1.12.2010

Confessions of a Recovering S.A.D Eater

I have a confession. My diet and eating habits have been less than spectacular. Shocking, I know. As most Americans that were born and raised here, I grew up eating Rice Krispies, Pizza Hut, McD’s, and all sorts of candy while washing it all down with a can or bottle of soda or glass of Kool-aid. Not everything I ate seemed so bad for me; my Gram made lasagna, baked steak and salads and my mom made goulash, tater-tot casserole and porcupine meatballs. Sometimes, there was even a salad made from iceberg lettuce, carrots and cucumbers. At supper, there was a relish dish on the table that usually included green onions, radishes, pickled beets, black (and sometimes green) olives, pickles and celery with cream cheese. We drank skim or 1% or 2% milk and, for a while, used margarine on our white bread.

When I was a teenager, I worked at a pizza place and ate lots of pepperoni and mushroom pizzas. Sometimes I had a Greek salad or cheese steak sandwich, instead. After a while of eating like this, I started to gain weight…and I knew exactly why. It had to have been the pizza and Cokes, so I decided the best thing to do was to switch to Diet Coke. I later found that the switch was a BIG mistake! My health and skin suffered from the aspartame used to sweeten the Diet Coke; however, it was about three years later before I discovered my mistake. The effects didn’t show up immediately, so it took some time to realize that all of my problems were due to one offender. Of course, after I realized my mistake, I made the switch back to regular Coke. Hmm…

Fast forward a few years. I was married to my wonderful hubby and we were happy. Neither of us was making much money, but we didn’t care. He worked at Pizza Hut and I worked at a movie rental store. Life was perfect! If we weren’t eating pizza, we were eating ramen noodles (which I had made “healthier” by adding chicken and a handful of frozen veggies), stir-fry, or spaghetti. I didn’t think I had anything to worry about; I was skinny and had enough energy to rollerblade every day PLUS play roller hockey 3-5 days per week for almost 2-3 hours each time. At that time, I didn’t link my dandruff, dry skin and random acne to the food I ate.

A few years later, I found an old book written by Nathan Pritikin. He advocated eating a low-fat, high carb diet. It seemed to make a lot of sense, so I changed my eating habits in that direction. I didn’t last long on the diet, though. I’ve always felt better eating lots of protein and fats. In the years that followed, more and more nutritionists seemed to agree with Pritikin. Everywhere I turned, everyone was saying fat was bad. Next was the “good fats, bad fats” advice. It was very common knowledge that saturated fats were bad and that unsaturated fats were good. “Don’t eat butter, eat margarine instead.” “Soy is a much healthier source of protein than meat.” It seemed to make so much sense, until I started doing my own research. From my previous experience with artificial sweeteners, I knew that I needed real foods, as opposed to fake foods. It became obvious to me that butter had to be better for me than margarine. I didn’t know why, but I just felt it in my heart. Even with this important revelation, I still thought that too much saturated fat was bad. The most important part of the revelation was that I was starting to think about what I ate and understand that “new” foods were not what my body needed.

When I was a kid, I spent a lot of time with my grandmother. She even lived with us for a few years. She cooked with real butter and cream, made lots of meat and potato meals and loved her pickled foods. She ate eggs and/or bacon every morning for breakfast. In fact, I’d have to say that bacon was her favorite food. Once, when I was an adult, I took her to the store for some grocery shopping. There was a sale on bacon, so she bought 10 pounds. I asked her why she bought so much, and she replied that she cooked a pound a day. I was flabbergasted! But, she was in her 80’s, and I had no right to “correct” her way of eating. She would tell me that when she was a child, her favorite treat was a lard sandwich. I used to think that was so gross! (I still don’t think I could eat one.) How could anyone just take a big slab of lard and eat it? She would take a chunk of the solid cream that rose to the top of the milk and put it on her mom’s homemade bread. She ate real sauerkraut from the barrel that was kept in the cellar. It was made the old German way, with salt brine, not vinegar. She lived to be 89 (well, one week before her 89th birthday). Most of her 12 siblings lived well into their 80’s and 90’s or older! Even though I would scoff at her diet, thinking I was so much more advanced in that department, I would still make the comment, “She must be doing something right to be so healthy at such an old age.” Oh, how little did I know!

Gram passed away on January 18, 2007. It wasn’t until a little while later that I found a forum online that talked about Traditional Foods. My eyes were opened and I realized that I knew absolutely nothing about nutrition. I needed to clear my preconceptions and learn a new way of thinking. It’s been around 2 years since I first heard about Traditional Foods. It’s been a very slow change, eating new foods, cutting out others. Part of the reason for the slow change has been my husband. Not every change has been well-received at first, but eventually has become normal. Another reason for the slow change has been me. It seemed like a very daunting challenge to change everything about how we ate. My saving grace has been baby steps. I’ve had many relapses into my old way of eating. Even Sunday, I had a Dr. Pepper and some of a Totino’s Pizza. (gasp!)

