Back to Basics: My journey to real health (Part II)
Make sure to read Part I first.
After curing myself of my “dry skin,” I started looking for natural remedies to better my health as much as possible. That’s not to say that I think all pharmaceuticals are evil (not sure I can say that they aren’t, either…). I just believe that often the thing to cure us can be found in more simple things. Moving, nutrition, de-cluttering, de-toxing, etc–these things help lead us to real health. (All without negative side effects, too.)
Little by little I found my perspective of health changing. Certain things would shift my reality—forcing me to see things in a different light. Sometimes the ideas started out insane, stupid, or just silly. But more often than not, as I continued to dig, I soon realized that maybe the “normal” way of living was the insane way.
A shift in perspective: What is “healthy exercise”?
I have always enjoyed moving. I would schedule workouts with friends even as a child. I did lots of sit-ups and crunches every day (not something I would now recommend). I ran (and walked). I lifted weights. I stretched a lot. But as I mentioned before, despite all of this, I struggled with weight during my high school and college years. I don’t think anyone would call me fat. I was just really thick. I definitely didn’t look like the sleek-thin dancers I shared the stage with.
Immediately after I graduated with my bachelor’s degree, I started a certification program in Laban Movement Analysis. We spent hours in the studio working on our body connectivity–reestablishing connections for greater easy and efficiency. It was a different aspect of health that I hadn’t considered.
I still enjoy “working out” in a traditional way, but I now approach it differently. I listened to my body as I worked out. Instead of plugging into music or some other distraction, I learned that I gain more when my mind and body are integrated. I learned about the importance of core muscles and how they serve the entire body (when properly connected). All of a sudden the extra muscle “thickness” that I had struggled with during my entire high school and undergraduate career melted away. I lost 2 inches on my thighs! Without trying, and still on my typical Standard American Diet (SAD), I lost twenty pounds. On top of that I had a new sense of posture that made my weight loss even more dramatic. I literally had people telling me they didn’t recognize me. I was amazed at what a fundamental, “back to basics,” approach could have on my health.
A shift in perspective: What is real food?
I can’t pinpoint any one moment where my idea of food changed. It’s been a gradual journey over the past 4 years. But my desire to make a change went into hyper-drive when my husband and I began talking about starting a family. Wanting the best nourishment for my child mixed with some (let’s be honest) fear of screwing him/her up forever, I began researching more than ever. I looked over what our government recommended (oh, hello politically driven food system). I read books by nutritionists (same information I’d been hearing all my life.) I began slowly purging our house of all processed foods. I researched vegetarianism, paleo/primate diets, veganism, and raw lifestyles. I even tried some of these different approaches and listened to my body.
During this time I kept coming across blogs promoting the principles of the Weston A. Price Foundation. While I don’t really like the idea of categorizing myself into any single “way” of eating, the principles made sense: Eat like our ancestors. Eat real food. Learn to cook. Learn to prepare, plan, and enjoy.
Like I said, I don’t think I fit perfectly into any one “diet.” My family tries to eat meat sparingly, especially during the warm months. When we do purchase meat, we try to buy it in as whole a form as possible. We try to use as much as the animal as possible (yeah, I eat organ meats. I also make my own bone broth. Take that, Betty Crocker.) And most importantly, I am more than willing to pay the extra price for food that comes from animals treated kindly. I eat lots of clean, raw milk. I eat lots of pastured eggs and butter. I properly prepare my grains for better digestion. I buy local and organic as much as possible, from farms I know and trust. Not only does the food taste better, but I know I’m getting less garbage, more nutrition, and helping the planet.
I should mention that I am anything but wealthy (financially speaking). We live in a nice, but small condo. We have one car. We have a child. I traded my career to be a stay-at-home mom. We are (for the most part) a single income family. But I am more than willing to pay the extra price because as the cliche’ goes: I’d rather pay the farmer than the doctor. Besides, the money I was saving by not buying worthless processed fake food meant that my over all grocery bill wasn’t that much higher.
I am amazed to see the drastic (and relatively quick) changes that occurred when I stopped buying food in a package and spent more time in the kitchen planning, chopping, and cooking. Once again I found myself losing weight, without trying. (Another 22 pounds to be exact… that’s 42 in all if you are counting. Yeah, FORTY-TWO). I also noticed my bowels felt good. My skin finally stopped looking like I was going through puberty. I noticed that I wasn’t thinking about food all the time—the cravings were gone. After some dedication and patience, I even began to like my vegetables!
Health for me and my family
Not long after this I found out I was pregnant. I have never felt better in my whole life. I knew I was still on a journey to real health, and there would still be plenty of little side-tracks along the way, but I was excited to see the direction we were heading. I was especially grateful for the goodness I felt inside and out, knowing I would pass something good on to my children. If you don’t have your health, after all, you don’t have anything.
Next up: Part III
(top featured image by On the mountain at dawn, Flickr)