August 15, 2014
About a month ago I posted a status on my facebook page that kind of insinuated that I was in disbelief that people were still eating margarine. I believe my exact wording was "can you believe people still eat this stuff?" I shared this statement (along with many more words) above a very handy diagram from Changing Habits about how margarine is made. It's absolutely shocking I tell you and I can't think of why people would put this in their mouths....ooops, here I go again.
I have had a long hard think about that post. No one pulled me up on it or got upset, in fact, many people liked this status update, tagged their friends and also commented about their disgust of margarine. I know people familiar with my page would not be surprised by me rubbishing this plastic non-food but I read over the status quite a few times and started to feel....well....embarrassed. I was reading my words through different eyes and by about the 20th time, I read someone sounding arrogant and well, a bit holier than thou and that is the LAST person I want to be. I see so many people up on high horses these days when it comes to matters of health and diet. On one hand, I'm overjoyed that I am just one person in a sea of millions trying to promote health, good food, clean eating, dietary responsibility and the health of future generations and then on the other hand I feel like it is almost getting a bit....cult like.
If you aren't making your own bone broth, cold pressing your own juices, eating 100% organically, going gluten and dairy free, culturing your own vegetables and playing with blobs called kombucha, drinking green smoothies, refusing to buy packet foods and feeding your children ONLY home baked and made foods, swishing coconut oil around your mouth in the morning and meditating in the evening, are you a lesser person? No.
I have noticed this more since becoming a mum. Mothers in particular become outraged so quickly if other mothers are not up to date with their health beliefs and lifestyles. I am one of the mothers that has to pretend to the daycare teachers that a little bit of this and a little bit of that won't hurt my kids when inside my inner voice is screaming "yes, it bloody does matter! I don't want a single bit of gluten or processed crap passing through my kids mouths!!".
But I'm glad my kids will never hear that screaming inner voice as it's just not healthy. I understand that if my children had a life threatening disease and suffered dire consequences if they ate something they shouldn't then that screaming voice would definitely be an outer voice (not just an inner voice) but apart from the odd behavioural and digestive reaction to gluten, dairy and processed foods, they will not get immediately sick if they eat this type of food. I have chosen my children's diets for optimal health and their future health and that is my prerogative as their mother. It is also what I have learnt and what I can now implement at this stage in my life.
I know that my sometimes total immersion in the 'health world' can be alienating for some people and in fact quite a high pressure world to live in and I would rather not pass that along to my kids. I would rather them see that they are brought up with healthy whole foods, enjoy their trips to the farmers markets and also on occasion, experience the consequence of the foods that I do not advocate (I prefer these experiences to be when I am not around but hey) ;) My 3 year old daughter frantically asked me the other day if a new food I had just given her had gluten in it. She asked with panicked eyes and when I said that it didn't, she visibly relaxed. This gave me pause. I like that she is old enough now to know to stay away from gluten (ever since a cupcake from daycare gave her a tummy ache) but I know that she must also be mimicking her mum a bit. Gluten??? Aggggghhhhhhh! Run for the hills!!!!!! Yeah, there are bigger things to be concerned about.
So back to my holier than thou shame. I won't beat myself up for this for too long, in fact I just wanted to catch myself before I ever became this way in the first place and had lost myself so far up my own healthy bum that I could not relate anymore to people at different stages of 'the health journey'. I recognise that my profession has me further entrenched in health than a lot of other people/mums and the fact that I have now worked within the 'health world' since I was 19 (which is ahem, 17 years for me now). So I'm a little further along in my health journey than some and not as far as others and I recognise that some people may never want to embark upon this journey and that's ok too.
Everyone has their story and just because I may think I know what is healthiest for myself and my family now doesn't mean I was always this way so who am I to ever judge anyone or be aghast that margarine is still a part of anyone's diet?
In the interest of keeping it real and so you can see how someone who loves health is born, I will give you my health awakening timeline (with full disclosure) -
Growing Up I had a very health conscious mother who (among many health conscious practices) didn't allow her kids to eat sugar so when Christmas rolled around and Santa gave out lolly bags at Christmas parties, my bag was whipped away and given back to me with the whistle and marbles still in it but anything slightly sugary had been held as contraband. So it was my mother's great dismay to find me chewing some gum later in the day and when she asked where I had gotten it from was more horrified to see me point at the ground. Yep, used chewing gum. Kids will always find a way....remember that mums! *Just like to give my mum a virtual high five here....This was in the late 70's and early 80's when sugar was not seen as the baddie it is now. She is an amazing mum and was way ahead of her time here and without knowing it, was teaching me about the importance of the 80/20 rule!*
I suffered acne as a teenager and my mum took me to a herbalist/naturopath and we changed my diet to no dairy and no wheat and saw a lot of improvement. This is when I started to really notice the impact my diet had on my health but I didn't care too much...I was a teenager!
First year out of home So at 17 I left home to do my first year at university and I chose to study journalism as I loved to write. I was studying, living in a house in a city with 3 friends and I was free to make all my own decisions. Guess where my part time job was to help support my studies that first year? Bakers Delight! So as a fairly skint student, I was delighted I had all the free food I could eat including taking a bag of that fluffy white bread, scrolls, pizza slices and whatever else I wanted home to my flatmates. I was NEVER allowed white bread or bakery items at home so it was a bit of a novelty to me. Our house was never without a shite load of bread and baked goods and we lived on the stuff. So after a year of eating not much else but gluten and sugar (not to mention the alcohol) what happened? I got really stressed and anxious. My pimples flared back up again, I put on weight and towards the end of that year I suffered from incredible stomach pains that would later be diagnosed as irritable bowel syndrome and saw me in and out of hospital with all sorts of digestive complaints for the next half a decade.
