I used to live by one simple rule: Keep your health food healthy, and your junk food junk-y.
It sounds decent on the surface (and, in fact, there are some really good principles in there), but it is – at its best – incomplete.
The good – I didn’t eat any “fake” junk food. If it was designed to look like junk food, but be “healthy” in some way (usually reduced fat or fake sugar), I wanted nothing to do with it. Low-fat ice cream? No thanks.
Also, I did strive for my main foods to be nutrient rich and healthful, but I had some incorrect ideas about what healthy meant. I still was eating a lot of processed foods, and I was dealing with a myriad of health conditions that I had no idea were related to the foods I was eating.
In college I was diagnosed with gallstones, and I did not want my gall bladder removed, so I went vegetarian to avoid the animal fat which triggers your gall bladder to excrete bile. What I didn’t know at the time was that digesting those fats with bile is what actually gave your body the ability to produce more bile, and leaving fat out of your diet sets you up for more gallstones later on. But as a vegetarian I actually gained weight when previously it was all I could do to maintain a healthy weight. Some people gain weight just thinking about it, but as for me, that was how I lost it. It seems that in my previous diet I was not getting enough fruits and vegetables that contained actual nutrients. Eventually, though, my love of meat got the better of me and, after I was healed of having those gallstones in the first place, I went back to my omnivorous diet, and kept to my previous rule.
When I moved to Georgia a few years after graduating college, I was living with my brother and sister-in-law who were passionate about their new-found nutritional love: freshly milled wheat. They had a counter top mill, and used freshly ground wheat for everything. Some of our other family began to refer to white flour baked goods as “death bread (which, I think, is a pretty accurate depiction).” I started incorporating the freshly ground wheat, learning about baking with it, and was really enjoying it! I was still dealing with some of the same health struggles (cluster migraines, joint pain, fatigue, ADHD), but considered myself “healthy” because those are all things everybody deals with, right? I mean, if you can get an over-the-counter medicine for it, it’s not a big deal (at least, I didn’t think it was).
When I got married, my husband and I started drinking raw milk because he had a dairy allergy and we learned that many dairy-allergic folks can drink raw milk no problem. It did happen to be true for him, and we were thrilled to have dairy in our lives again; but he had other strange food reactions and allergies we couldn’t seem to get a handle on.
Fast forward a couple years to when our first child began displaying symptoms of food allergies at 3 months old, and I found myself with a renewed ambition to get to the bottom of things and get all the allergens out of our household once and for all. In the midst of this, I recommended that my husband go gluten free, because I learned that some of his symptoms could be connected to gluten intolerance. He was reluctant, but finally agreed to try it for two weeks. He was so amazed at the difference that he was suddenly super excited about gluten free living. We pulled gluten out of our son’s diet, too, and didn’t see too many visible results right away. Eventually we realized that part of the problem was that – as we were removing allergens out – he started developing new allergies! I was about at the end of my rope, when I discovered the GAPS diet.
Now, the GAPS diet is incredibly involved and, honestly, looked really “scary” to me. But even though implementing new habits that required a LOT of self control seemed to big for me to do for myself, there is just about nothing a mom won’t do for her baby. At first I said, “If he doesn’t outgrow his allergies by the time he’s 5 years old, maybe we’ll try this.” But as the months went on he was only gaining new allergies, and I found myself very willing to take the plunge into a totally foreign food ideology. I was pretty sure my husband would never go for it, but I prayed about it a lot. What I heard in response to those prayers was, “Walk out your healing.” When I presented the idea to Jeff (the same man who fought so hard on going gluten free), he said, “If it’s going to help him, let’s do it!” And he was all in from day one!
GAPS is a gut-healing protocol designed to reverse food allergies and alleviate a whole host of conditions, from psychological (ADHD, Autism, Dyspraxia, Dyslexia) to physiological (autoimmune conditions like Celiac, Crohns, and Lupus). I went along with my husband and son on the intro diet, simply for moral support. We saw amazing results in my son right off the bat, as well as in my husband. But what I hadn’t expected was the huge turnaround I saw in my own health – and I didn’t even know I was sick! My migraines? Gone. My joint pain? Gone. I thought it was getting rid of the refined sugar, but adding soaked grains back in after the intro caused my symptoms to return. I’ve played around with my diet a bit and learned that several types of food will cause my symptoms to return. Staying largely GAPS-legal, though, I am symptom free!
I have been amazed that what I thought I was unable to do for myself has actually become a reality, all through my son’s illness. I think that is a perfect example of how redemption wastes nothing. I would much rather (as a mom) that he had not been sick at all, but because he was, he and many in my own family are finding healing for conditions we never knew we had! As a family, we are all still walking out our healing. None of us is totally better yet, though all of us are much improved. We have a beautiful little girl now, as well, who shows no signs of her brother’s egg, dairy, citrus, or coconut allergies. She does seem to have a reaction to corn (based on a reaction she had while I was taking a medication that had a corn-based binder in it), and we have yet to try peanuts, tree nuts, or soy with her (we’re waiting until after she’s 2 years old); but already this is a big step in the right direction for our family’s health.
As I have researched health issues for my own family, I found myself really drawn to health and nutrition in general. I found that not only do I really enjoy learning about wellness, but that I had a real gift for communicating that information to other people. Once we began this journey, it seemed like every time I turned around I was meeting someone else dealing with the same thing, and I was able to offer them some knowledge that helped them in their own journey. People began to tell me that I needed to be teaching these things in classes.
That’s when I started to do some different research, and discovered there was such a thing as health coaching. I am now able to help all kinds of people who have been in similar health situations to achieve success in their own wellness lifestyles. Currently I am pursuing certification so I can expand my services even more; but at the present I am more than happy to be helping people in the autoimmune/digestive arena. I launched Keys to Life Wellness in the Fall of 2014 and immediately began putting together what I needed to get good wellness information out there, help my local Real Food Community grow, and start planning a workshop. With the help of Digging Roots Educational Farm, Inc., my friend and colleague Jen Richard and I presented our Family Wellness Day on March 7, 2015; which was the first of what we hope will be many workshops promoting wellness, real food, and whole living in our region!
My company motto is Whole Person Health, and that is because around every corner of this whole healing journey so far, there have been major opportunities for spiritual and emotional healing, as well. I had never realized how much fear had played a role in my own life, and how much this whole experience and just taking this plunge flew in the face of that fear, giving me countless opportunities to confront it. And I never realized how much that fear, worry, and anxiety affected my physical health. It is all connected. We’re not a just a body that is loosely connected with this mind and these emotions, we are whole beings, knit together seamlessly. You can eat the best diet in the world, and if you are not addressing spiritual and emotional needs, it’s basically all for naught. I encourage my clients to use these opportunities afforded to us by major transitions to examine every area of their life, and not just their physical health!