More About Me
I have been thinking more about what I’m trying to accomplish here and how my little space on the internet is different from other food blogs.
I guess the why is a good place to start. Why did I go vegan? What motivates me to try to get my family to eat healthier? It all started back in 2015(ish) when I got the crazy idea to stop eating dairy to see if it would help my skin issues. It helped some with my face, but the itchy patch I’d had for months on my neck went away completely and most surprisingly, I discovered actual ankles under all the swelling.
However, I continued to gain weight. I’m about 5’7” and by the summer of 2017 I was up to 214 pounds. One morning I ate a granola bar and started having stomach pain. I’d been dealing with heartburn for about 6 months already and this development was just too much. After a few days of this stomach pain, I told my husband that I felt like I had hit my peak weight and something had to change. Then I started having sharp pain in my right side in July 2017. Everything I ate caused pain and nausea.
The First Doctor Appointments
So I went to the doctor, as one does. She thought I might have diverticulitis and sent me for an emergency CT scan that day. I didn’t have anything urgent going on, so we waited. In early August the pain and a low-grade fever sent me to the ER, where I had bloodwork that tested positive for a blood clot. That meant another CT to rule it out. I think it was this ER visit where they referred me to a GI specialist. The first available appointment was mid-September and all this time I was having trouble eating anything without pain. Late September brought an upper Endoscopy that showed I had a hernia and eosinophilic esophagitis, but the GI didn’t think either of those were causing my issues.
The GI sent the esophagus biopsy (he only did one) to be analyzed and then decided despite the ringed appearance of my esophagus, that he didn’t feel like I have EOE after all. He was convinced that my gallbladder wasn’t an issue, even though I had problems with it after childbirth both times. I had had a HIDA scan years ago, but he relented and scheduled one for late October. Keep in mind this started in July. So I went for the HIDA scan and everything started out fine. With about 15 minutes left in the machine, I felt like I was about to vomit. The tech talked me through the last few minutes because he could see that the test was going to show what was going on with my gallbladder.
Turns out it was basically dead. My gallbladder was functioning at 0%. The nurse from the GI called me with the results and she said I needed surgery pronto.
I don’t know if healthcare is this slow everywhere, but getting a doctors appointment here can take weeks or months. Getting referred to a surgeon was the same, even though I was unable to eat or drink and had a dead organ that needed to be removed. I ended up in the ER again at 4 am, dehydrated and sick. They wouldn’t give me fluids but did give me something for the nausea and offered me pain relievers. Somehow I FINALLY got referred to a surgeon in November and he was able to schedule the surgery in November. It took from July until November to get a dead organ removed. I’d lost probably 30 pounds in that time from being unable to eat much.
I absolutely do not want to go through any part of that ever again! Scheduling doctors appointments was frustrating because I was sick and no one could see me for weeks. Talking to boneheaded doctors (well, just one of them who argued the basic math of my weight loss and that I should go back to eating the Standard American Diet) made me crazy. Surgery itself was fine, but waking up kicked my butt because of the side-effects of the pain meds they used. I was forced to eat a food I’m allergic to in order to leave, which didn’t help things. I was in no shape to leave, but surgery is same-day thing here whether you are able to go home or not.
I made up my mind after this that I want as little to do with the healthcare system as possible. I do not enjoy getting bounced from one doctor to another, waiting weeks or months to get an appointment, only to be told I need a test that takes weeks to schedule, only to be referred to another doctor. And ending up in the ER between appointments. Also, asking about dietary changes only to be brushed off because the doctor either doesn’t know much about nutrition or because they have more incentive to prescribe pills. I especially loathed dealing with insurance. And I dreaded getting the medical bills in the mailbox. Lastly, think of the time spent scheduling appointments, waiting at the doctor’s office, and waiting on prescriptions at the pharmacy.
I have witnessed people in my own family who it seems the more they went to the doctors, the more ill they became. One family member was diagnosed with high blood pressure and high cholesterol, but rather than a focus on diet, many drugs were prescribed. She would spent hours on the phone, trying to figure out which prescription would cost the least at which pharmacies. Then going around to each one to pick them up. She eventually had surgery on a neck artery and possibly a stent (I can’t remember). I went with her to a three hour long doctor’s appointment after that where he was going to add a new drug. I hoped he would ask about her diet, but he was happy to prescribe a new pill and she was either accepting of the doctor’s orders or relieved that he wouldn’t bring up dietary changes. And it seems like once you start a prescription, it’s a slippery slope to more pills to help with the side-effects of the other prescriptions.