Second year out of home After a good long think over the summer holidays, I decided not to go back to journalism but instead enrolled myself into the Australian College of Natural Medicine (now known as Endeavour College) in Brisbane and started my first year of Naturopathy. I was blown away. This was 1997 and even back then the 'health world' looked so different to what it does now. I embarked upon many liver cleansing diets (good ol' Sandra Cabot), started getting excited about nutrition, herbs and bush flower essences and got a new part time job at a healthfood store (which started my life long love affair with these types of stores) I felt so much better, was so excited about what I was learning, my skin became clearer and I lost weight.
A delayed Gap year or 2.... Halfway through my second year of Naturopathy, I started to feel a bit hemmed in and jaded and rebellious. I think it was a bunch of emotional and personal circumstances in my life that had me getting itchy feet and wanting to run. I also think I was getting too immersed in one particular way of living and needed to challenge things again. So I turned 21 and decided to take a break from studies and go travelling and work in Europe. I wanted to forget all I had learned for a while as the responsibility at this young age of what we could do to our bodies via our diet and lifestyle was overwhelming. I never do anything by halves so I even took up smoking. At 21! Here was the girl that used to ask her friends for a cigarette at parties and snap them in half right in front of their faces. I wasn't too popular for this (and you would have thought they would have learned to stop giving them to me!) and here I was smoking and drinking my way around Europe. I also had a year in the highlands of Scotland in a small coastal town (met a boy, as you do) where smoking and drinking every night was pretty much law I think? It became my new norm. I look at the photos of myself and the pimples were back and I looked so unhealthy! My diet was whatever the pubs or where I worked served...
Back to it After a couple of years, it was time to come home. I knew returning to my studies would mean a new lifestyle again but I was ready this time. My stomach and digestive system were in a bad way and a few more hospital visits (with a burst appendix thrown in) were to follow. I went back to my studies and working in healthfood stores and getting back on the healthy bandwagon. But the cigarettes stayed! Nicotine is powerful man. I only smoked at night usually with a drink and was lucky to soon meet my future hubby who HATED smoking which helped me give up.....before the poppets came along.
Moral of the story?I became a naturopath and continue to love working in this field to this day, still challenge myself on occasion with foods that I know are bad for me, still have those nights of drinking way too much for the liver to cope with because that's what I do. Along the way with my work in clinical practice, my pregnancies and births, my weight gain, my stress levels, raising small children, my marriage, more travel, my online work..... I have learnt that a balanced approach to health is much healthier than being black or white. This is probably why the 80/20 rule is so important for me. I think I need to mention that my 20% no longer involves things from Bakers Delight (I still have dreams about those custard scrolls) or Chicken Treat (my WA readers will be the only ones nodding their heads here) but it might be a few glasses of wine here or a take away Pad Thai there. Everyones 80/20 will be different depending on what stage of their health journey they are on. I am glad that my 20% looks like someone elses 80% these days but I have done my time, believe me.
I think true health is a dynamic thing and will come to me eventually (I am not there yet) and I think I am more on the right path than ever these days with my diet (largely paleo). I still have to work on my downtime, my sleep, my stress levels, not falling into emotional eating patterns and getting away from the technology that invades my new life as an online business woman and into the sun and dirt more with my kids.
I read about people criticising people like Pete Evans and Sarah Wilson as well as nutritionists, dieticians, doctors and even other parents and it saddens me because that is a counterproductive focus to have. I just think we all need to do our very very best with the information we currently have and the lives we are currently living. There are many stages to learning about ourselves and while I intensely dislike the wrong health information being given to anyone, I think we need to concentrate on our own journeys and the only way to do that is to act on what we think is right and stop putting energy into what we think is wrong .
We often receive the information we need when we are ready for it.
There is a lot of confusion surrounding conflicting health advice these days and the whole 'who to believe' thing is too big for me to tackle but I can say:
1) Do what you can with the information that feels right to you
2) If that doesn't work for you, try something else, just never stop trying
3) Teach your kids what you learn and reteach them if you have to
4) Don't judge or persecute anyone on a different journey to you or at a different stage
5) Share your knowledge with your friends and family but don't say "you have to do this" just lead by example and say it really works for you and don't get upset if they don't take your advice
6) Remember that human nature is to fall and get back up again. Two steps forward and one step back still sees you moving forward
7) Everything takes time. Evolution is quite slow when you think about it in terms of a lifetime!
8) And if you absolutely have no idea where to start I will just say - look into the health benefits of the Paleo lifestyle and try things on for size. And get your gut right. The Paleo lifestyle is something in this 'Health World' (that I have been a part of and studied for a long time now) that has doctors and alternative medicine practitioners united on. It is garnering so much excitement and popularity because it is something that individuals can do for themselves and their families, from their homes to reverse poor health. It's a lifestyle that you can read about and get excited about too when you have the time and if it feels right to you. It is a lifestyle that advocates eating and living as closely to our ancestors as possible in this day and age and also removes the known inflammatory foods of our modern era. You don't have to become 'paleo' overnight to benefit but starting out with cutting certain foods from your diet and changing one thing at a time is a good start. There are so many books on the topic now and many social media pages and blogs to help you, I won't list them all but check out the end of this blog HERE where I list a few places to start online. You can also just google 'Paleo' and see what pops up. Again, I am only mentioning this if you don't know where to start to move forward in your health journey. There is never a 'one diet' for all. You need to see what suits you and your family.
Getting your gut healthy is so important too, read more about that HERE.
Just please, wherever you are on your health journey, don't get holier than thou and lose yourself up your own healthy bum.
That just isn't healthy at all ;)
Yours in Dynamic Health,
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