Sunday, February 13, 2011

Health journey

In pregnancy books or online articles, you'll read that healthy weight gain for an average-weight woman during those nine months is about 25-35 lbs. If you're underweight, 28-40lbs, and if you're overweight more like 15-25 lbs. If you're having twins a healthy weight gain is between 35-45 lbs. I'm average weight yet I surpassed in pounds all those categories, even the twin pregnancy recommendations! I gained 50 lbs in my last pregnancy, and the other three pregnancies weren't too far off. I know there are others out there(like my sisters) who gain even more than I do. I guess we're just above average :). No, it's really not something to boast about. Yet I find it very strange because I exercised at least 5 days a week throughout all my pregnancies and I didn't eat terribly unhealthy(but quite a bit worse than I do now), though I suppose I liked to have sweets, but who doesn't!? Here I am around 8 1/2 months pregnant with Jane.

After I had Elisabeth and Charles, all the weight came off within the first several months. I was going to BYU when I had Elisabeth and we lived in an apartment across the street from parks and a shopping mall when I had Charlie, which means I did a lot of walking. I also owned a double stroller and used it often. When I had Annabelle I still exercised 5 days a week, but I didn't do as much walking because I'd need a triple stroller, which I didn't have, and walking with three kids in tow was no longer peaceful and pleasant. I lost most of the weight after Annabelle but never got off the last ten pounds before I got pregnant with Jane. Like I mentioned, I gained 50 lbs with Jane which was on top of the ten I never lost after Annabelle. By the end of this last pregnancy, I looked... well... big. I was very determined to get the weight off once she was out. I figured since I exercised every day after I had Annabelle and didn't lose all the weight, exercising alone wouldn't quite cut it -unless I exercised for at least 2 hours a day which, really, who has time for that? Not me. I can get in an hour most days of the week, though a couple of days a week I do around 30 minutes because that's all I've got time for.

I figured I'd also need to start caring about what we ate. This wasn't the only reason I wanted to have us start eating better. Besides weight loss, here are the other reasons for our switch to more whole foods:

1. The influence of my mom- Mom was diagnosed with pancreatic cancer last year. They later found out it was Neuro endocrine cancer. She didn't want to do chemotherapy and instead went a more natural route. Besides herbal supplements and some acupuncture, she switched to a raw foods diet for awhile. For those of you not familiar with raw foods, it's basically uncooked(or dehydrated at a temperature lower than 115 degrees) foods from seeds, nuts and plants. And that's it. Since then, she has added in some cooked foods like soup, brown rice, steamed veggies, etc. Her cancer growth seems to have stopped for the time being and we're hoping it does forever. She's feeling well and leading a very normal life. She has done a lot of research on healthy foods and natural medicines and she sends me all sorts of information which I've been soaking up.

2. The influence of Scott's mom- Scott's mom has suffered from kidney stones for years. Over the past year or two she's made some changes to her diet and has seen a big improvement in her health. She too has shared information on different healthy eating habits and I've been a grateful and interested recipient, soaking up all this information.

The influence of these wonderful women has started me along my own health journey. I've been reading and researching anything I can possibly get my hands on. Many books and magazine articles have some information I like and some information that to me, doesn't make sense and which I generally end up disregarding. As I read new information, I continuously go back to the Doctrine and Covenants, section 89 to see if the new health information fits with that sacred book of scripture. I've read that section so many times now that when I hear or read something new dealing with health, I'll know almost immediately if it's something that is worth while. I'll either leave with a good feeling, a feeling of, "this makes complete sense and it goes along with everything I know to be true and it feels good", or a feeling of, "Oh. Really? Hum. I don't know about that. It doesn't make sense. It doesn't seem right." We are SO blessed to have the scriptures. And the revelations were so far ahead of their time, it's amazing to me and another testament of their validity.

3. A desire to get rid of the large bumps on my legs- ever since junior high or round about, I've had a weird thing going on with my legs. I'll get these large, red bumps on them that won't go away. It's not like a rash, I only get a couple. They're generally the size of a quarter, but raised and red in color and are sensitive to the touch. They seemed to appear if I got hit, just like a bruise, but they weren't bruises. The first one came after I was playing soccer without wearing shin guards (smart, I know). I remember getting several while working as a hostess in a restaurant. We would put chairs up in the evening, and down in the mornings and I would occasionally hit myself in the shin with one of the wood chairs as it went up or down. It would hurt a lot. And then jumping around on them (high school cheerleading) only made them worse.