My Food Memories
I think part of how we view diet has to do with how food is treated during our childhood. I grew up with my grandmother and I think she resented food. She was never much into cooking during my childhood and in the 1980s, she was first diagnosed with high cholesterol and instructed to go on a low-fat diet. She lost weight but resented the foods she was supposed to be eating, so she went back to her old ways. We ate a fair amount of fast food and mostly processed foods at home. We only drank soda and sweet tea. We ate out of boredom and we rarely ate together. As a teenager, I recall a bag of chips was lunch. Chips and soda. Rice crispy treats were breakfast. A candy bar was dinner at my job after school.
I see a lot of food bloggers who share these great memories of baking pie with their grandmothers or aunts and I don’t have that. Partly because we were poor but mostly because my grandmother resented being on a “plain lettuce” diet as she referred to it.
Eventually my eating habits started catching up to me in my early 20s and I did Weight Watchers. I started the diet at 163 pounds and got down to maybe 150. But I did it eating diet foods. I ate diet cheez-its and drank diet Dr. Pepper. Fruits and vegetables were nowhere to be found, except for salad with diet ranch dressing and low-fat cheese. I didn’t know how to cook because I didn’t grow up with someone who cooked. As time went on, I slid back into old habits and gained the weight back plus more.
I was nearly 190 pounds when I got pregnant with my first child. I lost a lot during the first trimester, which probably was a good thing, because I was pretty heavy when I had him. I watched what I ate, avoiding soft cheeses and raw seafood and whatnot, but I still ate from boxes of processed food. When my youngest was starting to eat solid food, I saw the light. I was going to have to learn to cook! The early days were filled with failures because it’s a steep learning curve when you have no idea what you’re doing and don’t even know what equipment you need to get started.
But I cooked a lot of unhealthy foods and continued to gain weight. I was probably 220 pounds when I had my second child and it just about killed my knees. (I had 2 knee surgeries in 2012.) So I went on Weight Watchers, again. I started swim classes after the knee surgeries and walked more. I lost a few pounds in 2012, but gained them back, plus a few of their friends. And that brings us pretty much full circle to 2017.
Current Approach to Eating
I’m full-on vegan now. I’m 165 pounds, which is almost what I was when I went on WW the first time back in 2001. I don’t eat fast-food at all (people are something else around here with the addiction to Chick-Fil-A). I avoid sugar as much as I can, I’m allergic to wheat, and my esophagus issues keep me from eating breads and cakes. I think I still eat too much processed foods like crackers and pre-made veggie burgers but I do cook most of my foods. Losing 50 pounds has done wonders for my knee arthritis and the foot issues I developed while I was overweight.
I Have To Do Better
My daughter has had digestive issues for as long as I can remember, definitely since she was 3 years old. She cannot tolerate dairy and we tried cutting wheat as well. Whenever she eats anything with wheat, there are consequences for her. Even “just a little bit”. She’s been tested for Celiac Disease and for other food allergies. She’s not allergic but definitely has sensitivies. The allergist suggested the low FODMAP diet, which has been a challenge.
Just yesterday we were in urgent care for her digestive issues which have spilled over into something I won’t get into, but she had an x-ray that showed the current state of her innards. To be quite frank, she’s full of poop. Some of it is my fault because let’s be honest, I buy the food. But she definitely is old enough to manage her eating habits. My kids snack and when they do, they don’t always pick the fruit in the fridge even though it’s cut up and packaged for easy snacking. They don’t always go for the energy balls I have made or the homemade granola or whatever I’ve cooked most recently. They like eating chips (no longer allowed in the grocery cart) and processed cereal bars. They’ll pick over dinner that I’ve made from scratch in order to eat pre-packaged cookies (the next item to be banned from the cart). And that’s on me because I bought the cookies.
I have to do better. The doctor at urgent care suggested we see a nutritionist, which is kind of ironic because I’ve been researching getting certified in plant-based nutrition. But I am managing my food issues and hers (though not very well), as well as homeschooling, extracurricular activities for the kids, errands, and the usual household stuff. So while I feel like I can’t take that on, it’s either that or venturing into the healthcare system with her. I don’t know how long the wait is to get an appointment but I saw it’s probably not covered by insurance and each visit is around $200.
I have to do better. All of this is the why. For myself, for my kids. So we don’t spend all of our time and money on healthcare visits. Because so much illness could be avoided by eating healthy foods.