My journey to eating real food is a constant process. I was really lucky in that I had a good foundation growing up with an amazing mother, who made home-cooked meals almost every night and packed us healthy lunches for school. When I was old enough to make my own choices and I picked fast food over her delicious home cooked meals, I hope I didn't disappoint her too greatly. Unfortunately, I do still like the taste of unhealthy junk like french fries and king cake (probably because they are specifically engineered to be irresistable), but I try to have that as an occasional treat in moderation and I've found healthier alternatives to processed goods. Since my recent diagnosis of a very early form of celiac disease, sticking to a gluten free diet has become a major part of my lifestyle, and honestly it's no longer optional.
I first started thinking critically about the food we eat after watching the documentary, Food, Inc. I think that movie opened my eyes to how corrupt our food system is and how our food is supplied and owned by corporations. It was concerning to me, because I felt that our food should come from farms where local farmers tend to their land and care about how their products are planted, grown, and harvested. My grandfather, "Dee" had a garden and I can remember the way the cucumbers from his garden tasted like no other cucumber I had ever had. My grandfather, "Papaw" owned cows, chickens, and grew blueberries and peas. We had fresh eggs and berries for breakfast and the food was amazing. Every time we visited them as kids I couldn't get enough food and I would eat my weight in fresh corn and butter beans. I will never forget how that food tasted. It was better than any french fry.
When my mom got sick with brain cancer, I googled diets that might be able to help her fight cancer and I learned of the ketogenic diet. It works by starving cancer cells of their food, glucose (sugar). If you don't eat sugar or carbohydrates, your body has to run on ketones instead of glucose. This is also a fast way to lose weight, apparently. Chad and I used this diet for a month when we were working on our "beach bodies." It's not a sustainable diet by any means, and we quickly moved on, but it introduced us to the low-carb and eventually the paleo lifestyle which has helped us rethink about food in the long-run. We don't 100% subscribe to the paleo diet any longer, since I feel that variety in our diets is best and I don't want to follow any 1 diet. We also learned about 30% of the population has a genetic component that causes cholesterol to rise due to the saturated fat in a paleo diet.
Unfortunately, I don't think any diet could have cured my mother of the horrible cancer she had. I like to think it would have prolonged her life, but GBM is a monstrous disease and it was too much to overcome. Losing her before her time and before I was ready to let her go made me rethink some aspects of my life to remove harmful substances like BPA, phtlalates, sulfites, etc.. This extends beyond food. I try to use organic, natural products wherever possible including my lotions, soap, makeup, and cleaning products. I drink Scout and cellar wines exclusively due to their clean-crafted nature and low residual sugar. Ask me for help picking our your next bottle because I'm now an independent consultant!
There is a lot of research out there about what grains do to your body. A couple books I recommend are Grain Brain and Wheat Belly. I can read about how bad something is all day, but until it affects me personally I may not be convinced. A few months after I stopped eating grains and sugar I noticed a huge difference in how I felt and my energy level was much higher. I used to get very tired around 3pm at work; I could hardly keep my eyes open. Then, I would come home and nap on the couch until Chad came home. Since I've gone grain and sugar free, I never feel that 3pm crash. It's amazing. Now I come home and have enough energy to get started on dinner and (maybe) exercise. I'm not exaggerating. I really can tell a difference when I eat the way I know I should. I also used to have stomach problems that I won't detail here. After I stopped eating gluten, I no longer had those problems. As it turns out, gluten was contributing to inflammation in my stomach and intestines, and in April of 2015 I was told my lab results were consistent with early celiac disease! I believe that had I not changed my diet years earlier when I did, that I would have made myself very sick and had full blown intestinal damage which could lead to cancer. Since I cut out gluten entirely, removed any trace sources from my home, and take precautions when I go out to eat, my inflammation levels have dropped and I feel even better. I was able to finally get pregnant in the months following my gluten-free diet. The journey to wellness isn't easy, but it's worth it.
That just about sums up my approach to food. I hope whoever ends up reading this blog will enjoy the recipes and hopefully it helps you start or continue your own journey.
One cannot think well, love well, sleep well, if one has not dined well. -Virginia Woolf
The only time to eat diet food is while you're waiting for the steak to cook. - Julia Child