Eating Changed My Life (and it can for you too!)
First off, a special thank you to Charity for allowing my two cents to be shared on her blog. Now let me share with you the life changing secret that I have discovered…………….food has healing power! Blah, blah, blah you crazy hippy (is what you are thinking, right?) That was me exactly about a year ago. Let me give you a little background as to where I am coming from before I tell you about where I am now.
Growing up I would say my family followed the standard North American diet. We were of course encouraged to eat our veggies, which is where my love for veggies began and, just like any average household, we followed the food pyramid. I knew the basics from what society taught me: eat a balanced diet, and try to steer clear of deep fried, high sugar, fat, and salty foods (the good stuff). This was the only template that I had known until I met my husband Dave.
Dave and his family had a different approach to health and nutrition. Dave had grown up on the farm where fresh garden fruits/veggies/meat were available and so already had a grounding in whole foods, but as kids you don’t appreciate the goodness of what you have. Dave was diagnosed with MS, which is an autoimmune disease, in his early 20s, which was about 5 years before I met him. At that time, the treatments that were available had side effects that “made you feel like you had a bad cold all the time” (his words). So with the guidance of his parents, namely his mom who had gone gluten free due to health problems and had done lots of research into naturopathic medicine in previous years, he decided to take a more natural route and see how he did diet and exercise.
Fast forward a few years to where we met and married. At this point I still wasn’t convinced, of course I was all supportive of Dave, but I didn’t really believe diet was going to make a difference and natural methods were still hippy-ish to me. His diet alone wasn’t working and so we made the decision to start perusing medicine, to the relief of his neurologist who didn’t support Dave’s diet hypothesis. We found that meds helped, but his MS was still progressing. Then on the eve of deciding whether we should start a new, more aggressive medication, we came across a TED Talks video of Dr. Terry Wahls who talked about how she was able to heal her body of secondary progressive MS by changing her lifestyle and what she ate. She went from a wheelchair to walking in about a year. We were floored and bought her book, the audiobook, the cookbook, and anything we could get our hands on. Our eyes were opened!
Wait a minute, you might be thinking, I thought you already said you tried that and it didn’t work. Yes and no. The research Dave had been following was outdated, though not obsolete, but it just wasn’t the right fit for him. Dr. Terry Wahls had certainly done her homework and the more we explored into this new world, the more people and success stories we found that supported her work. We quickly learned that using food for healing (a new concept to me) was actually not something new at all. This was the turning point for us.
The basic concept that we follow is paleo, eating as natural as possible, which is a difficult thing when we live in a world with grocery stores filled with the farthest thing from natural, whole foods. We went gluten-free, dairy-free, refined sugar-free, and little to no processed or packaged goods, or as close to that as we could get on a budget. Eventually, we would also like to try completely grain-free and legume-free, but one step at a time. We strive to eat 8-10 cups of veggies each day and are careful about the type of meats we eat, which means buying local grass-fed meats almost exclusively. A lot of people have told me that they would be too hungry if they ate paleo. Let me tell you, you WILL NOT be hungry and you can be guilt free because its all good for you. Eat as much veggies as you want until you are stuffed! Adding protein and fat to each meal will help your body absorb those nutrients and stay full longer. The idea is that we need to give the body the proper nutrients and fats that it needs for healing. This is specifically essential for healing the MS brain, but also important for anyone else. Our bodies are extremely lacking this in our cultural diet with the high grain, dairy, and bad fat intake and little to no veggies. For us, it has been an exciting adventure as we have basically relearned how to eat. Our kitchen cupboards and grocery visits look very different than what they once did, but there are so many resources out there to help you make a smooth transition. We have especially enjoyed Danielle Walker’s Against all Grain cookbooks and blog!
For me, I was highly motivated by Dave’s health to push through the beginning hard stuff, but once I got over the hump it was amazing to me how good I felt. Being a foodie and veggie lover didn’t hurt either. I can only describe the change that took place in my body as waking up to myself again. I had forgotten what it was like to feel good or maybe I had never really known. All of a sudden I had so much more energy and wanted to exercise to burn off that energy. The pounds just dropped off without even having to try and I don’t have those crazy sugar cravings anymore (you know what I am talking about). As my body has healed, those addicting foods that I once craved, and seemingly couldn’t live without, no longer have a hold on me.
Dave’s experience has been slower as his body is on double duty fighting against the MS and working on healing. He also has an aggressive medication at work in his body because we had decided to use as a combination of meds/diet. He definitely has a lot more energy though and is more in tune with his body. We have found that listening to your body when you are eating whole foods is easier because you are more aware of the foods eaten vs. how they make you feel. There is no turning back for us. We can clearly see (by how we feel) that our bodies and natural whole foods were designed to work together in harmony.
If you are reading this and wondering if this is the right step for you, health concerns or not, I would encourage you to be your own advocate. While advice and direction from doctors is certainly needed, we are all unique individuals and I don’t believe anymore that there is a one-size-fits-all prescription to healing. This is a long-term investment in your health. Do your own research, seek out alternative advice, read success stories and listen to what you body is telling you. Dave and I have become enthusiastic proselytizers of natural methods of healing (just ask our families). I always feel like I have this huge secret that no one will listen to or even wants to hear because they are too scared of letting go. Do yourself a favour and let go, even for a short time to see what will happen. I promise you, you won’t regret it! Until then, Dave and I will continue along this delicious life journey with open minds and open mouths!
In the words of Charity,
Eat your greens.