In talking with others about food and allergies, the overwhelming question of “where to even begin” is often discussed. For us, changes came in baby steps over several years and lots of education. It wasn’t – it can’t – be an overnight switch. But more importantly, I believe, than the answer to what we eat is why we eat it. I want to address that first, and in a future post I will go through the what and our baby steps in more detail.
When my son was diagnosed with food allergies in 2010, I started asking a lot of questions. Growing up, I’d never had friends with allergies to dairy, eggs or peanuts. We didn’t have “nut-free” tables in our school cafeterias. I’d never heard of an epi-pen and certainly had never been within reach of one at mealtimes. However, I seemed to be hearing more and more about such allergies and couldn’t believe it only had to do with our germ-free society, as our allergist told me. So I did some homework. Then I asked some more questions. And, unfortunately, I was left with few answers and more questions. That’s when I started to get mad.
I am not a dietician or a wellness professional, but I know enough now to know the food we grew up eating – with no blame on those who fed us – changed my and Justin’s body in a way that changed Finn. The blame isn’t on our care-takers because they were just as much in the dark about what Big Food was doing as we were. Hormones, antibiotics, cruelty to animals, processing, high fructose corn syrup, corn-feed, GMOs. This has changed a generation of immune systems. The list of injustice done to our food, and in turn to our bodies, is staggering.
We have a motto in our house: “Pay the farmer now or the doctor later.” One way or another, you pay for what you eat. We can choose to eat wholesome, chemical-free, life-giving food filled with nutrients. Or we can choose to eat processed food, void of health benefits, and live a sluggish life until the toll on our body is too much and we seek medical attention. Unfortunately, this is the path for most Americans.
Michael Pollen is quoted in the documentary Fresh: “Cheap food is an illusion. There is no such thing as cheap food. The real cost of the food is paid somewhere… and if it isn’t paid at the cash register, it’s charged to the environment, it’s charged to the public person in the form of subsidies, and it’s charged to your health. You do get what you pay for with food, as with anything else.”
Feeling completely overwhelmed years ago on where to start, our family started making baby steps in what we purchased and what we ate. I went from grocery shopping via price tags and front labels to grocery shopping via ingredient lists and content labels. Today, we choose to eat organic dairy and produce, grass-fed meat and free range eggs. Because we avoid soy and Finn’s dairy allergy, Finn drinks almond milk and occasionally has coconut yogurt.
I freely admit, we are far from perfect in our eating. Justin and I still have a terrible addiction to sugar and our portions need attention, particularly carbohydrates. But we are making every effort to ensure what goes into our bodies is real, whole, chemical-free food.
Some people think we’re crazy, and that’s OK. I thought it was all a bit crazy, too, until I saw my son break out in hives from the smallest amount of dairy or choke and cough without being able to speak after the smallest amount of peanut exposure. I thought it was all a bit crazy, too, until I learned what was making us all so sick.
It seems strange, but Finn’s allergies have made us healthier. They’ve made us more aware of our health and allowed us the opportunity to learn about food in a way we most likely wouldn’t have had he been able to eat anything in the grocery store. It helps us teach Finn about food and it certainly makes us more sensitive to others allergies.
It’s not the easiest road to trudge down, but I wouldn’t have it any other way.
What about you? I’d love to hear about the journey you’ve been on to healthier eating.