Monday, April 30, 2007

Busy, beautiful day

I was super-busy today and didn't get a proper sit down meal that wasn't rushed. This is very unusual for me. I love to eat and I also like the time to sit with my husband and kids every day.

I ran a boatload of errands, posted fliers for my garden club's plant sale, dumpster-dived at Aldi again, visited friends and neighbors to distribute my findings, planted lettuce, carrots, radishes, swiss chard and endive in two of my three gardens that are spread all over town, and cleared out more of my unwanted pantry items to give to my sister-in-law...

I had about 3 cups of defrosted mangos at 9 a.m., 1/2 of a banana at 1 p.m., a huge plate of iceberg with lentil sprouts, cucumber, grape tomatoes, shredded carrot and more of that creamy dressing at 3 p.m. After the salad, I ate 6 soaked almonds on the way to drop my daughter's friend off. At about 8 p.m. I ate 2 Bartlett pears.

Tomorrow, I have more planting and garden work to do, so I better head to bed.

Raw Radiance

I got this gem from Jinjee in my e-mail inbox today:

"When you are truly healthy, you are magnetic! When you are truly healthy you radiate! When you are truly healthy you attract your dreams to you! When you are truly healthy you have so much energy to give, share, and live an amazing life! You attract your mission. You are poised and ready to do the unique work you were meant for! You move forward at the speed of light! You are accelerated! You are living at the speed of life!!! When you are truly healthy you feel so good, look so good, and love the feeling of moving in your body. You have moves."


(Go to to read her entire blog.)

If I had read this a few months ago, my mind would have immediately split in half. There would be the part that would intuitively embrace it and the part that would cynically reject it as hype. Now, after only a couple days in a row of raw, I can tell you that I am totally embracing this! If you are like I was, I say, give it a try. Open yourself up and ALLOW YOURSELF TO BE HAPPY.

Sunday, April 29, 2007

Plenty of sunshine headed our way... and also a thunderstorm

I woke up feeling fantastic, despite the sleep deprivation. I also saw a loss on the scale, which was a welcome sight.

I am so glad I resisted the urge to eat late at night, since I know I wake up bloated and crabby when I do.

I had a late breakfast of 3 Gala apples--so crisp and delicious. An hour later I snacked on a banana. Unfortunately, I really don't like bananas all that much, except in smoothies, which I try to limit. How can a wannabe rawist survive without bananas?!?

An update on our cat. He will eat roast pork, although in small quantities. I am still feeling guilty and hope to get him better food soon. I plan to do some research on feeding cats raw. My first thought is perhaps some raw eggs?

Today a friend came over and I sold her $30 worth of pasta, flours and baking products. I also gave her a bunch of other foods like pickled jalapenos and curry paste. Woohoo! Feels great to be clearing out.

Because of her visit, I got distracted and didn't make my lunch until I was shaky and feeling irritable and unable to concentrate. I felt much better once I started to eat. I had 6 cups of romaine, half of a cucumber (peeled), half of a red pepper (chopped), 2 stalks of celery (chopped), a small carrot (grated), and a large portion of that yummy creamy dressing I made yesterday. My toddler snuck up and ate some of my plate, but luckily I got most of it. After eating, I felt much better!

While my friend was there, I got my co-op order together. She's thinking of joining and we're putting in a joint order. We are splitting some amaranth and wheatberries that I plan to sprout. I also splurged on 5 lbs. of dates. I have really been wanting some! I know 5 lbs. will last about 5 minutes in this house, but what can I do.

I really wanted to hang out my laundry and get some planting done, but a sudden thunderstorm moved in right after my friend left.

Instead the laundry went in the dryer and I made salads with iceberg lettuce and peppers and cut up melons for my husband and the kids, who don't care a thing about food combining. I also made them some fruit smoothies.

Here's what I ate for dinner. Four cups of iceberg. A dressing made with about 2/3 C. thawed blueberries, 1/2 C. thawed papaya, 1 banana, some juice from a thawed package of frozen fruit salad, and 1 large leaf of kale (destemmed) blended in the Vitamix. A couple of sips of my kids tropical fruit smoothie.

We were treated after dinner with the sight of a rainbow!

What a nice way to end the day.

Saturday, April 28, 2007

Zipp-edy Doo Dah

It is a lovely day with lots of sunshine. A perfect day to eat raw!

