Day 21: Finding “Healthy”

No pretty fall photos today. For starters, because I’ve been laid up for a few days with a silly cold and it has spread to others. Any photos would involve boxes of Nyquil and tissues, bottles of peppermint and oregano oil, and my poor little girl’s nebulizer.

some of our standby natural remedies: oregano oil (diluted in almond oil), and peppermint oil

But today I have a confession to make, and a part of my journey to talk about. I’m going to talk about my food journey.

Healthy eating has grown in popularity over the last several years. And there are a variety of sources/studies/doctors explaining what they believe is a truly healthy way of eating. I have tried some of them. Ultimately, what worked for me is what I can really speak about. And part of the reason my winters are so much better now, is the change in the way I eat.

My food journey began back in 2001 when my health was spinning out, and no doctor could figure out why. (It took a couple years to find a doctor who found my hypothyroidism). I knew that my eating was not helping at the very least, so I decided to try making some changes for our family. In the last 11 years, I have tried a lot of different things.

I have focused on eating 75% raw food. I have eaten vegan and low-fat vegan. I have cut out processed sugar, and used natural sugar sparingly. And I definitely experienced some health improvement with those changes.. But after my doctor discovered my food allergies (gluten, corn, soy primarily), my blood pressure was still very high. I was exhausted all the time, and though not down in The Pit where I had been before, I was still not the Me I wanted to be.

making some sunshine today... these berries tasted like summer!

After the initial removing of  several foods from my diet, my blood pressure dropped, in 3 days, from 180/120 to 130/90. Then my doctor asked me if I was open to putting some healthy fat and very clean meat back into my diet. As I mentioned earlier this month, we had found my vitamin D was very low, and so were my B vitamins (another important factor in mood). I was having such great success following her advice, I agreed to try it. My blood pressure continued to drop to a healthy range, and I began to feel the best I had ever felt.

I am a reader and a doer. I’ve done an incredible amount of studying on health and food in the last 11 years. And I have implemented what I learned. But I have now come to the conclusion that one precise eating plan may not work for every body. I could share more stories about close friends who, when eating what I believed was the one healthiest way to eat, were still having health problems. And then when adjusting their diet in some way, saw huge improvement. I believe that my body is healthier with some healthy fat and clean/natural animal products. I would not claim to know what might work for someone else’s body. But I do believe that learning what works for your body can have a huge impact, physically and mentally. And I do believe every body needs Real Food. Not messed with by human invention.

However, the one thing I believe is true across the board, is that too much sugar, both refined sugar, and simple starches, really throws off a number of systems in our bodies. And friends, I have a major sugar addiction. Years ago, I read the book Potatoes, Not Prozac, and I felt like someone had been spying on me. The author writes about her research for a doctoral thesis, finding that some people get more of a “rush” from sugar than others, making them more likely to be addicted to it. (And she relates this to alcohol addiction, which acts similarly in the brain).

I can tell you, no matter what other changes I have made in my diet, sugar is the number one thing that can make or break it for me. I tried to avoid that conclusion for a long time. Because I am one of the ones who will “just finish up this candy so the kids won’t have too much sugar.” {wry grin} Because I adore sugar. It makes me happy. For about 35 minutes before I crash into a coma. (Most severely if protein did not accompany the sugar)

There is a very interesting article by a doctor here, on serotonin, sugar and sunlight. It seems there is a pretty common agreement about sugar and mental health. And there is plenty to read about sugar effects on health in general. This video is phenomenal, called Sugar, the Bitter Truth. These sources are a little technical, but I find it fascinating, and I am the kind of person who needs to know the science as a motivation.

Coming into autumn, I know I have strayed way off the healthy path when it comes to sugar and my body. I know that in order to have another fabulous winter I will need to get this aspect of my diet under control. I have nervously decided to do a week of sugar-free eating while finishing up this blog series, because as I’ve mentioned before, I like some accountability. Nervously though, because once I put it out here, it means I really have to do it. And I know it’s going to be hard.

But let me share my criteria for “sugar free.” The only sweetener in my food will be from fruit or honey/pure maple syrup. And the honey/syrup part has to be very minimal. (I.E. I have a grain free muffin recipe that uses 1/4 of syrup for a full dozen muffins). I will use some powdered stevia in my baking. I am going to take a couple days to plan out what I’ll be eating, and I’ll share some of it here. Then the game will be on!

What about you? Is sugar an issue for you? Have you every noticed a connection between sugar and your mental health?

Anyone brave crazy desperate enough to go sugar-free for a week with me?! I could sure use some company! 🙂

 

 

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