My life is certainly super busy these days. And for the next four weekends, I am committed to being away from home for the greater part of two to three days. This makes me nervous, and I wonder what my food options will be. Here is a perfect example of why: this past weekend we celebrated the birthdays of our son and daughter-in-love and her dad at their favorite restaurant. We had a great time and I loved celebrating with the birthday stars and loving on my grandbabes. But I boldly (or carelessly) chose to eat what I wanted and, as usual, I suffered for it.
So, as I approach my sixtieth birthday in just a few short weeks, I am contemplating two things the most. One, what one cause do I want to be most remembered for when it comes my time to leave this earth. And, two, how I do best live out what could be another third of my life considering that my grandparents lived long into their nineties. Both of these are overshadowed by how well I care for myself…mainly meaning what I will choose to eat.
You Are What You Eat
When I learned about four and a half years ago that I had been suffering from over thirty just now diagnosed food allergies, I felt vindicated. It took several months and several tests to pinpoint what was making me sick and slowing me down. Not so much that I was bedridden all the time, but enough that it was difficult for me to get through my days.
For years I had suffered in some way from something. There were times when I passed out for no reason at all. Other times, I suffered from migraines which was eventually attributed to allergies in the onion family. And at other times, I would need to lay down and rest after a large meal, particularly one prepared with beans, tortillas, and pico de gallo, all containing foods I didn’t realize I was allergic to at the time. I usually just blamed it to my life-long slowness and fading out quickly at the end of a busy day.
Once I was diagnosed, I started to see a pattern going all the way back to childhood. You know those times when parents make a child sit at the table until every last bite is eaten. Well, I could choose to sit and waste time or I could choose to eat and go on to do other things. I usually caved and ate my food, but I never really could ever decide what was better, resisting something I didn’t like…or eat it and not feel good.
When What You Eat Slows You Down
Once I started school, I was made fun of for being slow – not just by fellow classmates but also by a particular coach. It was often pointed out that I was the slowest kid on the team or in the activity. And I was also asked if the rest of my siblings were the same way. Often, I would be the last kid to be picked for a team. And I would also either be “accidentally” overlooked when it came my turn to bat (I mean, who wants a kid on their team who can’t make it to first base) or I’d agree to be subbed out by a better player. And it wasn’t from being overweight. I was just slow. It was something I got used to over time. Later on, I would participate in sports that didn’t require a lot of running like being the goalie on a soccer team. In ninth grade, I found that I excelled at badminton. But as I got older, I chose to join the school band or choir in order to avoid being singled out.
It never occurred to me that what I was eating was slowing me down. I did notice that by the time I got to high school I was happy to have an allowance. I chose to use it to eat things which didn’t seem to make me feel bad. However, a hamburger, large pickle, bag of chips, small coke, and three musketeers bar were probably not the healthiest of choices either. And today, I cannot eat any of those unless they come without a bun, vinegar, preservatives, corn syrup, or anything processed.
I didn’t know back then that foods were the culprit for making me so slow, not just on the field or track but also brain-fog in the classroom and later in the workplace. When I meet people now who seem to have it hard to concentrate, or complain about being able to focus, or mention that they feel like are living in a blanket of fog, I wonder if they have undiagnosed food allergies. The thing is though that so many things these days can cause all kinds of symptoms and side-effects.
Finding A Solution and Sticking with the Plan
Once I learned about my allergies, I was only halfway to a viable treatment. They say information is ammunition, and now I was armed with what I needed to feel better. After reading through my allergy results, I started staying away from, or not eating, any of the foods that were triggering my symptoms. Within two weeks, I felt like a blanket of fog had lifted from my brain and mind. I could think clearer. I didn’t feel so weighted down. It wasn’t so much that I could run fast now, but that I was free of whatever was keeping me back or holding me down. After four weeks, I felt even better. As the weeks went by, I couldn’t believe I had felt bad for so long and was able to function and get through my days without feeling like just crashing on the sofa when I got home from work.
