Friday, July 10, 2009

Our Nutrition Journey (Part 1 - My history with Food)

Off and on in my past, I have gone back and forth on nutrition. My Sophomore year of college, I was diagnosed with gall stones. They run in my family, so even though I was neither fat nor forty (they talk about risk factors for gall stones being "The Three F's: Forty, Fat, and Female." No offense meant here, just referring to the three F's), it was not a complete surprise. Also, I was a complete junk food / fast food / "easy" food addict.

I did not want to have my gall bladder out, and I was pretty adamant about that. I had learned throughout the diagnosing process that the job of the gall bladder is to secrete bile into the stomach, to aid in the digestion of meat-based fats and proteins. I figured that if my gall bladder was taken out, either my diet would have to change drastically, or I would be ill all the time. A friend of mine had suggested that I do a liver cleanse...but I read the packet of information he gave me and could not stomach the idea of drinking all that oil and salt, or the enemas that went along with it.

So, what could I do? More than the tiniest bit of fat or meat in my diet and I was in a lot of pain, not to mention that if I did enough damage and had a severe enough attack, gall stones could actually be lethal! So, I decided to go vegetarian. I was not entirely sure that I was prepared to do that for the rest of my life, but at least until I could decide between the liver cleanse and surgery.

I should also mention that I had major issues keeping weight on. For all of high school and thus far into college, I was about 15 lbs underweight. I ate a tremendous amount of food, I just never gained any weight. It was certainly not my parents' fault; my mom cooked wonderful, scratch-made, nutritious meals at home. But I had an obsession with sugar. Recently I learned that refined sugar has to leach minerals from your system in order to be properly digested, so my current theory is that I was undernourished - not because of a lack in nutrients - but because of an over abundance of sugar!

As a vegetarian, I actually gained weight. Not in a frightening or unhealthy weight, but for the first time in quite some time, my weight was actually within the range for my height and age. I was pretty excited about that, so even though barely 2 months into vegetarianism I was healed of my gall stones (went forward for prayer after church, had a scan of my abdomen done later on a hospital visit and the scan found NO gall stones), I continued as a vegetarian for almost a year. On top of that, I started working very hard to cut refined sugars out of my diet and drink at least 8 cups of water every day. I felt so much better than I had during my first year of college. I was much less tired, got sick less often, and had more focus just from changing those two things! My "health kick" only lasted until the spring, though. Easter candy on sale is a horrible thing! Just a little indulgence and it was back into the downward spiral of sugar addiction. (Apparently, I'm a slow learner).

I bounced back and forth between healthy periods and much less healthy for the next 5 years. Exercised sometimes, most of the time I did not, though. Through the rest of college to a few years of living on my own I rode a food roller coaster. What made it most difficult to stick with healthy choices was that, somewhere along the way, I developed a major issue with compulsive overeating. It did not present in obvious weight gain (I stayed roughly the same weight from my junior year of college until I was about 3 years out from college, and that was within my healthy bmi/weight range). But, as I was dealing with some personal issues - largely centered around anxiety - food became an easy outlet. Not just any food, but the sweetest, most disgusting junk food I could get my hands on. I'll not go into too much detail on compulsive overeating here, but suffice it to say that it definitely invaded every endeavor of mine to clean up my diet. And nothing I tried to get a handle on my eating worked, until...

Discussing the concept of Christian stewardship with some friends, we dwelled on the fact that our body is one of many resources God has given us. If we are to be a good steward of our resources, we need to be good stewards of our bodies. That realization saved my neck! Somehow, in that, came the grace to break off the bondage of overeating. I think that part of it was that, instead of trying "not to" overeat, I was making a positive effort, aimed at obeying Christ. It was not, "How should I not eat?" but instead, "What can I eat to take good care of myself?"

That was not an easy period of transition, but it was the beginning of a change in perspective. It completely changed the way I look at food, and my reasons for eating. Ocassionally I still struggle there, but God always gives the grace to remember why we eat the way we eat, what I really want to put in my body (and how much), and how to be a good steward of my body for the Lord's glory.

More on where my journey went from here (and how it merged with Jeff's when we met) next Friday! This post is a part of Fight Back Fridays, hosted by Food Renegade.

Typing this up so late, I'm watching the 700 club, which I almost NEVER watch (nothing against it or anything, just not really up my alley), because it just happened to be on. They just had a whole segment on a family that is "going green to save money." They talked about the great things this family does to save money that are also earth friendly (and mentioned that as being a good steward of the planet), and that got me totally psyched. I know many Christians who are into healthy and earth friendly living, but in Christian media I hear so very little about it! Not only that, this family made their own detergents (like we do!), and ate a diet that focused on rooting out processed foods and eating things that were raw and natural. How cool is that??


  1. Beautiful post. I can't wait to hear the rest of your story. It's fairly common for people to experience a bounce in health when turning vegetarian, particularly if the diet they'd been eating before was full of junk food! But (as I'm sure you subsequently figured out) what's good for HEALING you isn't necessarily good for keeping you healthy. (i.e. Medicines are okay when you need them, but downright dangerous when you don't).

    Thanks for sharing!

    (AKA FoodRenegade)

  2. Yes! Going veggie was good for a while, but I don't think I could do it now. Especially after seeing how certain meat-based proteins have really helped balance out my energy levels as I've transitioned from simpler carbs to more complex (namely: eggs! I don't know what I would do without eggs and kefir in the morning!).

    Thanks for stopping by! :)

  3. Hey! I've enjoyed your blog lately! I am amazed at your food menus and all the scratch made food you guys eat. I love eating that way but I'm not sure I could commit the time. Your simple idea of boiling eggs and having a hard-boiled egg for breakfast helped me out a ton. I know that's such a simple idea, but it's been a great way for me to have a quick, protein breakfast with a cup of Stonyfield Farm yogurt (not quite making my own...) I wanted to ask you, what do you mean when you "soak" your oatmeal and such? Can't wait to read the rest of the story :-D