My eyes were opened to the way that food effects you almost ten years ago when my eldest was an infant. He was born the most wonderful and yet miserable baby we had ever met. We had moments of his sweet smile and sunny disposition but most of his days (and nights) were filled with crying, a wrinkled forehead and vomiting.
We knew that babies cried, and spit up so we just did our best to make him happy. This usually involved walking back and forth across the floor of our apartment bouncing him. For hours. Like 8-10 hours each and every day. I found that if I didn't wake up and put my running shoes on in the morning my legs ached terribly by the end of the day. It was exhausting! At two-months we finally got some answers and he was diagnosed with food allergies.
Our life became a swirl of tests, and appointments. Things were really turned upside-down when I was put on an elimination diet to be able to continue nursing him. Blame it on the hormones, or the hard won skill of nursing a baby, I was determined to continue to nurse him. First went dairy and soy, then eggs and nuts. We continued to watch his weight and his blood work and took out beef as well.
This dietary change was HARD! This was before Whole Foods, and clean eating were popular. It was before coconut milk ice cream, and before I read food blogs, it might have been before blogs at all. Here we were trying to invent a new way of eating for ourselves all the while trying to overcome the obstacles of a screaming and miserable baby, a tight budget, and powerful hunger. I was amazed that almost everything I ate had diary, soy, eggs or nuts in it.
I resorted to things like a deep fryer and bags of bacon carried around as snacks the way some people have a granola bar in their purse.
I had eaten an endless amount of chicken. I was so stuck. I just couldn't figure out how to feed myself. We just couldn't make it work. The baby wasn't getting significantly better, I was feeling lousy, my husband's pants were getting tight, and so we made the switch to prescription baby formula. Even though we we went back to our favorite things to eat, the curtain had been lifted and I knew that the food I was eating wasn't just food, but a whole lot more.
Fast forward eight years, and I am once again the mother of an infant with food allergies. This time we knew what to look for and were able to make changes much sooner and my youngest faired much better.
The whole world of food seemed to have changed too. There were things I could eat and feel full (Hello quinoa!). I could find recipes from other people who had to change their diets. I was able to find substitutions for ingredients, and most of all I felt pretty good.
Because both the baby and I were doing well I was able to continue nursing her for 14-months this time, and it felt like my experience from years ago was redeemed.
In what we would call an answer to prayer, my youngest outgrew her allergies and we were able to go back to eating everything. This time our diet didn't make a huge leap back into the land of processed foods, but there were lots of nights of carry-out food, and lots of treats (Donuts anyone?). I found that I just didn't feel good. I woke up sore, and tired. My waistline was expanding at an alarming rate. I just didn't feel awesome. I don't think the other members of my family were feeling awesome either. We had belly aches after meal, difficulty paying attention, migraines, and were exhausted. We had a 3 PM slump that could only be solved by a nap or a treat.
After doctor appointments that showed that we were basically healthy I was left with no obvious explanation for our general yucky feeling. Some of these things could be due to the busy life of a physician's family, but I was left wondering if what we were eating was making us feel poorly.
After months of reading books, and looking for recipes, my husband said it was time to give clean eating a try and that he would be willing to try too. We would do it as a family. He loves me so much that he is willing to support me, even if it disrupts our busy life and seems a little crazy. We were also ready to move onto the experiment and put the questions to rest.
So here we are at the Whole30. It is basically a plan that has you "eating clean" or on the "Paleo Diet" for 30 days. This plan take out food groups that negatively effect your psychological response, negatively effect your hormonal response, that don't support a healthy gut, or that don't support immune function or minimize inflammation. Basically this takes out sugar and sweeteners, alcohol, dairy, all grains and seeds, legumes and a bunch of different kinds of oils and some food additives. There is a lot of good food left behind though.
I have suspected that sugar and sweeteners have a hold on us, and we eat a lot of grains and legumes. There are parts of this that will be a real challenge. I'm not sure what I am more afraid of, having this dietary change not make a difference at all or having it change everything. It seems manageable to try this for 30 days, but choosing to modify how we eat for longer has so many repercussions it terrifies me!
I'll try to check in every few days. It will keep me accountable, and who knows what hilarity it might produce.