“If you never change your mind, why have one?” -Edward de Bono
Three years ago, in an effort to achieve optimum health, I switched to a mostly vegan diet. Unlike many people who become vegetarians or vegan, my number one goal was to get really healthy, not to “save the animals.” As cold as that may sound, I do have some issues with the way most farm animals are raised, but I’ll save that for a later post.
For almost three years, I cooked without meat and dairy. At first I was very strict, but I felt like I caught so much flack from friends and family, that I was more lax when around others. Additionally, during those three years I was pregnant twice. I found that when I went out to dinner, I was craving meat, and would eat it only from restaurants. I know it sounds weird, but while I was mostly vegan, I developed a strange aversion to preparing meat that I didn’t have previously. Maybe it was all the vegan propaganda I was reading…who knows.
Fast forward to September 2010, just shy of my three-year “veganaversary”. A couple of weeks after my 29th birthday, I ended up in the hospital. I was having chest pain, and after taking several EKG’s and comparing them, the doctor actually said “You may be having a heart attack- I can’t send you home. Oh, by the way, please take this nitroglycerin stat.” I imagine that’s really scary to hear at any age, but at barely 29 with four young kids at home, it freaked. me. out.
After two days in the hospital and several tests and follow-up visits, we still don’t know what was going on with my heart. We’ve eliminated stress, anxiety, panic attack, and heart attack, but that’s about all.
The experience made me question a lot of things (it’s how my minimalist journey started as well), but the first thing I questioned was my diet. My husband and I have a very good friend whom we really trust. He has a PHD and studied heart health, specifically the effects of diet and nutrition on the heart. Time and time again, his research showed that people who eat a diet of mainly vegetables and lean meat have the healthiest hearts. While heart health isn’t my only goal, I am happy to report that the last few months of transitioning to the paleolithic diet (paleo diet) have meant fewer IBS symptoms, ovarian cyst flare-ups, and lessened my chronic cystitis.
Ironically, as this post sat in draft form for the last few weeks while on vacation, I had another heart scare. Chest pain, followed by an ambulance ride, and several hours in the ER. The only new news is a heart murmur. Anyhow, I’m sure lots of cardiology follow-up is in my future, but suffice it to say: I’M SO DONE! It’s time to stop messing around. My health is the most important thing! My kids & husband need me!
I spent the last few months really dialing in my sleep, cutting out grains & dairy (except for Omega-3 Cage Free Eggs) and trying hard to get at least eight hours of sleep every single night… which is pretty tough with so many young children. Then, I went on vacation across the county, had an impromptu sleepover with friends and a total of eight kids, and had company in town. All within 10 days. As fun as exciting as all of it was, it left me running on very little sleep and drinking coffee again most days (after basically cutting it out). For the first time in months, my usual health problems reared their ugly heads.
To sum it all up, I’ve realized something really important: my body is really sensitive. Perhaps more sensitive than other people, perhaps not. I just know I need to be smarter about things. I can’t stay up really late and get too little sleep. I can’t eat crappy food. It’s a really slippery slope for me. One thing begets another and then another. I need to find a way to see friends during more reasonable (read: daytime) hours. This means I need to plan further ahead, find a good babysitter, and force myself to go to bed at a reasonable hour. No. Matter. What.
So, starting today, I’m embarking on a four-month (120 day) Paleo Challenge. I’m selecting 120 days because I’ll be 30 years old on September 5th, and I would like to have my health in check. I realize this means I will be at many a summer barbecue, being the “weirdo” that won’t eat this or that. I am prepared to bring my own food and get laughed at- because that’s what it takes.
My Paleo Challenge isn’t just about food. It isn’t just about the sleep or the exercise. It’s about the synergy all of those things. I’m dong it. My health is important. My body needs my focus, and my family can’t handle having me out of the loop because I’ve made poor decisions.
Anyone care to join me?