Our Journey to Healthful Eating

I’m a recovering Sugarholic. Yes, it’s true. Take a look at my innocent face and tell me that I don’t look like a girl who fights her sugar demons nearly every day. It’s been a lifelong struggle. Actually, I didn’t think it was a struggle until adulthood. I couldn’t have cared less when I was younger whether I ate Lucky Charms for breakfast, lunch, dinner and an evening snack. But after getting married at the ripe old age of 20, I started to think, “Hmmm…I should probably not stuff my face with sweets after every meal, party, or while watching the Food Network.” It was hard to be motivated to change, though, since I wasn’t struggling with my weight. I pretty much maintained the same weight since teenager-hood, with the exception of the all-to-familiar “freshman 15″ that came and went.

It wasn’t until Superman started experiencing worse symptoms (see the “All About My Zoo” tab at the top of the page) that I thought maybe I should make a change not for weight, but for health. But boy, oh boy, was I in for a challenge. I would go on “sugar fasts” every once in awhile, thinking that if I could just avoid sugar for a few weeks, I would be cured. I read all the books: “Sugar Shock,” “Suicide by Sugar, “Sugar Blues”…you name it, if it was about how to magically break my sugar habit, I read it. And they were all very inspiring. But for some reason, weeks or months later, that darn stuff would sneak it’s way back into my life like crack cocaine. And there I’d be…poor, frustrated, Shanti. Feeling helpless against my addiction.

This whole experience with Superman has ingrained in me the old cliches: “We only get one body,” “We should treat our bodies like temples,” “You are what you eat.” And I was what I ate. That poison (in addition to the fast food, processed junk and yummy baked treats I would always make) made me feel like a darn fog machine. My brain couldn’t focus. I felt like I had potential in there somewhere, but I couldn’t make my mind hold still long enough to really absorb anything. I would get headaches, muscle aches, and a nasty afternoon slump. I went to a doctor because my joints hurt so bad and was told I had osteoarthritis. But the doctor didn’t give me any cures, just told me to take Aleve. Yeah, thanks a bunch, Doc.

We’ve been eating a Paleo diet (Google it if it’s new to you) since November 2010. I started by cutting out dairy, at the recommendation of a holistic doctor who did weird, wacky evaluations to come to the conclusion that I was dairy “sensitive.” I was skeptical, but after 2 weeks off of any milk products, you know what happened? I woke up one morning, and didn’t feel any pain! My joints felt like a 32-year-old woman’s joints should feel…not painful. Shortly after that discovery, I switched our whole family to a no-grain, no-dairy, no-sugar diet. And another miracle happened. Our second oldest son, Josh, who had been on 5 different asthma and allergy medications since infancy, no longer need any medications! Not one. We went a whole season, for the first time in his life without a breath of asthma. No seasonal allergies. No Flonase. No midnight Albuterol treatments. It was amazing.

And so, I’m a full-on believer now. There is definitely, most definitely, something to the tainted effects of the American food supply. I buy organic produce pretty much always, and do everything I can to eat only things that are pretty much a “whole food.” Of course, our kids still go to birthday parties, there is still Halloween and going to Nana and Papa’s, but at home, we eat well. And it feels awesome.

Sixteen days ago, I decided I was ready to really “reset” my body. I started the Whole 30 program (Google it, man!), which is basically the exact same diet I already follow, but I am not allowed to use any sweeteners whatsoever. No honey, no agave…nada. You see, I can cut out refined sugar easy enough. And then I just replace it with “natural” sugars and I’m happy as a clam. Kind of. But I’m ready. For some reason, I am beginning to approach my relationship with sweets differently. I see food now as fuel, and I don’t really want to waste my intake on junk that’s just gonna make me feel like junk 20 minutes later.

Now, I have no idea what’s going to happen at the end of my 30 days. Initially I figured I would want to go to the Cheesecake Factory and order me some of that divine chocolatey cheesecake goodness that I absolutely love. But now? I’m thinking I don’t really want to. And to hear myself say that is like hearing my five children all together in a small room playing nicely…it’s a bit frightening, but oh so joyous and rewarding. So, 14 more days to go.