So, here’s the deal. I’m not perfect. I make a lot of mistakes. But, if I can take two baby steps forward and only one step back, I’ll still be ahead. The positive, permanent changes that we’ve made include drinking organic, grass-fed/pastured cream top whole milk (unhomogenized, but unfortunately, pasteurized), and using coconut oil, olive oil, and butter and eliminating most vegetable oils and canola oil from my homemade cooking. We also drink a lot of kefir and take cod liver oil. I regularly make good, homemade 24-hour chicken stock. We no longer buy white sugar, but use sucanat. And, I’ve replaced my Coffee-Mate with real half and half, from the same dairy as our milk. I tried to make my own bread, and it worked for a while, but it was a lot of work and I don’t do it right now. It is on my to-do list for this year. There are a lot of things on my to-do list, and I’ll share those in a later post.

For now, I will continue to do the things that are already normal and work on the things that aren’t, yet. An online friend sent me some water kefir grains and I can’t wait to try my first water kefir. I have milk kefir grains, which I plan on using again, too. Making my own water and milk kefir is my next baby step.

So, I’m a recovering Standard American Diet (S.A.D.) eater. I’m also a newbie Traditional Foods (TF) eater. I’ve got so much more to share with you, but I think this is enough, for now.

1.02.2010

Happy New Year!

Happy New Year! (a day late)… I was going to post yesterday, but I was having such a good time relaxing and enjoying being home again. We went to Texas for Christmas and visited a ton of family. It was a really good time, except for my “baby” being sick most of the time.

We’d been planning our vacation for a few months, had most details in place and our route set. Of course, the two months prior to this vacation were probably the busiest months we’ve ever had! I was finishing up with my student teaching and working on my Capstone Project, plus trying to be mommy to my kiddos…it was crazy busy and I didn’t know how it was all going to work out. Well, just before graduation, I ended up with a sinus infection AND an infected tooth, which required antibiotics. I HATE antibiotics and avoid them at all costs, but nothing else was working and I was in so much pain, I couldn’t sleep for two nights. The Tuesday after my graduation, I had to have a root canal and an extraction. But this was just the beginning of our Health Disaster 2009!

Since we were going to be in Texas for Christmas, we had a family get together with Brian’s side of the family on the Saturday before Christmas. My “baby” wasn’t feeling 100%, but didn’t seem too sick. Well, that night, after he had been in bed for a few minutes, he started screaming. He was in pain. His chin hurt, then his cheek, then his ear. So much so, that he screamed every 10 minutes until 8:00AM, the next morning. He had an ear infection. For the next two days, all he did was sleep and cry. Forty-eight hours of sleep with around only five hours of being awake. If we were going to make our vacation dates, we were going to have to leave while he was sick, or cancel all-together. To make matters worse, I had started to get a sore throat on Monday night and when I woke up Tuesday morning, I could hardly breathe. Urgent Care was open early, so I went first thing in the morning. My uvula (the little dangly thing in the back of your throat) was so swollen, it was almost blocking my airway. The doctor gave me a steroid shot to help reduce the swelling and another dang antibiotic to get rid of the strep in my throat. It took two days for me to start feeling better.

Now, back to my baby. The last time one of our kiddos had an ear infection, the doctor wrote a prescription for antibiotics, but told me to give it a few days to see if it cleared up on its own. As a last resort, I was to get the prescription filled and start my kiddo on the dreaded course of antibiotics. Most ear infections are viral and antibiotics are meaningless, in these cases. So, we decided to take the “wait and see” approach with this latest ear infection. The fever never got higher than 102°, so I wasn’t too worried, at first.

There is a huge change in elevation between Colorado and Texas, and with the first change, baby’s ear drum perforated. It was draining fluids like you wouldn’t believe. Each subsequent change in elevation caused more pressure to build up, and thus, another gush of fluids. Gross, I know. We were finally able to find an Urgent Care when we got to our destination, but they were not open on Christmas, so we took him in the day after Christmas. Of course they prescribed antibiotics, but this is one of those necessary times when nothing else will work. Within 10 minutes of his first dose, the color started coming back in his cheeks. By his second dose, he was well on his way to being back to his “old” self.

This was the way we ended 2009. Fun, huh? The last two months have been crazy and I haven’t been able to give my kids the nutrition and nurturing that they so desperately need. My main goal for 2010 is to make sure that my family not only stays healthy, but that we establish habits to keep them healthy throughout their lives.

Welcome to Ginnyv.com, where I will attempt to document our family's journey into eating a more Traditional Foods diet and the adventures along the way.

By the way, today is my "baby's" 4th birthday and he is healthy and happy and having a great day.