This morning I lazed in bed with my dear husband.

At about 10:30, I ate a banana, about a cup and a half of romaine, a few cucumber slices and some leftover salad that I made last night that contained purple cabbage, celery, shredded carrot, and a dressing of soaked raisins, hempseed and a little grapefruit juice.

I had a fun grocery shopping experience, despite our super-limited budget this week. I tried dumpster diving behind Aldi for the first time and hit the jackpot. Loads of green onions, several packages of multi-colored peppers, a dozen or so packages of button mushrooms, a cucumber, 4 heads of romaine, and some pork roast for the Bartimaeas, our cat and a couple of loaves of bread for a friend.

The pork roast reminds me to feel guilty about the diet of our poor cat. See, we're really too poor to have a cat and care for him properly. But we like him a lot and so we keep him. We were buying him the cheapest generic dry food we could get, but I always felt bad about it. I know all about the horrors of the pet food industry. So imagine how frightened I was when my son started eating the cat's food. Although I explained how horrible it was and tried many behavior modification tactics, nothing worked and he kept sneaking it.

What's a mother to do?

I started buying the cat canned tuna and chicken breast. At least if the boy was gonna sneak that into his mouth it wouldn't have melamine or euthanized animals in it!

I wanted Bart (the cat) to go raw, but he wouldn't eat the raw fish I bought him. (At least my son wouldn't eat that.)

I really hate to handle meat. I also don't have much money to spend on feeding a damn cat. The kids have to eat first, you know?

So now, I got three free pork roasts from a dumpster and hopefully Bart will eat roast pork, because I held my nose and roasted it and cut it up for the little furball. Sigh.

After I got back from grocery shopping and dumpster diving, I made myself a salad with about 3 cups romaine, a 12 oz. bag of thawed frozen raspberries, some chopped red pepper and green onions, a small sprinkle of soaked dehydrated sunflower seeds, and an ounce or so of raisins.

The evening involved a big production... helping my husband chaperone his high school's prom. I was a bit concerned that there wouldn't be much to eat. My husband said at least there would be a green salad, so I brought along lentil sprouts and my own dressing--made with soaked almonds, cashews, and sunflower seeds, lemon juice, onion powder, dried oregano, and sea salt. I also brought two Gala apples, but we ended up eating them on the drive over.

As I feared, nothing for me to eat. The salad was liberally sprinkled with American cheese shreds. I mean really, does American cheese make a salad more fancy?!? Ugh. I dug out the lettuce from the bottom and then picked out the leftover bits with my fingers. So annoying. I tried to be quick and subtle about it. The dressing and the lentil sprouts made the salad so sooooooo good. I really enjoyed my dinner.

I was hungry later on in the evening, and there was sheet cake and cookies to tempt me. But I stayed away.

And I had a great time watching the kids dance and joking around with my husband and the other teachers there.

Friday, April 27, 2007

Ready to Begin Living Joyfully

Chapter 9: Getting ready to Embark

As I write this, I am aware that I am healthier and fitter than I was 10 years ago. I am so thankful that I have come to this place.

But I am aware of the nagging pains, physical and emotional. I finally feel ready to fulfill my potential as a human being.

My decision to go raw was influenced by Ginger, known as RawVeganMom. I met her on SparkPeople and was drawn to her energy. She turned me on to the Secret, which led me to the teachings of Abraham through Jerry and Esther Hicks. She also turned me on to Doug Graham's 80-10-10 plan.

I began to do more research into raw and was powerfully affected by something that Nora Lenz said on her site Human beings are clearly made to eat fruit. Our teeth, our sense of smell and sight, our strong attraction to sweet tastes, our lack of strong stomach acids and the evidence from our closest non-human neighbors, the binobo monkeys--it all points to the fact that we should be eating primarily fruit, with some leaves, nuts and seeds.

I am ready to allow myself to heal. I am ready to be true to who I really am. I am ready to be healthy and in turn, happy.

A success story. Or is it?

Chapter 8: What's wrong with this picture?

My husband and I have lost a total of 130 pounds. We're exercising regularly, eating fruit and veggies, reversing chronic health conditions. A success story. Someone should buy our before and after photos and use them to sell Eat to Live, right?

Um, if this is a success story, then how come I still feel like crap.

