A little warning now, this post is long-winded. I thought it was necessary though, to give you the story behind my position on our food system and to let you know why I have become so passionate about gardening and providing safer, healthier food for my family.
Our youngest was born in 2009, and just a few short weeks later my journey towards a more healthy life began, even though I didn’t realize it at the time. When your month old baby begins having blood in his stools, it’s enough to freak out most people. When you are told it is food allergies, you think okay now I have an answer, work to identify the culprits, eliminate them and then have loads of time to think about the whys and hows. It took me weeks of elimination diet trial and error until I figured out what my little dude was allergic to. I had two choices since I was nursing. I could stop and feed him hypoallergenic formula or I could eat just a couple of foods and slowly add things one at a time until I identified what he was allergic to. He was too young for allergy testing to work, and I was staying home and able to nurse, so I knew what my choice was.
It was a miserable couple of months. I’m not going to lie. My first attempt failed because in choosing 4 or 5 of the least allergenic foods to begin with, I chose potatoes which he WAS allergic to. You get bored really quickly only eating apples, oatmeal, rice, squash and chicken. When I finally had my list of problem foods it got a little easier. I’m not a very creative cook, so I pretty much ate oatmeal or a special recipe pumpkin muffin for breakfast and salads, stir fries or baked chicken with veggies for lunch and dinner. He was allergic to milk, corn, soy, potatoes, beef, and chocolate (although I think chocolate was because of the milk. I never really tried plain cocoa).
Once I settled into a routine I had time to wonder how this little person who hadn’t even had a bite of these foods could be allergic to them, and why these foods? I read and read and read. I am a science nerd at heart, and my degree is in Clinical Laboratory Science, so research was something I turned to naturally. I know the science behind food allergies, but the more I researched and looked at that list, the more I began to wonder if it wasn’t what people had done to those foods, and not the foods themselves, that was the problem. I wish I had had my garden then and could have tried those foods grown organically to test my theory. Corn and soy are in everything processed. Today these ingredients are also quite often genetically modified so that great amounts of pesticides/herbacides/fungicides can be sprayed all over them. Could it be he was reacting to the unnatural, genetically modified food or the gross amounts of chemicals on them? Milk and beef, of course come from cows. Factory farms are truly terrible, horrible hells on earth. These cows are generating huge amounts of stress hormones, which we ingest when we eat them or their milk. They are also pumped with antibiotics and fed unnatural diets of, you guessed it, genetically modified corn. Hmmm. Pattern much? Potatoes are supposed to be one of the least allergenic foods. This gave me all kinds of fits trying to figure out what was bothering the dude. You know what else is true about potatoes? They are sprayed with an incredible amount of chemical so that they keep and don’t sprout. They are also a root crop which takes in everything from the soil it is grown in. Heavy metals and chemicals all sucked in and stored in its tubers. So at 20-some days old and consuming only mama’s milk, was he really allergic to these things or was it something man-made? I’ll never know for sure, but I think you can figure out which way I am leaning.
So for almost two years I ate a special diet so I could nurse the little dude and pump milk for him so that we didn’t have to do the hypoallergenic formula. This consumed the rest of 2009, all of 2010 and the beginning of 2011. The allergist told us he most likely would outgrow these allergies around the age of 2, so one by one we carefully tried adding the foods to our diets and found his now stronger body and immune system was able to handle them. I went a little nuts, as you can imagine. Sodas and chocolate were my vices, and went overboard like a castaway who had been deprived of food. I gained weight and felt terribly and proved to myself that fast food, processed food, sweets and sodas were really, really terrible for the body.
With 2012 approaching, and a whole lot more reading and documentary watching under my belt, I knew I had to start making some serious changes. I decided that instead of overwhelming myself with changing so many things at once, that I would choose a couple of things each year for the next few years and hopefully, with so much focus, I would be setting myself up for success and a new, healthier lifestyle. In 2012 I cut the majority of sugar out of my diet. The evils of processed sugar are a topic we could spend days on, but I think it’s pretty much accepted that it is terrible for you. For me and my sweet tooth, this was major. I had to give up my beloved soda, which was the hardest. It’s nice for the grocery budget though. 🙂 I allowed myself one sweet a week, and after about a month they were all so incredibly sweet that I didn’t want much, if any. It IS hard at first, but really, if you can stick with it, the cravings do go away. Oh, and I lost 15 pounds. BO-NUS!!!!
2013 was my year to add regular exercise and begin cutting back on the meat I was eating. (Shhh! I also started cutting back on the meat my family was eating as well. Very slowly, and not as much as I was cutting, but little victories are still victories)! I had a secret longing to be a runner, even though I despised running and was never able to do it for long, even when I played team sports in my younger days. I downloaded the Couch to 5K running app on my phone. 30 minutes a day, 3 days a week for 9 weeks seemed doable, especially since I made a deal with myself to run every other day and not move up in the workouts until I was comfortable doing so. No pressure to get done in any certain amount of time. Exercising for 30 minutes, every other day, was exercising no matter what I was doing. I found I loved it, and not only went through the Couch to 5K program, but the 5K to 10K as well. I felt like a kick, um, butt 🙂 rockstar running for one hour when six months ago running for one minute kicked my butt. I started the program with my daughter a couple weeks ago. I’m training myself a running buddy. 🙂
This year my goals were to continue to cut out meat, do a lot of juicing and either get chickens or switch to local, farm fresh eggs. I’m still working on these, but have found a lady near me who sells her extra eggs from her lovely, free-range chickens. So until I can work out having our own tiny flock of hens, I will enjoy the fresh, beautiful eggs from her’s. If you haven’t looked closer at where your food is coming from yet, please take a moment and do. I come from a long line of meat eaters and even hunters. I love animals, but always thought it was okay to consume animal products because of that idyllic, bright red barn and rolling green pasture farm that I pictured all of our meat animals coming from. I don’t know when our humanity changed to allow animals to be treated the way they are now, or when the conditions they are kept in became acceptable for their health and well-being or ours as consumers, but I won’t support it any longer. I know me no longer purchasing a dozen eggs a week from the grocery store is having little effect on the factory egg industry, but if we ALL choose to make little changes they WILL add up. Try it. Make one change this year. We have to start doing something.
I’ll talk about it more another time, since I’ve certainly rambled on long enough today, but your local farm fresh eggs not only taste better and are crazy healthier, but you can’t beat how pretty they are. Ditch the plain white and brown for an assortment of blues, greens, browns, pinks and creams. They’ll remind you every time you open the fridge of the changes you’re making and the difference you are making, and you’ll smile.