Tuesday, March 26, 2013

But weren't you guys vegetarians once?

This is a question I have been asked by several folks when I started considering trying what is called the Paleo diet.  (Let me state here that I don't believe in an old world, so I don't agree that the world is millions of years old, but I do agree with many of the findings of those behind the Paleo movement.  But, this is not a blog to discuss the age of the universe or religion.)

I know it must seem strange that I was once a raw vegan, and so I figured it would probably be good to blog about our journey over the last couple years.

My husband and I once owned a barbecue restaurant.  It was right next door to our home, so, as you can guess, we often ate food from our restaurant- mainly fried shrimp,hushpuppies, nuggets, chopped beef sandwiches, dirty rice, and, of course, a bunch of french fries.  In fact, I would say I ate a huge plateful of french fries sprinkled liberally with cayenne pepper at least once a day (often more).

(Spring 2006)

A friend of mine was a raw vegan and was telling me how he overcame various health issues, so I decided to go for it.  That proved very difficult since I wasn't really good with preparing my own food, and I had this tasty restaurant (that I lived next to and worked at a lot of the time) always presenting temptations.  I don't think I lasted very long.

When we moved to Texas, I experienced a chain of miscarriages.  I realized that my diet was likely causing a lot of problems with my body, especially my fertility, so I decided to do "the raw vegan thing" again.  After a couple months of being a raw vegan, we conceived and that baby stuck!  (We had four miscarriages previous to her.) This was the first pregnancy in which I didn't feel deathly ill for the first 20+ weeks.  It was the first pregnancy in which I didn't feel constantly sick to my stomach or struggle to keep down even the smallest amount of food.  I was amazed!

My husband did not do well on the diet. He constantly felt hungry, so I tried adding beans and grains to his meals in order to fill him up.  I had read a lot of information on the importance of not eating meat which I thought was accurate (and some of it is, especially in respect to factory-farmed, hormone- and antibiotic-stuffed meat!), so I thought he would do much better without meat, if only we could figure out foods that would satisfy his stomach and not leave him feeling grumpy and starving in an hour.

This did not work, so we slowly added back meat, mainly sticking to chicken and seafood, with the occasional steak or burger.

Brandon has always struggled with pain.  For much of his life, he suffered from Fibromyalgia, but, by the grace of God, was healed one day when a group of men laid hands on him. While he had overcome much of the pain and suffering from FM, he was still experiencing a lot of aches and pains (mainly in his back) and a real lack of energy.

We tried various things and often went back through periods of vegetarianism and veganism, doing juice fasts and cleanses, and trying to find a way to get both of our bodies back on track. When we found out we were pregnant with Molly Jo, we were during a juice fast and transitioning into veganism and then into vegetarianism (feeling it would be best to take it slow).  Once again, I had a smooth pregnancy- no extreme sickness like I had with the first three- which I related to eating plenty of living, raw foods.

With Evie (left) and Molly Jo

During my time as a raw vegan, I did see major changes.  I gained energy. My migraines disappeared. And of course, my body was leaner.  But I still never felt full, and I had a difficult time getting enough iron (I was severely anemic) so I took various supplements.

So, for the last few years, my husband and I have been on a low or no meat diet with lots of raw, fresh fruits and vegetables, "healthy" grains and a variety of legumes.

So, side note- we homeschool, and in our homeschool lessons, I have been teaching the children about nutrition.  We've learned a lot about cortisol, how our hormones are effected by foods we eat, micro and macro nutrients, etc.

Earlier this month, I had posted a picture of a quinoa dish I had made because I had heard quinoa was really healthy and much better than rice (which our diet was pretty thick with).  Someone commented that quinoa caused inflammation, and I immediately dismissed it.  I mean, there's so much conflicting information out there. Quinoa is healthy and good for us, right?  Especially for those on a low or no meat diet, right?

But her comment stuck with me, so I was forced to research it out, which led me to information regarding the Whole30. I have several friends and many Instagram pals who are Paleo, so I was vaguely familiar with it, but I decided I should research it a bit more.

I was pretty astonished by what I found.  Grains and legumes are harmful to my hubby! I felt pretty bad that I had been making his gut and pain conditions WORSE, even though I was trying to make us healthier! I won't go into detail about that as there is much information out there about grains, legumes, and dairy and how these three things negatively affect the body, directly relating to those who struggle with chronic pain and gut issues.  I'm just saying, the research I found was going right along with what I had already learned (and taught my children) about how our bodies work.

I figure we have tried so many things, it can't hurt to try one more. So that is why we are in the midst of our Whole30 Challenge.

For us, it's not about subscribing to a label.  We just want to feel good.  We want to have energy. We don't want to look like stuffed sausages.  So, we're giving it a try. We can't yet say that it's the way to go or it's working for us, but I do see that some of the similarities between our former raw vegan diet and this Whole30 could be the key to optimal health, that is- no sugar, no grains, no legumes, and no dairy.

We shall see!

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