Seriously, we still struggle with compliance. My husband is more philosophical, and therefore more moderate about it. I feel frustrated by going constantly off and on. I go off sugar, then a holiday binge would send me back to eating it daily again. I painfully, slowly got off the salt for over a month (and felt so much better--morning stiffness and achy-ness gone) only to go right back to square one after eating salty food at a social ocassion.

One month, I ate 5 pounds of raw cashews. Cashews by the handfuls day after day.

After having a miscarriage in November, 2006, I binged on SAD foods for 2-3 months... Easy to do since it was Christmas and everyone was giving out cookies. I gained back 13 pounds, while continuing to exercise 7 hours a week. Luckily, I've lost those pounds again. Yet here I remain, at the same weight I was a year ago, still 25 pounds from my goal.

I never quite felt right when following the diet 100% either. I found that I would get constipation with too many cooked greens. (Or maybe it was the nuts?)

I joined and began obsessively counting my calories and exercise minutes. Obsessively counting sometimes led to an almost ritualistic overeating pattern.

I would fast from the computer for weeks to break the cycle, only to begin it again.

I read other similar books such as the McDougall Plan for Maximum Weightloss and all of Dr. Neal Barnard's books. I began baking whole grain bread "for the kids" but eating much of it.

I consider raw-ism several times, but was turned off by the multiplicity of conflicting voices shouting at one another. Superfoods. NO, Natural Hygiene. Raw chocolate is good for you. Raw chocolate will kill you. B-12 deficiency will kill you. Green Smoothies. Juice. Don't juice. Sprouts. Sprouts will kill you! Ack!

Stress is killing me, is the problem.

And everyone has something to sell me, which makes them all a bit suspect in my mind.

Eat to Live

Chapter 7: Greenmama stops looking at everyone else and takes a good hard look at herself.

When my youngest had just turned a year old, the family decided to take a 4 day trip to Washington D.C. to march in a protest and visit a friend.

My husband had just recovered from an obstructed bowel. His doctor had told him to take some laxitives and come in for more drastic measures if that didn't work. He was also told that it was probably related to high blood sugar.

In the enclosed space of our car on the 10 hour trip, I demanded that we come up with a plan of action for life. This blow-up argument was about more than his health, but his health played a major role in it. Poor man, the things he's had to endure from me.

Anyway, my argument was, how can I raise three kids by myself when you die in 10 years, as you're sure to do if you continue on this path.

On the way home we stopped in Chicago. I wanted to go to Karyn's to try it. I don't even know why? I think it was a place that I had seen many times when I was in Chicago and I knew it was vegetarian and raw. I only had a vague concept of what raw could mean. But I like food adventure.

We found out that Karyn's had moved and expanded. It was much more tony than it had been when we knew of it a few years before. For all of the beautiful surroundings, the food was just o.k. The nori wraps with walnut paste and strips of peppers and carrots--to die for! The corn soup--just eh. Something, I can't remember what, had baby tomatoes in it that were flavorless and past their prime. I remember thinking how expensive it was for mediocre food.

But the book store! I found so much to inspire me. And, in a gesture of good faith, my husband bought the book Eat to Live, by Joel Fuhrman. I bought Vibrant Living: Over 250 Heart Healthy Live Food Recipes, by James Levin and Natalie Cedarquist. I bought it for fun, thinking it'd be neat to try out some different recipes. No thought of going raw. On the way home, my husband promised me that he'd get back on the path to health.

We both read Eat to Live. I actually only read it because I was going to help him by preparing meals that fit in his plan. (I prided myself on how much I knew about health and nutrition. I ate 5-9 fruits and veggies a day. *I* certainly didn't need to eat better. God, it's embarrassing to realize how dense I was!)

After reading Dr. Fuhrman's explanation of the China Study, as well as his statistics on how much we actually should weigh for maximum health, a lightbulb went off in my head. Duh, you ninny, you're overweight. Not to mention you have several risk factors for diabetes. And you're eating eggs and some dairy, thinking they're healthy or "not that bad".

The whole family went on Eat to Live, which meant lots of salads, vegetables (especially dark colored), fruits and beans. The kids ate more grains than the adults. We ate raw nuts and seeds only. I dropped 30 pounds in 6 months.

Over the next year and a half, I gradually added more and more exercise to my routine as well. Walking to school with the kids, aerobics videos, some weight training.

