Two years ago, I didn’t have a proper definition of holistic health and nutrition. If someone had asked me if I was healthy and ate nutritiously, I would have said absolutely and probably would have told them my BMI was in range for my age. It wasn’t until I started getting sick with colds constantly and was bringing my son to an allergist or a bi-monthly trip to the ER for asthma attacks that I realized there was something systemically wrong with our diets. Consequently, after multiple miscarriages and having a stillborn at 28 weeks, I decided enough was enough and needed to do a complete overhaul with our life and our health. It was then I realized I wasn’t listening to my body or the needs of my family. I was purely focused on calorie counting and making sure we stayed clear of certain foods (ice-cream every night, etc.). I didn’t take into account that the foods we were eating could actually help to prevent disease and illness. We were barely getting by; we were just surviving.
Once the decision was made on an overhaul, I did an assessment of our eating habits. I reviewed my daily transactions through my bank to see how many times we were eating out and/or drinking high sugar drinks. The results were disheartening. When I thought I cooked most of my family’s meals and kept my family on a pretty healthy diet, we were actually eating either breakfast, lunch or dinner out once a day (mostly consisting of McDonald’s, Panera Bread, Chipotle or Thai). I would have a Starbucks tall vanilla latte or Oprah Chai tea latte every other day and my son would grab a Gatorade and a candy from the gas station almost every time we stopped for gas or went on an excursion. When I looked at our weekly dinners, I would cook (well, put it in the oven) Costco fast meals (lasagna, indian curries, etc.) once a week. The rest of the week, I would have eggs with avocados and toast or Kashi’s Heart to Heart blueberry clusters for breakfast. For lunch, I would have some sort of salad or vending machine sandwich and we’d always have a meat, veggie and starch for dinner (usually the meat being the largest portion of the meal). My son would have cereal and a glass of juice for breakfast, a school lunch (which makes me cringe after watching Ann Cooper’s TED talk on What’s Wrong with School Lunches), and our family dinner. He would probably have one veggie (unless it was pizza or Costco dinner night) a day. The amount of sugar, processed foods and non-nutrient dense foods we were consuming came out to roughly 85% of our diet.
My next action was to follow Alissa Segersten and Tom Materre’s, The Elimination Diet to determine which specific foods were ailing us. When I took gluten out of my diet, I felt lighter and experienced more energy, however when I did the same with my son he became more lethargic. In the end, I found the perfect blend for my son was to change his vegetables to 40%, fruits to 20%, whole grains to 30% and meats to 10% of his diet.
Since the change, we have eliminated his allergies, he is no longer on anti-histamines or inhalers and is doing better in school. With my own diet, I found I needed more vegetables, needed to cut down on high-sugar coffee drinks and needed to consume less dairy. I haven’t been sick in a year and am currently halfway through a healthy pregnancy without any morning sickness.
I’ve switched to only buying organic whole foods and going out to eat once a week. When buying produce, I try to buy the “rainbow” and look for naturally vibrant vegetables and fruits. I take pride in the fact that my son can now tell when a fruit isn’t organic as he says they leave a weird after-taste in his mouth. I’ve switched to whole grains, eating brown rice, quinoa and rolled oats verses quick rice and minute oatmeal. I prepare all of our meals.
So today, holistic health and nutrition is a broader part of my life. What I used to view as a means to satisfy hunger and thirst, I now view as a way to bring wholeness to our systems and to our well-being.
Holistic health to me includes the social and cultural aspects as well. I understand now how holistic health includes Self-actualization. Before I lost my baby, I was leaving the house at six in the morning and wouldn’t come home until seven in the evening. Breakfast would be served in front of the television or on the road. If I was lucky, dinner would be something I had prepared that I could warm up, but most of the time I was throwing some fast over-processed item into the oven when I came home. This left us with an hour to really catch up on each other’s lives and then it would be bedtime. I was burning the candle at both ends and wasn’t giving us the fuel to keep it properly lit. After our loss, we decided it would be best for me to take a break from my full-time job and stay at home for a bit while we focus on trying to have another baby. It has been the best decision I’ve made.
We now have full conversations over breakfast and dinner. There is less fighting and stress in the family. I rekindled my relationship with my 9-year-old son. I feel at peace with us as a family unit. The simple act of cooking and being mindful on food choices has spiritually brought me closer to my family. I know that what I feed them will fuel them for the day. What I create literally becomes a part of them and who they’ll become. It’s an empowering gesture and I’d like to help other families take back their own health and well-being through holistic health and nutrition.
I’m currently earning my Masters in Science in Holistic Nutrition at Hawthorn University and look forward to sharing what I learn along the way…
Cooper, A., (2007). What’s Wrong with School Lunches? [Video file]. Retrieved from http://www.ted.com/talks/ann_cooper_talks_school_lunches
Margel, D. (2005). The Nutrient-Dense Eating Plan; A Lifetime Eating Guide to Exceptional Foods for Super Health (1st ed.). Laguna Beach, CA: Basic Health Publications, Inc.
Robinson J.I., Wolfe K. & Edwards L. (2004, January). Holistic Nutrition: Nourishing the Body, Mind, and Spirit. Retrieved from http://www.chp.sagepub.com
Segersten, A. & Malterre T. (2015). The Elimination Diet; Discover the foods that are making you sick and tired – and feel better fast. (1st ed.). New York, NY: Grand Central Life & Style
Weil, A., (2014, June 10). What’s Gone Wrong with the American Diet, and How Can We Make it Right? [Video file]. Retrieved from https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=nRTKgp5nz18