I went to doctors and therapists and no one seemed to know what was going on. They tried different exercises and therapies but nothing seemed to take. Finally my mom decided to take me to her Chinese herbalist. He looked me over and told me the blood down there was bad, I had bad circulation and that in order for this to really get better, I was going to have to lay off of sweets and fried foods, and he may have mentioned more food/diet changes but if he did I didn't catch it because I thought he was crazy for saying food was going to heal me. Food just seems too easy, too simple of a solution. Like Naaman and Elisha from the Bible, right? Or Moses and looking to the serpent to live? Not exactly the same because those were miraculous healings, but I think you get the picture: too simple to be true. Anyway, back to my story. I was supposed to eliminate sweets and fried foods as a high schooler? Yeah right. I ate out with friends several times a week at McDonalds and other fast food joints. (No wonder I was a little overweight in high school). I'll mention the results from our healthy eating later in the post.

Now, back to the present. After reading information given to me from our mom's and then doing more reading on my own, I realized that the herbalist was spot on. Our health honestly and truly comes down to breakfast, lunch and dinner. Exercise too of course, but they go hand in hand. Think about it this way: three times a day (more like 6 for our family), you are putting something into your body. Did you catch that? You are putting something INTO your body. Of course it will affect your health! I am reading a good book right now called The China Study. It's non fiction, based on research and data and very fascinating. I'm sure I'll do an entire post on it once I finish the book. The author, Colin Campbell(who has done some amazing things in the world of food/health/science) is basically telling us that eating healthy(which means lots of whole foods, 5% animal protein diet and no more) can and will reverse all sorts of health problems, including those that are genetic: cancer, Alzheimers, diabetes, obesity etc. Try to get a copy from your local library.

So, what changes did we make? Well, let me start off first by saying we've been taking baby steps. One of the first things we did was change natural peanut butter for processed peanut butter. My kids have peanut butter and honey for lunch fairly often so I thought this would be a good first step. I'm not going to lie, my kids didn't like it in the beginning. But I would sneak it in when they weren't watching and sometimes they didn't notice, and couldn't taste a big difference. Once we ran out of the processed stuff I just stopped buying it and they have all adjusted since. I also stopped buying things like pre-packaged peanut butter crackers, fish crackers, or other snacks that contain a lot of sugar or other ingredients that I can't pronounce. We started eating more produce, doing green smoothies, eating raw almonds for snacks, making our own homemade granola for breakfast, switching whole wheat flour for white flour in our baking recipes, using natural sweeteners instead of refined or chemical sweeteners, using pure maple syrup rather than the really sugary stuff(check the ingredients on your syrup. If it's not pure maple syrup, most likely the first two ingredients are corn syrup and high fructose corn syrup. Sweet). It's been quite the journey, we've learned a lot, but it feels good. And it's been an enjoyable journey.

I know some people don't want to eat healthy foods because they think it's too expensive. But there are a few things you should know. If you're cutting down on meat, that will cut down some on your budget. If you're eating more oats and grinding your own wheat and eating beans and other grains and legumes, those food items are really pretty cheap. In fact a bowl of oatmeal with frozen fruit added to sweeten it and a little milk would only cost you about 20 cents. And that's an entire meal! Some other tips to saving money is to have a garden. Grow what you eat. Get an extra freezer (something we're going to do this year) and freeze what you grow so you can enjoy it all year. Even things like spinach and kale and beets freeze fine if you're just going to put them in your blender for a green smoothie. You wouldn't be able to make a salad out of frozen greens, but smoothies are great! Also, when you're eating healthy (especially if you follow the 5% animal protein guideline which will include dairy because we all know cows milk is mucus forming, right? Drink lots of milk and have lots of dairy if you want to have colds, congestion, ear infections etc) you won't have to go to the doctor as often, less ear infections and antibiotics which will also save you money. Anyway, it's just something to think about.

It probably is a little more expensive when you eat out or when you buy healthy pre-made snacks...we don't do a lot of either of those. You should try and do most things from scratch if you want to save money. We make our own granola bars and granola, almond milk, wheat flour, and I've just started making my own plain yogurt( yogurt isn't included in the animal protein because of the way it's cultured. It has a good bacteria and even those who are lactose intolerant seem to do fine with yogurt. The lactose in the milk precursor is converted into lactic acid by the bacterial culture).