My husband moved on the path toward overall self-improvement. He began exercising more, addressing his emotional eating patterns, studying Taoism and other eastern religion and philosophy. He has lost 97 pounds and counting. His blood sugar is back under control without medication and his blood pressure is normal. He snores less and doesn't have apnea episodes that I know of. His back pain is gone.

A success story. Right?

Greenmama's Third Baby

Chapter 6: Will this darn tree ever take root? (Sorry, that health nut metaphor was dropped a couple of posts ago...)

My third pregnancy was fairly healthy and happy. Two things kept it from being perfect. One was my growing hatred of my daycare job. I was impatient with the kids and constantly felt overtaxed. I was still reeling from my failure as a teacher and constantly worried that I was doomed to be a horrible and unsuccessful person.

The second was debilitating back pain. My back would get an agonizing cramp-like pain and I would freeze in place, unable to walk or move. I believed that it was due to the weakness in my PC muscle caused by the terrible episiotomy I was given with my first born. My chiropractor said he thought that was probably the case as well. With regular adjustments, I was able to survive, but I had daily back spasms.

I also had some constipation, which I believed was also related to that darn PC muscle. (Now I'm not so sure?)

In my new town, there were pretty much no options for a home-birthin' gal with my particular philosophy, so I didn't have any prenatal care. I took care to eat healthy (much less cheese and ice cream) and exercise regularly. I felt the "need" to eat some fish during the second trimester, so I ate a case or so of canned wildcaught Alaskan salmon. I gained 30 pounds (and started 15 pounds lighter than I did with my first). Although having an unattended birth was a bit nervewracking, I managed to calm myself throughout the pregnancy and labor and had another wonderful home birth and healthy baby. The biggest baby yet--my daughter weighed in at 9 pounds 10 ounces.

In the pictures taken a day after her birth, my husband is bursting through his clothing (sorry honey, but its true, only 15 pounds less than he weighed when first diagnosed with Type 2 diabetes.

The new baby gave me the excuse I needed to stop doing daycare. And breastfeeding again gave me nice weight loss benefits and relief from my periods (2 years off this time!).

Two Steps Forward, One step Back

Chapter 5: Sometimes On a Journey, You Double Back

My husband's resolve to be healthy paid off. He lost over 50 pounds and was able to cut down on his Glucophage. He felt fitter and happier.

Our little family was blessed in many ways. But there was the nagging pressures of debt, my inability to function in my job, and the growing demands of family.

I decided that a solution to all of our problems would be to move. We could be closer to family, cutting out the stress of traveling back and forth frequently. I could get a job in a different school district. We could afford to buy a house. Commuting would be less stressful.

I lobbied for this and my husband agreed.

We moved back to his hometown and settled in with our kids. (This was the 4th move in 5 years).

Unfortunately, the change of locale didn't improve my job satisfaction. I suffered immensely in my new position. The stress of dealing with me and two young kids and a big move led my husband away from his healthy habits. He snacked on junk food in his car or at school. We stopped working out regularly. Over the next 2 years, he regained 30 of the 50 pounds he lost.

His blood sugar climbed, so he stopped checking it.

We were thrilled when we bought a house! But my contract was not renewed and I decided I just couldn't take another teaching job. I decided that home daycare would be a good route for me.

Our debt became unbearbable with our sudden reduction in income. We declared bankruptcy. My husband's prescription cost money to fill, and we were broke. He stopped taking his medication.

Suddenly he began losing weight. We had started exercising more (having spent our tax refund on a 1 year gym membership), but we should have noticed the other signs that things weren't right.

At this point we were pregnant again, and I had a better pregnancy than the previous one, but had severe back pain. I also was hating daycare more and more. I had the same problems as I had teaching.

The one thing I took pride in was the healthy food I served. I knew that most daycares relied on poor quality prepackaged foods. I fed my charges "healthy home-cooked" meals with fresh fruits and veggies, not canned, whole grains. And it was vegetarian. I felt so proud of teaching kids about kiwi and broccoli.

My husband's health deteriorated. He had a severe infection in his finger that had begun as a hangnail. The doctor tested his A1C and it was almost 15 (should be under 6). He was put back on insulin and Glucophage. He also had a painful bowel obstruction.

