Wednesday, January 18, 2006

Why I diet

I thought I'd just get it all out there once & for all. People always roll their eyes at me if I turn down dessert or if I say that I actually eat quite a lot. I am on a diet, but no, I don't think I'm fat. I am on a particular diet, not to lose weight, but to keep my body from making itself sick. When I say that my diet doesn't include certain things, I'm not using diet as a weight-loss word. I'm using the word diet to simply mean "my way of eating." Here's my background...

The summer before my freshman year at college, I started to have "tummy problems." By the time I got to college & immersed myself in that stress, it was completely out of hand. I was having diarrhea probably twice a week. I actually lost the Freshman 15, instead of gaining it. I was eating absolutely horribly...ramen, all manner of fried foods, lots & lots of desserts and huge amounts of boxed dinners. I saw a gastroenterologist who diagnosed me with Irritable Bowel Syndrome and told me I had to stick with a new diet & also reduce my stress. His idea of a new diet, though, was no caffeine (yeah, right!) and no fried foods.

Learning that stress was a big part of it was a huge relief to me. I worked very hard on eliminating the unnecessary things in my life & worked on relaxing. It was actually very helpful because I learned to recognize stressors very early as my bowels would begin to somersault. I was able to relax and as a result, my IBS got more under control. I fixed my diet up a little bit, mainly reducing the amount of fried foods, but it's a hard thing to do at college!

Shortly after that, I got married and Don was a no-red-meat kind of guy. So, I gave up the red meat too. I thought this helped a lot, but looking back, I think that the real help was just learning to cook things that didn't come in a package. I was beginning to cook like a grownup & my IBS was only giving me fits about once a month. This was the new norm for me for many years.

As I aged, though, the symptoms of my IBS started to change. No longer would I just have a bout of diarrhea & go on with life. Now, it would knock me out for several days. I'd normally suffer through the diarrhea in the middle of the nights with abdominal cramping that reduced me to tears. I also suffered from allergy-like symptoms of coughing, sneezing, itching, feeling like someone was sitting on my chest, etc. The next 2-3 days, I would have such a sour stomach and so much gas that it hurt to stand upright. Also, during this time, I began to be constipated pretty consistently. If I wasn't sick, I was stopped up! I discovered that MSG was causing me problems & tried to eliminate that. It helped, but I was still constipated nearly all the time.

About a year ago, I met a woman with Celiac Disease who encouraged me to get tested myself. IBS is often a misdiagnosis for Celiac. I saw another gastroenterologist & he tested me & told me that I didn't have Celiac, just IBS. That I couldn't do a thing about it. He did prescribe a new drug that had just recently come out, but after a month on that, my headaches were so bad that I just couldn't continue. However, the research I had done on Celiac led me to really think about diet and how that might be the answer after all. My friend in TX called me to recommend a book that a friend of hers had read. I ordered it that very day. The friend had Crohn's disease and it was nearly completely under control now.

The book was the Maker's Diet by Jordan Rubin. I read about how the body works and why refined flours and sugars are so bad for it. I read about how things like hydrogenated oils and MSG and pesticides and hormones are poisons to our bodies. I jumped in with both feet to the basic premise of his book. I don't follow it to the letter (I skip the cleansing times and I refuse to eat organ meat! I also don't take the supplements he suggests, except for acidopholus). But, it has turned my life around. I've only had diarrhea once since starting the diet (at the beginning, while I was still adjusting & still getting rid of all the bad stuff in my body) and I am so incredibly regular, it's wonderful! (TMI???) A side effect has also been that the migraines I used to get fairly often are gone as well. I've lost about 20 pounds since I started this way of eating, but not intentionally. It just happened when I cut out all the junk and replaced it with good stuff. I simply wasn't getting the calories that I was before. I've leveled off now & make a point of trying to eat more than I used to, as I don't want to drop too much weight. I'm not a fanatic & do splurge with a scoop of ice cream every once in a while, but my house doesn't have any junk in it at all. My kids are very happy with the diet and don't feel deprived at all. We have a little honey every day & that really satisfies the sweet tooth!

Anyway, I tell all this for a couple of reasons. First, I want people to know that I'm not starving myself or "dieting" to lose weight. I recognize that even before this, I was under the average weight for my height. My weight loss was unintentional, but I don't believe I'm unhealthy in the slightest...I look thin, but not scrawny. Second, I want people to know where they can look for a resource to help them get healthy too. It's not eating low-fat or eating only veggies that caused my health to turn around. It's simply eating the foods God gave us and eating them in an unadulterated way. Eating the way people ate for centuries before we "got smart" and as a result became plagued by modern illnesses like cancer & diabetes. And third, to truly define what I mean when I say "diet" and how "dieting" is the furthest thing from it.

Just as I always have a hope that something I say about Christ will make a difference in someone's life, I also hope that my telling of my experience with my health will also make a difference. I do know that it's changed our lives in more ways than just a healthy's also one of the reasons we want some farm land! I want to raise our own meats, dairy, eggs & produce, so we can be sure of what's in them & no have to pay an arm & a leg at the store! So, yes, I eat differently, but man, is it worth it!

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