How did I get to where I am today and am I so devoted to the real food movement? Here is my real food story…
I am a Gen Xer and was raised in El Paso, TX at a time before GMOs but not before processed food. And I ate plenty of those myself. I spent many years only eating french fries, Cokes and Doritos. I liked the taste of margarine more than butter because that is all I was offered. But I also was raised in Texas and ,of course, also got my fill of steaks and barbeque. Thankfully I come from a family of carnivores! Of course I had no idea where my meat came from and I didn’t care. Most likely, beef in those days was grass fed!
I was diagnosed with asthma at the age of 8 years old – just like so many kids these days. I also constantly complained of stomach aches and the two wiped me out. I had terrible allergies and I would inevitably come down with bronchitis at least twice a year if not more and also had recurrent ear and sinus infections. I frankly didn’t feel so good a lot of the time.
I always had a love of and interest in cooking. From a very young age, I would pull up my stool and cook with my mother and father. Progressing through my teens, I started to notice that the foods I was eating weren’t so tasty. I started to seek out what I called ‘good’ food. I liked real Mexican food made with lard which I could taste. El Paso was a little late on the low-fat trend in those days. I also liked to eat out at nice restaurants and I remember watching Great Chefs of the World on TV after school. This show is not the Top Chef we have now on Bravo but the much more boring version where they just followed real chefs around in their restaurant kitchens. I loved this show and almost every episode contained recipes for making fois gras and ample use of butter! If you loved this show too – please pipe up – I am sure I am not the only one out there – right?!
When I ventured off to the University of Texas at Austin, things only went downhill. I started college in 1995 – the year before GMOs went ‘live’. Looking back at what I ate now horrifies me. In those days, I lived in my sorority house and there experienced a whole new world of chemicals (and I now know – GMOs) in my food. The girls were then demanding completely low or non fat diets and that is what the kitchen served us. I remember picking at my meals and feeling hungry about an hour after eating. I would often go out and pick up a hamburger to get my ‘meat’ fix at outside restaurants. Eating disorders and food phobias were beginning to show their ugly heads in our world and it was pretty frightening to deal with for someone like me who always had a strong interest in enjoying my food. I remember thinking – these girls are nuts!
It wasn’t long after college that I really started having major digestive distress. I tried many elimination diets and spent a few years avoiding wheat, dairy and soy. Nothing really helped that much. But it was through these elimination diets that I started to become more aware of what was in the food I was eating. I became interested in reading ingredients vs. just the front of the package. I couldn’t believe the garbage and chemicals in the food I was eating. I wanted to avoid certain ingredients and found that almost impossible at the regular supermarkets.
I started branching out and visited my first farmer’s market when I moved to Austin, TX from NYC. I was in heaven. My senses were awakened. I joined a local farm CSA (community supported agriculture program) shortly thereafter. I didn’t always know what was in my veggie box each week but it was thrilling to tinker and experiment with new recipes, and I loved the challenge of being able to use up all my veggies each week.
And yet I was still experiencing regular asthma and allergies and digestive issues. I explored various ‘healers’ over the years – all with something to offer but not much changed for me. I was still seeking some magic bullet, some super herb or pill that would make everything better. And then I landed myself in the hospital for four days with a serious case of pneumonia. I had a 15-month old baby that I was still nursing and I was in the hospital with pneumonia! I felt like I was 90 years old. I couldn’t understand how a 33 year old could get this sick. I was shuttled between multiple specialists but there was no coordination of my care or real effort to get to the underlying cause of my problems. The only answer was to prescribe more and more drugs for the symptoms. One physician even recommended I take my daughter out of day care because I couldn’t handle whatever illnesses she might be bringing home. Seriously? Should we consider living our lives in a bubble to protect ourselves from the common virus? There had to be another way!
Things changed for me a year ago. I met an amazing acupuncturist who told me I needed to read the book Nourishing Traditions. I was doing a lot of international travel for work at that time so I downloaded the e-reader version and read it cover to cover. The book was a revelation to me and I knew I had to learn more. Please read the book or at least the introduction section. It will blow your mind about food! It made such sense and such an impression on me that I dove right in.
The concepts in the book were the missing pieces in my protocol. I was avoiding certain foods but what I wasn’t doing was healing to my system that occurred over the years. I took a leap of faith and started looking at food differently. You might see that a lot of recommendations in the book are counter to current conventional ideas about food (like all of them). So, I did a lot of research and reading in the early days to make sure I wasn’t hearing just one opinion. Intuitively, I knew that what I was being introduced to made good sense for me.
And so my family and I began our journey back to real food. Once you start, you really can’t go back. I began consuming at least 40% saturated fat a day and I also began drinking bone broths regularly. I made my own sauerkraut and ate it at every meal. And, I started feeling better. I took some whole food supplements like Cod Liver Oil and Chinese herbs. I felt energy I hadn’t felt in years. I also noticed that I could breathe and the constant nasal drip was gone. While I still did get sick last winter – I was healing more quickly and without the use of antibiotics. After a year of eating mostly real foods, I can say with a smile on my face, I have now thrown out all of my asthma and allergy prescription medications and nose sprays. I haven’t needed them – not even once.
This experience has taught me the true meaning of the word ‘healthy’. It isn’t about being thin or eating low-fat food…the word ‘healthy’ has been corrupted! I blog about my experiences and about whole real foods because I truly believe we all have the ability to be completely and vibrantly healthy in the real sense of the word. Our children should not be sick all the time and have constant runny noses. This is not normal. I believe in the collective wisdom of experience. I am not sure what all the scientists are studying; however, I am a study of one. And I can attest to the impact this paradigm shift in my eating has had on the health of me and my family and I can see the impact it is having on our friends and family. I want to share this with as many people as I am able to reach. The fact of the matter is we do not need to be bound by our medications or the world of processed and genetically modified foods. We just need to return to eating real food.