Wednesday, December 30, 2009

Traditional Foods

Peter was joking with me tonight, trying to help me on my quest to explain how our family eats and why and, pertinent to what I'm writing now, how we got here. He says, "You read a lot of books and experimented a lot." And refined, refined, refined. Although this may seem slightly off topic, being allergen-free in our household is closely intertwined with also being traditional foodists and I don't feel like I can talk about one without talking about the other.

One of the many things that I've learned on this journey is that it's far more helpful to focus on what you CAN and WILL eat rather than what you can't. It makes the whole situation far less overwhelming--and much more affirming. "I can't feed my kid these crackers that everyone else is eating, but I CAN feed her this apple/homemade cracker/other healthy snack that I know she likes." Suddenly, instead of taking something away, I'm giving to my child, and that feels good.

Enter traditional foods. While on my quest to understand healthy eating, I came across this book--this movement, really--through the Mothering message boards. It's not at all a stretch to say that it changed my life, redefined the way in which I understand food and eating--and gave me a much-needed road map for how to raise two healthy children even though they can't eat many of the foods considered staples by our society.

I'm not going to spend space giving an overall description of traditional foods, it's been done many times and surely much better than I could do it. If you're unfamiliar with the movement, check out this post at The Nourished Kitchen, one of my favorite blogs:
1) avoidance of modern, refined foods; 2) celebration of unrefined, whole and natural foods; 3) respecting the importance of nutrient-density in our food and 4) preparing and eating foods in the same manner that nourished our ancestors and kept them well.

In her book The Unhealthy Truth, Robin O'Brien talks about her 80/20 rule: that you seek to eat optimally 80% of the time and forgive yourself for the other 20%. While we eat allergen free at least 95% of the time (the other 5% includes occasional treats during family events and holidays, for example), we follow the 80/20 rule for our traditional foods eating. It is very important to me, and occupies much of my time.

Monday, December 28, 2009


I feel the need to point out that I'm not a health care professional, that I've never been to school to study nutrition, and that I'm not qualified in any way, shape, or form to offer nutritional counseling.

As a matter of fact, the biggest piece of advice I'd like to give to anybody is to seek a health professional to get guidance. When Ally was almost 2, I turned to such a professional--specifically, a Naturopathic Physician who specializes in nutrition--because I was terrified that I'd never be able to feed her a healthy, balance diet without dairy. It was a life changing experience and I believe one of the best investments that I have ever made.

I also think that it's important to educate yourself about nutrition and to decide what makes sense to you. I've invested a great deal of time over the past several years to educating myself about nutrition. I've read a number of books, some good and others not so good, and have formed my own opinions about what makes sense in terms of healthy eating for my family (and these ideas continue to evolve as I continue to educate myself). There are many different styles of eating, many different iterations of a healthy diet. I encourage you to do your own investigations and reach your own conclusions.

A Whole Lot of Nothing

Yes, I know that I've been horribly neglecting this blog, and all of my writing in general. I simultaneously feel guilty and forgiving about it. I've recently decided to cut down on my internet usage, as I find that I'm either living my life or talking about it online, and the living is what needs to take the fore right now.

I can't remember if I blogged about this or not, but a few months ago, I read The Mood Cure and was totally blown away by it. I've been religiously following some of the suggestions in there for dietary changes and nutritional supplementation, and am currently experiencing quite a relief from my depression. Wow, it's amazing how great it is not to feel totally underwater miserable exhausted all the time. I remember going through this around the time that Ally turned 2. It was great. I hope it continues to be this way for a while, I might really turn into a human again!

Beyond addressing my depression, I haven't been actively doing much to loose weight. But it's coming. I'm hatching a plan. More on that later.

First, however, I'm hoping to dedicate some space on this blog to answer a question that I have been asked by a surprising number of people recently: how did we go gluten/dairy/whatever else free. Through the fall, several moms approached me to ask about our low-allergen lifestyle, and, while I'd love to be helpful to them, for the longest time I just haven't known what to say. I know, because we've lived through it, that it's much more complicated than, "don't eat that." And that standing on the other side, when you haven't eliminated anything but know you need to and are terrified because you just have no idea what you're going to feed your kids, is a daunting, horrible place to be.

So, for months now, I've been trying to answer this question: how do we eat the way we do? And, more importantly, what do I think is important in a child's diet and how do I provide those things to my children when their diets are so limited? I have to admit that, as much as I LOVE to pontificate, I feel a little ridiculous giving dietary advice as an obese person. It's not like I'm a vision of good health or anything. But still, I'm going to try.

Wednesday, December 2, 2009

It's hard to act good when you feel bad

As a parent concerned with giving my children a gentle, respectful upbringing, this is an everyday mantra for me. Because what follows is forgiveness for misbehavior followed by identifying the bad feelings behind it--and attempting to rectify them or guide their energy into a more appropriate venue. On the ideal day, when I'm at my best, at any rate.

Those days have been fewer and farther between lately. I've been thinking about depression and how it feeds into my health problems--and all other aspects of my daily life. I'm noticing more and more how I act badly because I just don't feel good, and haven't felt good in a long time. Sometimes, mommy needs a little gentle discipline, too.

I recently read this illustration of postpartum depression at Amanda Rose's Rebuild from Depression blog. It was initially amusing to read what could have been lifted from my daily life. And sad, too, that I still feel so awful at 18 months postpartum. That part about waking up bone tired really hit me. I just don't understand how I wake up in the morning feeling like I've been in a boxing match for days with no sleep. The soreness and tiredness gets worse through the day, and from one day to the next, and it's been compounding for so long that I hardly remember what it's like to feel good..

This is the viscous cycle I'm dealing with now. I feel lousy, so I don't have the energy to eat as well as I should and exercise, which makes me feel more lousy, and so on. I keep searching for that thing that helped me turn the bend the last time, and I just can't find it. I am noticing that, as I'm feeling that life is turning more and more into a grind, I'm making myself too busy to spend time with the kids and Peter, making excuses for eating poorly, wasting more time online, and my daughter is acting increasingly hyperactive and impulsively out of boredom. It's hard to act good when you feel bad.

I read The Mood Cure, which was very helpful. I had never heard such a lucid explanation of how deficiencies in certain neurotransmitters cause symptoms specific to them. And specifics on how nutrition plays a role. Ten years of strict low-fat vegetarianism really didn't do me any favors--no wonder I was such a mess during that time! I'm trying some of the suggestions in the book, and I think they're helping; I feel more clear-headed and energetic some days.

But not today. I've been writing this post in my head for days and, while the bones of what I want to say are all here, it sure doesn't feel very good. But it's what's on my mind, at any rate. I've also been asked, several times recently, about how we went gluten and dairy free. I feel so utterly unequipped to help anyone with their diet, I mean, who wants to take nutrition advice from an obese person? At the same time, we've been doing it for so long that it feels like second nature, and my kids certainly seem like they're healthy and thriving, so maybe I know more than I think I do. (I think this is a reference to an earlier post about cognitive distortions . . .) Hopefully writing some of that stuff down will feel more successful.