This is a little story about me that explains a lot of the little journey that I’ve lately been on in regards to my family and food. It really has been quite a journey for me (and it is a little tedious) and some of it is painful for me to relate but it may help others so that’s why I am sharing it.
In January I had my third baby. I had had a fairly healthy pregnancy (well, until I got bronchitis for about six weeks at the end) and then I spent three days of prodormal labor in a week and finally birthed my baby. I don’t know if it is from hormones or what, but after having my third, I have felt fiercely and I mean FIERCELY protective of my children. I thoroughly enjoyed the newborn stage, which actually was very unusual for me. It did help that I had an incredible midwife with an amazing couple of student midwives who have gone over and beyond to support me in my postpartum and afterwards. I felt this time like I had permission to be and do whatever it was I needed to be and do to survive this overwhelming and joyous time in my life. There was only one aspect of this whole new-baby transition that was making my life seem out-of-control and I had no idea what to do: My three-year-old.
My poor little three-year-old who loved the baby and was so happy to be a big sister…she wanted so hard to show me that she was a big girl, but she could not get potty trained. If she felt the urge to go #2 she would be sitting on the potty for up to two hours sometimes. She wanted me to understand her, but she would hardly talk and the words she said were usually difficult for me to decipher. She rarely would make eye-contact. She constantly threw tantrums…and when I say constantly I mean like one every ten minutes or less. It was very upsetting. For the most part, I just tried to let her do what she wanted and didn’t push her. She spent a lot of time drawing circles. Teeny tiny hot-pink circles swirling in a curly-q around the paper.
Then my in-laws came into town for a week. And she was for the most part an ANGEL. Then I thought. “Oh, it’s just extra attention that she’s needed.” And I was so relived that they didn’t have to deal with what I had been dealing with for the last few weeks. It was a lovely time and I was able to sew the baby’s blessing dress.
Then the visitors all left and life went back to normal. Well, the normal we were used to. Big sister still threw tantrums, wouldn’t make eye contact and didn’t make it to the bathroom. I was nursing the baby a lot of the time and watching PBS while nursing. The ladies at my church were talking about doing a “Feel Great in 8” challenge and so I decided to join them.
One evening, while I was adding up my score for the challenge, I was watching a PBS special about this lady J.J. Virgin's diet. I found it to be really interesting and so I texted my sister and asked her if she had heard of it before. Then she said “No, but a lot of those things she tells you to stop eating are common GMO’s”. I was like “Huh" and didn’t really think much of that but I looked online about soy information and how it mimics estrogen and how you can tell if you’re estrogen dominant (saddle bags, back fat, and upper arm fat), things that I have struggled with since high school days to one extent or another. That night I started really reading the ingredients on the back of packages. Most ingredients, I had no clue what they even were. I did however, notice a common-theme in the soy department. Pretty much everything had soy in it. Even my beloved chocolate. From that time on I decided to avoid soy like the plague.
Then I decided to look up the other items on her ban-list. I had already read this article from Parents Magazine about gluten.
We had already banned milk products the year before in 2012 when big sister had only gained one pound from age 1-2 and then went in for multiple tests at the doctor’s office only to have them repeat all the same tests and then tell us that they didn’t know what was wrong with her. I had just miscarried and was sick and tired of taking my child in for more poking and prodding without results so I decided to try eliminating all dairy to see if that helped her. Miraculously, in a month, she had gained 3 lbs and was finally 24 lbs.
Then I read this article from the Healthy Home Economist and I had an aha moment. I knew why big sister was happy and darling and just plain fine while my in laws were here at the beginning of March…we were eating gluten free because my mother-in-law is gluten intolerant. I have cousins who are gluten intolerant….I realized that my little girl may be gluten intolerant. I called my mother-in-law and asked her a ton of questions and she gave me a fabulous quote.
I talked to my husband about my feelings and about my fears about how our daughter exhibits signs of autism. He was in complete denial and asked her to come talk to him and look in his eyes. She reluctantly came over to him, after much prodding and could not make eye contact…then she left us to go play by herself and her little people as usual.
He looked at me and said “Whatever you feel like you need to do, try it.”
So I took my girl off of gluten. And guess what?! After 48 hours she was an entirely different child. No joke. I was shocked. Then I felt terrible. How long had I basically been giving my little girl something that made her feel so awful that it felt “normal” for her to feel yucky.
In three days, she was completely potty trained. And in one month she had grown. She had gone from a tiny barely 2T size to be a 3T and almost a 4T with some of her clothes. Her hair started growing like crazy and she started TALKING like all the time! Her tantrums were practically non-existent unless she had been tainted with gluten and the best of all, she started looking us in the eyes and wanting to be held and cuddled. I am so relieved and I feel so blessed that I was led to figure out what my little girl needed.
These past few months have been amazing as I have gotten to “know” this little girl who before was so much more silent and less interactive. Now she loves to find the humor in things and loves to tell me things to make me laugh. Besides going off of gluten, we have dropped many other “regular” foods from our diets and pretty much only eat things from scratch. I use many paleo, clean or “real food” recipes now. It is amazing because for me, I have always always struggled with my weight, but since changing our lifestyle my pregnancy weight has literally fallen off of me without me even worrying about it. I feel younger than I did five years ago which is saying a lot for a 30-something woman who has had three children and has rods in her back.
Many people have asked me if it is difficult to have changed our diets so dramatically and I have to say, yes, it’s been a challenge, but the benefits are more than worth it. It has caused me to reflect more and more when I am tempted to eat something that I know is not good for me but I am hungry and want something quick, “Am I sacrificing health for convenience?”.
When so much of the “American” diet is basically chemicals that are KNOWN to cause adverse effects, I wonder, why. Why is it "normal” to eat these things and “out there” to eat real food? It doesn’t make sense to me that we as a society want to be healthy and naturally beautiful and yet we also want to literally eat garbage and curse the effects of eating garbage. We are what we eat. Literally. If we were raising a prize-winning animal, would we let anything but the best touch their lips if we have any control? Why don’t we treat ourselves with the same kind of respect? Is a moment of flavor worth putting unhealthy things into our bodies? I think there is nothing wrong with delicious food, but let that food be from “real” whole ingredients. Yes, make cookies that are full of oats, coconut, cacao, and honey. Eat them and enjoy. Also enjoy that if they are made from wholesome ingredients you won’t feel sluggish or gross after a sugar crash or an aspartame headache (which is worse). I make treats ALL the time. Ask my family. We are not depriving ourselves of enjoying sweet treats. We aren’t however, dependent on a sugar-high to keep us going each day.
Since I was young I have heard about chemical warfare. Now, as I educate myself on the chemicals and “ingredients” that are added into our foods without us even knowing what they are and what effects they cause I realize that chemical warfare is happening daily between our bodies and the chemicals we are putting into our bodies. I feel almost angry that I have been “fed like a lab rat” for so many years. It makes me wonder if some of my health problems would have never happened had I known better. But you know what?! I don’t have time for wondering and wishing that things were different. I am now empowered with information to do better. To teach others how to feel good and to lead my family into a lifestyle that will help them feel their best. I have the power and so do you.