It has taken me many years to come to the point of cleaning eating where I am today. Perhaps the most motivating factor in my life was having children and raising them and realizing how significant my contribution is to the health of my family.
I grew up as a farm girl, so we ate lots of fresh vegetables and pastured meats. We also ate our share of sugar and sweet treats too. I was healthy and strong and struggled a bit with my weight. I moved to the city and still tried to eat a balanced diet, but I no longer had access to the good locally grown foods.
I married in my early 30’s and had my first child at age 36. During my pregnancy I became very motivated to eat really healthy so cut out diet sodas (never drank them since) and cut out caffeine. I started looking for options in the city to buy organic and direct from the farmer and found a CSA share (community sponsored agriculture). Then it was easier to get produce without pesticides and I got a chance to try some new things like arugula.
In my 40’s we moved to a small town in the mountains of PA and so it became easier to source healthy food options, for which I am grateful. I have my standard farmers I go to for as much of my food as I can, which includes produce all summer and fall, and beef, pork and chicken from another farmer.
When my oldest daughter turned 14 we realized that there were some health issues going on, which turned out to be a severe gluten and dairy intolerance, with irritable bowel and migraine symptoms. She stopped eating both gluten and dairy and saw some improvement, but then she did a year of the GAPS diet, which brought her a much greater improvement. It was also life changing for her as she learned to listen to her body and developed a huge love for vegetables and fruits. She continues to eat a very clean diet, with minimal sugar and at 19 is strong and healthy and fit.
Her journey was illuminating for the rest of our family. As a result I ended up pulling my youngest daughter (I have 4 children) off gluten and then later also taking my husband and I off gluten. I also have had to watch dairy intake for all my children as milk bothers all of them (even raw milk which we drank for years). I also began to learn about the priority of gut health and feeding the good bacteria in our gut for full body health.
I went off gluten because of a condition called eosinophilic esophagitis, which I was diagnosed with in November of 2016. For years I had a condition where I would get meat stuck in my esophagus and it could take hours to get it out. At least 4-5 times I had to make a visit to the ER to get help to have the meat removed, including one time where I actually had to go to the OR for removal. Finally after struggling with this for years, I decided to have my esophagus stretched, because there were rings there that contributed to the swallowing difficulties. When that happened the doctor diagnosed me with the eosinophilic esophagitis and told me it is related to an allergic reaction to something. I refused any medications and was encouraged to try an elimination diet. I only got as far as removing gluten and figured out that it was a major factor in my problems. I have been gluten free for more than a year now and have had only 3 incidents of choking on some food, 1 of which was triggered by gluten I ate by accident. The other 2 incidents were stress related.
The other thing I have had to deal with is insulin resistance and this has brought more changes in the past year. I had gestational diabetes in 3 of my pregnancies and I wish now that I had taken that more seriously after the babies were born. It is indicative that insulin resistance is an issue and the sooner that is dealt with the less likely that full fledged diabetes will develop.
I was surprised in the summer of 2017 to find that my fasting blood sugar was 105. I thought I was doing well in that area. I began to check my blood sugars more regularly and also got my HgbA1c checked. (HgbA1c is a marker that shows your average blood sugar over 3 months. 5.8 and above indicates prediabetes and 6.5 indicates full fledge diabetes. I was 5.8)
I was pretty shocked at the numbers and began to research how to bring my blood sugar down without medication. This meant first a change to a low-carbohydrate and high-fat diet (LCHF) and I did see some improvements, but not enough. This also meant cutting out all grains and sugars. I had weight to lose as well, as I had gained 40 lbs over my childbearing years and had not lost that weight.
Then I discovered intermittent fasting and have found that to be a wonderful tool in my health arsenal. I have practiced fasting one 24-hour day each week (fasting from supper to supper) and then usually two other days where I fast closer to 18 hours by skipping breakfast a given day and fasting supper to lunch.) The result has been a weight loss of 40 lbs which I have kept off now for over 3 months. It has also resulted in a lowered blood sugar and when I fast and stick with the LCHF diet I have fasting blood sugars below 100. I still am struggling to bring the HgbA1c down some more points, but it is motivating me to stick to these changes long term. I believe type 2 diabetes can be reversed and held off and since the implications of this disease are huge, I want to try. I now lead a free 30 day intermittent fasting challenge at my website, Purposeful Nutrition, to encourage and help others in this practice.
Compared to many years ago we eat very differently in my house. Most of us are gluten free and we use limited grains. We do much more baking with coconut flour and almond flour and sweeten things with honey, maple syrup and for the low-carb folks, stevia and erthyritol. We eat a large amount of vegetables, organic and locally grown as we can afford to. We do try and eat seasonally as this helps with sourcing and affording the produce.. We eat meat on a regular basis, mostly from a local farmer, that is grass fed and pastured. We eat very little processed food, making most of it ourselves from scratch. We drink probiotic drinks daily, including kombucha, water kefir, and jun. Some of the year we make and eat probiotic foods like sauerkraut and probiotic pickles.
My husband and I are both in our 50’s and we are still medication free and in good shape, able to be physical and hike and enjoy the outdoors. My children are healthy, active, and like a wide variety of foods. We certainly have not arrived, but I am grateful for all we have learned in the process of improving our diet and our health.
Jennifer is a happily married homeschooling mother of 4 who lives in a small town in Pennsylvania. She blogs at The Entwife’s Journal and at Purposeful Nutrition. She is also an RN who is working to build a health business through blogging, speaking, and health coaching.