I was concerned that his blood pressure was always high when they went to the doctor, but no one ever suggested that anything be done about it. As a teenager, he had been told he had "White Coat Hypertension."

We had a subscription to Diabetes Forcast Magazine. Every month, I dutifully read about all of the horrific complications my husband was sure to suffer if he didn't control his blood sugar, blood pressure and weight. I began nagging incessantly.

I really didn't give a second thought about my own weight problems or risk factors for diabetes.

Greenmama's Second Baby

Chapter 4: Health Crisis Prompts Minor Changes

We knew we wanted to have more babies, and why space them too far apart?

"Honey, you want to have another baby?"

"How about a June baby? Then we'll both be off for the whole summer together so we don't have to worry about unpaid leave?"

"Oh... what a great idea. Oh, ohhhhh, OHHHHH!"

Next month...

"Well, I guess it's going to be a February baby."

Yeah, we're just AWESOME planners.

I was really floundering and miserable as a teacher at this point. I was chronically cranky and stressed. I didn't think of myself as a classic stress eater, but I really was. I was always exhausted and crabby. I had frequent bouts of flu and colds and often missed work because I was "sick" but really just because I hated my job so much and felt powerless and unhappy and worthless as a person.

A February baby gave me an excuse to take the rest of the year off.

It was a miserable pregnancy. I had horrible morning sickness--nausea, mostly, not too much vomiting--during the entire hot sticky summer. I laid on the couch practically naked, so fatigued I could hardly move, while my 2 year-old son played on the floor nearby.

That summer was the summer that my husband was diagnosed with Type 2 diabetes.

We had taken a trip to visit his parents, who lived about 2 hours away (another source of stress, constantly having to take long car trips to do family things). On the way home, he had to pull over because his vision was so cloudy he couldn't see the road. The next day, I forced him to go see his doctor. Like an idiot, I let him drive himself. About 2 hours later, he called me from the ER. His blood sugar was over 600 (normal is 60-80). They wanted to admit him, but he convinced his doctor to allow him to go home after his sugar came down. They gave him i.v. fluids and insulin and after about 12 hours, they released him.

He got one basic consultation with a dietician (how to count carbs) , a prescription for Glucophage and a lesson on how to inject himself with insulin.

My husband, who had heretofore ignored his body as much as possible, suddenly became supermotivated to get healthier. He switched to diet soda (ugh, I know!), and we joined the YMCA. He rigorously counted carbs and we went to the gym together three times a week. Over the course of my pregnancy, he lost 35 pounds and was able to come off of insulin.

I benefited from the exercise, too. I stayed vegetarian this pregnancy and decided 100 grams of protein was probably a bit much. I still ate eggs and cheese and some ice cream (less at least), although I had stopped drinking milk. I only gained 35 pounds (and my prepregnancy weight was 10 pounds less). Still, I failed my initial glucose tolerance test, again.

And I suffered horribly from back pain, heart burn, and constipation (for the first time in my life!) throughout the entire pregnancy.

My darling daughter came 2 weeks early--I think she knew how much I wanted to get out of working--but weighed almost 8 pounds. We had a lovely homebirth and an easy delivery.

Since I was home for her first 6 months of life and money was tight, we ate out even less and I redoubled my interest and efforts in creating healthy meals that would help my husband with his weight loss.

At 18 months postpartum, I weighed about 150 pounds.

How I Became GreenMAMA

Chapter 3: A Mothering Revolution

Life changed dramatically when we decided to have a baby. We sort-of rushed into it (not even married). It sort of went like this. We broke up. Cried a lot. Decided to get back together. Decided we were soulmates committed for life.


"Let's have a baby."


"Not now, necessarily."

"Oh, darling.....Oh, oh, OHHH!"

One month later....

"Well, honey, the test is positive. Ready or not..."

Yeah, not the most coherent planning ever undertaken.

Influenced by my parents and my own belief that Nature knows best, I was really interested in having a natural childbirth. This led me to take a Bradley Method of Natural Childbirth class.

