Where’s the beef? It’s probably hard to believe, but it’s not at our house.
A few months ago, I came across something about a woman whose infertility was caused by a food intolerance, which led me to find something about a person who had an immune disorder that was triggered by certain foods. That one really got my attention.
Though he has never been formally diagnosed, the immunologist believes my six-year-old has an immune disorder. She believes that, coupled with asthma, is the reason Wyatt has stayed sick for so long.
After years with two inhalers, Singulair, Nasonex, a myriad of different allergy medicines (though he has never tested positive for an allergy), and months of prophylactic antibiotics, he is showing improvement; it’s been more than a year since his last bout with pneumonia. But he’s still not completely better, and I can’t imagine all that medicine could possibly be good for him long term.
So, I decided to do further research on the possibility that food might be contributing to his health issues. It couldn’t hurt, right?
Four books, several documentaries, and a few websites later, I learned that I had no idea what was lurking in the things we were eating daily, and that even very seemingly healthy foods could be harmful.
I’ve always been a label reader. I’ve been a calorie counter since college. I understand proteins and starches and carbs because of past trouble with my blood sugar. I know that because something says “all natural” doesn’t mean that it actually is. Until I started this, I would’ve considered myself pretty well informed about food.
I couldn’t have been more wrong.
I accepted those long lists of strange sounding ingredients because have you noticed? They’re in everything. I had never really thought about it, but doesn’t it seem pretty silly that we can make homemade doughnuts with a few simple ingredients, but it takes Hostess 55 ingredients to make their Donettes?
In a nutshell, here’s what I’ve learned over the last couple of months: Many of those preservatives that are in processed foods (which account for a lot of the strange sounding things you can’t pronounce)? They’re carcinogens. The pesticides that are used on the crops and infiltrate the skins of the foods we eat? Are carcinogens. The genetically modified food (GMO) we eat (more than 90% of corn and soybeans in the US fall into this category)? They haven’t even been around long enough to really know their effects. But those foods aren’t even allowed in Europe and many other places around the world because studies involving GMOs are pointing to, you guessed it, cancer. Almost all the meats in our grocery stores are riddled with hormones and antibiotics.
It all boils down to one simple thing. We are what we eat. And I don’t want to be any of those things.
My generation is only the second to have grown up almost solely on processed foods, and the rates of cancer and so many other diseases –including asthma and immune disorders–have never been higher. It’s enough to make me take pause.
My eyes have been opened, and we have made some big, big changes.
We’ve begun eating whole foods, cut out processed food, refined sugars, and artificial sweeteners. We buy organic and GMO-free foods whenever they are available. We aren’t drinking soda. We’ve reduced our dairy and meat. In fact, we’ve almost stopped eating meat altogether.
We’ve switched over to a mostly plant-based diet. This is what my shopping cart looks like now.
Seriously, I have stopped eating sugar.
No Little Debbie Cakes.
No blueberry delight.
No peanut butter fudge.
No Pop Tarts.
No Bingles. (No Bingles!)
And no artificial sweeteners, which means no Diet Mountain Dew.
For anyone who knows my deep love of sweets, it would seem like sugar would be the hardest thing for me to give up. In reality, though, it’s maybe only slightly higher on the list than meat. Until the last few weeks, I was like the Benjamin Buford Blue of Beef. Beef Brisket. Ribeyes. Beef fajitas. T-Bones. Roast beef. Bacon-wrapped filets. Beef Stew. Beef Wellington. Beef. It was what’s for dinner.
Now? I don’t remember when I last ate any of those things. Honestly, (and I’m shocked to say it) I don’t miss them either. Well, I do miss the Mountain Dew a little, at least the thought of it.
But there’s one thing that I think I will miss. Bacon.
Oh, bacon. The smell, the crunch, the drippings used for gravy.
Bacon is omnipresent. I never knew.
But, I’m staying strong.
It has been especially difficult to cut out processed food, but we’re doing pretty well. For the last month, I’d say our diet is about 90 to 95 percent non-processed. We’re making our own bread, using maple syrup and honey for sweeteners, and snacking on fruit. It probably sounds like a lot of hard work and sacrifice. It does takes a lot of time, and it’s definitely not easy, but it’s no sacrifice because I believe in it 100 percent.
I won’t say that I will never again eat bacon, or never drink a Diet Mountain Dew on occasion.
I can say, however, that I will never go back to my old ways of eating, because after changing the way I eat, I feel like a different person, which I didn’t expect at all.
I was fatigued so much that I ached. I had regular headaches. I felt plain bad, every day. I was chugging coffee at 2 pm, and 3 pm, and 4 pm, and 7pm to try to keep myself going.
I had no idea that food could be the thing making me feel so bad. Actually, I didn’t even realize that how I felt wasn’t normal, because it was my norm. As hard as it’s been to change my diet, I feel fabulous and it has been completely worth it.
I have a ton of energy, and my headaches are gone. I am no longer chained to my coffee pot. My blood pressure wasn’t high before, but it’s lower now than it was when I was 20. I’ve had circles under my eyes for the last nine years. They are completely gone.
It’s not just the immediate effects, though. The potential long-term benefits are the very best thing about it all. The only bad thing is that we didn’t start sooner. We’re still working on Wyatt. He is the pickiest of all the eaters at our house, but he’s coming around. I believe this will be so good for him.
I may have turned into a bit of a food fanatic. But I’d rather be safe than sorry on this one.
If you’re interested in learning more about food, here are some of the things I’ve found to be helpful.
In Defense of Food by Michael Pollan
Seven Pillars of Health by Dr. Stephen Colbert
The Omnivore’s Dilemma by Michael Pollan
Forks over Knives
Fat, Sick, and Nearly Dead