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Why Did We Change Our Diet?

Why did we make the jump from our previous way of eating to how we do now? It wasn’t animal rights or anything like that. It was for our health as a family – it is what keeps me motivated to keep trying new ideas and recipes. I gave it 3 months to see if I could make serious changes and it happened and the results were good – meaning we have stuck with it.

So the back story? My husband comes from a long line of high cholesterol genetics. His numbers were not looking great and with us in our mid 30’s it is becoming more important every year to control it. Thankfully we have a pretty relaxed Doctor who is willing to work with non-standard treatments (she encourages a blend of West/East in medicine). I had borderline high blood pressure even when I was 16, and by my early 30’s I was taking BP meds. Not something I like taking but that is genetics for you (High BP runs in my family). I have been careful, watching my glucose as Type 2 Diabetes runs in my family as well – I was watched carefully when I was pregnant with Walker. So the two things I worried about were doing great – no glitches in either – and then I got a bit sideswiped. Late last year I got a brow beating from my Doctor about my cholesterol levels. What? Mine? Mine was great. Right? Well they had been FIVER YEARS BEFORE. Oops. Mine had crept up it seemed and my style of eating when pregnant in 2009/2010 hadn’t helped. My meat consumption had gone up, as had my heavy dairy use. I went home feeling pretty low, knowing my Doctor was right. I sat on it a month or two, feeling sorry for myself. Then Kirk and I got talking, he was willing to do whatever it took to drop our numbers – to make sure that our inner health got better, to match everything we do on the outside. We could keep going to the gym, do our hard workouts, use our trainer – and still without dietary changes we were not going to see major results. We gave ourselves about 3 months, before my meds needed to be renewed and I had to go visit.

Add in that Kirk had got the threat that unless his numbers started changing he was looking at statins – and I did NOT want him put on those evil things. Exercise wasn’t cutting it alone.

Slowly I started cooking vegetarian, I used what I had on hand, using up the cheese, the meat, etc. The change was occurring. Not every meal was good. There was a huge learning curve. But it got better, we got used to it. Then we went mostly vegan. That took another learning curve. And I even started doing raw foods on some meals. I actually got excited as I got good at cooking this way, which got me further into it. We mostly stopped eating out around this point. Every week I would make something with meat in it to keep the guys happy – but slowly that week became every two weeks.

We went in a couple of weeks ago for Lipids Panel blood work and it had worked. It had worked VERY well. Our bad cholesterol went down sharply, the good went up. Our ratios had improved. We are not 100% where we need to be but now instead of being High Risk/Very High Risk we are in the good zones mostly and one is just a couple of points over normal. I have to say it was hard to not preen and do a happy dance when I saw the numbers for both of us! Our BP and glucose numbers looked great as well.

Not that the work is over – although I fully admit that after I had my blood drawn I went to IHop and had breakfast, something I hadn’t done in a long time. My stomach hurt after – which was what I deserved. In my mind I calculate how much fiber I can get in every meal, how to make vegan meals taste fantastic – even how to get desserts to so good my Father In-Law enjoys it – the kind of cooking where instead of tasting like Hippy Hut food, it tastes simply good on its own. We eat 3-4 times the vegetables we used to, I cram them into everything. I upped our intake of raw nuts (great for heart health), oatmeal, barley, hemp seeds, chia seeds, flaxseed. And back to that stomach ache – there is something I have noticed: we eat such a high fiber diet (it is good for watching that cholesterol!) that if we eat out it hurts often. Especially if I slip and have meat. Kirk and I have taken to eating kid size meals or splitting a meal. It has been hard to overcome that one – having my own meal. This past week we had to eat out a couple of times and I found that I could eat maybe 1-2 items on the menu. Sigh.

At the end of the three months I found out something else. My grocery shopping had changed dramatically. Before while I cooked “naturally” I still used too many convenience products. Now I shop for fresh items – produce, almond milk and maybe bread. I still use canned beans and tomatoes but everything else slowed down. I shop mostly at Costco for the good prices on dates, quinoa, nuts and so much more. I don’t feel guilty going to Whole Foods and buying fun items – after all we don’t buy meat anymore, which was never cheap. So I get fun spices, grains, whatever calls to me.

Is the eating easy? Most days yes it is. There are days when all I crave is crap food – a greasy burger, limp fries (the limper, the better….all that tasty oil) or a crappy scone from Starbucks. I am not going to lie about that. Yesterday I was starving on the way home from running errands and it took everything in me to not drive through McDonald’s. So what do I do when I feel all sorry for myself? A) I give in a little. So I want ice cream? OK, go have all natural Fro-Yo (although I have cheated here a couple of times I am embarrassed to say). B) I hope the baby falls asleep, then I cannot stop the car. That helps. C) I promise myself that I will make dessert and I do. I just make it vegan and have it contain good ingredients. That helps a lot.

Onto that food – there were the big changes of course: no meat, no dairy, no eggs. Then I stripped out lesser evils such as Egg Beaters (although once a month or so I use it as a treat instead of tofu scrambles….and oddly enough I now like the tofu scrambles better!). I don’t restrict oil like I used to, I just use heart healthy oils and plenty of nuts. I removed anything with even a hint of trans fats, corn syrup, high fructose corn syrup and anything overly processed. We do eat white pasta, but instead of eating it often it is a rare treat. I let Ford still have food he likes – I do buy him yogurt, cheese sticks and snacks for his lunch and snacks – they are healthy versions of course but I also know that is 13 and is hungry all the time. He has for the most happily accepted the food changes. I try not to be overly bearing – if we go shopping him and the baby can have cookies. Live 90% by the rules and 10% by desires, just making as good of choice as you can.

The other upside is I have lost weight without trying (eventually when eating beans/grains/vegetables you get full and cannot eat anything more). It felt really good a couple of weekends ago when I was a size smaller when shopping! Putting on skinny jeans made me realize that little “tastes” as good as skinny jeans. I am grateful that the family is on board with me – it is for all of us to be as healthy as we can be!

PS: Besides all this we also now both take Omega-3 supplements (flaxseed for me, fish oil for Kirk) and Kirk takes Niacin. I am glad we found a non-drug pushing doctor who gave us time to see if we could put ourselves to change.

~Sarah

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