The Bradley Method is wonderful in many ways and I learned so many invaluable lessons in the class, but their dietary recommendations are less than healthful. The BradleyMethod promotes the Brewer Diet for preventing toxemia and preeclampsia and for growing a "blue ribbon baby" i.e. a mammoth whale of a newborn. The Brewer diet appealed to me because it was just like my mother recommended when I was young, lots of fruit and vegetables, whole grains, eggs, and milk. The cornerstone? 100 grams of protein! We were given sheets to count up our protein grams. I was proud that as a vegetarian, I could pack in that protein. However, I also discovered I had pica. When I began dreaming of hamburgers and my midwife warned me that my iron was low, I added some meat back into my diet, mainly poultry and fish. I also took Floradix, a natural iron tonic, but couldn't get myself to take it very often.

I dutifully packed all of the healthful foods in, along with that protein and a couple of pints of Ben and Jerry's a week. I gained a whopping 45 pounds on my already overweight body.

I failed my first glucose tolerance test. But I passed the fasting one, so no gestational diabetes for me, right? And I felt and looked fantastic. I was a fantastic whale of a pregnant woman and I loved every minute of it. Everyone praises and encourages a pregnant woman to eat more. I was having fun!

As I considered my impending role as a mother, I began thinking of how important my mother's role as cook for our family was. I wanted to instill healthy eating habits in my child. I, of course, planned to breastfeed. I had read that a breastfeeding mother's diet could impact the nutrition of her milk and could influence her children to like healthy foods. I began buying magazines like Vegetarian Times and Cooking Light and trying out recipes. My husband was encouraging and we sometimes entertained friends, who were complimentary.

Our money concerns led us to try to eat out less, and of course, drinking was out while I was pregnant.

Finally, our son arrived. Our birth was not what we wanted and a small part of this was due to his very large size, 9 pounds 6.5 ounces, a blue ribbon baby all right! Being a new parent, and then a pumping full-time working mom in a big city with traffic and a stressful job took a heavy toll on my emotional health. Not to mention our debt and the wedding which we planned and paid for and held in a distant place close to our parents. We also moved 3 times within 2 years. We were constantly stressed out. Yet our eating habits had improved quite a bit.

I now regularly cooked healthy meals. We ate out 2-3 times a week instead of 5-6. I gradually phased the meat out of our diets after about 6 months. Between the small improvements in our diet and breastfeeding, I managed to get my weight down to about 155 at 18 months postpartum. I also had 1 full year of respite from my period because of the breastfeeding, which resolved my iron deficiency and pica, and gave my body a much-needed break.

The Adventure Continues

Chapter 2: Health Nut or Hedonist?

My senior year, I moved in with my boyfriend (who is now my wonderful husband and father of our three lovely children).

We had already bonded over numerous omelets and plates of enchiladas. Now that we lived together, we really went crazy. Our credit cards allowed us to frequent a nearby Mexican place, that made huge plates of unbelievable food just loaded with cheese and rich sauces. They also made an amazing mango margarita. Then there was the Thai place next door that had the most wonderful curries, just dripping with coconut milk. We ate dinner out at least 4-5 times a week and usually had a big pancake breakfast at a nearby diner Saturday or Sunday.

We packed on the pounds as fast as we packed on the debt. At some point, we were given a scale. I was a little surprised to see that I was 165 in the morning (when I was dehydrated) and more like 170 during the day. Wow. My husband didn't share his weight with me, but I was aware that it was too high. In fact, he was approaching 300 pounds. He also had sleep apnea and snored quite loudly, which I found irritating. However, he never talked about his weight or his body at all, and generally avoided doctors. We were both reasonably healthy, we thought, and since we didn't own a car, walked a fair amount.

My husband was very supportive of my vegetarianism, though he claimed that he "couldn't be that strong," and continued to eat meat at restaurants. However, we did keep a vegetarian house and ate a fair amount of fruit and salad, along with boxed rice dishes, canned beans and other packaged foods at home.

He graduated a year before me and had a teaching job in an inner city high school. The next year, I did the same thing. I struggled quite a bit and was under a huge amount of stress. Life events led me to question our relationship and it was rocky for a year or so. We broke up, then reunited.

All of this life stress, our mounting debt, our climbing weights... Shouldn't we have been paying attention? But we just continued soothing ourselves with lots of food.

How the Adventure Began

My journey here has been a long and convoluted one. I could write pages and pages of why I have suddenly decided once and for all to embrace a raw vegan diet, but you, my lovely readers, would not find my life as fascinating as I do. So, I'll attempt to condense my story at least a bit...but it'll still be darn long (30 years takes a bit of explaining). So, I'll tell this story in several chapters and promise not to be quite so wordy in the future!