Sadly, it wasn’t long before I was being tempted by the foods, several favorites, which I could no longer eat or needed to stay away from. I wasn’t bothered by not eating carrots or oatmeal, both of which I had never cared for as a kid but as an adult for forced myself to eat because they were supposed to be healthy choices. I was bothered by not being able to eat cream cheese as I’m allergic to whey. Nor can I eat sour cream or ice cream. And if I eat cottage cheese, I need to rinse the curds to get rid of the whey (the liquid part). Have you done that? Let me tell you, curds are pretty tasteless without the whey (lol).
And still, I struggle with saying “NO” to tortillas. And I cannot eat very many desserts without suffering some type of symptom as I’m allergic to wheat, vanilla, and yeast. I shouldn’t have coffee (but drink lattes) as the coffee causes me to have chest congestion. Chicken makes me overwhelmingly sleepy. And, even though I indulge in the occasional hotdog or hamburger, I have to hold the onion, tomatoes, buns, and chili. See my dilemma? So, what do I survive on? Oh, there’s lots of foods I can eat. Eggs. Salad (Romaine, celery, cucumbers, pecans, cheddar cheese). Pork (bacon, porkchops, ribs). Beef (ground, fajitas, steaks, hamburger patties). Tuna. Shrimp. Milk. Butter. Potatoes. Rice (the only grain which is safe for me). And the list goes on and on.
Making It All Balance
As with everything else in life, eating right to feel good is a balancing act. It’s a challenge I face every day. Am I successful? A good part of the time, but never all of the time. How often do I fail? All. of. the. time. Lol. I know. It’s not easy to eat the same things over and over again and have to say “NO” to things I once loved to eat. But to feel better on a regular basis, it is something I have to strive for or else I already know the answer. Slowness. Not being my best. Lackadaisical. Sleepy. Weak. Light-headedness. Then, if I’m really bad and slacking off miserably at eating right, there’s the headaches, earaches, congestion, and joint pain.
No one likes to feel bad. So why does anyone put themselves in a place to feel less than their best self? Because it’s hard to be good all of the time. So, what do I do? I strive every day to do my best. I prep salads. I try to eat “safe” protein at every meal. In fact, I try to eat my protein with a carb, fiber, and healthy fat. Thank goodness, I can still eat avocadoes. Not everything in life is easy, but everything worth achieving – in my case, good health – is worth striving for.
So, let me leave you with these thoughts. If you haven’t been feeling well, and have not found an answer, consider that it may be what you are eating. Even if it is only processed foods, try choosing a favorite fruit and a cheese stick for a healthy snack for awhile. Over time, sub out other food choices – mainly ones with additives for healthier food options. After over four years of struggling to eat healthier, I can and will understand if you find it difficult to make the commitment. Giving up favorite foods, eating the same thing over and over again, and watching while everyone else eats what they want are all hard things to bear.
But it is doable if we want to feel better. Please know that if you are suffering similarly that I do see you. I know I am not the only one in this world who looks at a menu and prays there is something “safe” to choose. The other choices being to choose a trigger food or to simply starve until you get home. I understand the struggle.
Always Aiming for Success
And, as I embark on the next four weekends of eating at others’ homes or eating out, I promise myself and you that will strive to make healthy choices. It won’t be easy. I know that, as I’ve been doing this over and over again for over four years. But my desire to live another thirty years gives me hope that I can do this. I can pay better attention to my body. I can stay away from trigger foods. And I can choose the be alert rather than inert. It’s never any fun being on the couch when everyone else is out having fun – whether it’s simply sitting or standing around the firepit or going hiking. I want to feel normal (or good, as in a healthy me).
So, tell me, what are you doing this weekend? I hope you are taking time to rest, get centered, organize, or do something fun and relaxing. As for me, I’ll be participating in our first Siblings Day weekend. If you follow me on Instagram, I’ll be publishing a post soon. So tune in there if you get a chance.
As I contemplate writing a memoir of my life, my choice right now would be “Slow-poke” (and you know why). What are some possible memoir titles you could offer me? Maybe Learning to Eat Healthy for Life? Please feel free to provide me with your ideas. Maybe one day I’ll jump over from my ABC books to my memoir.
Until then…and until next time, keep on smilin’, keep on movin’, and keep on strivin’ to eat healthier….
Love & hugs, Virg