar angles I had to crop out other people and a stray hand sometimes remains in the shot. Other than a flash attached to the camera, there’s no special lighting. There’s definitely no photoshop.
There’s no agenda or marketing plan in sharing these – though in other posts here I do share the resources that helped me as a genuine, enthusiastic, and grateful testimonial. My point is simply to say, to share, to show: it’s the food.
(digital cameras) _____________________________________________
(event photograher’s shots) _____________________________________________
(all cell phone camera shots)