Chapter One: The Kernel of a Health Nut

The seeds were planted by my mother (and her mother, though we lived far away and I didn't get to know her much). They were apart of a small minority that believed a healthy diet was the most important medicine. My mother breastfed when almost nobody was doing it and believed in fruits and vegetables and whole grains and beans and meat and raw dairy.

When I was young, she tried very hard to protect me from the evils of sugar. In fact I remember being traumatized in kindergarten when she sent me with a bag of celery and carrot sticks and a note that I wasn't to partake of the party goodies.

My father believed in steak and ice cream. But he also ate a salad every night and certainly more fruit than most men his age. I remember being fascinated that he said "AHrange" rather than "Orange" (he was originally from the East Coast). He also worked up a sizeable portion of our backyard so that he and my mother could grow a large vegetable garden.

Fast forward into my early adolescence. My parents' healthy ideals were sliding away as the number of children in the family multiplied (at this point we were six and eventually grew to number eleven). My mother no longer gardened, baked bread from scratch, or tried to resist the overwhelming culture of junk food in the classroom. We ate school lunch, but still had a fairly healthy breakfast and homemade dinner. I had developed a significant sugar addiction and couldn't get enough. I snuck to the candy store with what tiny money I had to gorge myself.

A cross-country move, my father's subsequent unemployment, and a failed attempt at a home business left us all reeling. We started watching hours of television and eating processed garbage handed out at the food pantry. I ate pints of ice cream when I could get my hands on them.

I had a mild weight problem--probably about 20 pounds overweight--throughout junior high and high school. I was certainly worried about it, but not obsessed like many girls I knew.

During my freshman year of college, I continued my schizophrenic eating patterns. I ate tons of salad and fresh fruit, supplemented with high fat cafeteria fare, french fries, ice cream and other sugary treats.

I developed severe problems with my periods. They were 4-6 weeks long, heavy bleeding. The campus health clinic offered me birth control pills, which I turned down, and no explanation or alternative. I had no money or health insurance, so I suffered. I gained a few pounds that year, but not enough to notice much. I didn't have a scale anyway.

The next year, I discovered credit cards. Credit cards allowed me to eat out. I was in Chicago, surrounded by yummy ethnic foods (mostly high fat). There was also a fantastic place nearby to get a huge omelet. I went there often with friends. And of course, I discovered the joys of drinking. I wasn't a big drinker but every other week or so, enjoyed a pitcher or two of margaritas with my friends.

Food was a source of comfort for me and a wonderful entertainment. I was not much for partying, never could dance, and wasn't into any activities where socializing was about something besides food. Food was an adventure. Food was the centerpiece where my friends gathered to talk politics, literature, and discuss our personal lives. And food soothed the stresses of college life, my rocky family life, and my minor heartbreaks in the world of romance.

The summer after my sophomore year, I was a camp counselor at an overnight camp. For some reason, on a whim (I guess I was disgusted by the kitchen's main dish offerings), I told everyone there I was a vegetarian. I think I had started limiting meat before that, but I honestly can't remember why. I remember worrying about the hormones in meat--perhaps something to do with my period problems? Anyway, I ate a lot of peanut butter and jelly and salad that summer, along with lots of junky side dishes and sugary desserts. The vegetarianism stuck the next year for whatever reason. I was going through a bit of a personal transformation, asserting my independence and so on. I think it was a subconscious break from my father, who always insisted that my mother cook him a separate steak with carmelized onions, regardless of what the rest of us were eating.

Anyway, my consciousness was radicalizing in college. I was interested in environmentalism, socialism, feminism, etc. I became aware of how eating meat was harmful to the planet and very cruel to animals. This strengthened my resolve.

It did nothing for my waistline or my food issues. I still ate lots of eggs, cheese, icecream, and sugary foods.

I had also, unbeknownst to me, developed anemia. The combination of my poor diet and years of heavy bleeding left me unable to get through the day without 10 or more hours of sleep. I had trouble getting to early classes and had to take a nap midafternoon. I began chewing tray upon tray of ice. I looked forward to chewing the different shapes of ice at different restaurants. It was only several years later in my childbirth class, that I discovered that this was PICA, a classic sign of iron deficiency.