Natural sweeteners are more expensive than refined ones, so use less and try to do less baking. When you need to sweeten something like oatmeal, granola or a smoothie, you could sweeten it with fruit or other natural sweeteners like honey, agave, stevia or Sucanat. It'll be a bit of an adjustment, but if me and my sweet tooth can do it, you can do it, too!

I know there are people out there who think they are perfectly healthy and don't need to stop eating Big Macs and fries and all that other stuff. But the truth is, even those who smoke or drink alcohol don't develop lung cancer and heart disease right away. It's not until they've been doing it for years and years and years. Same with those who eat a lot of meat. They won't have high blood pressure, heart attacks and strokes until they've been eating that way for some time and then it's too late.

Since incorporating more whole foods(and continuing to exercise, of course)I'm pleased to announce that not only have I lost 57 lbs since Jane was born 10 months ago(back down to pre-Annabelle weight!) but my bumps seemed to have vanished.

Wow, this was quite the post. I didn't start out knowing this post was going to be so long. But I think I'm done now. Thanks for reading.

Here are a couple of pictures from the end of my pregnancy with Jane and then a couple from a couple of months ago and then this past month.


Casey said...

Elisa, you are so right! We've been making baby steps too, and we've got a long way to go but like you we are trying to go the whole food route. Since we've been eating better I feel much more in tune with my body. When I eat something bad for me, I notice that I feel sick and unhealthy.

I love all your recipe posts, they have been so helpful. I'm going to give your granola bars a try very soon. We absolutely love your granola!

Elisa said...

Casey, Oh good! I'm glad to hear you're enjoying some of our recipes. I've enjoyed several of yours as well. You are an amazing mom and woman.

Vanessa said...

Thanks for sharing Elisa. I've been wondering about the price, and how much more money you are spending on food to feed your family now. The points you offer are valid. We've been making a few small changes here and there (using whole wheat flour or 1/2 white and 1/2 whole wheat flour) and simply omitting up to half of the sugar called for in some recipes. Glad you have seen such great changes. Keep sharing, please!

Elisa said...

Vanessa, thanks for your comment! I'm glad you're making some healthy choices as well. Let me know if you ever find any healthy recipes you and your hubby love.

April said...

I hear you, friend. I lost about that much after Tate's birth and noticed such dramatic changes in so many ways over time. I am so happy for you and yours.
Get ready for sprouted raw granola tomorrow! :)

The Horne's said...

Wow Elisa this is great. I'm down another 12 lbs, and have another 10 lbs to go before Im pre-preg weight. Brooklyn is 7 months old. I have cute out carbs for right now and am focusing on protien, veggies and fruit. Nothing processed.
My body handles it well and I NEVER feel overly full or bloated.
Also a book that might interest you and your mom also is "death by diet" I got it for my dad, unfortunately, he has already started undergoing chemo and it took such a toll on his body, that it was a struggle just to eat anything...
I think your mom made a great decision not to do chemo, I'm SO pleased to hear a small update on her.
I think you should post a side by side of you preggers with Jane, and then now! :-D 57 lbs...that's GREAT!!!!

Elisa said...

Heidi, I meant to post a picture of me pregnant and totally forgot! I'm doing it now! Thanks for the reminder.

Angela said...

Elisa, You are wise beyond your years and you have been a good influence and inspiration to ME! I am honored to be put in the same class as your mom because she is probably the most amazing woman I have ever met:) I can't wait to get out there so we can share ideas on "preparedness" which is very much on our minds of late.

I am so glad you switched to natural peanut butter. I feel much better now:)

Elisa said...

Angela, I'm thankful you are willing to share bits of information and knowledge with me. I love hearing from women who are older and more experienced than me. I have SO much to learn!

Maryann said...

Thanks for sharing your insights. I think that is great and it inspires me to try harder to be healthier. I too and trying to get to a pre-pregnant weight. I really like how you mentioned following the Spirit through all your learning. Sounds like you are on the right track!

The Clarks said...

I really loved all of this! I am so excited to be a stay at home mommie so I have time to really get into all of this! :)