Sunday, January 16, 2011

Challenges and rewards

The other day I was quietly informed that not everyone approves of our lifestyle. I was a bit puzzled at first what was meant by this statement, but all was soon made clear. I was shocked to find that some people don't approve of the way we choose to eat. Bear in mind that at least part of the choice was made for me when I started to have severe allergic reactions to food additives. The people that have seen one of my reactions don't question the need to avoid these ingredients, but this is not a demonstration that I feel comfortable performing. For me a severe reaction usually includes hives, extreme difficulty breathing and feeling lousy for days afterwards. Also, each reaction seems to get progressively more severe, so common sense would seem to encourage that I avoid triggers.

While I talk about our food journey, I don't try to push anyone to follow the same plan. Truth being told, as passionate as I am about food, as much as I enjoy learning to make foods from scratch, this is not an easy way of life. Sometimes I miss going through the grocery store and tossing things in the cart without reading the ingredients and trying to determine where and how it was sourced. There are also times that I miss having food that is ready to eat with little or no work, especially when I am under the weather. I also know that it is difficult for some of our friends and family to understand why we can't eat out with them at a restaurant. Travel and visiting family is much more of a challenge, and often leaves me feeling guilty and uncomfortable because I feel like so much focus has to go into what I can or cannot eat. 

Change has a funny way of snowballing. I had to read labels to check for MSG in any of the many forms (read here for a list of names that this additive is listed under) and I also had to be on watch for artificial sweetener, as I have had chronic migraines for most of my adult life. Along the way,  I began to notice more and more what was in the products that we were buying. The more that I researched, the longer the list grew of things that I didn't want to bring home. In the midst of all of this, I began to find out more about the ethics of food. If you have watched "Food, Inc." or "The Future of Food", or read any of the many books and articles out there, you know what I mean. I had always believed food was simple, but then I found out about how the American public had to protest to demand that organic food could not be irradiated, GMO, or exposed to sewage runoff. I also found out that the image of animals in idyllic pastures was, more often than not, far from reality. This meant that on top of what I did NOT want, there were now criteria that I did want. The result was a decision to begin to phase in as much organic as possible, and to buy meat that is humanely raised and not fed antibiotics, hormones, etc. As if that isn't complicated enough, we became very aware of packaging, both in terms of chemicals that can leach into food, and in terms of how much can be recycled or avoided in an attempt to reduce how much we send to the landfill.

I know that this all sounds complicated, and it certainly is not a cakewalk. Still, I was surprised to have someone tell me that they did not approve of what we are doing. We aren't hurting anyone, and we are gaining numerous benefits that do help to offset the effort that we put in. For one thing, my husband has severe gout, which we manage exclusively with diet. Almost nine years ago, he was on crutches and medication because of severe flare-ups, and now he avoids certain things, eats a heathier diet, drinks a lot of water,  and he rarely has even a light attack. Around that same time, I had chronic migraines, meaning that I had between three and five debilitating headaches each week, each lasting between one and two days. I had to use injections of harsh medication, and even so, I seemed to always have intolerable headaches. Now I have a few severe headaches in a year, and those are rarely as bad as the skull-splitters that I used to experience. We are also both gradually losing weight, without depriving ourselves or going hungry. We are still making changes, but we are seeing results.

I am still not entirely sure what the individual disapproves of, but after much examination I have decided that it is their issue and not mine. I can talk to them about other topics, and accept them as they are, and hope that they, and others, will find a way to accept me as I am.


Jaymie G. said...


Very well said with much grace and tact.


RebeccaMom said...

I find it difficult to comprehend how anyone can disprove of someone eating in a way to make themselves feel better. You are gracious and kind. I have not known you to be pushy in any way and haven't even suggested that anyone do what you do. I am inspired by you! Keep on :)

Heidi a/k/a Thistle said...

Thank you both for your kind comments, they mean more than you know.

Anonymous said...

So well written - I am right there with bettering our bodies with more whole and unprocessed foods. You are awesome, Heidi! <3

Heidi a/k/a Thistle said...

(hugs) I am so blessed to have such great, supportive readers/friends. <3 you! You have all made my day, and I thank you from the bottom of my heart.

MSG detective said...

so happy to read your blog, I am going through similar things, add gluten to the mix and it seems there is nothing I can eat that I don't fix for myself and then sometimes I find out I made something with msg unknowingly in a can of soup I thought was good only to see a new msg name.
Keep up the good work and don't worry about what other people say they don't walk in your shoes

Heidi a/k/a Thistle said...

Thank you for commenting, MSG detective. I have found that there are very few canned soups that don't have MSG in them. The list from Truth in Labeling ( was a real eye-opener for me when I first found it. I realized I was still eating a ton of MSG under so many other names. I cannot imagine also having to deal with gluten issues. I do hope to get some time to read up more on gluten-sensitivities, so that I can try to write recipes that are usable, or at least readily convertible to those restrictions. Take care, keep well, and stay tuned as I hope to soon add some new features to the blog. :)

Anonymous said...

Wow I am so happy I found your Blog. My family doctor game me a note to 'speak to someone' because he thinks it's all in my head! Well in a way it is. Last year at 52 I had to stop working as I could no longer function. I had so many migraine and IBS attacks lasting days on end. I thought it was hormonal but now I think I have toxic overload. We really do have to become detectives! Thank you Heidi for your contribution.

Heidi a/k/a Thistle said...

Welcome to the blog, and thank you for your comment. It can be really discouraging to be dismissed by medical professionals, so keep your chin up and Godspeed on your recovery.