A Tough Lesson
A healthy balanced diet is such an important part of life for so many reasons and for me, something that had to be learned the hard way, by experience. Everything changed for me following a severe bout of Glandular Fever at the age of 27 leaving me bedridden for 6 weeks. My current diet and knowledge of food were born out of necessity to assist my recovery as it was a long and tedious process and as anyone who has had glandular fever severely and then goes on to develop Chronic Fatigue Syndrome is aware of, something you always have to be mindful of and constantly managing. I'm sharing my story to inspire others who may have similar issues with food, that it's possible to change your tastes and your diet at any time and adopt new healthy habits which will improve your overall health and well-being in ways you may have never experienced before.
Growing up, I was a fussy eater, and at the tender age of 3 made an executive decision, after finding out where meat came from, that I wouldn't be eating it ever again. In a meat and 3 veg family, this news wasn't at all well received and became the source of many dinner table tensions. One great-aunt, in particular, delighted in reminding me at every Sunday roast that Uncle Harold didn't eat meat either and he went blind and it was only a matter of time that I would experience the same fate. I struggled with some of the vegetables too but adored baked potatoes, bread and dessert. McDonald's was like a drug to me and I craved it, along with sugar fat and salt. Basically, if I didn't like the taste I didn't eat it and my poor Mother tried desperately to find foods that I would eat and even gave me vitamins and supplements in an attempt to make up for such an unbalanced diet. Being such a physically active child involved in many sports she anticipated problems ahead and devoted many hours to trying different recipes and meals, with some success, but I still wouldn't eat red meat.
Like most young people I took my good health for granted and as I became responsible for my own food choices from my mid-teens onwards my choices were poor. I rarely ate protein and I'm ashamed to say now, sailed through Year 12 on 2 small packets of BBQ chips and a white bread sandwich with margarine and a slice of processed cheese from the canteen for lunch every day. Sometimes they ran out of sandwiches so I just had the chips. Not exactly appropriate brain food for HSC success. This pattern continued through University and then, when I started my dance school at 23, life was so exciting I would forget to eat altogether, skipping meals in favor of teaching. My health was good and I could eat anything I wanted and never gained any weight. But it was all about to come crashing down.
A New Way of Life
Approximately 2 years post-Glandular Fever my health was poor and I was suffering Chronic Fatigue symptoms regularly. My GP couldn't offer any solutions. There was no Dr. Google back then but out of desperation, I started researching Nutrition as much as I could and visited Naturopaths and tried various supplements and treatments. I began gaining weight and was literally getting out of bed to teach dancing and then going straight back to bed. My body was demanding I listen to it and give it the required nutrients. Slowly I began to discover what helped my condition and what didn't. Shortly after, I began Pilates which gave me direction and hope as I could exercise safely at my own pace without triggering any symptoms. It also increased my body awareness and made me more attuned to my needs. Today, after 2 stays at a Health Retreat where the food served is based on a gluten and dairy free, anti-inflammatory diet, I've found this suits me perfectly but is also beneficial to the majority of people as inflammatory health conditions are rampant in our society. The main component of my diet is Organic fruit and vegetables which puts less strain on the liver having to process the chemicals and pesticides. Organic chicken and wild-caught fish are an important part of my diet, as is regular meals at set times or my body punishes me with a headache if I don"t keep to the schedule. Avoiding processed foods wherever possible is crucial and I avoid alcohol, tea, and coffee in favor of filtered water and herbal teas. Soy is often added to many biscuits, bread etc and if you are having trouble with weight loss, I suggest you avoid this as it associated with weight gain as I've discovered. Cooking was never my thing but now I would rather eat one of my own meals than eat out as I know where the food is sourced from and the exact ingredients. I've completely lost the taste for junk food as I know the detrimental effect it has on my health. The secret to maintaining a healthy diet is to plan ahead with menus and be organized with healthy snacks. If I can turn my life around like this, after being so addicted to the wrong foods, anyone can. Your body will thank you for it!
Pictured is Homemade Muesli - Recipe on Instagram
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